Have you ever wondered why all the Tatianas get to celebrate their own holiday on January 25th? Or what does this day have to do with Russian/Ukrainian students? Most people think it all started with Russian Empress Elizabeth issuing the decree ordering the establishment of the first university in Russia on January 25 (January 12 old style), 1755. However, its roots begin back in the 3rd Century.
At that time, Romans believed not in one but many gods. They tormented early Christians for worshiping one god. Whoever didn’t obey and didn’t want to accept Roman faith was severely persecuted.
The Holy Virgin Martyr Tatiana was born in a noble Roman family. She was raised as a Christian, and strongly believed in Jesus Christ. Later, she became a deaconess of the fledgling church in Rome. One day Roman authorities captured St. Tatiana of Rome and put her in a temple of Apollo, ordering her to make a renunciation of her Christian faith by making a sacrifice to the Roman deity Apollo (the son of Zeus and Leto, he was believed to be the god of light and the sun, truth and prophecy, music and poetry, plague and healing). Tatiana was continuously praying to Jesus Christ to help her. The legend says that after extensive prayers an earthquake hit the temple of Apollo, and the statue of Roman god broke into small pieces. The Romans didn’t see it as a miracle; they thought it was evil. Tatiana was then severely beaten, and cut with razors. They gouged her eyes, and continued to torture. She was praying, asking God to open torturers’ eyes to Christ. At that moment they saw four angels around Tatiana. All eight torturers kneeled in front of her asking her to forgive them for their sins. After seeing all that, they believed in Christ. The Roman authorities became outraged, and the next day they tortured and slain the eight men. Then they threw Tatiana into a lion’s cage. But, instead of tearing her into small pieces, the animal crawled down to her feet, and lay there peacefully. After several tries to kill the martyr, on January 25 (January 12 in Julian calendar), 226 the Roman authorities beheaded her. Tatiana’s Day was first celebrated in 235. It was another century before a Roman ruler Constantine I (324–337) became the first Christian emperor. In 380 Christianity was established as the official religion of the Roman Empire by Theodosius I. Christians have been celebrating Tatiana’s Day on January 25th according to Gregorian calendar (January 12 in Julian calendar). Since 235 all the women named Tatiana have been celebrating their name day, together with a very special memory of a brave devoted Christian martyr Tatiana of Rome.
Centuries later, Ivan Shuvalov, first Russian Minister of Education (the Maecenas of the Russian Enlightenment), together with Mikhail Lomonosov (Academician and Professor of Chemistry) proposed an idea of establishing a University in Moscow. On 25 January, 1755, the Empress Elizabeth (Elizaveta Petrovna) signed the decree that a university should be founded in Moscow. Ivan Shuvalov was the one who chose that date. His mother’s name was Tatiana, and of course she also celebrated her name day on January 25th. It was Ivan’s special gift to his mother. The church of Saint Tatiana was later built in the university campus, and the Russian Orthodox Church declared Saint Tatiana the patron saint of students. Later, the Emperor of Russia Nicholas I officially declared that day to be a holiday of all students, and not just the day of the university establishment. Also, school winter break started on January 25th.
I believe that if not for Ivan Shuvalov, and not for the University of Moscow, St. Tatiana’s Day would probably be another saint’s day in the Russian Orthodox Church calendar. Thanks to all those events in history, now January 25th is celebrated by Christians, all the students, and all Tatianas (Tatyanas).
Happy Tatiana’s Day and Happy Student’s Day to all the Christians, all Tatianas and all those who are acquiring new knowledge!