Cities throughout Russia and the wider former Soviet Union are preparing for the 9th of May celebrations of Victory Day.
Many Russians are astonished that individuals in the United States and much of Europe know so little about the most important non-religious holiday in Russia and several other countries.
On the 9th of May, Russia received news of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender, thus ending The Great Patriotic War/World War II in Europe.
A recent piece in The Duran discussed why Russians are averse to war due to the experience of the 1940s,
“Conservative estimates for Soviet deaths in the Great Patriotic War/Second World War are just over 26 million. Other scholars take the aggregate total of deaths including those who died from starvation and disease at around 40 million. Between 1941 and 1945, more Russian mothers had to bury their sons than any other group of mothers in the world and that’s just the mothers who themselves didn’t die during the war”.
Russians made the ultimate sacrifice in the Great Patriotic War. This included soldiers but also civilians who faced death, starvation and torture at the hands of the fascist enemy. Russia has never forgotten this and it is why when western politicians defame Russian political or public figures as ‘fascist,’ it is the gravest insult imaginable that one could level at any Russian person.
The Soviet Union risked its entire existence as a country and as a fraternal peoples in order to destroy fascism.
On the 9th of may, this heroic act is remembered.
The first Victory Day celebrations of course came in 1945 when the war was won, but Victory Day did not become a public holiday until 1965.
Since then, in every subsequent year, large concerts, parades and vigils have been held to honour the fallen and remember the heroes who secured Russia, Soviet and indeed wider world freedoms during that war.
The most iconic event on the 9th of May is the Victory Day parade in Moscow. Here, Russia’s leading politicians including the Russian President and before that the leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, would speak before a procession of Russian troops. Heads of state from allied countries also customarily attend the parade in Moscow along side Russian politicians and military figures.
During such events, the black and orange Ribbon of St. George is worn as a symbol of Victory.
In addition to troops, Russian weaponry has traditionally been on display. This includes a display of missiles, heavy armoured vehicles, tanks, transport vehicles and an air force flyover.
Beyond Moscow, Victory Day parades are held in many major cities including St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad), Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad) Minsk in Belarus, Yerevan in Armenia and in Russian port cities like Sevastopol where stunning fleet of ships sail past the shore, followed by an evening fireworks display.
Since 2014, the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics have held similar parades honouring both the heroes of the Great Patriotic War as well as those currently fighting the fascist forces of the Kiev based regime.
For the people of Donbass, the poignancy of fighting the progeny of those who fought beside Hitler in the 1940s makes the 9th of May all the more meaningful.
Although not an ally of the Soviet Union after war, in parts of the former Yugoslavia, particularly Serbia, the 9th of May is also an important day to celebrate the struggle of Yugoslav partisans against brutal fascist aggression.
In recent years, professional military parades have been followed by something called The Immortal Regiment. Here, everyone from Russia’s President to ordinary citizens march holding pictures of fallen loved ones and comrades in a deeply moving display.
The Great Patriotic war was and remains a seminal moment in Russia history. On the 9th of May, Russians and those who value the Russian sacrifice during the war pause, reflect, weep and celebrate the greatest victory in the history of warfare and of mankind.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.