OhMay 8, 1945 in Berlin, Art WehrmachtThe rest of Russia’s generals unconditionally surrendered to Red Army Commander Marshal Georgy Zhukov and representatives of the allied powers in Europe, ordering their troops to lay down their arms before midnight. As it fell on the first hours of the next day Moscow time, the Russians have since celebrated May 9 as Victory Day (Victory Day), which marks the final defeat of Nazi Germany. (Western countries usually celebrate the event on May 8.) On the morning of May 9, 1945, Muscovites happily took to the streets. Many gathered around the embassy of their American allies, embracing the soldiers stationed there as guards; one was reportedly playfully tossed in the air.
This spontaneous explosion of popular sentiment troubled Joseph Stalin, the Soviet leader, especially his commitment to foreign allies. Under totalitarian communism, all autonomous expressions of political sentiment were suspicious and had to be suppressed or co-opted. With this in mind, Stalin planned to hold an official state event to regain control of the festivities. On June 24, Soviet troops held a huge military parade on Red Square in Moscow. In two hours, about 35,000 soldiers passed by Lenin’s grave under Stalin’s eyes. The captured banners of the Nazi regiments were lowered as a tribute, a gesture straight from imperial Rome. Marshal Zhukov rode a white horse.
As Russia celebrates Victory Day on May 9, Vladimir Putin will consider the long flow of Russian troops and military equipment passing through Red Square. Anyone who watches can assume that the tradition has not been broken since 1945. In Soviet times, the main military parade on Red Square was held on November 7, the anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution. Stalin lowered the Victory Day mark, fearing genuine national sentiments expressed at the end of the war. (Some believe he also feared Zhukov’s popularity.) The parade was revived only under Leonid Brezhnev until the 20th anniversary of the end of the war in 1965 and was repeated in 1985, 1990 and (after the collapse of the USSR) annually since 1995. these were mourning cases dedicated to the suffering of the nation in what the Russians call the Great Patriotic War, when it lost at least 20 million citizens.
Since 2000, Putin has turned the Victory Parade into a triumphant celebration of armed force, part of his campaign to distort the memory of the war to give his autocratic government legitimacy in the eyes of the people. In Putin’s early years, only marching troops were present at the May 9 parade, not equipment, as a sign of respect for Western leaders, who were sometimes present. But that changed in 2008 when Russia invaded Georgia. Since then, the parade has showcased Russia’s latest weapons, including nuclear ones ICBMand flyovers of Sukhoi fighters stretching for the red-and-white and blue colors of the Russian flag. The highlight is Mr. Putin’s speech and the terrible spectacle of his silence cheers (cheers) echoes echoed by thousands of soldiers.
Just as Stalin feared the spontaneity of the first popular celebration on May 9, 1945, Putin feared mass celebrations of Victory Day. In 2012, a group of citizens in Tomsk, a city in Siberia, launched an action they called the Immortal Regiment, marching on Victory Day with photos of family members who fought and died in the war. This practice soon spread throughout the country. The Russian government quickly co-opted the movement. Until 2015, the “Immortal Regiment” marches were broadcast on state television, and promotional materials were affixed to the logo of Putin’s United Russia party. The liberal press then took pictures of the piles of discarded photos, believing that the government had hired protesters and given them portraits to keep at random.
By militarizing the parade and taking control of public holidays, Putin effectively turned Victory Day on May 9 into a kind of spectacle that Stalin created on June 24, 1945. crisis government arranged a reconstruction of the Stalinist parade. The memory of the end of the Great Patriotic War became a tribute to the Soviet memory of the Great Patriotic War – a simulacrum of historical memory.
Many countries love military pomp, but it is unusual in Russia. In an autocratic country where succession has always been an issue, victories in battles and demonstrations of armed force are replacing other forms of legitimacy. Tsar Paul I, the son of Catherine the Great, was killed in part because he only led his troops in complex formations around the drilling sites of St. Petersburg. Nicholas I, the 19th-century conservative leader Putin admired, was never seen without a military uniform, and Nicholas II prepared for Russia’s defeat over Germany in World War I by ordering a new uniform for his military uniform. victory parade in Berlin. (By the time Germany capitulated, the Russian Empire no longer existed.)
However, at least under Stalin, troops passing by the Kremlin walls were returning from victory on the battlefield. Under Putin, the love of military demonstration risks creating a parade army. Russia’s newest T-14 Armata tank has been on display at Victory Day celebrations since 2015, but has not yet entered service. (In her first appearance, she mysteriously stopped for 15 minutes.) The Russian army is very effective in Red Square executed sadly in Ukraine. As a result, this year’s parade will be 35% smaller than usual, with much fewer vehicles and less equipment. The remaining Russian tanks and troops are needed for more pressing matters.■
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