Russia’s Victory Day: Basking in The Light of Another’s Glory

Russian T-14 Armata tank at Red Square rehearsal for May 9th Victory Day military parade in Moscow | @Mashable

Russian T-14 Armata tank at Red Square rehearsal for May 9th Victory Day military parade in Moscow | @Mashable 

2015/05/07 • Analysis & Opinion, Op-ed

Article by: Paula Chertok

This week all over the world people and nations are commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. For those who suffered the most, it’s an especially bittersweet time to reflect on loss as well as triumph and victory. The sadness and grief is tempered by much pomp and circumstance, parades of veterans and survivors, grateful to be alive to reunite and celebrate one more year. Yet every year, of course, the numbers of those veterans and survivors grows smaller. And with their passing come the loss of witnesses to history, their memories and the inevitable loss of history itself.

This year, what should have been a momentous occasion for old allies to unite in honoring the glory of the Soviet peoples’ Victory Day, has been marred, to say the least, by renewed mistrust, animosity, aggression, and even war. Most of the world’s leaders have decided to bow out of Moscow’s May 9th celebration, in quiet and not so quiet protest over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine, events that have shattered the path we thought we were all on, to an enlightened future where war was a thing of the past.

It’s not only outside of Russia that people are dismayed about Russia’s recent belligerence. Many Russians themselves, mostly those in the political opposition to Putin’s regime, have voiced concern, outrage and shame over Russia’s brutal foray into war in Ukraine. These Russians don’t get their news solely from state media. They listen to Echo Moscow, watch TVRain and read Novaya Gazeta. They have witnessed their country backslide into Soviet era repression and corruption. They have been victims of harassment, intimidating investigations, fabricated criminal cases, and beatings. They’ve witnessed their own marginalization and vilification as enemies of the people. They’ve even witnessed the shocking assassination of Boris Nemtsov, who was on the verge of publishing details of Russia’s involvement in Ukraine. These Russians understand that the authorities’ denials about Russia’s involvement in Ukraine are false.

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Lev Shlosberg, MP in Pskov Regional Assembly of Deputies, Yabloko Party member

Lev Shlosberg is one such Russian. A journalist, publisher and elected deputy from the Pskov region of Russia, Shlosberg helped to uncover information that directly contradicted the government’s claim that Russian troops were not fighting in Ukraine alongside the so-called “separatists.” He spearheaded an investigation into the deaths of his constituents, paratroopers from the elite 76th Airborne Division based in Pskov. He found they had been buried silently in unmarked graves amid rumors that they had been killed fighting in Ukraine. Shlosberg went on to publish these findings. Shortly thereafter, he became the victim of a brutal beating, knocking him unconscious and landing him in the hospital with amnesia, a broken nose and serious head injuries. There is little doubt in his mind his attack was an attempt to silence him and curtail his investigative activities so that Russia’s soldiers could continue fighting and dying in Ukraine without the world’s knowledge.

Even before his traumatic encounter with violence, whether directly or indirectly at the hands of Russian authorities, Shlosberg was a powerful critic of the Kremlin and its policies. Today his blogpost at Echo Moscow’s website addressed the deeply troubling psychological aspects of propaganda, memory and identity surrounding Russia’s upcoming May 9th Victory Day. He is not the first to discuss the manipulation of memory, but he eloquently and insightfully captures the uniqueness of the present context, where memories faded and on the verge of disappearing have become ripe ground for repurposing by today’s Russia. It’s a poignant reminder of what’s at stake for Russians in both honoring and remembering their own history. Below is a full translation of Shlosberg’s blog in English. Buckle up, you will be moved.


The Russian government is cynically transforming the memory of the Great Victory in World War II into a weapon of allegiance to today’s leaders.

May 9, 1945 was a Great National Holiday. The war is over. The living have already mourned the fallen. No one will ever be able to describe the horror of that war. The measure of this horror is understood by the millions who died, having to endure their last years, months, days, hours, minutes of their tortured lives. Only they could describe their suffering. But they will not describe it. The only good fortune of 1945 was surviving the hell. And that it truly was hell, every survivor understood.

May 9 had been a national holiday only 4 times before 1948.  Afterwards, it again became a regular work day. The authorities, particularly Stalin, feared people’s memory of the war. They were afraid because they knew that the people who had survived the war knew the truth. Including the truth about who and how the war was won. Who and how victory was paid for. The truth from the trenches was a higher truth than that from the state. That truth was known by tens of millions of people. They have been dying off every year, by the many thousands. They, the witnesses, took with them their genuine testimony of the truth.

May 9 returned as a holiday only in 1965, on the 20th anniversary of the Victory. In 1967, the eternal flame was lit at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier near the Kremlin wall. The narration of the televised “minute of silence” has been changed several times. The first was written as a prayer.  But although the Soviet state changed the ritual, it did not transform the meaning of Victory Day as a Day of Remembrance of the Fallen, a Day of Glory and Sorrow. The war’s millions of participants and witnesses would not have let such a thing happen.

The Soviet Union didn’t wage a single war after 1945 under the banner of the Great Patriotic War.  When it became clear the its glory and honor were insufficient, the Russian state, however, decided to cover over the Great Patriotic War, and to take advantage of the glory and honor of the previous generation to suit its own purposes.  In place of the Great Patriotic War, in place of the fighting and suffering of all the peoples of the USSR, the Russian government has put forth itself. And it is not doing so in the abstract, but with quite specific top officials of the current regime. For the sole purpose of justifying their recent ignominious policies, including the policy of hostility and war.

The Russian government has decided to steal the meaning of Victory Day, and replace it with another meaning – a false and dishonest one. The Russian government has now decided to become a participant in the Great Patriotic War – decades later, when there isn’t a single war veteran left in the ranks of  the country’s leadership.

The Russian government has decided to place the Great Victory onto the battlefields of today’s hot and cold wars, together with its symbols, signs and glory.  The front lines of the new wars do not exactly coincide with the front lines of the Great Patriotic War, the Second World War. Russia’s front line today in the war against “fascism” is waged on the vast fields of foreign affairs, including the bloody ones.  The Russian government is blatantly equating the Great Patriotic War with the criminal wars of the XXI century, ones it has started. The Russian government is trying to cover up and justify its own crimes by invoking the people’s Great Victory in 1945.

The Russian state has surrounded itself with thugs who lead and serve in wars completely different from WWII, yet with extraordinary ease they throw around that they’re fighting “fascism.”  No matter what the political issue, opponents of the Russian Federation are regularly called “fascists.” Anyone who does not agree with the policy of the Russian Federation in the international affairs is now deemed a “fascist.”  The very allies of the USSR who struggled against fascism together with our country and our people, who suffered through to great victory and brought to the altar their victims, are now called “fascists.”  Anyone who stands for peace against war, if that war is waged by the Russian Federation, is now called a “fascist.”  Just because a person does not agree with the approach of the Russian Federation to the issues of war and peace, with its political and military adventures.

White and black, the colors and signs have reversed.  The Victory that belongs to the people, attained with their blood and tears, is now called upon to serve the political needs of the day. Mobilized, dressed in a different uniform, and sent to a new front.

Symbols of history have changed their original meaning.  The St. George ribbon* – the fire and smoke of war – a ribbon of sorrow and glory, a ribbon for military orders and medals, has now been transformed from a military honor of valor into a political flag, a marker of modern political warfare.  It is used by people who not only have not spent a single day on the front but have never been in the army. They have never risked their lives nor shed any blood.  It’s come to this. To scarves and bows with symbols of St. George ribbons. Soon there probably will be ties, and God knows what else.

Before our eyes, the celebration of Victory Day is becoming the glory of those who have never fought [for this victory]. Even worse – the celebration of Victory Day has become an opportunity for international provocations. The ribbon of an honest soldier’s glory has been made into the political symbol of illegal armed groups waging an illegal war.  Decent governments who didn’t want to have groups of thugs and provocateurs on motorcycles on their territory were then accused by the Russian Foreign Ministry of “mocking the memory of the fallen in the Great Patriotic War.”  Were these veterans of the Great Patriotic War, or a cynical political stunt by thugs nurtured by the current regime? What does one have to do with the other? These aren’t even soldiers of a single army.

In the final years of  the war’s living participants, the Russian government in its hatred of the surrounding world, has decided to use the ashes and glory of the fallen as a shield in its battle against anyone who disagrees or dissents. The Russian state has stepped outside of history, ripped out the most glorious chunk, drenched in the blood of the people, and now waves around their blood-soaked glory, demanding recognition of any and all of its actions, in the name of the Great Victory.  Now that’s what I would call traitorous and a mockery.

This government has no saints, only sinners. So it decided to steal saints from another generation. From those who can feel no shame. From those who cannot protect themselves, their name or their glory.  This is the political occupation of memory.

But such a cynical exploitation of history is also very dangerous for the people.  Victory Day – is a part of the people’s DNA code, part of their identity.  Recoding Victory Day is a severe blow to the consciousness of the people. Their intention is not only to replace the symbols, but they want to replace the very consciousness, worldview, and system of values of modern humanity.

Russia needs soldiers for its new wars; its needs an army, one that doesn’t know the truths of history. This is the kind of army the Russian state wants to create using the Russian people now living, to send them off to new wars.

In order to justify these wars there must be a very strong foundation.  A foundation which lies beyond rationality or reason, a foundation affecting the very roots of our national consciousness, to create its own new prototype.  The Russian government found this foundation in the folk memory of the Great Patriotic War, the Great Victory. The Russian state has decided to use the people’s memory of the Great Patriotic War and of the Great Victory for their current political goals.  They decided to steal people’s memory and replace it with false political slogans, oaths of allegiance to the Motherland, and to Putin.

In essence, this is an attempt to replace the people themselves. This is a moral crime that has no statute of limitations.  To save ourselves, to remain a people, so that we do not betray the dead and the living, we the people must resist this political plague.  Victory Day, the Memory of the Fallen, the Sorrow and the Glory of the Great Patriotic War are inviolable.  Attempts to use them to justify current policies reflect the deep abyss into which the lost morality and honor of the state has fallen.

It’s possible to build a new state in the place of the collapsed one.  But we cannot rebuild memory; we can only save it.  It is important to keep the well of the Great Victory clean.  In it  is the life force of a people, the life force that’s needed in order to live and survive.


* Here are some photos of the omni-present orange and black St George ribbon, symbol of Russia’s new patriotism and war. It’s worn by young and old, appears on tanks and billboards. Even the teddy bear has one.

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IMG_7752 IMG_7754 IMG_7755  IMG_7759

 

Translated by: Paula Chertok
Source: Echo Moscow

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  • puttypants

    Excellent article.

  • Jack McColley

    May 9th. A Celebration of the Glory of Putin, the Saviour of Russia! He’s a great leader in his own mind.

  • disqus_aJpixObjG7

    FACTS that will eventually rise to blot out the russian communist fascist libel against UKRAINE and its history

    UKRAINE NOT RUSSIA DEFEATED GERMANY

    No, “russia” DID NOT defeat Germany. “russia’s” backside was SAVED BY UKRAINE… no more Russian lies needed in this world.

    UKRAINE, NOT “russia” defeated Germany as Churchill wrote.

    67% of ALL German forces including air sea land & elite and SS forces deployed WORLDWIDE were fighting in …UKRAINE, not in some…”russia”.

    UKRAINE LOST 14 MILLION POPULATION IN WW2.

    As of late 1942 the German war effort had UKRAINE not “russia” as its priority.

    NO NATION ON EARTH GAVE AS MUCH TO DEFEAT THE AXIS POWERS AS DID UKRAINE.

    For every American killed in WW2 FIFTY SIX 56 UKRAINIANS not “russians” died.

    It was UKRAINIANS WHO LIBERATED AUSCHWITZ AND ALL THE NAZI DEATH CAMPS IN POLAND …

    There are 2270 “RIGHTEOUS” UKRAINIANS HONORED IN JERUSALEM WHO RISKED AND GAVE THEIR LIVES TO SAVE JEWS… there are only a mere 250 “russians.”

    NO NATION ON EARTH GAVE AS MUCH TO SAVE THE JEWISH PEOPLE FROM THE HOLOCAUST AS DID …UKRAINE, (NOT…”russia”)

    Let no Jewish person wrongly ever accuse Ukraine of anti-Semitism again! Answer the truth to them so that they will be free of the russian historical libel against Ukraine.

    UKRAINE’S POPULATION FELL BY 14 MILLION IN WW2!!!!

    ALL THE OTHER SOVIET REPUBLICS PUT TOGETHER PLUS “russia” lost a
    total of at most 9 million people in WW2

    UKRAINE LOST 150% as many as all teh other soviet republics put together!

    UKRAINE, was the VICTOR against Germany NOT…some…”russia” as Churchill wrote and
    as the facts declare. ENOUGH of the russian libelous false version of history!…

    UKRAINE is NOT “rUSSIA.”

    THESE FACTS WILL PREVAIL as “russia” develops to a new NORTH KOREA on a massive scale and the TRUTH finally comes to light.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      Don’t forget the losses Belarus suffered. The Belarusian SSR lost 25% of its population and its cities were reduced to ruins. In comparison to the Ukrainian SSR and Belarusian SSR the RSFSR got off lightly.

      • puttypants

        Disq and Dag. You are both right. I’ve read this history so why hasn’t anyone else. We need to make sure this info get’s into all the schools when WW2 history is being taught. That’s been the problem in the past. It’s time to change that. Unfortunately, most of the world is going towards communism so it will be an uphill battle. Everyone wants something for nothing. Didn’t Poland also have huge losses?

        • Dagwood Bumstead

          Yes, it did. Nearly all of the Polish Jews perished- in the ghettos, Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec, Chelmno. The non-Jewish Poles fared a little better, but only relatively. Being Slavs they were only considered a cut above other Slavs- curiously, Polish forced labourers were treated slightly better than Ostarbeiter. (Jews, of course, were at the very bottom). Even so they too suffered severe losses. Warsaw was almost completely destroyed during WW2: first by the bombing in Sept. 1939; then the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943; next the heavy fighting between the Armija Krajowa and German forces in August-Sept. 1944 while Stalin twiddled his thumbs. Any buildings that were left were pretty much destroyed when the Germans abandoned Warsaw in early 1945.
          Krakau, fortunately, survived almost intact and is well worth a visit.

          • disqus_aJpixObjG7

            the Jewish Ghetto was “liquidated” not using regular German troops but the murderous rapist criminal dregs scoured out of German prisons- EXACLTY WHAT the russians are doing in Ukraine… using criminal rapists and murderers to kill loot rape and murder UKRAINIANS

        • disqus_aJpixObjG7

          Putty, these TRUTHS are being trampled down & censored ON PURPOSE by the owners of the Western Media- they continue to worship at the Kremlin today- and always worshiped the murderous trash that occupied the Kremlin so it continues today. this is a spiritual issue.
          These people are INTERESTED IN TRUTH OR FACTS ONLY TO SUPPRESS THEM- they have an AGENDA to push. that is also why no one is allowed to ever hear of the HOLODOMOR. IT IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN TO TOUCH THAT SUBJECT IN ALL WESTERN MEDIA.

          • puttypants

            I know they are. Whenever I mention it in the USA people just give me a vacant look and don’t encourage the conversation. We need money to fight these anti-semitic lies about Ukraine. In the last year I’ve read accounts by civilians as well as soldiers and historians so many accused Ukrainians of being primariy jewish killers during the war…not based on any facts this information sorta goes from one so call historian to another. In fact, very little info about WW2, Holodamor or the communist revolution came out of Ukraine. That’s the problem…

          • commieslayer

            There were and are similar accusations leveled at other countries such as Poland, Romania, Bulgaria etc. The history is of course much more complicated and there is a need for the Ukrainian government and historians to counter that propaganda.

        • disqus_aJpixObjG7

          Putty, Agendas will trample the TRUTH.
          The greatest genocide in human history must never be mentioned please see this tiny example this 4 minute fragment https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fg1rL_kbO_w

          • puttypants

            I’ve seen this video before…It was disturbing! How do Ukrainians admit to something they don’t believe they were responsible for? It’s very difficult. I saw a documentary by Steven Spielberg and Kuchma’s son-in-law. They interviewed Ukrainian jews still living in Ukraine who lived thru the war and their experience of war and loss. It was as upsetting to me as the stories my parents told me of their experience. That’s what bothers me Ukrainians can sympathize with the jews and their loses in in WW2 but why can’t the jews do the same for Ukrainians? It’s this lack of empathy by Ukrainian jews for ukrainian gentiles and their not understanding they have more in common with ukrainian gentiles…they’ve both been persecuted. Our best friends are a jewish couple and we don’t touch the subject of Ukraine because I can tell they don’t wanna talk about it.

          • commieslayer

            The Holodmor should be recognized officially as attempted genocide. For this, Ukraine should lobby the UN and the EU. The fact that other genocides have happened does not in any way diminish the gravity of the Holocaust.

        • disqus_aJpixObjG7

          This will change when UKRAINE INVESTS BILLIONS IN SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT-this will include LIBEL lawsuits against Western media who continue to push the russian DISINFORMATION PROPAGANDA LIES AND LIBEL against UKRAINE especially the FALSE SMEARS OF ANTI SEMITISM and NAZI COLLABORATION. These have been the EXCLUSIVE TWO SUBJECTS ALLOWED ABOUT UKRAINE in Western Media- STILL PREVAILING TODAY BBC Telegraph Time Newsweek Reuters, Figaro, Spiegel etc etc.
          These couple of billions spent on setting the historical record straight will pay off many many times over!

    • puttypants

      I asked my parents before they died why jews were so anti-ukrainian and they both said it was because a fair amount of them were communists and most communist did not trust Ukrainians…It was well known that for centuries Ukrainians wanted their independence from Russia. Additionally, only 10% of that population agreed with communism..they’ve from the Russian revolution that communism like tsarism was just another form of slavery for them. They also said that many jews were also Ukrainian patriots…and were not pro-communism.

      • Dagwood Bumstead

        Judaism and Bolshevism have NOTHING to do with each other. However, there were many Jews among the Bolshevik leaders. Karl Marx was Jewish, Lenin was part Jewish. Prominent Jews in the Bolshevik movement were: Trotsky; Kamenev; Zinoviev; Kaganovich (one of Stalin’s toadies); Moisei Uritsky (head of the Petrograd Cheka); Litvinov; Sverdlov; Yurovsky (one of the murderers of tsar Nicholas II and family); Polina Molotova (wife of).
        Jews were actively discriminated against under the Tsars and the Bolsheviks were attractive to Jews because of the promise of a better future than under the Tsars, better prospects for advancement. Stalin, however, was a notorious anti-Semite, perhaps because of his previous training for the Orthodox priesthood.
        Outside the USSR Jews there were also prominent in the international Bolshevik movement- Bela Kún; Kurt Eisner; Rosa Luxemburg; Max Levien; Eugen Leviné; Karl Radek; David Wijnkoop (founder of Dutch communist party CPH).
        Not widely known is the heavy influence of Russian White émigrés on the NSDAP. They had little love for Jews, and even less for the Bolsheviks. Alfred Rosenberg, a Balt and later the party ideologue, probably introduced Adolf to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which had been forged by the Okhrana.
        People who hated the Bolsheviks saw the prominent Jews in the movement and concluded that it was a Jewish conspiracy- which it was not. Most if not all of them had renounced their religion and were most probably atheists.

  • Dirk Smith

    This confirms third-world russia becoming the laughingstock of the world. We should have a contest on how many tanks break down.

  • puttypants

    This day should honor all the veterans and not Victory day. Winning that brutal war was no victory for anyone especially for those who lived thru it.

  • The truth

    Even the sheeps wear it. Even the feet wear it. It is like the Jehadists with their black uniforms and black flags. Business is important !