Defending our memory and pain from Russia’s Victory Day exploits

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2016/05/06 • Analysis & Opinion, Op-ed

Over the past two years, many have written that the propaganda cult in Russia surrounding Victory Day is a profound desecration of the memory of those killed and maimed in the horrific Second World War. It’s hard to imagine a greater travesty to the fallen as well as to the survivors than the sight of thugs and rapists, wearing St. George ribbons and accusing Ukrainians of fascism, in the very country savagely attacking Ukraine in an undeclared war.

Today, just as a year ago, the blood, pain and suffering of some are being used by others to justify militaristic hysteria, hatred, aggression and lies to rob, murder, and slander in a boundless orgy of barbaric baseness. In her article “Victory Day: A Raider’s Grab” psychologist Lyudmila Petranovskaya is absolutely right in noting the pervasive vulgarity and cynicism that have captured Russians in connection with Victory Day.

“We see in the ‘Novorossiya’ narrative a deliberate linking of the symbols of that [Second World] war with the current mayhem: Ukrainian cities were captured in a “Holy War” and with St. George ribbons; we saw in the media persistent lies that Ukraine was going to cancel Victory Day; that Ukraine is now ruled by Bandera [nationalists] who fought for Hitler. We are being presented a false dilemma of impossible contradictions: either you are against fascism and honor the sacrificial feats of your grandfathers and, consequently, you must support the entire imperial baseness towards your neighbor, or you’re against it, in which case you are yourself then an accomplice of the fascists and you have no claim to the Victory,” notes the psychologist.

Victory in the bloodiest war in the history of mankind is again being used as the grounds for igniting new militaristic hysteria.. using the symbols associated with Victory Day to expand Russia’s influence not only in the post-Soviet space but also into Eastern Europe.

But now Russian propaganda has gone even further. Victory in the bloodiest war in the history of mankind is again being used as the grounds for igniting new militaristic hysteria (a phenomenon dubbed with an accurate term “pobedobesie” [“victory craze”]), Kremlin puppeteers have begun to use the entire array of semantic and symbolic associations with this day to expand their influence, not only in the post-Soviet space, but also into Eastern Europe.

Just a few days ago, it was reported that Russia’s “Immortal Regiment” on May 9 will hold a “special march” in Serbia, not only as a commemorative procession to those killed in the Second World War, but also as an action against NATO. So Hitler and NATO are now to be viewed as equivalent in degree of destructiveness.

Predictably, the organizers of the event were the strange Media Center “Ruski Ekspres’ the Serbian branch of the “International Foundation for the Unity of Orthodox Christian Nations” and the “Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots.” A member of the Coordinating Council, Marina Galogazha, openly admits that “the atmosphere is rather tense in Serbia,” which the organizers seek to fully exploit.

“In connection with recent elections – anti-NATO protest, the Russian line against the West – any action related to Russia, including the anti-NATO protest … Everything related to Russia, anti-fascism, anti-West are perceived very positively. I am collecting photographs of those who will take part in the action. Many Serbs are proud to be able to hold up their photographs together with the Russians,” reports Galogazha. The pro-Russian and anti-Western activities are visible in the official press release “Immortal Regiment” in Serbia.

The pro-Russian and anti-Western essence of the measure is obvious in the official press release of ‘the Regiment of the Immortals’ in Serbia.

“Serbia is a faithful ally of Russia … The Immortal Regiment can become another important milestone in our common history … If Serbs come out with portraits of their heroes, fighters for freedom and independence of their country, the world again will see that we have always been and we will always remain together – Serbs and Russians … We ask everyone who wishes to join our campaign to bring their photo archives of relatives who took part in the defense of Serbia during the First World War, who fought against fascist occupation of Yugoslavia in World War II, as well as those who have defended Yugoslavia against NATO aggression in 1999,” says the press release.

It’s worth nothing, by the way, that the original idea for the “Immortal Regiment” was created by the opposition TV channel “TV2” in Tomsk, and it was specifically designed not to carry any political message. Its essence was to walk through the streets with pictures of one’s relatives who died during the Second World War, a simple tribute to the fallen, a symbol of the continuity of generations, and nothing more.

In essence, Victory Day has become one of the main instruments of “soft power,” providing a “creeping occupation” of Russia into post-Soviet countries as well as into Eastern Europe.

And so even here, as with everything else that is associated with this day, the Russian government has once again “pushed out” symbols and memory, replacing their original meaning with the new imperial propaganda designed to legitimize all past and current crimes of the Kremlin not only in the eyes of its own people, but also in the eyes of other countries. In essence, Victory Day has become one of the main instruments of “soft power,” providing a “creeping occupation” of Russia into post-Soviet countries as well as into Eastern Europe.

The memory of the greatest tragedy in human history, the death and suffering of millions of people has become just another tool of psychological and information warfare

The memory of the greatest tragedy in human history, the death and suffering of millions of people has become just another tool of psychological and information warfare, a lever by which an aggressor country is able to influence other states. And therefore, the most important thing we can do to counteract this propaganda is not to succumb to it, and, instead set an example for a different, genuine, sincere conversation about the Great War.

The most important thing we can do to counteract this propaganda is not to succumb to it, and, instead set an example for a different, genuine, sincere conversation about the Great War.

It seems to me that last year, Ukraine found absolutely the right tone for this conversation. “New Regionpublished stories from the front lines, real stories told to us, the descendants of soldiers and workers. Ordinary people – Russians, Ukrainians, Americans, and Englishmen – shared with us their family archives, memories of their grandmothers and grandfathers, their letters and memoirs. They were concerned and thoughtfully wanted to preserve authentic artifacts from that era which still remained in the family.

I would like to ask our readers to do the same this year.

Remember your family history, talk about the war, about life behind the frontlines, of hunger and deprivation, the fears and the hopes of the victims and the survivors. Talk about all of it, so that under no circumstances would such things ever be repeated. “Never again”! Share this truth with each other, and, if you’d like, with our website (which is welcome), but do not let your memory and the memory of your ancestors be trampled and trivialized.

Remember your family history, talk about the war, about life behind the frontlines, of hunger and deprivation, the fears and the hopes of the victims and the survivors. Talk about all of it, so that under no circumstances would such things ever be repeated. “Never again”! Share this truth with each other, and, if you’d like, with our website (which is welcome), but do not let your memory and the memory of your ancestors be trampled and trivialized.

It’s not necessary to collect only the history of front line events. Any facts from the past are pieces of our common history, from the heroic to the most shameful. There are no “insignificant” events. For history and memory, the general who captured Berlin is of equal value as my grandfather, who spent the worst year of the war 1941 at the front, and then, injured and diseased, built a railway station to protect his workers who came from the liberated territories of the USSR from the ubiquitous NKVD and SMERSH agents. Like the story of a 16-year-old Jewish girl, trapped in the evacuation, barely surviving famine. To survive, she would smear stale pieces of bread with the grease from steel rails, as if it was butter. By the way, this girl who lost her family in the war is the mother of a great friend of Ukraine, American Paula Chertok.

Each one of us has many stories like these.  I beg you to save them. Don’t leave Victory Day to the mercy of Kremlin liars and scum. Preserve your authentic memories of the Second World War, free of imperial mythology, so that when we do think about the War, we, together with the rest of the civilized world, can honor the sacrifices and heroism of the dead and to say in earnest: “Never again!”

Translated by: Paula Chertok
Source: New Region

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  • Quartermaster

    A remembrance day would be a good thing. One day for World War 2, and another for the Holomodor. The Holomodor would be particularly significant given Putin’s fan boy status of Stalin. Broadcasting a parade of pictures from the Holomodor to the world, with English speaking hosts, and adding pictures from the Donbas, and footage from the theft of Crimea, would go a long way towards countering Russian propaganda.

  • Alex George

    The answer is, simply keep stating the truth. People will listen, eventually.

  • Alex George

    As long as he understands that the victory was not won by Russia.

    The victory was won by the USSR, with countries like Belarus and Ukraine making greater sacrifices per capita than Russia did, in order to defeat Germany.