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Victory Day celebrations “Immortal Regiment”: Russia’s “special operation”

Victory Day celebrations "Immortal Regiment": Russia’s "special operation"
The ” Immortal Regiment” march in Washington DC, ” an operation sanctioned and supported by the Russian government to propagate the current Russian political course and attempt to influence American public opinion.” Photo: Sputnik
Victory Day celebrations “Immortal Regiment”: Russia’s “special operation”
Translated by: Michael Garrood
Edited by: Yuri Zoria
The recent anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory in the Second World War has once again stirred up a debate on the victory celebrations, known as “Immortal Regiment,” not only in Russia but also amongst the Russian diasporas in many countries in the world. While in Russia itself the event’s official status is undisputed, in other countries, for example, the United States of America, such celebratory events are considered as exclusively “public initiatives” carried out by members of the Russian-speaking community to honor their relatives who perished during the Great Patriotic War.

Below we shall look at only the most evident, obvious arguments that indicate the fallacy of such a conclusion. By examining the facts, it will become obvious that in the USA, the Immortal Regiment celebrations are an operation sanctioned and supported by the Russian government to propagate the current Russian political course and attempt to influence American public opinion.

Read also: The Soviet foundations of Russia’s Great Patriotic War myth

1. Coordination of Immortal Regiment activities in various US cities is carried out by the Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots of the US (KSORS). On its website, extensive information is provided every year on events taking place in various US cities, and reports are published on events that have already been held. Moreover, the English version of the KSORS website announced that KSORS had been named coordinator of the Victory Day.

However, KSORS is the American branch of the World coordinating council of Russian compatriots living abroad (VKSRS), which according to the organization’s website relies upon RKS and KSORS and is the executive body of the World Congress of Compatriots. The Congress itself was created in accordance with the Russian federal law on the state policy of the Russian Federation in connection with compatriots abroad and ensures “the interaction of compatriots with Russian Federation government bodies.”

In addition, in 2018 the Russian embassy in the USA was for the first time officially included on the list of Victory Day sponsors. The head of the Russian-American initiative on cooperation, Sergei Gladysh, provided information on this in an interview with the news agency RIA Novosti. Thus, it is obvious that Immortal Regiment is being conducted by an organization created by the Russian government and financed by the Russian state.

2. The Russian organizations carrying out the Immortal Regiment events consider them a successful “special operation” as a part of the “war on sanctions.” In particular, more than a year and a half ago I drew attention to an article in the newspaper Kommersant which bore a pretty blunt headline (Russian diaspora in the USA has been given a special mission). The article began with a rather shocking confession.

Yesterday representatives of the Russian diaspora in the USA reported in the public chamber of the Russian Federation on how they are promoting the Russian language, history and culture «under the conditions of the sanctions war». The organizations of citizens who have received grants from Russian Cooperation said they consider themselves part of the Russian strategy of “soft power”.

The Russian “sanctions warriors” reported personally to the head of the commission for the development of public diplomacy and support of compatriots, Yelena Sutormina, who with disarming sincerity said that “now there is a complex relationship, there is a sanctions war. You are on the front line.”

Read also: “Immortal regiment” march in Toronto – shameful display of Russian propaganda

In terms of her “military operations” in her undeclared war, the vice-president of the coordinating committee of compatriots in the USA, Olga Zatsepina, named the Immortal Regiment events, carried out very much in line with Soviet PR methods. These include working with children adopted by Americans, interacting with American society, and also with senators (those according to Yelena Sutormina who need «to be used»). In this matter, no discomfort need be felt by “fighters on the invisible front” on “enemy” territory.

«An American organization engaged in such activities in Russia with money from the US government would probably be accused of being a foreign agent. However, the Russian diaspora in the USA is not confronted with such problems – on the contrary. Mrs. Zatsepina boasted that authorities in New York state freed her NGO from having to pay tax», the article states.

At the same time, the publication notes that the Heritage Centre headed by Zatsepina is active in the USA «with the support of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Russian Cooperation, the Russian Federation general consulate and embassy, the Russian World fund and the Moscow city administration».

It is worth adding that this “most favored status,” was apparently obtained by the above-mentioned “use of senators.” Thus Anton Konev, legislative director for New York state senator Luis Sepúlveda, regularly organizes trips for the senator and assembly to Russia, which commenced back in 2011. It is not surprising that with his active lobbying, the New York State Senate this month passed a resolution on the importance of the “Immortal Regiment” action.

3. Not only the KSORS itself but the local organizers of the Immortal Regiment events, in addition to carrying out these events, are actively pushing the Russian agenda in other spheres. This includes the “Russian-American initiative on friendship” in Washington state, which is the organizer of the local Immortal Regiment, actively promoting material that supports Russian aggression in Ukraine, protecting RT, the Russian propaganda mouthpiece in the USA, Russian foreign policy, and even promotes the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov laughing at anti-Russian sanctions.

In 2014 and 2015, the Facebook pages of organization head Sergei Gladysh and his assistants were full of photographs of the Russian consulate, the Seliger forum and even an embrace with the Russian spy, Anna Chapman, who was exposed in the USA. Some of these photographs were subsequently deleted, but screenshots have been preserved in archives.

At the same time, Ukraine’s honorary consul in Washington and Oregon, Valery Goloborodko, said that members of the organization (at that time called «Russian-American Youth Association») threatened his father in September 2014 with acts of terrorism on Ukrainian territory which did indeed then take place. Other local pro-Russian organizations and activists also carried out exclusively pro-Russian affairs in other issues: in connection with Russian interference in internal US affairs, the situation in Ukraine, questions regarding sanctions, and so on.

The "Immortal Regiment" march in the East-Ukrainian Russian-occupied city of Luhansk. 9 May 2018. Photo: LITs
The “Immortal Regiment” march in the East-Ukrainian Russian-occupied city of Luhansk. 9 May 2018. Photo: LITs

Read also: Russian Diaspora: from “Monarchists” to “Communists”

4. Almost all leaders and activists, even if in organizational terms not formally linked, work closely with the KSORS, Russian Cooperation and the Russian embassy in various activities. The best known of these is the annual Youth Forum in New York, which is held with support from the Russian embassy in the USA, the Russian consulate in New York, Russian Cooperation, the city of Moscow’s department of foreign economic and international relations, KSORS USA, the Congress of Russian Americans, Ethnomir and the Gorchakov foundation. The event was last held in October 2017, and as per tradition the Russian ambassador in the USA, Anatoly Antonov, noted the importance of the desire «to be together with the historical homeland» in the current circumstances, «when Russia is being reproached for having the right to its own worldview», and again appealed for peopleto rally behind our leader.”

The already mentioned Sergei Gladysh, by the way, regularly visits the forum, publishes photographs and presents his projects at it. This also applies to other youth leaders, who directly organize the Victory Day events in their respective cities.

5. It goes without saying that the organization of Victory Day celebrations by the above-mentioned organizations is also carried out along the lines of the current Russian version of historical events, with denial of crimes committed in the Soviet past, the use of symbols employed during the seizing of Ukrainian towns (the so-called Georgian ribbon) and with a direct connection to supporting the policies of today’s Russia as the “Heir to the Victory.” Often during the Immortal Regiment events, people with portraits of Stalin glorify the NKVD and Soviet symbols, and also militarist slogans of modern Russia.

Stalin’s portrait at the “Immortal Regiment” event in Kaliningrad, Russia on 9 May 2017. Photo: Regnum

Read also: Putin and Stalin fit right in at the “Immortal Regiment” event in Boston

At the same time, any attempts at “alternative” honoring of those who perished during the WWII years are hushed up or denied. The initiators of Immortal Regiment events assume the right to speak on behalf of all descendants of those who triumphed over German fascism, while in practice the vast majority of those who do not support the current Russian authorities’ aggressive course continue to revere and respect the memory of the soldiers. I annually collect evidence from descendants of veterans from the war. These people are of many nationalities, living both in the USA as well as in post-Soviet countries. Evidence includes real facts, the living history of veterans, information on the contribution of allies and other military realities untainted by politics or embellishment.

A man dressed as Putin carries portrait of Stalin at the "Immortal Regiment" procession in Boston, USA. Photo: Arts against Aggression
A man dressed as Putin carries a portrait of Stalin at the “Immortal Regiment” procession in Boston, USA, May 2017. Photo: Arts against Aggression
In spite of the facts, however, Russian propagandists create a false opposition, declaring that those who do not accept their version of the Victory celebrations are “supporters of fascism.”
At the same time, those who represent nationalities “expelled” from the Victory celebrations by the modern Russian propaganda openly declare the victory has been stolen from them while they continue to preserve the memory of their families’ tragedies.

Read also: Russia’s exported “Immortal Regiment” marches accused of being part of hybrid war against Ukraine

Thus, it can be concluded that the Russian authorities simply use historical events and the tragedy experienced by many nationalities to propagate their own lies, military aggression and slander towards people from other countries. Unfortunately, this method has until this day escaped the attention of many people in the USA.

In addition, it should not be forgotten that Russian governmental organizations abroad, as well as NGOs connected to them, work on the part of the diaspora which relates negatively to the Day of Victory, and in principle to the Soviet past.

In addition, it should not be forgotten that Russian governmental organizations abroad, as well as NGOs connected to them, work on the part of the diaspora which relates negatively to the Day of Victory, and in principle to the Soviet past. I have already noted that a very bizarre ideology has been created for the descendants of White Russian emigrants, justifying Moscow’s policy from a “radical right-wing” position.

This tactic is also bearing fruit. For example, the anti-communist organization the Congress of Russian Americans, created during the Soviet era, has not publicly supported the Immortal Regiment celebrations but has sent an appeal to the US president referring to discrimination experienced by Russian emigres in the USA against the background of deteriorating Russian-American relations. Russian consulates and the Russian Orthodox church to a large degree support both “Soviet-patriotic” and “monarchist-patriotic” projects, skillfully playing on their antagonism and once again bringing together the incongruous.

Read more:

Translated by: Michael Garrood
Edited by: Yuri Zoria
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