Victory Day in Russia is more than a national celebration; it is a moment in world history when catastrophic disasters were avoided – a day that brought people together.
There are many significant holidays in the history of the Soviet Union and Russia, but the Victory over Nazism celebration, which is commemorated every year on May 9, retains an unique place in the hearts of Russians.
This day commemorates the end of the Great Patriotic War, and this year, people throughout the world will commemorate the 77th anniversary of this historic event. However, there are many interesting facts regarding Victory Day’s history that few people are aware of.
Why does Russia commemorate Victory Day on May 9th?
The Soviet people’s Great Patriotic War began on June 22, 1941, and the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany and its armed forces was signed on May 8, 1945. In Berlin, the regime’s first page was signed.
Over 26 million Soviet people did not return home during the war’s four years, a figure that includes both troops killed on the battlefield and civilian casualties. Many people are perplexed as to why Victory Day is celebrated on May 9 in Russia, yet on May 8 in many other nations.
There have been other theories, however the most accurate explanation is due to time zone differences. The Nazi surrender agreement was signed at 23:01 local time on May 8, but when the word of triumph reached Moscow, it was already May 9. Following that, the famed All-Soviet Air announcer Yuri Levitan read on the radio the declaration of the Soviet army’s triumph over Nazi Germany: “The Great Patriotic War was waged by the people.” The war between the Soviet Union and the Nazi invaders concluded in victory for the Soviet Union, and Germany was entirely defeated.”
It’s worth mentioning that there was no spectacular procession as there is now, no St George’s ribbon, no carnations, and no Immortal Regiment on the first Victory Day.
That day, everyone came out of their homes, greeted the visitors, organised celebrations with music and dances, and, of course, waited for the living warriors to return. From the front, turn left. The celebration was capped off with a stunning fireworks display in Moscow.
Military parades have a long history.
The victory parade was held in 1945, but it was held on June 24, not May 9, 1945. Marshal Georgy Zhukov presided over the occasion, and Field Marshal Konstantin Rokossovsky led a military procession attended by 35,000 people. Military parades were not held for another 20 years, until 1965. Furthermore, Victory Day was no longer an official holiday at the time. People go to work on May 9 as if it were any other weekday. This did not, however, stop festivals from being held throughout the Soviet Union.
Thus, the second Victory Parade was staged in 1965, followed by large-scale marches in 1985, 1990, and 1995 – the parade was thereafter held on a regular basis. Held every year to commemorate the defeat of fascism.
It is now a well-rehearsed large-scale event, with thousands in the streets and live television and Internet coverage.
The Victory Parade features military might demonstrations, including land and air military equipment, parades of various military units, students from military educational institutions, and the president’s military unit.
The Victory Parade was staged from time to time not just on Red Square in Moscow, but also in all of Russia’s heroic cities, military districts, and several other large cities.
Carnations and Ribbons in honour of St. George
Red carnations and St George’s ribbons are two of the most important aspects of Victory Day. Carnations are traditionally given to veterans of the Great Patriotic War, and they are also placed on memorials, according to tradition.
This flower has long been associated with victory, evoking the Red Army’s unstoppable might. Carnations are also known as “resilient” flowers, meaning they may pleasure the beholder for several days. Almost everyone wears the St George’s ribbon on Victory Day, although not everyone considers its significance, and there are different interpretations of its symbolic meaning. There are two colours on the ribbon: orange and black. The colours orange and black indicate fire and smoke, respectively. That was the genuine meaning of the St George’s ribbon at the beginning.
This ribbon was also employed as a specific identifying symbol for soldiers in the Soviet system of awards and decorations. The St George’s ribbon is today worn as a symbol of Soviet soldiers’ valour and triumph over Nazism.
Welcome fireworks, minutes of solitude, and the main song
In 1965, a moment of silence was established in honour of soldiers who perished fighting on the front lines. Then, on Victory Day, at 6 p.m. Moscow time on May 9, a minute’s silence was declared across Russia on radio and television.
In recent years, the Russian president has frequently observed a minute of quiet during his Victory Parade speech. For exactly one minute, the engines stopped roaring and the voices hushed down, allowing people all around Russia to remember the dead. The salut fireworks, which have been held every year since 1945, are an important feature of Victory Day. It was a massive fireworks display shot from the skies into the sky of Moscow at the time. Thousands of anti-air artillery
Every year, the size of the fireworks displays in every Russian city grows more. On May 9, at 10 p.m., fireworks began to explode noisily for 10 minutes, illuminating the entire sky with millions of brilliant sparks.
A carnival concert is also part of the Victory Day programme. And the Victory Day anthem, which is loved by millions, will undoubtedly be heard on all Russian venues. The music was composed by youthful musician David Tukhmanov, and the words were written by veteran Vadim Kharitonov.
It’s worth remembering that the song was composed 30 years after the war, and it had to travel a long road before being widely circulated across the country. Official authorities initially criticised the piece, and eventually the performance was outright prohibited.
Lev Leshchenko, a young artist, gave the song a “second life.” At his solo concert in Alma-Ata, the singer purposefully sang this tune, and the entire crowd erupted in ovation.
Leshchenko was banned from performing this song at official events for a long time after that, but he found a means to get around it. At the Police Force Day commemoration performance, which was shown live on television, he played the song Victory Day.
The song was a huge success, as expected. “We will not be like that again,” General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Leonid Brezhnev reportedly assured author Vladimir Kharitonov at one of the banquets following the parade.
The Immortal Regiment movement is another recent custom that has added to the significance of Victory Day. This is a procession of individuals carrying portraits of veterans through the streets of the city.
This activity was originally held in the city of Tomsk on May 9, 2012, and has since spread to many other Russian cities. The “Russian Immortal Regiment” was formally registered as a civil-socio-political movement in September 2015.
This activity is currently taking place not just in every Russian city, but also internationally. Due to the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic, Immortal Regiment activities was held online in 2020 and 2021.
Many young people now have no idea how much anguish and suffering their forefathers went hrough, yet there is no disputing that the years of war affected every family in the huge former Soviet Union.
Victory Day is celebrated in Russia to remind people that the country has survived the world’s most brutal war and fought Nazism. Furthermore, the horrific occurrences of that time period should not be repeated.
Each year, the number of Great Patriotic War veterans decreases. And, Russians believe that if you know one of them, you should pay them a visit not only on Victory Day but also on other days of the week, care for them, assist them, inquire about their lives, and pass on such wonderful things to his children.
It’s also vital to remember that Victory Day is more than just a national holiday; it’s a part of world history in which catastrophic disasters were avoided. This is a day that draws people together in a big way.