Victory Day parade on Moscow's Red Square - www.wikipedia.org
Reede, 25 Mai 2018 19:00
Laas Leivat - Estonian Life No. 21 2018
The Victory Day activities are no longer a commemoration of the Soviet Victory over Nazi Germany but a reaffirmation of national pride and Russian identity. Currently, following Vladimir Putin`s preference, there is an overwhelming ideological component to the celebrations.
In fact the full-page local Russian newspaper ads promoting the parade and other events in Toronto recently were embellished with the Communist hammer and sickle. The Russian Congress of Canada, one of the sponsors of the festivities, actively lobbied against the parliamentary adoption of the `Magnitsky` legislation, that would impose sanctions against foreigners who have committed human rights abuses. Although the Congress denies any connections with the Kremlin, this was clearly a co-ordinated effort with Moscow vehemently opposing such laws that have been legislated in many countries intended to make Russia (and other authoritarian regimes) accountable for its gross violation of civil liberties.
Since its inception in 2014, the Congress has consistently promoted positions that coincide with the policies that the Kremlin espouses. This is, of course totally allowed and legal in a liberal democracy like Canada. Because it engenders vigorous debate, non-violent dissent is even encouraged. But a similar organization in Russia, countering official policy, would be outlawed.
The first Victory Day parade in Moscow was held on June 24, 1945 shortly after the defeat of Nazi Germany. Amongst other highlights, Red Army soldiers heaved Wehrmacht and Waffen SS banners beside Lenin’s mausoleum. This ideological aspect of the spectacle displeased Josef Stalin because it diminished the status of the leader himself. In 1946 Victory Day had been relegated to an ordinary working day making the glory of the Red Army’s triumph personified in Stalin himself.
It was a full generation later, in 1965 that the status of Victory Day was revived with the date of the parade changed to May 9th, the day Germany surrendered. In 1985, 40 years since the end of the war, the military parades of the Soviet era made their exit, coincidentally just before Mihkail Gorbachev’s anti-alcoholism decrees. The anticipation of a booze ban made the last military parade an animated booze-up.
With Putin the importance of Victory Day has been fully re-established. The parade in Moscow has become the primary part of the most important holiday in the Russian calendar. It`s not just marking the victory over Nazi Germany. It`s a holy celebration of national identity. We must recall that in 2014, just after Russia occupied and annexed Crimea, a parallel Victory Day parade was held in Sevastopol, the former Ukrainian peninsula`s most prominent city. Putin attended the huge military display in Moscow and then five hours by airplane later presided over the ritual in the illegally acquired Crimea.
One would have expected that with the collapse of the USSR, the communist trappings of the Victory Day parades will have been an inappropriate symbol of a tyrannical past. But even two years ago, at the Toronto festivities, the hammer and sickle by far overpowered the historic white, blue and red colours of Russia. Though the Soviet communist symbolic presence has now diminished somewhat, its still prominently displayed, especially in promotions of the Toronto events.
Even though the hammer and sickle was undeniably the legitimate sign of state and authority of the past, one may suggest that it`s completely unacceptable for any gathering of German WWII veterans to display a Swastika as a sign of allegiance or even as a display of historical honesty. Yes, both symbols are equally odious for at least the peoples of central and eastern Europe, of which there are hundreds of thousands in Toronto.
Moscow has repeatedly labelled all who equate the hammer and sickle with the Swastika as fascists. Others decry that the same intensity of condemnation given to Stalin`s and Hitler`s crimes amounts to a denial of the Jewish holocaust. But one must recognize the horror of tens of millions killed under the banner of the hammer and sickle even though a statistical comparison of the two mass genocides has been morally condemned. Also the `liberation` of central and eastern Europe, for which the Kremlin demands all the credit, was not a liberating experience for the nationalities of the region. It was the replacement of one oppressive, foreign regime with another equally tyrannical power who kept countries captive for the next 50 years.
It`s crucial for Putin`s efforts to present his regime as the ultimate winner in the Great Patriotic War. Saving the world from fascism was not just the colossal achievement of the Soviet Union, it also offered reasoning for Russia`s re-crowing itself as a great world power as defined by Putin. His regime is the legitimate inheritor of the victory that is sacred for all Russians, the state power that cannot be criticised or opposed. In Putin`s understanding of the dynamics of international power, finding fault in him, is criticising Russia and thereby castigating the Soviet Union for saving the world from evil. The Kremlin sees the exposure of its human rights violations, rampant corruption, the repression of political opposition, the stifling of truth in the media, the aggression against Ukraine and other totalitarian traits as threats to its rightful place in the international scene.
Until Russians wake up and reject the creeping return of dictatorship, the country’s greatness as a world power to be respected will be only in the vainglorious boastings of the current president. Laas Leivat