In addition to the deafening roar of tanks and the spectacular overflight of Iskander missiles, May 9 is a day of nostalgic and heroic war songs in Russia. “On this day, we remember our history, but not only of the country as a whole, but of each family,” says Margarita, who this Saturday was one of hundreds of people who occupied the stands on Red Square in Moscow to attend the dress rehearsal. victory parade.
To the rhythm of the march of cadets, infantry, Cossacks and other army corps, the orchestra, located under the main entrance of the GUM galleries, plays patriotic songs that every resident of the former Soviet republics can at least sing.
Like every year, such compositions as “We need Victory” by the singer, songwriter and poet Bulat Okudzhava, “Victory Day”, composed in 1975 by the poet Vladimir Kharitonov on the 30th anniversary of the end of the war, or the immortal Katyusha, is already one of the informal hymns of the Great Patriotic War, since the part of the Second World War in which they fought is known in Russian.
“It’s something very exciting because of the family memories. My father, who was very young, participated in the final part of the war. Grandpa got all this,” explains Margarita, who never misses a celebration and this time came with her daughter Alina.
But this year, not only are planes and helicopters planned to fly over Red Square in Moscow, but also the military campaign that Russian President Vladimir Putin launched on February 24, when he ordered troops to enter Ukraine.
“On this day, we remember the history, not only of the country as a whole, but also of each family and their ancestors”
He and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy yesterday referred to a common World War II enemy to accuse the other of Nazism. Zelensky said on Telegram that Russia carried out a “bloody reconstruction of Nazism” in his country and accused the Kremlin of “fanatic imitation” of the Nazi regime.
Putin responded in a message to the peoples and leaders of several former Soviet republics, including the people of Ukraine. In it, he called the Kyiv authorities “the ideological heirs of those who were defeated in the Great Patriotic War (…). Our common duty is to prevent the revival of Nazism, which brought so much suffering, ”he added. When the head of the Kremlin sent an army to Ukraine, he said that his goal was to support the self-proclaimed pro-Russian republics of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as the “demilitarization and denazification” of the neighboring country.
Because of its strong military symbolism, there has been a lot of speculation among Western politicians and the media about the message that the head of the Kremlin will leave in his Victory Day speech. One idea being considered is the possibility of a formal declaration of war on Ukraine, which would mean mobilizing more troops and reservists. But the Kremlin itself denied that last week. “This is not true, this is nonsense,” his press secretary Dmitry Peskov said bluntly.
There were also rumors that Russia would end its “special military operation” that day, an idea supported by Pope Francis himself, citing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Moscow also ruled it out. Putin has the last word.
What is certain is that, like every year, thousands of soldiers take part in this great military parade, which this time celebrates the 77th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in 1945. Anton and Svetlana, a couple of pensioners, this day gives them great confidence in the future,” he says. She remembers her grandfather, “who was captured and returned years later, when they thought he was already buried.”
The Kremlin denied rumors that Putin was going to formally declare war at the parade.
On Saturday they were already able to verify the passage of “11,000 servicemen, 131 units of modern weapons and military equipment, 77 planes and helicopters,” according to data provided by the Russian Defense Ministry to the state agency RIA Novosti.
Without much progress in the Ukrainian campaign, the Russian president is expected to use the podium to justify a “special military operation.” But there will be no shortage of patriotic support. The military parade in honor of Victory Day this year will be held in 28 cities of Russia, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu assured. After that, they will celebrate the procession of the “Immortal Regiment” – an event that has become traditional in the last decade and gathers tens of thousands of Russians with portraits of their loved ones who died during World War II, including Putin himself. In the previous two years, it was not held due to the covid pandemic, so this time a large attendance is expected.
The walls of the Kremlin and Lenin’s mausoleum (covered for the occasion), GUM, the State Historical Museum and the colorful St. Basil’s Cathedral are decorated with banners of national colors (white, blue and red) or the St. George ribbon, another of the military symbols that have taken hold in recent years. Soviet emblems from World War II and iconic photographs of the conflict, such as Red Army soldiers hoisting the Soviet flag on the destroyed Reichstag building in Berlin in 1945. Small children, who come hand in hand with their parents, wear a typical military cap of the forties with a red star in front. Both veterans and military wear their medals on such a special occasion.
But the conflict with Ukraine has added others to the traditional symbols. The letter Z, which first appeared on the tanks that entered Ukraine, is already in Russia a sign of patriotism and support for the military campaign in Ukraine. On Saturday, it appeared on the lapels of many viewers. And even in the sky, when a group of eight MiG-29 fighters passed over the red towers of the State Historical Museum and Z formation flew over Red Square.
When the last tank leaves and the soldiers leave the square, we journalists will be able to talk to the audience. “Impressive, goosebumps, because we are proud of our country, our president,” a girl named Tatyana assured on Saturday.
“If Russia, Ukraine and Belarus had remained united, what is happening now would not have happened”
Another participant, Stanislav, explained that Victory Day “is a holiday of peace.” According to him, “an army as strong as this ensures peace for us. And this is a guarantee of our and your safety.” On the situation around Ukraine: “I hope it will be resolved soon. If Belarus, Ukraine and Russia had remained together, they would have had great strength, but not an aggressive force, but as a guarantee of peace for the whole world. And what is happening now would not have happened, ”he assured.
Of course, during the military parade, the timpani, trombones and trumpets of the orchestra do not play any anti-war songs. What’s in Russia: from the classic What to Say, composed by singer and poet Alexander Vertinsky in 1917 after the October Revolution; do not shoot! , written by Yuri Shevchuk, is considered one of the best Russian rock songs of the 20th century and was written after the start of the Soviet war in Afghanistan.
After the parade, they clear Red Square in Moscow. Spectators leave, taking the opportunity to take pictures and look at the huge esplanade from a different angle. Meanwhile, in today’s strange sarcasm, the pigeons are starting to come back. But no white.
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