Thursday, June 9, 2011
This is really very moving. Most Americans have probably never seen anything quite like it.
The video is of the opening of this year's Annual Victory Parade, May 9, celebrating the Allied victory over the Axis powers in Europe. There are some 20,000 troops from Russia and countries of the former Soviet Union, and from all over Europe and from the United States, too -- the most ever gathered for a Victory Parade they say -- marshaled on Red Square to be reviewed by the Defense Minister and the Colonel General of the Armed Force before marching in parade before the assembled dignitaries arrayed in front of and beside Lenin's Tomb -- which has been decoratively covered by a Russian Federation themed shroud in honor of the day.
A number of things: there seems to be somewhat more Soviet imagery than I recall seeing in previous Victory Day Parades held since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The Defense Minister greets the troops: "Товарищи!" "Comrades!" I like it. He and the Colonel General are swanned around the Square in Soviet Era parade cars. While this may seem retro, it's actually good because most of the veterans of the Great Patriotic War on the reviewing stands were Soviet citizens. You cannot have a Victory Parade on Red Square without acknowledging the Soviet Union was the victor and it is the Soviet Union's victory that is being celebrated.
It's interesting how the modern Russian Federation integrates Soviet imagery -- and avoids some of it, too -- in these annual events, and it is interesting to see how it changes over time.
Here's a video of the 1945 Victory Parade, Uncle Joe Stalin officiating. It is quite different, yes, and yet not that much different at all:
For Americans, WWII was all about US fighting the perfidious Nazis and Japs. I'm of the Post War/early Cold War generation, and there was little or no acknowledgement of the Soviet sacrifice and ultimate victory over the Nazis. But they were the ones who took the brunt of the War, losing tens of millions of troops and civilians, seeing almost the entire European portion of the nation destroyed. As bad as the situation was in post War Europe, it was much worse in the Soviet Union. Of course, we learned nothing about this in the 1950s; the Soviets were our blood enemies, and their suffering during and immediately after the War was simply not mentioned. I didn't really learn of it until I was in college.
And then, so much of the anti-Communist propaganda we'd been fed throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s made a kind of inverted, sad sense. And it was then that some of us began to realize that the Soviets were not a threat to the United States, and that their "chiding" -- shall we say -- of America's civil rights and other failures and criticism of American impulses toward Imperialism were actually tonics that helped Americans find ways to improve.
We don't have that Soviet mirror any more, and the current Russian Federation version of it is hardly of the caliber of the former Soviet Union.
I've spoken with some of the survivors of the Great Patriotic War, men and women who came to this country mostly as religious refugees from the Soviet Union. When they think back on what they lived through, what they survived, how they did it, who they fought, they have immense and justifiable pride in what they were able to do against all odds, and when it came to that War, they were without question loyal and patriotic Soviet citizens. Even if later their Republic (most of those I've interviewed were Ukrainians) would rebel.
The shame was that the Better World that was supposed to rise after the Victory began to fall apart almost immediately and for too many, it has become or is becoming a nightmare.
We deserve better.
My sort of half-assed translation of the Defense Minister's statement to the troops:
"Greetings Comrades!" They respond something like: "Greetings, Comrade Defense Minister!" He then says something like, "Felicitations on the Anniversary (66th? couldn't quite make it out) of Victory in the Great Patriotic War!" Then the troops commence to roar. You don't see that every day.