Russian holidays reflect all aspects of Russian history and traditions. One of our national favourites is Victory Day, which is celebrated, unlike Europe, on 9th May, as Germany’s surrender was signed in Berlin late in the evening on 8th May when it was already 9th May in Russia, due to the difference in time zones.
9th May in Russia is a day of remembrance and joy, but, as the phrase goes, it is a joy ‘with tears in the eyes’. During the four years of war, the USSR lost around 25 million citizens. In Russia and in other countries of the former Soviet Union, there is no family who was not affected by the war with Nazi Germany. So, the social memory about it is still alive and is being kept by virtue of different events and ceremonies, which traditionally take place in Russia on Victory Day.
Formations Mi-24 and Mi-28 over the Red Square, Moscow. Photo by Dan and Igor Rudenko
On the 9th May, a non-working day, celebrations and commemorative events are held all across Russia, with military parades, fireworks and other ceremonies. One of the most popular events is the tasting of the ‘soldier’s meal’ - made up of boiled barley groats - followed by drinking 100 grams of vodka, in remembrance of the meagre rations given to the soldiers.
Across Russia, a ceremony will take place in which flowers are laid at the feet of the Unknown Soldier, and a minute of silence is held, for soldiers killed in battles, members of resistance movements, prisoners of deaths camps and all the civilians, who perished to the hardships of sieges and wartime.
In the parks and squares throughout Russia, to the sound of the old tunes performed by orchestra, younger generations honour veterans, give them flowers (usually red carnations), thank them and ask for wartime stories.
The main military show of this day – parades - are usually invitation only events, and most people can see them only broadcasting on TV. On this day, before and after the Parade broadcasting, TV channels broadcast well-known, mostly tearful, Soviet films about the Great Patriotic War. People gather around the festive table to remember the passed-away relatives and to express gratitude for the peaceful sky over their heads.
Fireworks traditionally conclude the day of the commemoration.
Fireworks over the Novodevichy Convent, Moscow. Photo by Elena, www.flickr.com
The first Victory Parade was held on 24 June 1945 on Red Square in Moscow. Since then, Victory Parade has been an integral part of the Victory Day celebrations, aimed at honouring the heroic sacrifices of the past and demonstrating the might of the country and its latest military hardware.
Military parades take place in major Russian cities, while the biggest parade always takes place in Moscow’s Red Square. Last year the Moscow parade “involved 10,000 military staff, 135 armoured vehicles, and 71 aircraft” (based on information from bbc.co.uk).
Victory Parade on the Red Square, Moscow. Photo by Boaz Guttman
The Immortal Regiment movement arose to commemorate the heroical deed and bravery of those who fought in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945.
Starting in 2009, this march became so popular that in 2016, in Moscow alone, it comprised of over 700,000 people. Beyond that, thousands of people in more than 50 countries around the world took part in the marches carrying the portraits of their family members who fought on the battlefronts of World War II.
As the founders of this movement say, the new war starts when the generation, who forgot what the war is, have grown up. Therefore, the Immortal Regiment aims to preserve and defend the memory of the heroes of the Great Patriotic War.
Immortal Regiment march. Photo by Anatoly Korablev
If you are keen on Russian history and would like to feel the moving power of Victory Day or other holiday in Russia, contact out travel specialists to find out your best options.