NEVER AGAIN? OR OVER AND OVER… Russia celebrates the Victory day
Yesterday Russia solemnly celebrated the 70th anniversary of the victory in the most horrible and deadliest war in its history. That war took millions of lives, destroyed half of Europe, and completely changed the world order, affecting everyone’s life and outlook in some way.
The Soviet people called this war ‘The Great Patriotic War,” while to the rest of the world it was World War II. For every Soviet person the war started on June 22, 1941 and ended on May 9, 1945. Our nation preferred to forget about the period of 1939-1941, during Stalin and Hitler’s collaboration, about the Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression treaty, about the USSR’s war against Finland and the invasion into the Baltic States.
Our nation preferred to celebrate the end of the war one day later than the rest of the world. And our nation preferred to neglect the contribution of the Allies to the war attributing the victory mostly to ourselves. Who cares about the American lend-lease program to the Soviet Union? Why discuss how the Soviet troops behaved on the liberated territories? Could the Soviet Union have avoided so many losses if the strategy had been smarter, if the Soviet leadership hadn’t committed so many errors (and crimes!) at the cost of people’s lives and if the country had been better prepared for the war?
However, the war was “sacred.” There was no debate regarding the role of the Soviet Union in the war. We were the nation-liberator. That war and our victory were the key elements of our nation’s self-consciousness and self-identification. Everybody could relate to it, be proud of that part of our history forgetting all black pages in it. Our victory in that war was an undeniable value unifying all of us. Even when the Soviet Union collapsed, the war and our victory remained the only unchangeable concepts in our consciousness and discourse. Victory Day was and is the most popular holiday, which could unify the entire nation: all ethnicities, all ages, all religions, and all political views.
While all other Soviet values vanished with the Soviet Union, it was very natural for the new Soviet-style dictator, Vladimir Putin, to use Victory Day to his favor. His regime and constant propaganda has conducted a laser surgery on the nation substituting a righteous national pride by twisting it into an ugly and threatening militaristic and pseudo patriotic frenzy.
The Russian people, as a nation, haven’t reconciled our past, haven’t analyzed our mistakes, violations and crimes, and haven’t ask for forgiveness and redemption. We painted the truth with many colors turning it into a half-truth and then to a complete lie. We are still outraged with the Baltic countries for their museums of occupations. Our overwhelming majority of people believe only the Soviets won the war and liberated Europe. We completely forgot about our Afghan war, and do not speak about Soviet tanks in Czechoslovakia and Hungary.
How can we move forward to the future as a nation without deep reflection of our past, without reconciliation with it and paying the price for our wrong doings? Well, our present responds to this question. What do we have? The war against Georgia in 2008, the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the war against Ukraine in 2014-2015.
If Victory Day taught us anything, it taught us about the great sacrifice of a nation and the horrors of war. That we are now facing several wars and threats of others shouldn’t be celebrated, but should be met with the knowledge that the new Putin adventurism will come with the loss of life and prosperity. Is Russia ready for this? Do the Russian people understand what path they are be led down, or do they only believe wearing a black and orange ribbon is the extent of their patriotism?
Nevertheless, we should remember the war, our role in the victory, mourn those who died for our better future and esteem our veterans. It was a great idea to organize a march of the “Immortal Regiment.” The initiative came from a Siberian region and it’s very genuine and touching. It’s great we still have a holiday unifying the nation. It’s terrible that Putin’s government imposes myphologemes of the Soviet period and revives Stalin’s veneration. It’s great that veterans whom we are rapidly losing every year feel respected and honored yesterday. It’s wrong they are being remembered only on a Victory Day and before the elections. It’s great that the Victory anniversary was organized in such a grand style. It’s sad the Kremlin spends more money on military expenses and parades and holidays than on pensions for our veterans and their healthcare.
Victory Day is a day of honoring our veterans. It’s not a day of shaking Russia’s military muscle. “My dear, if only there was no war,” says a popular song. Let’s remember that war, learn from our history and live in a peace. Never again!