- Sputnik International
Get the latest news from around the world, live coverage, off-beat stories, features and analysis.

May 9, Great Patriotic War Victory Day - Facts and Details

© Sputnik / Mikhail Klimentyev / Go to the mediabankMilitary parade to mark 71st anniversary of Victory in 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War
Military parade to mark 71st anniversary of Victory in 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War - Sputnik International
Russians celebrate on Monday, May 9, the 71st anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The Great Patriotic War was a crucial part of World War II (1939-1945). It began on June 22, 1941, when Germany launched an attack on the Soviet Union in violation of all prevailing treaties. Germany's allies in the war were Romania, Italy, Slovakia, which joined the war on June 23, Finland (June 25), Hungary (June 27) and Norway (August 16).

Victory day parade in Moscow - Sputnik International
Parade Marking 71st Anniversary of WWII Victory in Moscow (VIDEO)
The Great Patriotic War lasted nearly four years and was the largest armed confrontation in history. Between 8 million and 13 million people fought in the war over an area that stretched from the Barents Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south. The confronting armies had between 6,000 and 20,000 tanks and assault guns, 85,000 to 165,000 pieces of artillery and mortars, and 7,000 to 19,000 aircraft.

The Blitzkrieg, or the "lightning war" that was planned by Germany to defeat the Soviet Union within a few months, went awry almost immediately in 1941. The staunch defense of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), the Arctic region, Kiev, Odesa and Sevastopol, as well as the battle of Smolensk, rendered the Blitzkrieg plans obsolete.

The Soviet army courageously stood its ground, eventually pushing the enemy back, defeating Nazi troops near Moscow, Stalingrad (now Volgograd) and Leningrad, as well as in the Caucasus, in the Battle of Kursk, in Ukraine on the right (West) bank of the Dnieper River, in Belarus, and during the Jassy-Kishinev and Vistula-Oder Offensives and the Battle of Berlin.

March of Immortal Regiment. File photo - Sputnik International
Immortal Regiment: Relatives March in Moscow to Commemorate WWII Heroes
During the war, the Soviet army routed 607 Axis divisions. The German army and its allies lost over 8.6 million military personnel on the Eastern Front, and over three-fourths of their weapons were destroyed or captured.

The Soviet Union won the war but the victory exacted a huge toll on the population, with nearly every Soviet family losing loved ones. Germany signed an Act of Unconditional Surrender in a suburb of Berlin in the late evening of May 8, 1945 (already May 9 according to Moscow Time).

It is for this reason that Victory in Europe Day (VE Day) is marked on May 8, while the Soviet Union and now Russia marks Victory Day on May 9.

On May 8, 1945, the Presidium of the Soviet Union's Supreme Soviet issued a decree according to which May 9 would be marked as "the day of national celebrations of the victorious end of the Great Patriotic War of Soviet people against Nazi occupiers and the Red Army's historical victories that led to the routing of Hitler Germany and its unconditional surrender".

March of Immortal Regiment Moscow regional patriotic public organization on Red Square - Sputnik International
Immortal Regiment March: Facts and Details
The decree also made May 9 a public holiday, granting workers a day off.

On May 9, 1945, people across the Soviet Union celebrated the Victory Day with parades, dancing and singing. Amateur groups, popular film and theater actors and orchestras performed in squares and parks. That evening, people listened to a radio address by Stalin followed by an impressive display of fireworks that consisted of 30 shots from 1,000 artillery guns. Afterwards, dozens of aircraft fired rockets that formed garlands of multicolored lights over Moscow. People in many squares across the country lit sparklers.

In December 1947, the Supreme Soviet's Presidium decreed that May 9 should be a working day, effectively canceling the Victory Day celebrations in 1948. It was only on April 26, 1965, twenty years after the victory, that they were resumed under Nikita Khrushchev. The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, the central governing body of the USSR, made it a non-working public holiday and established a special jubilee medal.

Anniversary of the 71st Anniversary of Victory being celebrated in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine - Sputnik International
Defending Historic Victory of 1945 Means Remembering Its Relevance Today
The first May 9 military parade was held on Red Square in 1965. The units marching at the forefront bore the historic Victory Banner, which was raised by the Soviet troops in Berlin in May 1945.

The May 9 military parades were later held in many other Soviet cities. Until 1995, military parades in Moscow's Red Square were only held in jubilee years – 1965, 1985 and 1990. The May 9, 1995 military parade was designed to resemble the historic Victory Parade of 1945 and featured war veterans, home front workers and Moscow Garrison troops. The Victory Banner was carried in front of the troops.

The federal law On Immortalizing the Victory of the Soviet People in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, signed on May 19, 1995, proclaimed May 9 a national holiday and that Victory Day was to be celebrated with military parades and artillery salutes.

Starting in 1996, military parades were held in Red Square every year but it would be in 2008 that military vehicles took part in the parade in the post-Soviet history era.

Supporters of nationalist parties burn red flags during a protest in Lviv, eastern Ukraine, during a Victory day celebration marking the anniversary of the end of WWII on May 9, 2011 - Sputnik International
V is for Vacuous: How Kiev is Fighting the Memory of Victory Day
On April 15, 1996, the Russian president signed an executive order instructing that the historic Victory Banner be carried alongside the flag of the Russian Federation during the wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, during other Victory Day ceremonies and parades of troops and war veterans in Moscow's Red Square.

The Saint George's Ribbon campaign was first held several days before the 2005 Victory Day to remind young people of the importance of the holiday. Orange ribbons with three black stripes have become a reminder of the Soviet people's victory in the Great Patriotic War and of the appreciation felt for the veterans who defeated Nazism. The campaign's motto is "We remember, we are proud!" The campaign has been held throughout Russia as well as in many former Soviet republics. In the past few years, it has been extended to Europe and North America.

It has become a tradition to hold meetings with war veterans, other events and concerts during Victory Day celebrations. Wreath and flower laying ceremonies are held at monuments to war victims and at common graves. Memorial services are held in churches, synagogues and mosques across Russia. Starting in 1965, radio and television channels conduct a minute of silence on May 9.

March of Immortal Regiment. File photo - Sputnik International
Sakhalin Region Kicks Off First ‘Immortal Regiment’ March in Russia
On May 9, 2015, the biggest-ever Victory Day military parade was held in Russia, featuring over 16,500 servicemen, nearly 200 units of military equipment and about 140 helicopters and planes. It showcased both cutting-edge and vintage military vehicles. A range of advanced military equipment, including tanks, armored personnel carriers, self-propelled guns and anti-tank missile systems rolled through Moscow's Red Square.

The 2015 Victory Day parade in Moscow was attended by 27 foreign leaders, including presidents of the BRICS group of emerging economies, former Soviet Republics-turned-CIS states, as well as some Asian and European countries, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

In 2016, the May 9 parades all across Russia honor the 71st anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany. The parade in Moscow alone involved about 10,000 servicemen, 135 units of military equipment and 71 aircraft.

To participate in the discussion
log in or register
Заголовок открываемого материала