The shameful politicization of Russia’s WWII Victory Day
The responsibility for the politicization of Victory Day lays on the shoulders of the Russian leaders too
Someone has counted that if all the Soviet soldiers and officers – Russians, Byelorussians, Kazakhs, Kirgiz, Ukrainians, Jews, Chechens, and so many other Soviet citizens of different nationalities who gave their lives in World War II - were to take part in the Victory Day Parade in Russia, it would last 12 days.
The Soviet Union no longer exists but people are still united by the common history, the scars of war and the millions of Soviet lives lost in the war.
The victory is not the victory of a single nation but, since the breakdown of the USSR, a multitude of smaller nations and the end of the war in May 1945 is being spotlighted once again.
Sustained attempts to re-write history
After the start of the Ukrainian crisis, Victory Day and World War II have become the victims of sustained attempts to re-write history and turn it into a complete farce. The leading culprit is the Western-backed Ukrainian government which distorts history and glorifies the barbaric Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).
In celebrating Victory Day we don’t celebrate the victory of 2015’s political figures, but of the soldiers, of those who served on the home front, of the guerrillas, of the civiliansMaria Dubovikova
The Ukrainian crisis and the Ice Age that followed in the relations between the West and Russia has shown that Victory Day has become part and parcel of political games and an instrument of the demonstration of the political will. Hardly anyone could predict that by the list of political leaders who have accepted the invitation to come to the Victory Day Parade in 2015 we could judge the political relations of this country with Russia. Hardly anyone could imagine that in 2015 those who have rejected the invitation to take part in the celebrations would criticize those who have accepted the invitation to come.
But what has really changed? Russia’s political course? But what does Russia’s political course have in common with the pages of the past, of the history written in blood?
We can evaluate the political maneuvers of the Soviet leaders of the time that followed World War II but what do current day politics have in common with millions of human lives lost in that war? In celebrating Victory Day we don’t celebrate the victory of 2015’s political figures, but of the soldiers, of those who served on the home front, of the guerrillas, of the civilians. Should we forget or disregard all these people and their heroism in favor of today’s political trends and geopolitical games?
The responsibility for the politicization of Victory Day lays on the shoulders of the Russian leaders too. It should be reminded that there was no tradition of regular military parades on Victory Day. After the historical Parade on the 24th of June 1945 the next parade took place only 20 years later to celebrate the anniversary of Victory Day. Then it took place during the 40th anniversary celebrations. After the 50th anniversary, the military parade has become regular. The parade has become an instrument in internal and external policy. The demonstration of force through the parade has a double message – first, inside the country (being a great instrument for raising the feeling of patriotism and uniting people) and then an external one (as a demonstration of force is expected to be considered as a claim for respect from the international players. It does, however, also seem as though it is a threat).
But whatever the mistakes of world leaders, whatever the political maneuvers and their political intentions – we should never forget the millions of Soviet people who have lost their lives. We should remember those years so as not to let the history repeat itself. We should pay tribute to their memory, regardless of political trends and relations between the countries. Otherwise they all died in vain.
Maria Dubovikova is a President of IMESClub and CEO of MEPFoundation. Alumni of MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations [University] of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia), now she is a PhD Candidate there. Her research fields are in Russian foreign policy in the Middle East, Euro-Arab dialogue, policy in France and the U.S. towards the Mediterranean, France-Russia bilateral relations, humanitarian cooperation and open diplomacy. She can be followed on Twitter: @politblogme