Russian Holidays and their misuse

During the King’s Day weekend I was visiting my parents in Kiev and this reminded me of our own holidays. In the ex-soviet territories two very important celebrations are coming up: Labor Day on the 1st of May and Victory Day on the 9th. Traditionally, during this period the people are given 7 days off. For the people in Russia and Ukraine it’s time to go to the country side and it’s also the opening of the BBQ season, finally letting the winter go. But, enjoying their vacation, do people still understand the importance of these dates, as it was in the Soviet Union?Labor Day is also known here, but of course in the country of workers and ruling proletariat it becomes a hundred times more important. In USSR it was made an official holiday immediately after the revolution, in 1918. It was the day when all across the country people would go out with communist flags and banners supporting the regime. This tradition continued right until the collapse of the Soviet Union. Today the 1st of May is associated mainly with a four-day long weekend relaxation out in the country, after a very long winter. The only reminders of Socialistic origins of this holiday are small protests of various labor unions and the Communist Party, which of course cannot compete with the original Soviet demonstrations.

26,6 million Russian people lost their lives

The 9th of May is Victory Day: on this day, in 1945, Nazi Germany surrendered and World War II ended in Europe. This is a very important date for the ex-USSR states, as the number of casualties in this war was tremendous- 26,6 million Russian people (including civilians) lost their lives. On Victory Day, we all pay our respect to the people who gave their lives for the future of Russia. Unfortunately, these days, the victory of the Soviet Union and the Allies over the Nazi’s became a highly political theme. In Russia it is manipulated by minimizing the contribution made by the (western) Allies. In fact, to make them feel that they are in debt to modern Russia for saving them from the Nazi danger is one of the main propaganda themes today. This makes this sacred holiday feel more like bragging about the Great and Powerful Russia than a day of commemoration and unity.

In Ukraine this date and the whole Soviet era is also getting manipulated, as they try to dissociate themselves from modern Russia and become closer with EU. Recently the Ukrainian government forbid all propaganda of the communist regime. This makes it almost impossible to celebrate the 9th of May, as it is closely associated with Soviet symbols and the Red Army. In my opinion, this was somewhat of an extreme step for the Ukrainian government. For example: millions of Ukrainians served in the Red Army during WWII. You should not just ignore that. It is a part of history, which you simply should accept.

After all I just hope that all this dirty, political games would not be an obstacle for people to remember and understand the true meaning of Victory Day. It is not about Soviet greatness and not about the ‘evil communists’. It is, in the first place, about the unity and cooperation of the people in the world when the enemy strikes.

Anton Zvonkov

Anton Zvonkov is a 20 year old Liberal Arts & Sciences-student at Tilburg University. From now onhe will blog for Universonline on a regular basis.

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