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‘We shouldn’t celebrate until we’ve repented’ Meduza’s readers on how their views of Victory Day have changed since the war began
May 9 is Victory Day, the day Russia celebrates the anniversary of the Soviet victory in World War II. This is the second time the country has marked the holiday since the start of the full-scale war in Ukraine. Last year, many of Meduza’s readers said that as far as they’re concerned, the holiday no longer exists. We decided to find out how Russians’ perceptions of the holiday have changed in the year since and how they plan to spend it. We’re publishing some of the most notable responses below.
Currently living in Italy
When I was little, I would always ran to the TV to watch the Victory Parade. But my excitement waned when I started to learn about how veterans live and how the state couldn’t care less about them. I also realized how the government uses this holiday for its own purposes. So no, I’m not going to celebrate this year, just like I haven’t for the last several years.
In my view, this is a day when we shouldn’t be trying to show everybody how cool we are, what awesome vehicles we have. Instead, we should be commemorating those who have died and helping veterans — and not just on this day, but all the time. We should talk to children about how terrible war is so that we can ensure it won’t happen again. But right now, they’re only hearing about how cool military uniforms are and how we’re the best country. But just what are we the best at?
I’m not going to observe Victory Day, but I am going to grieve, to grieve terribly. My beloved Russia is being gutted from within by men in ties who have the lives of millions in their bloody hands. The phrase “never again” has become an empty sound in our country. The day of remembrance has turned into a crazy parade with cheerful music.
Another thing that drives me insane is children in military uniforms. Our ancestors died so that children wouldn’t even have to touch those things again. These innocent children who smile so naively are being sent to march. It’s awful.
My attitude towards Victory Day hasn’t changed since the start of the war, but my attitude towards the authorities has. They’re clumsily trying to manipulate people by interweaving the achievements of the USSR in the Second World War [with narratives about contemporary Russia].
Russia’s Victory Day should be a day of remembrance first and foremost. And I hope there will be a day of remembrance for those who have died in Ukraine as well — in the new Russia, without the Putin regime. The people are stronger than the rulers!
Currently living in Israel
This is no longer our holiday. There’s no longer any victory for us to speak of; it ended on February 24.
I’ve been a singer since childhood, and I know a lot of military songs by heart. We would always sing them at the table on May 9 as a family. But last year, I went numb. As soon as I try to sing “We Need One Victory,” I immediately get a lump in my throat, heavy and bitter. I no longer have the songs I once loved. They were taken away by the missiles striking Ukraine.
[My attitude towards May 9] has changed dramatically. I feel that the people behind this war have destroyed one of the topics that was most sacred to me. I always considered this holiday one of the most important ones of the year; the songs and films about war always touched me and brought tears to my eyes. Now we’ve betrayed the memory of our ancestors. We won’t be able to celebrate [Victory Day] until the war has ended and the Russian people have repented.
Currently living in Germany
I don’t plan to celebrate it. Just like how I don’t celebrate the anniversary of the end of World War I, the anniversary of independence from the Tatar-Mongol yoke, and other dates like that. I didn’t used to mind people celebrating, but now it feels dissonant. They’re celebrating victory over a fascist regime at the same time the Russian army is committing the same exact crimes in Ukraine. The only day we should celebrate is the day the Putin regime falls. Now that’ll be a real holiday.
Ramenskoye, Moscow region
I haven’t celebrated Victory Day in the past and I’m not going to celebrate it this year. For me, it’s a day of mourning. Usually, I spend the day reading books that are important to me and listening to historians or other relevant media (shout out to [journalist] Yulia Latynina).
[Russians] need to realize that the contributions our forefathers made to peace have, unfortunately, been devalued. Otherwise, the Russian Federation would not have attacked Ukraine. They’ve fucked it up and debased it all. I’m sick of the hysterics from people who, for some reason, think they were involved in that [World War II] victory.
Currently lives in Lithuania
I’m not going to celebrate Victory Day. Better to spend time with family. Any positive shade the holiday had has disappeared. For me, May 9, 1945, is now just a date in history. I’m only going to talk about it to my daughter in this context. Citizens of an aggressor state should be thinking of other things right now.
For me, this holiday has been fairly pointless from the beginning. The money they spend on it from the state budget should go to improving the lives of veterans. But right now, it’s a total circus, it’s like dancing on graves. The people who gave their lives for peace, who gave their best years, didn’t deserve this.
As long as the veterans are alive, we should celebrate Victory Day. But it should be quiet and calm. With minutes of silence at eternal flames. With extra attention given to veterans. And stories about the war. It’s important to know and to remember your history — and to learn to draw the right conclusions.
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Victory Day used to be a sacred day for me. It used to put tears in my eyes. But now I’ll never be able to celebrate it again. It’s been vulgarized, raped, and disfigured. I couldn’t even pick up a St. George ribbon this year.
Sorry, Grandpa, but I’m not longer able to observe this holiday, or to bring your photograph out to an Immortal Regiment procession. Never again. This isn’t what you fought for.
From year to year, I spend this day alone. In the morning, I go to church to commemorate the dead, to a memorial service. Then I watch documentaries about the war at home, or I go for a walk in a place that doesn’t have many people, with songs from the war time playing in my headphones. It’s not about partying in the center of town or crassly putting on military uniforms. For me, it’s a day to remember, and it always has been. Nothing has changed.
It should be celebrated, but not in the way they celebrate it now. Amid all the ugliness the current government has created, it’s still worth remembering the heroism of our ancestors. It should be a solemn occasion, not a time to put on costumes. Calm and restrained, with respect for the dead.
My attitude towards Victory Day itself hasn’t changed. But my disgust for the way the government celebrates it has grown even stronger. May 9 is a day marking the victory over Nazism and fascism — the very ideologies that have clearly prevailed in Russia, no matter how many claims the authorities make to the contrary.
First and foremost, the military parades should be canceled. They could celebrate it on major anniversaries (every 5–10 years), but they should still be more modest. They need to stop putting up so many banners and “ads” for the holiday. To make this day a day of memory rather than a holiday. They could give the money they save to the participants of those events (World War II), especially since there aren’t so many of them left.
It’s a shame that we’ve betrayed the very thing we held so sacred.
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