The 9th of May is a special day for all Russian people. This is Victory Day. This is the day when the Great Patriotic War finished (this is how they call in Russia the World War II). Many Russians celebrate Victory Day on May 9. On this day, TV networks broadcast World War II-inspired films, younger generations honor veterans, and the festivities culminate in a military parade at Moscow’s Red Square.
For the Soviet Union, the war started on 22nd of June 1941. A day before, on 21st of June, in all schools of the country there was a party - the last school ball. Girls and boys had just finished school. They were dancing, dreaming of the future and did not know that the following day, they would go to war and never come home again.
For the Soviet Union the war lasted for 4 years. It was a very hard time for everyone. In many cities and villages there was starvation. Millions of Soviet soldiers died in this war. But they won and became heroes to every Russian person.
Since then more than 65 years have passed. But Russian people do not forget their heroes. In every city concerts are held in honor of the Great Patriotic War. In Moscow in the Red Square you can see a big parade.
Many people attend a local military parade and watch the fireworks at night on Victory Day. The biggest parade is in Moscow’s Red Square, showcasing Russia’s military forces. Most veterans wear their medals as they head to the parade or an event organized by a local veteran organization.
Another tradition is to give flowers, usually red carnations, to veterans in the street and to lay wreaths at the war memorial sites. Neighborhood schools may host a program prepared by the students, featuring wartime songs and poetry.
At home, families gather around a festive table to honor surviving witnesses of World War II and remember those who passed away. They may also watch a favorite Soviet film based on the events of World War II, which is also known as the Great Patriotic War. These films are repeated each year but the audience seems to never grow tired of them.
Victory Day is a national holiday in Russia. Public offices, schools and most businesses are closed for the celebrations. There may be changes in public transport routes due to parades and street performances.
Victory Day marks Germany’s surrender to the Soviet Union in 1945. It became the end of the Great Patriotic War for the USSR, which lost about 25 million citizens in the four years of fighting. Interestingly, until its 20th anniversary (May 9, 1965), Victory Day was not a major holiday, unlike, for instance, May 1, and was considered a work day. Apart from the anniversaries in 1965 and 1985, Victory Day celebrations in the Soviet Union did not feature a military parade. This tradition started in 1995.
In October 2012, Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree that would extend the Victory Day Celebrations from Thursday, May 9, 2013 to Sunday, May 12, 2013.
Common symbols of Victory Day in Russia are:
St. George ribbon – people wear this black-and-yellow ribbon on their clothes or tie it to car antennas as a sign of respect and remembrance.
Red carnations – blood red is the color of the Soviet flag under which the veterans had fought. Laying an even number of red carnations at war memorial sites signifies mourning and remembrance.
Red Star medal – a military distinction for bravery.