How should Europe commemorate the end of the war?
While most European countries celebrate May 8 as the end of WWII and liberation from the Nazis, in Russia May 9 is Victory Day. In other Eastern European countries too, part of the population marks the anniversary on May 9 instead of May 8. But a number of commentators are not at all happy about what they are celebrating.
They are celebrating the war, not peace
Sadly there are not enough war veterans alive today to talk about the horrors of war, Delfi laments.
“In Soviet times 9 May was a commemoration of the end of the war and the hard-won peace. ... There were still lots of veterans around and most of them were too horrified to entertain thoughts of a new war. The situation is radically different now. Only 80,000 veterans are still alive. Their generation is dying out and their children and grandchildren who have been swept up in pseudo-patriotic hysteria are celebrating the day of victory very differently than in Soviet times. They are celebrating the war, not peace.”
When Instagram patriots are on parade
In a commentary published in Echo of Moscow blogger Ilya Varlamov is dismayed by the images of children wearing soldiers' uniforms:
“Victory Day is not just a sacred day of celebration for the Russians, it's also a goldmine for hawkers of military paraphernalia. ... Parents seem to think it's cool to dress their kids in cheap imitations of war-time uniforms, just to show them off on Instagram. Or show the photos to their colleagues to make them jealous! You might even be able to wangle a promotion if your boss learns what a great patriot you are. This whole fancy dress parade has nothing to do with commemorating our forefathers who died in the war; it's just a vanity fair. To top of it all the state is actively encouraging the militarisation of children. There was a 'Parade of Pre-School Troops' in Pyatigorsk a few days ago.”
Still waiting to hear the right words in Riga
In Riga on 9 May around 100,000 members of the Russian-speaking population celebrated the liberation from the Nazis. Historian Uldis Neiburgs writes in Latvijas avize about the politicians who are now taking part in the 9 May celebrations.
“Unfortunately no politicians from either the Harmony Party or other parties have had the courage to come out and say: Yes, our grandfathers fought heroically, they triumphed over Nazi Germany, and it cost many of them their lives. And we have gathered together at the memorial to honour them. But this history has another side, because we are living in Lativia, where 9 May does not only mean the end of the Nazi occupation but the beginning of another one. When someone finally says this, it will be a giant step for the process of integration.”
Historical truths shouldn't be twisted
Právo is critical of taking a flippant approach to the Czech liberation from Nazi occupation:
“A few days ago a radio reporter asked indignantly why we still have streets named after the Red Army. She was no doubt young and inexperienced. ... Yes, times have changed. After 1945 we experienced the communist takeover in 1948, the defeat of the Prague Spring in 1968, the Velvet Revolution in 1989 and finally the collapse of the Soviet Union. The things we learned from archive documents have changed our view of the past. But one truth will always remain: the decisive part of our republic was liberated by the Red Army.”
From remembrance day to show of power
Vedomosti finds the change in the way Russia celebrates Victory Day worrying:
“Victory Day in Russia has gone from being a commemorative ritual that was mainly about personal mourning for the enormous losses of the war to an occasion for marking the military victory of Stalin's USSR and a confirmation of modern-day Russia's status as heir to the victorious Soviet state. ... This transformation, however, excludes our national day of commemoration from the international celebrations marking the Allies' victory against fascism, because it turns it into an element of state propaganda and internal Russian socio-political polemics. Paradoxically, the more distant 1945 becomes, the more pompous the celebrations are getting - and the meaning of this day of celebration is becoming increasingly dubious.”