9 May and the war in Ukraine

On 8 May many European countries celebrate the liberation from Nazi Germany and the end of the Second World War. Russia marks the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany with a Victory Day parade on Red Square on 9 May. This year, however, the celebrations are overshadowed by the war against Ukraine, which Putin is deliberately intertwining with the historical occasion for propaganda purposes.

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La Stampa (IT) /

A complete distortion of history

La Stampa criticises how the Kremlin instrumentalises history:

“The array of flags and stickers, posters and concerts, with children in the uniforms of that time marching in Z formation, sandwiches and Easter cakes with symbols for the 'special military operation' in Ukraine, seem to be symptoms of a national madness. The identification of World War II - which in Russia is called the Great Patriotic War and is portrayed as a battle between the Russians and the Germans, with the role of the Allies now being denied even at the official level - with the war in Ukraine is complete, as testified to by the postcards featuring smiling servicemen and servicewomen and the dates '1945-2022'.”

Krytyka Polityczna (PL) /

New hero cities in Ukraine

Krytyka Polityczna writes about the war and remembrance in Ukraine:

“On the eve of 9 May, the Russians are holding the last rehearsals for the parades planned in Moscow and Mariupol. In Kyiv, the plaques dedicated to Russian and Belarusian cities were removed from the Alley of the Hero Cities in Victory Square and replaced with Kharkiv, Kherson, Chernihiv, Mykolaiv, Volnovakha, Ochtyrka, Butsha, Irpin, Hostomel and Mariupol. Putin, the Russian military and the Russians who support the war have wreaked destruction on all of these cities. Yet our countries will remain neighbours. ... By resisting physical aggression and denouncing the symbolic dominance, Ukrainians are taking the first step on the long road that Russians must walk with them to exit the vicious circle of violence.”

Der Spiegel (DE) /

Leave the wars of the past in the past

The public holiday has now completely lost its meaning, says Mikhail Zygar, who was chief editor of the independent Russian TV channel Dozhd from 2010 to 2015:

“The shame of the war in Ukraine is so great that it must inevitably lead to a de-imperialisation of Russia - it will cure Russia of its imperial ambitions. And at the same time Russia will say goodbye to its pride in having 'saved the world from Nazism'. There will be nothing left to celebrate - and that is a good thing. We should leave the wars of the past to history instead of pretending that they are part of current politics.”

Tygodnik Powszechny (PL) /

Questionable flag ban in Berlin

Berlin's city government has banned Russian and Ukrainian flags from historically sensitive locations for May 8 and 9 out of fear of street clashes. A poor decision, Tygodnik Powszechny argues:

“When the Ukrainians protested the ban, they were told that the plan was to commemorate the anniversary of the end of World War II in May 1945 'independently of what is now happening in May 2022'. The point, however, is that the one cannot be separated from the other. Not after Putin has used the Second World War to legitimise his policies. And not only against Ukraine: in Putin's base worldview, not only Ukrainians but all those who oppose Russia are 'Nazis'.”

Göteborgs-Posten (SE) /

Russia casting itself as the victim

For the people of the territories controlled by Moscow since the Second World War there is still little to celebrate, Göteborgs-Posten comments:

“The Soviet Union played a key role in defeating Nazi Germany. But the Red Army didn't liberate countries, it replaced one brutal form of oppression with another. ... It would be truly disastrous if, like Stalin, Putin decided to mobilise the entire Russian population for his war of aggression against Ukraine. It would turn Victory Day into a grotesque tragedy and would help to entrench the totally false view that Russia - whether communist or not - is always the victim and never the guilty party.”

Radio Europa Liberă (RO) /

The dictator's new clothes

The celebrations will be mainly aimed at pleasing the dictator, Radio Europa Liberă suspects:

“May 9 is meant to be celebrated by the domestic population while at the same time intimidating the opposition and pleasing the dictator. ... The army will put on a display of greatness that has been belied by the reality check on the ground, and the subjects will silently witness the demonstration of power without anyone having the courage to say that 'the emperor' is naked.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Putin will celebrate his victories

Corriere della Sera speculates on what announcements Moscow will make on Monday:

“It was initially expected that on 9 May Vladimir Putin would announce a 'general mobilisation' accompanied by a formal declaration of war. This thesis was rejected yesterday by the Kremlin itself and by several experts, according to whom the Russian president does not need a major mobilisation to declare victory at home. Already, for example, according to analyst Dmitry Alperovich, he can claim to have 'demilitarised' and 'denazified' Ukraine by destroying its military infrastructure and the Azov battalion and protecting the Russian-speaking population in the Donbass and Crimea.”

Eesti Rahvusringhääling (ERR Online) (EE) /

Soviet flags have taken on new meaning

Many symbols traditionally used on this day should now no longer be used, explains communications expert Raul Rebane on ERR Online:

“There are people in Estonia for whom 9 May symbolises victory in the Second World War. Some of them want to celebrate this day as they always do: by coming together and participating in events. ... But Putin has changed the meaning of symbols that are important for Russia. Just as Hitler turned the swastika [which was taken as the emblem of the Nazi Party] into an eternally damned symbol of horror, Putin has turned the letter Z, the [black and orange] Saint George ribbon and the Soviet flag into symbols of the invasion. They instill fear. And why should we here in Estonia be afraid? So there is only one thing left to do: stop using these symbols. Those who don't like it can complain to Putin.”