9 May 2022
by Lev Shlosberg
On 9 May 1945, the war ended and peace ensued. Only those who lived through that day understood what that day meant. It is they, the people who had personally been through and by some miracle survived the war, who spoke about the fact that the real heroes had perished and hadn’t lived to see the victory. Victory Day became a second birthday for tens of millions of people.
The Soviet authorities both honored and feared this day. Each year, this day was a reminder of the tens of millions dead — at the front, in concentration camps, in the Gulag, and on occupied lands.
As long as participants in and witnesses to the war were alive, this day was a reminder of the terrible truth of war, of its victims, its brutality, and its sorrow. Victory Day garnered more tears than orders or medals. On 9 May most people didn’t attend parades, they went to the cemeteries — all over this vast country. They reminisced, commemorated, drank, and wept.
A Victory parade was held in Moscow in 1945 and then not again until 1965, then in 1985, and then in 1995, and only after that became annual. Victory Day did not become a day off in the Soviet Union until 1965.
For a long time the country was run by people who had themselves been through the war. No matter who they were, they knew the front-line truth. Millions of people personally knew the truth about the cost of war. Lying to them was pointless and dangerous. It was an inviolable Day.
The authorities’ guilt before the people is enormous. To this day we don’t know the names of millions of the dead. To this day we don’t know the exact number of dead. Russia is populated by mass military cemeteries of unknown soldiers. And we don’t know how many of the fallen were never buried and lie in the forests and fields, under streets, highways, and houses.
The new Russia’s authorities faced a special political and cultural task: how to preserve Victory Day as a pure day when the Victory’s soldiers are no longer among the living. It didn’t work.
The temptation to lean on the memory of the fallen and use their glory to conceal the authorities’ own incompetence and hypocrisy proved stronger than conscience. The humane “never again” was gradually transformed into the monstrous “we can do it again.” Which they decided to do. On land watered with the blood of millions of the fallen.
Victory Day is wounded today, like a soldier shot in the back. It’s bleeding. It may perish. How can we save it as it dies right in front of us? How can we defend the memory of those who perished honestly at the hands of political marauders?
Let us recall those who fell for peace. Let us talk about the main thing.
Join the livestream on Citizen TV today at 19:00—the exact moment when millions of people are used to hearing, watching, and experiencing the Moment of Silence: https://youtu.be/i9oMOyd5yCc
Translated by Marian Schwartz