Russia's Victory Day Parade Bolsters Nationalism - May, 2010

Watching the great military spectacle on my television screen last Sunday what impressed me more than the mobile ballistic missile systems, the flights of strategic nuclear bombers, the scores of mechanized armor or the ten thousand troops from around the world parading in Red Square was the sight of Chinese President Hu Jintao and German Chancellor Angela Merkel tightly sandwiched between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The splendid military parade on Sunday was more about Russia's military/political muscle flexing than about commemorating the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany in 1945. The Kremlin wants the whole world to know that it is a superpower again and that pivotal nations like China and Germany (the two economic giants of Eurasia) are considered to be its close partners. If Moscow's plan comes to fruition eventually all roads will no longer lead to Washington. The unipolar political world of the post-Soviet years (i.e. Western global hegemony) is fundamentally the reason why the world today is a volatile powder-keg on the verge of exploding. But this is the dawning of a new era. Geopolitical and socioeconomic trends emanating from Eurasia strongly suggests that the twenty-first century will prove to be a multipolar world.


Парад, посвящённый 65-летию Победы в Великой Отечественной войне (Russian):

Military Parade in Moscow on Victory Day 2010 - Part 1 (English):

Military Parade in Moscow on Victory Day 2010 - Part 2 (English):
Victory Day Parade in Moscow 2010 (full version, part 9 of 10):


Russia's Victory Day Parade Bolsters Nationalism

The Victory day military parade on Red Square in Moscow

Soldiers from four NATO countries, including the US, joined about 10,000 Russian troops for a massive military parade across Red Square on Sunday to mark the 65th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany. This year's Red Square parade was the first time foreigners have ever taken part in the march, an annual red banner and hammer-and-sickle festooned event that continues to evoke powerful emotions in the former USSR, which lost 27-million people in World War II. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, joined by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chinese President Hu Jintao, and about two dozen other high-level foreign guests watched the parade from the same granite viewing stands, next the mausoleum of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, formerly occupied by Communist leaders.

This year's parade was the most elaborate since the collapse of the Soviet Union almost twenty years ago, featuring almost 200 tanks – including vintage wartime vehicles – mobile howitzers, anti-aircraft rockets, and giant intercontinental missiles rumbling across Red Square's pink cobblestones, and followed by a thundering flyover by 150 modern warplanes and helicopters.

New weaponry

During the cold war, military parades were closely watched by Western intelligence agencies because they often were employed as a showcase for new weaponry. The Kremlin didn't disappoint this year, rolling out six recently-developed hardware systems: the Pantsir-S1 and Buratino anti-aircraft rockets, the Topol-M intercontinental missile, and the Yak-130 air trainer. Military experts show particular interest in two new attack helicopters that were displayed in public for the first time, the Mi-28 – Russia's answer to the Apache – and the exciting new Ka-52 gunship. Despite the sovietesque atmospherics, the main political theme of the event was historic reconciliation between Russia and its former cold war foes.

Medvedev: Peace is 'still fragile'

"Today, at the military parade, soldiers of Russia, of countries of the former Soviet Union, and of the Allied powers march together, in one column, which is evidence of our common readiness to defend peace," Mr. Medvedev said in a Red Square address. "Peace is still fragile and it is our duty to remember that wars do not start in an instant," he said. "It is only together that we shall be able to counter modern threats." Communist and nationalist politicians had denounced the invitation to NATO troops to take part in the parade, but a poll last week by the independent Levada Center in Moscow found that less than a third of Russians agreed with them, while 55 percent viewed the participation of the wartime allies favorably.

The Victory day military parade on Red Square in Moscow

Another controversy swirled around a decision by Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov to include portraits of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who led the country through World War II, among the publicity materials for the Victory Day celebration. The Russian government rescinded that decision, and no pictures of Mr. Stalin were visible around Red Square on Sunday, but the furore illustrates the ongoing sensitivity of many unresolved Soviet-era historical disputes in Russia. The Voice of America quoted the commander of the participating American unit, Capt. Matthew Strand, as saying that the experience of marching in Russia's Victory Parade raised the level of camaraderie between NATO participants and their Russian counterparts.

Captain Strand told the VOA that his 90-year-old grandfather was a US pilot during the war. "Every time my grandpa meets a veteran from World War II, even if he doesn't know him, the second he meets him, they automatically have something in common," Strand said. "And just by me having a grandfather that was in it, I have something in common with the veterans I meet here in Russia."


Show of Unity Rings Hollow on Victory Day

The Victory day military parade on Red Square in Moscow

Yelena Jo Van Der Burgt, a Dutch citizen of Russian descent who attended Victory Day celebrations with her husband, said May 9 should become a day of reconciliation for all nations of the former Soviet Union. “We have all fought shoulder to shoulder, not against Germany but against Nazism, so it is sad to watch how all of the common memory is stomped on,” she said. But this call for unity rang a little hollow on Sunday, when troops from NATO countries marched on Red Square for the first time but many world leaders shirked the ceremony and one post-Soviet nation was not invited. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the only prominent European leader to attend the grandiose parade celebrating the Allied victory over Nazi Germany. Merkel was joined by Chinese President Hu Jintao and Israeli President Shimon Peres, whose country, home to a large Russian community, also celebrates Victory Day on May 9. Other foreign dignitaries included Wojciech Jaruzelski, a war veteran and Polish president during the Communist era, and Poland's acting president, Bronislaw Komorowski.

But French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi canceled their trips to Russia, citing the economic crisis in the European Union. U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown declined invitations to attend, citing other obligations. Some media reports suggested that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin personally rejected their proposals to be represented by Vice President Joe Biden and Prince Charles, respectively, because of Biden's vocal support of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Britain's refusal to extradite Russians sought by Moscow. Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the allegations are “so absurd and far from reality that they require no comment,” Interfax reported Monday. Saakashvili was not invited to the parade.
About 20 heads of state attended Sunday's festivities, a far cry from the 50, including then-U.S. President George W. Bush, who attended the 60th anniversary celebrations five years earlier, during Putin's presidency. Meanwhile, more than 17 million Russians, including 4 million Muscovites, took part in the celebrations nationwide that concluded with a 15-minute fireworks display, police said. No serious accidents were reported. The parade, broadcast live on state television, showed off tanks and Topol-M strategic rockets and was followed by a military air show. Troops from four NATO member states — the United States, Britain, France and Poland — marched on Red Square for the first time as part of what observers called a token of Russian political goodwill toward former war allies. Britain was represented by a battalion of Welsh guards who marched in traditional bearskin hats.

Foreign guests also included veterans of the Normandie-Niemen air fighter squadron, a group of French pilots who flew Soviet planes as part of the Red Air Force. President Dmitry Medvedev praised the allies for their war efforts, including Lend-Lease programs that supplied aid to the Soviet Union, but he also said the Soviet resistance to Nazism was “unparalleled in terms of bravery and power.” Troops from many post-Soviet countries, including Armenia, Ukraine, Belarus and Azerbaijan, also took part in the parade. Turkmen soldiers were led by a commander on a prancing white horse with golden hooves. The horse, from the famous Akhal-Teke breed, is a descendant of the steed that Red Army commander Marshal Georgy Zhukov rode during the first Victory Day parade in June 1945, a presenter said during the television broadcast. The presenter also reminded viewers that Meliton Kantaria, a native of Georgia, was among the three Soviet soldiers who raised the conquering force's flag atop the German parliament building in 1945.

But Georgia was not officially invited to the parade because of its 2008 war with Russia. More than 700,000 Georgians fought in the Red Army during World War II, and 300,000 of them were killed, Georgian parliamentary speaker David Bakradze said Sunday, RIA-Novosti reported. Medvedev did not mention the absence of Georgians in his Red Square speech, focusing instead on the overall efforts of the Soviet people. “We will never forget the soldiers fighting on the front, the women and children working in the factories,” Medvedev said. In an interview with Izvestia on the eve of the celebrations, Medvedev said those who place “the Red Army and the Nazi invaders” on the same level “are committing a moral crime.” In the interview, Medvedev harshly criticized Josef Stalin, the country’s leader during World War II, saying the dictator, still a popular figure among many Russians, “committed many crimes against his own people.”

Yury Gnatyk, an 84-year-old war veteran who attended the parade with his family, did not take kindly to Medvedev’s decision to downplay Stalin's role. “How can we say that the war was won without a commander? We all admire Kutuzov, but he abandoned Moscow to the enemy, while Stalin did not,” Gnatyk said, referring to the 19th-century Russian commander who burned Moscow in a tactical maneuver during the war with Napoleon Bonaparte's invading French army. Gnatyk’s sentiments were echoed by another decorated war veteran, Colonel Vladimir Korzh, 85, a former military doctor. “Hitler wanted to destroy the whole country and turn us into slaves. The victory was achieved by the Communist Party and by Josef Stalin personally,” he said.

Korzh dismissed the repressions that took place during Stalin's rule as unavoidable mistakes, saying that although “some people were repressed illegally,” Stalin “acted in very difficult period.” Those too young to remember Stalin's crimes were ambivalent about his role as the country’s leader. “Would we really have been able to achieve the victory without Stalin? It's a difficult question, and it remains to be answered,” Vladimir, 20, a Moscow student, said as he watched the veterans march past on Tverskaya Ulitsa. Vadim, 21, who was on Tverskaya with his girlfriend during the celebrations, had found the answer for himself. “My relatives were fighting on the frontline, and I know that they were fighting for me," he said. "If I were sent to war like they were, I would fight not for Putin or Medvedev but myself and my loved ones.”


Russia: V-E Day and a Declaration of Intent

The military Victory day parade on Red Square in Moscow


During the Soviet era, V-E Day was one of the Soviet Union’s most important holidays, celebrated with foreign dignitaries from around the world and the full spectrum of Soviet military hardware passing across Red Square. But V-E Day became bittersweet after the fall of the Soviet Union, since it served as a reminder of how far Russia had fallen since its post-war heyday. Now the national holiday is resuming its former meaning.


On May 9, Russia will celebrate the 65th anniversary of V-E Day, commemorating the allied victory in Europe during World War II. For Russians, the celebration marks the time when the Soviet Union “liberated” Central and Eastern Europe from Nazi rule and was thereby legitimized as a global leader and powerful force with which the rest of the world would have to reckon.

During the Soviet era, the holiday was one of the Soviet Union’s largest, celebrated with foreign dignitaries from around the world and the full spectrum of Soviet military hardware passing across Red Square. But V-E Day became bittersweet after the fall of the Soviet Union, since it served as a reminder of how far Russia had fallen since its post-war heyday, its sphere of influence leaking satellite states like a sieve throughout the early 1990s. The holiday continued to be celebrated in Russia but without the enormous pomp and circumstance.

But the glorious past behind the holiday started to return in 2005. Then-Russian President Vladimir Putin was in power, and his overall objective was to return Russia to its status as a “great power.” Putin’s goals were to first consolidate Russia internally and then push the country back out to its more comfortable Soviet-era borders — whether formally or informally. From 2000 to 2005, Putin meticulously worked on the first part of this plan, consolidating government control over energy, restructuring the government, purging powerful classes like the oligarchs, beginning to rebuild the military and engaging in the second Chechen War.

In 2005, on the 60th anniversary of V-E Day, Russia celebrated its re-stabilization by rolling out the full military panoply and inviting heads of state from around the world, from countries like Germany, France, Poland and China. The world did take notice that Russia was stronger and more internally stable, but it was not clear then that it could pull off its grander designs of resurging past its borders.
This year the V-E celebration fully takes back its former meaning, celebrating Russia as a real power once again. Over the past few years — and especially in the past few months — Russia has pushed its influence back into most of its former Soviet states through military intervention, revolution, customs unions and pro-Russian governments. Moscow is not looking to re-create the Soviet Union, but it does want to create an umbrella of states under its control that buffer Russia from the West and other regional powers.

Russia also is looking to show other powers and former client states in the region that it cannot be ignored. This is why it is important that the list of guests coming to Moscow for V-E Day includes German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Chinese President Hu Jintao, Polish interim President Bronislaw Komorowski, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Czech President Vaclav Klaus, Serbian President Boris Tadic, Greek President Karolos Papoulias and most of the leaders from the former Soviet states. These are the states that Russia is hoping to prove itself to, ally with or control at some point in the future. More than anything, this V-E Day celebration in Russia is its declaration of these intentions.


Armenian Leader Attends WW II Allies’ Parade in Red Square

Video of president Sargsyan’s interview with Russian media (in Russian):
Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan joined top leaders and representatives of more than two dozen countries at a huge military parade staged in the Russian capital Sunday to mark the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. At the May 9 event in Red Square, Moscow, hosted by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli President Simon Peres and leaders and representatives of former Soviet republics and countries of the anti-Hitler coalition, Sargsyan watched an elite Armenian review unit marching proudly among the first at the parade, following (due to the Cyrillic alphabet) a similar unit from Azerbaijan – a rare sight of the two rival armies’ representatives at the same place.

On the eve of the celebration Sargsyan visited the grave of Armenian Marshal Hovhannes Baghramyan at the Kremlin wall in Red Square. Baghramyan, a Soviet military commander who made a major contribution to the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1941-1945, was one of four Armenian Marshals of the Soviet Union, the USSR’s highest military rank, along with Hamazasp Babajanyan, Armenak Khanperyants (Sergey Khudyakov) and [Navy Admiral] Hovhannes Isakov. Sargsyan also talked about the contribution of Armenians in the 1945 victory in an interview with Russia-24 news channel. He said that the post-war generations in Armenia had been brought up on the examples of 119 Heroes of the Soviet Union and 27 holders of all three degrees of the Order of Glory that the former Soviet republic produced during the years of the Great Patriotic War.

“A generation of Armenians that had experienced the inhuman atrocities of the 1915 Armenian Genocide took part in that war. And it was not accidental that Armenians were fighting against fascism not only in the [Red] Army and in the [Soviet] rear, but also in resistance movements and a number of troops of the anti-Hitler coalition,” Sargsyan underlined. The Armenian leader called it a ‘great honor and responsibility’ to be in Moscow and see Armenian servicemen march at the parade along with counterparts from other former Soviet republics. “This symbolizes the unity that we had,” he said.


Armenians join Russians, WWII Allies in Victory Day Parade

For the first time since Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, national contingents from former Soviet republics, including Armenia, and WWII Allies joined Russian forces in the annual May 9 parade on Moscow's Red Square. Leaders of China, Germany, Israel, a number of Eastern European states, as well as former Soviet republics, including Armenia's president Serge Sargsyan, watched the parade together with Russian leaders. More than half a million Armenians served in the Soviet and other Allied armed forces during World War II, with some 200,000 losing their lives in humanity's deadliest conflict. Several dozen WWII veterans from Armenia (including Karabakh) joined fellow vets from other Soviet republics in Moscow for the occasion. May 9 is a public holiday in Armenia, marking both the victory in WWII in 1945 and the 1992 capture of Shushi, a key turning point in the Karabakh war. In his holiday message, Pres. Sargsyan said the coincidence of two events was "determined by destiny" and that taking of Shushi "was our response to those, who had unleashed ethnic cleansing, pogroms and war against our people." "The Armenian nation is resolute to live free, and we will not tolerate any kind of violence against us," he added.

Historical legacy and symbolism

Parade participants included units from France, Poland, United Kingdom and United States, Soviet Union's WWII allies, as well as from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Ukraine. The Armenian column was made up of an element of the army regiment that traces its history to the 89th rifle division established in Yerevan in December 1941. The 89th was the most prominent of six Armenian national divisions that fought the invading Nazi forces. Fighting in the Caucasus, Crimea, Poland and Germany, it earned the honorific "Tamanskaya" and took part in the capture of Berlin, eventually linking up with Allied forces on Elbe river in May 1945. The division's modern-day successors were led on the Red Square by Lt. Col. Vartan Khanferiants, grandson of Soviet Field-marshal Armenak Khanferiants, who was chief of staff of Soviet Air Forces during WWII. Lt. Gen. Mikael Grigorian, commander of the joint Russian-Armenian military task force, oversaw the unit's preparation for the parade, which also provided an opportunity for Armenian soldiers to show off their newly adopted field uniforms.


Armenia Marks Soviet Victory In WW2

Tens of thousands of people walked to a World War Two memorial in Yerevan on Sunday as Armenia marked the 65th anniversary of Soviet victory over Nazi Germany which had taken a heavy toll on its population. More than a hundred Armenian soldiers, meanwhile, marched through Moscow’s Red Square with troops from Russia, other ex-Soviet republics and key NATO states, in a massive military parade watched by two dozen world leaders, including President Serzh Sarkisian. In a written address to the nation issued on the occasion, Sarkisian spoke of his “pride” for hundreds of thousands of Armenians, among them over 30 generals, who fought in the Red Army in 1941-1945.

“Our people saved nothing for that victory,” he said. “We suffered numerous casualties, whose memory will be kept alive by our children as well. We had heroes and military leaders, whose exploits will inspire the current and future generations as examples of patriotism and the art of warfare.”

At least 320,000 residents of Armenia, then a republic of less than 1 million people, were drafted to the Soviet army during the bloodiest war in the history of humankind. The total number of its Soviet Armenian participants is estimated at more than 500,000. Only just over half of them returned home alive. The overall number of Soviet citizens killed in the war totaled a staggering 26 million. More than 8.5 million of them were soldiers. The number of surviving war veterans has shrunk rapidly in the past few decades. Only about 3,700 veterans remain alive in Armenia at the moment. Hundreds of them were at the center of rare public attention on Sunday in Yerevan’s Victory Park, the main venue of V-Day celebrations in the country. With wartime medals decorating their chests, the silently filed past the eternal fire of the war memorial to pay their respects to their fallen comrades.

Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian, Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and other top Armenian officials as well as representatives of foreign diplomatic missions in Yerevan laid flowers by the fire in the morning. Scores of ordinary Armenians did so throughout the day. President Sarkisian, meanwhile, was in Moscow, attending official ceremonies there marking the victory anniversary together with fellow heads of state from almost all ex-Soviet republics, several European countries and China. The culmination of the celebrations was Russia’s biggest military parade since the break-up of the Soviet Union staged on Red Square.

“Sixty-five years ago, Nazism was defeated and a machine that was exterminating whole peoples was halted,” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in a speech preceding the impressive display of his country’s military might. “There was one choice -- either victory or to become slaves.”

The parade also featured troops from several other ex-Soviet nations, including Armenia, as well as the United States, Britain and France, Moscow’s WWII allies. In a moment of great symbolism, an Armenian army company that goose-stepped in the vast square was led by a grandson of Sergei Khudyakov (born Armenak Khanferiants), a Soviet Air Force marshal who played a prominent role in the war. Sarkisian sent wreathes to the Moscow graves of Khudyakov, Marshal Hamazasp Babajanian and Admiral Ivan Isakov (born Hovannes Ter-Isahakian) on Saturday. He also made a point of visiting the tomb of the Red Army’s most famous ethnic Armenian commander, Marshal Ivan Baghramian. The latter was buried under the Kremlin wall facing Red Square.


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Dear reader,

Arevordi will be taking a sabbatical to tend to personal matters. New blog commentaries will henceforth be posted on an irregular basis. The comments board however will continue to be moderated on a regular basis.

The last 20 years or so has also helped me see Russia as the last front against scourges of Westernization, Globalism, American expansionism, Zionism, Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. I have also come to see Russia as the last hope humanity has for the preservation of classical western civilization, Apostolic Christianity and the traditional nation-state. This realization compelled me to create this blog in 2010. Immediately, this blog became one of the very few voices in the vastness of cyberia that dared to preach about the dangers of Globalism and the Anglo-American-Jewish alliance, and the only voice preaching the strategic importance of Armenia remaining within Russia's orbit. From about 2010 to 2015 I did monthly, at times weekly, commentaries about Russian-Armenian relations and Eurasian geopolitics in general. It was very difficult as I had no assistance in this endeavor. The time I put into this blog therefore came at the expense of work and family. But a powerful feeling inside me urged me to keep going; and I did.

When Armenia finally joined the EEU and integrated its armed forces into Russia's military structures a couple of years ago, I finally felt a deep sense of satisfaction and relaxation, as if a very heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt that my personal mission was accomplished. I therefore felt I could take a step back, as I really needed the rest. Simply put: I have lived to see the institutionalization of Russian-Armenian alliance. Also, I feel more confident now that Armenians are collectively recognizing the strategic importance of Armenia's ties with Russia. Moreover, I feel satisfied knowing that, at least on a subatomic level, I had a hand in the outcome. As a result, I feel a strong sense of mission accomplished. I therefore no longer have the urge to continue as in the past. In other words, the motivational force that had propelled me in previous years has been gradually dissipating because I feel that this blog has lived to see the realization of its stated goal. Going forward, I do not want to write merely for the sake of writing. Also, I do not want to say something if I have nothing important to say. I feel like I have said everything I needed to say. Henceforth, I will post seasonal commentaries about topics I find important. I will however continue moderating the blog's comments section on a regular basis; ultimately because I'm interested in what my readers have to say and also because it's through readers here that I am at times made aware of interesting developments.

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