IMMORTAL REGIMENT

What Victory Day means for Russians

WWII victory shaped the modern world, laid the foundation of the existing international order, created the UN and led to the dismantling of the colonial system.

In Summary

• Victory Day is marked to commemorate the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945. It took four years and tremendous effort, sacrifice and suffering to stop the aggression and break the back of the Nazi beast in its lair.

• Every year, on May 9, millions of people throughout Russia march with the portraits of their relatives who fought in the War.

Immortal Regiment's marches through streets of Russia.
Immortal Regiment's marches through streets of Russia.
Image: COURTESY

May 9, Victory Day is a special day for the people of Russia.

This year, it is even more important because, in 2020, we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Victory. From the perspective of all these years, it is perfectly clear that the Victory not only saved us, the peoples of Russia and most of the nations in Europe, from total annihilation, but shaped the modern world, laid the foundation of the existing international order, created the United Nations as the basis of the international relations, and led to the dismantling of the colonial system.

The Nazis never concealed their plans for the Jews, Romas, Russians, or other Slav nations. It was extermination and slavery. They had at their disposal the most powerful and formidable war machine in history.

 

It took us four long years and tremendous effort, sacrifice and suffering to stop the aggression and break the back of the Nazi beast in its lair – Berlin, and liberate Europe. We paid a huge price for the Victory – 27 million people, most of them civilians, murdered by the Nazis and their collaborationists.

Some 1,710 cities and towns and more than 70,000 villages were destroyed. Every family in Russia and the former Republics of the Soviet Union was affected by the War. All the peoples of the USSR fought side by side to defeat Nazism. We remember and value their heroism and their sacrifice for the Victory.

Every year, on May 9, millions of people in Moscow and throughout Russia march with the portraits of their relatives who fought in the War. This grassroots popular initiative is called “Immortal Regiment”.

My country (then the Soviet Union) played a decisive role in the victory over Nazism. By the time Hitler started the aggression against us, the Nazis and their Axis allies controlled practically the entire European continent and had at their disposal not only the tremendous European economic and technological potential but its huge human resources as well.

The peoples of the Soviet Union bore the brunt of the fight against Nazism. Just an example. During the war, the Red Army had to fight 640 divisions of the Wehrmacht and Germany’s satellites, while the Allies in North Africa, Italy, and Western Europe had to face 176 German Nazi divisions.

It is on the Soviet-German front that the Nazis suffered 80% of all their combat losses. The Second Front in Europe was opened only in June 1944, less than one year before the capitulation of Nazi Germany.

What I would like to emphasise in this context is that we honour and appreciate the contribution of our Allies to the common victory in WWII. The creation of the Anti-Hitler Coalition of the United Nations and the pooling of their political, economic and military resources became an important factor of the aggressors’ defeat. The support the Allies provided to us, their essential supplies helped the Red Army to liberate our country and Europe.

It is highly symbolic that on May 7, President Putin and President Trump exchanged greetings in connection with the 75th anniversary of Victory over Nazism. They emphasized the historical importance of the allied relations that linked the two nations during WWII and allowed both countries to end a common threat.

In this context, I would like to share a little known fact about the cooperation between Russians and Kenyans in the war. I myself discovered it very recently. It was during the battle for Madagascar in 1942.

The Allies conducted a strategic operation on the island against the Axis forces of Japan and the pro-Nazi Vichy regime. The operation was carried out by King’s African Rifles. It was supported by two Soviet tankers that delivered fuel from Egypt to Madagascar. The tankers accompanied by an icebreaker circumnavigated the globe to help the Allies. Thus, we became brothers in arms.

The direct result of the Victory was a clear realisation by the victorious powers that the unprecedented devastation and human suffering caused by WWII should never happen again.

The Anti-Hitler coalition was the basis on which the United Nations was created. Its main purpose was to build a better, safer and fairer world through dialogue and mutual respect. For us, it meant also the national liberation of those countries who were under colonial rule.

My country has consistently supported, in word and deed, the African liberation movement, which resulted in the adoption by the United Nations of the historic Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples in 1960 and the emancipation of Africa.

H.E. Dmitry Maksimyshev is the Ambassador of the Russan Federation to the Republic of Kenya.

Banner of Victory Over Reichstag, Berlin, 1945.
Banner of Victory Over Reichstag, Berlin, 1945.
Image: COURTESY