09 May 2018 | Various Sources | Hawkins Bay – This Day
This Day – 09 May
Victory Day is both a state and a very personal, family holiday. It has become a symbol of a sacred relation of Russia and its people. And this unity, devotion to fatherland is a core to our strength, confidence and dignity.— Vladimir Putin
Victory Day is a holiday that commemorates the victory of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War. It was first inaugurated in the 16 republics of the Soviet Union, following the signing of the German Instrument of Surrender late in the evening on 8 May 1945 (after midnight, thus on 9 May Moscow Time).
The Soviet government announced the victory early on 9 May after the signing ceremony in Berlin.
Though the official inauguration occurred in 1945 the holiday became a non-labour day only in 1965 and only in certain Soviet republics.
In East Germany, 8 May was observed as “Liberation Day” from 1950 to 1966, and was celebrated again on the 40th anniversary in 1985. In 1975, a Soviet-style “Victory Day” was celebrated on 9 May.
Since 2002, the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has observed a commemoration day known as the “Day of Liberation from National Socialism, and the End of the Second World War”.
09 May 2017 | Oleg Yegorov | Russia Beyond
When sociologists ask Russians what they are most proud of in their country’s history, the most popular response for the last twenty years has been the victory in the Great Patriotic War, 1941-1945.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that Victory Day – celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany – on May 9 is one of the most popular celebrations in Russia. The holiday unites people from all walks of life and about 24 million people – one out of every six Russians – participated in the 2016 Victory Day celebrations.
One of the most recognized images of the celebration, along with the evening fireworks and the carnations given out to veterans, is parade that rumbles through Moscow.
Each year thousands of soldiers march over Red Square’s cobblestones and the parade shows off the country’s military hardware, like the “Armata” tank in 2015. The defense minister (who today is Sergei Shoigu) always participates in the parade. On the 70th anniversary of Victory Day in 2015, Russia spent 810 million rubles ($14.2 million). The following year the country spent 295 million ($5.1 million).
The scale of the event is massive. Western Europe and the U.S. do not celebrate the end of WWII with large military processions. China held a huge military parade in Sept. 2015 in honor of the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, but this was a one-off event. So why does Russia go all out in celebrating the date?
‘It wasn’t always like this’
As strange as it sounds, in the USSR (the victor in the Great Patriotic War) parades were more modest than in modern day Russia – and rarer. After the first Victory Parade was held in June 1945 on Red Square, in which the Soviet soldiers deposited the Nazi banners at the feet of the Mausoleum, the country did not hold a parade for 20 years.
As historian Denis Babichenko says, both Joseph Stalin and his successor Nikita Khrushchev feared that the Great Patriotic War commanders would strengthen their positions and therefore did not focus everyone’s attention on their and other veterans’ merits. It wasn’t until 1965 that Victory Day became a holiday.
The first Soviet leader, during whose tenure Victory Day became a nationwide celebration, was Leonid Brezhnev (he was General Secretary, the highest rank in the USSR, from 1966 to 1982). But in Brezhnev’s time the parade was held only on jubilee years. The last Soviet parade took place in 1990 and in the first several years of the “new Russia” there were no processions at all. They were fired up again in 1995 and only in the 2000s did they reach today’s level.
Significance and unity
Historian Dmitri Andreev notes that for today’s Russia, Victory Day brings the nation together. “Victory Day and the memories associated with it create the impulse of national unity and accord,” Andreev explains.
The parade, the fireworks, the Immortal Regiment procession – all these rituals embody the idea of togetherness. The government emphasises these rituals to preserve identity.
Muscovites sometimes complain that it’s inconvenient to watch the parade live. “You can’t get up close, can’t see anything,” remarks blogger Ilya Varlamov. “This is done not for the people, but for the TV. Why can’t they organize stands for ordinary people?” Varlamov also criticizes the government for combining Victory Day, the holiday related to memory and grief, with “the demonstration of military might.”
But the overwhelming majority of Russians (96 percent, according to a Levada Center survey) back the parade. “Back in my childhood my parents and I watched the parade every year,” remembers Yulia Kovaleva, a 24-year-old Muscovite. “It’s nice to watch how the guys march in sync, to look at the powerful technology, hear the ‘hurrays!’ You feel proud, protected. It’s a good tradition and it should be continued.”
This article is part of the Why Russia series, in which Russia Beyond answers the most popular questions about Russia
IN PICTURES: Thousands of Russians celebrated Victory Day in honor of the anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany during World War II.
05 April 2018 | Andrew Curry | National Geographic News
Berlin traffic ground to a halt on Wednesday after a bomb was discovered 20 feet from a train track near the city’s main station. Hundreds of people were evacuated from nearby hotels and apartments, schools in the area shut down as students were moved to safety, and planes were put in a holding pattern over the German capital for half an hour as a bomb squad gingerly defused the explosive device.
This was no terror incident, though. The 200-pound (91-kilo), 3-foot-long (1-meter-long) bomb was nearly 70 years old, dropped by a Soviet plane during the Second World War. Once its detonator was carefully removed, the TNT-packed iron tube was strapped to the bed of a truck and moved to a forest outside the city, where it could be safely detonated.
For most Berliners, the episode was more inconvenient than incredible. World War II bombs are part of life here, regularly turning up during construction projects and even in open fields and riverbeds. Dozens are discovered and defused each year.
Only the biggest make the news: In November 2011, the city of Koblenz evacuated 45,000 people—half its population, including two hospitals, seven retirement homes, and a prison—when a 4,000-pound (1,814-kilo) British bomb was found in the Rhine River.
And last year, a Munich neighborhood was rocked by an explosion when a bomb was detonated in place, covering several blocks in shards of glass from broken windows and setting roofs on fire.
Unlike the Munich explosion, Wednesday’s incident was “a totally normal defusing,” Berlin bomb squad head Dietmar Puepke told reporters at the scene.
Puepke has had a lot of practice, and experts predict he and other bomb disposal experts will get a lot more in the years to come. In the German capital, 2,000 bombs have been recovered since the end of the war. And experts say between 2,000 and 4,000 tons of explosive material—including unexploded hand grenades used during the fierce battle for the capital in 1945—still litter Berlin.
“They find and defuse 10 or 15 bombs each year,” said Wolfgang Spyra, former head of the Berlin Police Department’s Forensic Science and Engineering Department and a retired professor at Brandenburg Technical University in Cottbus. “At that rate, you can imagine how much longer the problem will be with us.”
The number of bombs still to be found is staggering. British, American, and Russian bombing raids dumped upward of 2.7 million tons of bombs on Germany during the war, each weighing anywhere from 100 to 4,000 pounds (45 to 1,814 kilos). Spyra estimates between 7 and 15 percent of those were duds, bombs that hit the ground but failed to explode. For decades, they’ve remained live, waiting quietly for an errant backhoe or bulldozer to set them off.
Finding and removing them before the worst happens employs thousands of people in Germany, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars each year. Across Germany, an estimated 20,000 tons of WWII material—everything from bombs to rusty rifles and the wreckage of trucks and tanks—is recovered annually. The economic costs from offices, highways, and train lines being shut down while bomb squads do their work is incalculable.
Experts say the problem will get worse before it gets better. For decades, bombs turned up during postwar building projects, sometimes with deadly results. That’s why construction projects in Germany today often require a Kampfmittelfreiheitsbescheinigung, or a permit certifying that the area is bomb-free, before work begins. Consultants pore over aerial photos from U.S. and British army archives for signs of unexploded ordnance.
But there are no guarantees, particularly in hard-hit cities like Berlin, the target of 363 air raids between May 1940 and April 1945. By the end of the war the city was a vast sea of rubble. “Bombs fell on train tracks, airfields, factories, and city centers,” said Spyra.
As the years go by, remaining munitions get more dangerous: The material inside WWII-era bombs is usually TNT, a stable chemical that remains as explosive today as it was 70 years ago.
Allied bombs often included timers set to explode several hours to several days later, in order to kill firefighters or cleanup workers arriving at the scene of an air raid. “Naturally, that meant a long wait to get repairs started, which weakened the German military effort,” said Spyra.
The dud detonators get more fragile with each passing year. The timers were commonly made of celluloid, a type of plastic that decays over time. (Many old movies were made of similar stuff, one reason many old movies no longer exist.) The deteriorating celluloid makes the detonators—and the bombs they arm—unpredictable and sometimes impossible to safely defuse.
Bombs have even been known to explode spontaneously: In Oranienburg, a town north of Berlin, five bombs have “self-detonated” since the late 1970s, and across Germany one or two bombs set themselves off each year.
As time goes on, Spyra predicts more and more bombs will be too unstable to disarm—and will have to be set off wherever they’re found, potentially damaging or destroying nearby buildings or entire neighborhoods. “So far it’s mostly been property damage, but I think we can also expect fatalities in the future.”
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