President Vladimir Putin is a man obsessed with the history of Russia and his own place in it.
Under his rule, Soviet Russia’s role in defeating Nazi Germany and liberating Europe became mythologized and central to Russian identity – anyone who threatens Russia is now inevitably labeled a Nazi.
Today in all cities of Russia, Victory Day celebrations will mark the historic surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945.
In practice, the holiday has little to do with remembering the past, but everything to do with the projection of Russian military power.
A lavish military parade is being held in Moscow’s Red Square in front of Putin and senior figures in the Russian army – likely a small number this year after an estimated eight Russian generals were killed by Ukrainian forces.
Crowds will gather early in central Moscow for a glimpse of the Russian troops who took part in the “special operation” to “denazify” Ukraine, and the tanks and missiles that proved so ineffective against Ukrainian forces to have.
Soviet Russia’s massive losses during World War II – an estimated 23 million dead – mean that most Russian families lost at least one relative in what they call the “Great Patriotic War.”
Many Victory Parade viewers will hold in their hands old photos of these relatives who served in the Soviet Army – a reminder of why Russia’s claims of fighting Nazis in Ukraine resonate with so many Russians.
Ignored and censored on Victory Day are Stalin’s initial pact with Hitler, the Soviet Army’s brutal indifference to its soldiers – an estimated 13,500 soldiers were executed by their own side during the Battle of Stalingrad – and the mass rapes and atrocities committed by Soviet soldiers in were committed all over Europe.
While Putin failed to replicate Soviet military victories, he certainly emulated Soviet indifference to military casualties and mass atrocities during the invasion of Ukraine.
A mobile crematorium was used by the Russian army to reduce the number of body bags being returned to Russia.
Ukraine estimates that Russian forces have lost over 24,000 soldiers, more than 1,000 tanks and over 2,600 armored vehicles since the war began in February.
After the military parade, Putin will give a speech from Red Square. He can choose Victory Day to make an announcement about Russia’s involvement in Ukraine.
Western sanctions, imposed in the wake of the Ukraine war, have started to hit the average Russian as stores have run out of imported goods and inflation has skyrocketed.
Putin could use his speech to explain why Russians should pay the price to liberate Ukraine and warn them to prepare for a prolonged conflict.
Since Putin needs a victory for Victory Day, he may be talking about the “liberation” of Mariupol, the port city in eastern Ukraine that now lies in ruins.
It could also set the stage for the annexation of Donetsk and Luhansk, where Russian forces are now concentrated after withdrawing from around the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
It was this land grab in eastern Ukraine that many in Russia were anticipating in February, rather than a full-blown invasion of Ukraine.
As casualties mount and victories remain elusive, advertisements seeking military recruits have been circulated across Russia.
It’s seen as an unlikely move that would threaten his support base, but Putin may be nearing the mass recruitment of Russian men of military age.
“Young men don’t seem to care about it yet,” says Igor, a lawyer in Moscow who doesn’t want his real name to be used.
“This is mainly because they don’t believe there will be a real attack on Russia – no Russian can imagine anyone attacking Russia.”
This lack of imagination is perhaps a sign that Russians have forgotten all the lessons of WWII.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/todays-victory-day-parade-in-moscow-is-a-platform-for-vladimir-putin-to-celebrate-his-twisted-view-of-history-41629340.html Today’s Victory Day parade in Moscow is a platform for Vladimir Putin to celebrate his twisted view of history