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Victory Day Parade - 09 May

Captive German military banners and standards are being flung down in dishonour at the Victors' feet after the Great Victory Parade on the Red Square in Moscow on the 24th of June 1945. Victory Day marks the final surrender by Nazi Germany to the U.S.S.R. in WWII, often referred to as the Great Patriotic War in Russia and other states in the former Soviet Union. The first Victory Parade was held on Red Square on June 24, 1945 on the order of the then-Supreme Commander-in-Chief, Joseph Stalin. With 265 meters of paving stones; 116 steps per minute; 70 centimeters per step - the arithmetic behind the annual military parade dedicated to the Soviet and Allied victory against Nazi Germany has been consistent for decades now. Still, each year has seen the introduction of something new. It is necessary to clarify that only two decades later in 1965 did the day of May 9 become the official Victory Day.

The aggressor's unconditional surrender was assured more than once thus the reason different countries mark the end of the war on different days. Colonel General Alfred Jodl, chief of the operations staff of the German Armed Forces High Command, signed a surrender agreement with Allied forces on the night of May 6/7, 1945, in Reims, France. The surrender went into effect at 11:01 pm, May 8, 1945. Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, seeking to cement his control on the eastern front, secured the signature of Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, chief commander of the German Armed Forces High Command, on an act of surrender at Soviet headquarters in Berlin-Karlshorst just after mignight. That is why Russia has traditionally commemorated the end of hostilities on May 9.

Nothing beat the original Victory Day parade, marked on June 24, 1945. The ceremony was the largest ever held, featuring some 40,000 troops and 1,850 pieces of military hardware. Marshals Georgy Zhukov and Konstantin Rokossovsky road through Red Square on white and black stallions. Soviet leader Josef Stalin, soldiers, officers and foreign dignitaries presided over the parade from atop Lenin's Mausoleum. The parade included the famous moment when Red Army troops threw Nazi banners down before the Mausoleum, including the banner of the 1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, Hitler's personal bodyguard.

On May 9, 1965, on the 20th anniversary of victory and under the personal initiative of Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev, himself a war veteran, Moscow saw its first Victory Day parade in 20 years. The 1965 parade was the first to see the carrying of the Banner of Victory hoisted above the Reichstag on May 1, 1945. The same day, Moscow, Leningrad, Odessa, Sevastopol, Volgograd (Stalingrad), and Kiev all officially received the title of Hero City.

Victory Parades in honor of the feat of Russian people in the Great Patriotic War began only on the anniversary dates, they were held in 1985 and 1990. On May 9, 1985, newly chosen Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev presided over the grandest Victory Day parade since 1945. The celebration had it all: veterans of the 1945 parade marching along Red Square's paving stones, partisans, workers of labor fronts, Polish and Czechoslovakian veterans, modern troops, some in historical costumes, historical and modern weapons systems.

On May 19, 1995, the State Duma passed a law authorizing the use during the parades of the symbols of the Soviet Union and the Great Patriotic War. From this moment, the parades timed to the celebration of the Victory Day were held annually. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Great Victory, the tradition of holding celebrations and parades in hero cities revived.

But at the same time participation of military equipment that inflicted great damage on their infrastructure was ruled out. In the same year, Poklonnaya Gora hosted demonstration performances, where new models of military vehicles and equipment were demonstrated. A few columns of war veterans passed through the main square of the country.

In 1995, the fiftieth anniversary of victory was marked in an unconventional way. Roughly 5,000 veterans from all across the former Soviet Union from marched through Red Square, where, for the first time, they were greeted by multiple foreign guests US President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister John Major, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, Chinese leader Jiang Zemin, UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, and others. Due to the construction of the Okhotny Ryad shopping center on Manezh Square, the heavy equipment and airborne component of the parade was moved to Poklonnaya Hill, where the Great Patriotic War museum whose construction began in 1987 was finally opened. The parade took place at a very difficult time in Russia's history, following the catastrophic collapse of its economy, defeat in the war in Chechnya, and the disintegration of Soviet-era alliances across the globe. On a positive note, it was this year that the Victory Day parade became an annual tradition.

A military parade involving almost 8,000 personnel, 111 tracked and wheeled military vehicles, as well as 32 aircraft and helicopters was launched on Moscow's Red Square at 10:00 a.m. Moscow time (06:00 GMT) on Friday 09 May 2008, when Russia celebrated Victory Day.

The parade accompanied by a large military orchestra of 550 musicians is divided into two parts, a historical and a modern. Personnel dressed in WWII uniform, carrying historical military banners, are to be followed by the passing of sophisticated military hardware, including BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles, BTR-80 armored personnel carriers, T-90 tanks, Topol-M mobile missile launchers and Tu-160 and Tu-95MS strategic bombers.

A rehearsal for the May 9, 2008 parade was held in Red Square the night of April 29, and a dress rehearsal will be held on May 5. More than 100 military vehicles took part in the rehearsal. During the rehearsal for the parade, a crowd of spectators cheered the appearance of formidable T-90 main battle tanks, Smerch multiple-launch rocket systems, S-300 air defense systems, Iskander-M tactical missile systems and Topol-M ballistic missile systems. Several Tu-160 Blackjack and Tu-95 Bear strategic bombers, a Tu-22M Backfire long-range bomber and Russia's aerobatic teams, Strizhi and Russkiye Vityazi flew over Red Square at an altitude of about 1,000 feet.

Military hardware was last involved in a parade on Red Square on November 7, 1990. No military parades were held on the square from 1991 to 1994, and the May 9 parade in 1995 saw WWII veterans marching in central Moscow. Troops resumed their participation in military parades on Red Square in 1996. Outgoing Russian President Vladimir Putin said that an upcoming display of the country's military hardware in a Victory Day parade in Red Square on May 9 did not mean Moscow is threatening anyone.

The first major public event under Russia's newly inaugurated President Dmitry Medvedev was a military parade in Moscow's Red Square on May 9, 2008. For the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union,the parade included military hardware,from the SS-25 Topol intercontinental ballistic missiles to the Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers.The message to the outside world was clear: Russia is back, also as a military power, with a global nuclear reach.

The May 9, 2010 parade, marking the 65th anniversary of victory, was the first time that servicemen from the countries of the Western anti-Hitler coalition took part in a Russian Victory Day parade. Troops from the US, the UK, and France, as well as Poland (whose troops took part in the 1985 parade), participated in the memorable ceremony, with battalions from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Ukraine also taking part. President Dmitry Medvedev said the inclusion of the foreign troops was a recognition of the shared Allied victory in WWII. The celebration was not without controversy, however, with protests led by the Communist Party complaining about the decision to allow NATO troops to march across Red Square.

The 2015 Victory Day parade is remembered as one of the grandest in scope (seeing the participation of over 16,000 servicemen and women), and perhaps the most high-tech, showing off for the first time a new generation of Russian military equipment, including the T-14 main battle tank, the T-15 and Kurganetz-25 infantry fighting vehicles, the Bumerang armored personnel carrier, the 2S35 Koalitsiya-SV self-propelled howitzer, the Ural Typhoon MRAP, the BTR-82AM naval infantry APC, the Kornet-D/EM mobile antitank missile system carried by GAZ Tigr light APCs, and the RS-24 Yars mobile ICBM launcher. Under President Vladimir Putin's initiative, the 2015 celebration was the first to be marked by a moment of silence for the fallen. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu also famously made the sign of the cross before the start of the parade, prompting commotion in Russian and foreign media.

Increasingly, President Vladimir Putin has used the day to serve his own domestic purposes. In 2020, a study by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) found that under Putin, Soviet history has increasingly been told from a one-sided perspective in order to make the current regime appear stronger as well as casting it as a natural continuation of the former Soviet superpower.

Under Putin, Russia has once again begun staging pompous military parades on May 9. In Moscow's Patriot Park, there is the military cathedral complete with mosaics depicting the Red Army as well as newer wars in Georgia and Syria. At the 2021 parade, Putin said: "Russia tirelessly defends international law. At the same time, we will valiantly defend our own national interests in order to guarantee the security of our people. Russia's brave armed forces, descendants of the victorious, are the faithful guarantor for the country's development and the wellbeing of Russian families."

The Soviet victory over Nazi Germany is being instrumentalized as a way to justify the war of aggression launched against Ukraine on 24 February 2022. With that, May 9 has lost its function as a historical reminder of the suffering of millions of people and has become an aggressive instrument of propaganda for Putin's Russia.

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Page last modified: 25-05-2022 16:36:14 ZULU