Victory Day

The most famous photo of World War II. Aleksei Yeremenko in 1942.

The most famous photo of World War II. Aleksei Yeremenko in 1942. He was killed in action in 1942, right after this photo was taken.

Victory Day will be celebrated tomorrow in Russia, as it is every May 9. Even in this era, World War II is a really, really big deal in Russia and many former Soviet countries. I’m not really sure why that is – perhaps it’s because of many years of Soviet propaganda, which was necessary because the Soviet Union really didn’t have many other accomplishments (aside from oppressing people, if you know what I mean).

The fact remains that World War II – or, as the Russians call it, the Great Patriotic War – is still well-remembered and really important. (As a historian, I obviously think it’s important and should be remembered, but the United States doesn’t retain the same respect for it as Russia does, unfortunately.) As Vicki aptly pointed out, so, so many movies made in Russia somehow involve World War II. In all honesty though, the Russians have made some really good films about the war (they’ve certainly had enough practice!).

Every year, the Russians have a massive Victory Day parade in Moscow. It’s awesome and I really, really want to go. (I’ve watched it on TV for the past four years and I plan to continue the tradition this year.)

Thinking about World War II always makes me sad because of the sheer number of people who died. The soldier in the photo at the beginning of this post died right after the photo was taken. His name was Aleksei Yeremenko and he was a political officer in the 220th Rifle Regiment, 4th Rifle Division. He never knew that he would become famous due to a serendipitous picture taken a moment before he died. That just said, and what’s even more sad are the millions of soldiers who died like Yeremenko, but who are not remembered because they didn’t have a famous photo taken of them fighting.

Happy Victory Day, everyone. Let us never forget World War II.

If you’re interested, you can read more about that iconic photo here in English, or here and here in Russian.

2 thoughts on “Victory Day

  1. Hi!
    Wars (and those who died) should be remembered but not glorified.
    In Bratislava there is a Soviet military cemetery -> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slav%C3%ADn. The place is beautiful, but going there always makes me so sad. Just think of all the things these people could have done (and the lives they could have led) had they not died somewhere far from home.

    • Hey, nice to have you commenting again. :) Yes, I definitely agree. I feel like there’s a fine line between remembering a war and glorifying it. Admittedly Russia might cross that line sometimes! But I definitely know what you’re saying. I like reading about World War II (because I love history), but I really, really, really hope there is never a war like it again. Just the fact that we’ve had two world wars already makes me very sad. That cemetery does looks beautiful, but very sad. :( Thanks for telling me about it.

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