For the first time in the history of modern Russia, the marches of the “Immortal Regiment” have been canceled in most Russian cities. The reason for this is not the safety of the participants, but the regime’s growing inability to keep the masses in line. The authorities are openly afraid that the participants of these covens will come not with portraits of their “grandfathers” prepared by local officials, but with photos of their children, husbands, wives, brothers, and sisters who died during the so-called “Special operation”. This time 9 May has been accompanied by information background about explosions near the Russian Ministry of Defence, threats of drone strikes on Moscow, and dozens of anti-war events in Russia.
The historical context of the Victory Day myth
The Soviet Union, through its participation in the Anti-Hitler Coalition, actually escaped punishment for the initiation of World War II together with Nazi Germany and did not take the responsibility for crimes against its people. During the war, millions of Ukrainians and representatives of other nations enslaved by Moscow died because of the Soviet military command. This process reached its peak in 1943, when residents of the territories under Nazi occupation were massively recruited into “chornosvytnyky” – suicide units without training, weapons, ammunition, or uniforms to be used as “cannon fodder”. These were the realities that did not correlate with the Kremlin’s myth of a “patriotic” war.
The term “Great Patriotic War” first appeared in the newspaper Pravda on 22 June 1941 in a speech by Vyacheslav Molotov, People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs of the USSR, who compared the confrontation with Hitler to the War of 1812 against Napoleon Bonaparte. It was cynical because the Soviet government had long rejected its imperial past and suddenly presented a direct analogy. The first mass celebrations of Victory Day began only in 1965 when most veterans died because of their wounds, injuries, and illnesses. In USSR cities in Central and Eastern Europe, where a Soviet army soldier had set foot, monuments to “liberation heroes” appeared as markers of the new ideology of “victors”.
In 1991, Russia self-proclaimed itself as the sole heir to the USSR and continued the foreign policy of the Soviet Union, building foreign relations from the position of the winner and the losers, or as the propaganda of the “liberated” nations emphasized.
Destruction of the “We can do it again” ideology
Only 10 years ago, almost all the member countries of the Anti-Hitler Coalition used to send their military to the parade in Moscow. In Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and other European cities, the Kremlin, with the help of its local puppets, organised thousands of people to celebrate the victory near monuments to “warriors – liberators”. This was systematically supported by the methods of propaganda and work with local elites, generously bribed with Russian oil and gas rubles. The myth of Moscow’s exceptional role in the victory over Nazism was deeply rooted in the public consciousness of not only Russians, but also Europeans.
Despite the seemingly obvious contradiction between the “loser” and the “winner”, Germany and Russia have developed a relationship that is beneficial to both countries. The two countries actually shared and managed the energy market of the whole of Europe, creating significant leverage over the policies of European countries. Even after the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war in 2014, German and other European companies supplied Russia with their products, and German industry was free to enter and develop in the Russian market. The same was true for the Russian military-industrial complex, which continued to receive the necessary technologies in circumvention of the imposed sanctions.
Confidence in the power of Russian weapons, the Kremlin’s nuclear arsenal, dependence on oil and gas, the threat of a new war on the continent, an extensive network of agents, and the Kremlin’s bravado “We can do it again!” became the main factors in shaping relations with Russia. And this entire geopolitical architecture, which had been built since the end of the Second World War, crumbled in a year of heroic resistance by Ukrainians, raising the issue of revising the unjust peace and punishing the aggressor for crimes against humanity.
Reconsidering the unjust peace
On the 440th day of its heroic resistance to Russian aggression, Ukraine is asking the world not about its survival but about the formation of a new security system in the world without Russia. After all, the bodies of international resistance to evil, such as the UN Security Council, established in response to crimes against humanity during World War II, have once again signaled their inability to prevent a repeat of Nazism and resist the Kremlin’s hand. The new war that has befallen the free world is forcing us to ask anew who is on whose side.
Russian equipment reached Kyiv’s Khreshchatyk only in destroyed form, and Russia’s border with NATO has de jure increased by 1,271 kilometres of Finnish border and de facto by another 2,295 kilometres of Ukrainian border. The Kremlin is not thinking about its victory, but about “saving face” and avoiding a new Nuremberg over Russia’s leaders. Russia’s main myth about the “Great Victory of May 9” is beginning to work against itself, forcing the Russian authorities to look for new explanations to keep their people in line. The regime cannot allow the relatives of those killed in Russia to find out about the existence of each other and the scale of the tragedy at the next march of the “Immortal Regiment”. After all, no FSB and Rosgvardia will be able to suppress possible riots after such large-scale losses in Ukraine.
Destroyed Russian equipment on Khreshchatyk Street in Kyiv, in the summer of 2022. Source: hromadske.
Ukraine, at the cost of the highest heroism of its own people, is in practice revising the unjust peace established after the end of World War II.
However, a won battle is not a won war. There are still many days of hard battles and losses ahead: the counter-offensive and the liberation of Ukrainian lands, the strengthening of the international coalition and the increase in arms supplies, the further identification and elimination of Russian agents, which are far from being destroyed. Only then will Ukraine have a truly peace and its Victory Day, this time over rascism.