My wife, Marina, as many of those reading this know, is from the Soviet Union, and takes extremely seriously the anniversary of the victory of the Soviet Union and its allies over Nazi Germany, which became official at 10:45 PM in Berlin on May 8, 1945, which was 12:15 May 9 Moscow time. So, while all of the rest of the world celebrates VE Day on May 8, now in Russia today is Victory Day, as it is called everywhere outside the US, although I just saw a clip from the day itself in London where Winston Churchill declared that what had happened was “Victory in Europe,” although while UK did play a minor role in subsequent events in the Pacific, aside from the US for the rest of the allies VE Day was simply Victory Day in Europe.
So, yesterday in UK there was a flyover of planes in celebration of this anniversary, somehow according to the radio report I heard putting out red, white, and blue colors in the sky. Is this for the US helping out with D-Day? I do not know. The only other public demo on May 8 I am aware of was Donald Trump meeting with some WW II vets, all reportedly over 95 years in age, with neither him or any of them for the photo op wearing a face mask, despite the fact that the White House has suddenly become a new epicenter for the coronavirus.
The following nations have a public holiday for May 8 related to the victory of the Allies over the Axis powers in Europe: UK, France, French Guiana, French Polynesia, Martinique, Saint Martin, Guadeloupe, Gibralter, New Caledonia, Czech Republic, and Slovakia, which really boils down to three nations at the end of WW II, UK with some associates, France with a lot of associates, and then the former Czechoslovakia, now slit into two. Non trivially, Ukraine today has May 8 not a public holiday, but it is a Day of Peace and Reconciliaton, which is supposed to be recognized.
In the US VE Day as it is still called since for us the war with Japan was more important then, and now that we got done with this distraction in Europe it was now time to get to real business to defeat Japan, well… So, VE Day is below Pearl Harbor Day, D-Day, and VJ Day (Aug, 15) in the general veiw of Americans. As it is, none of these are public holidays, but then, we only lost about a half million or so in the war, well underthe deaths in our Civil War, and also a number well under that who died in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, during the long siege it suffered thanks to Adolf Hitler.
More of the “nations” listed that have public holidays on May 8 are France-related. But unlike Britain with Churchill and all that, for France ultimately this holiday is not one they want to emphasize given their embarrassing history of having been defeated by Germany and then having the awful Vichy regime and all that, which they have still barely gotten over. Sure, Aug. 1944 de Gaulle pushed the Grmans out of Paris, with lots of support from US, UK, and Canada, so, well, not all that triumphant, and I checked: no big celebration there on May 8. For them the big one is the prvious war, WW I, which they unequivocally won, Battle of Verdun and all that. On Nov. 11, now Veterans Day in the US (well, sorry, the nearest Monday for commercial reasons), they have a serious military parade up the Champs Elysses with the French president utlimately bowing before the flame of the Unkown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe. I have actually observed these events more than once in the days when Jacques Chirac was the French president, and these French displays are apparently what has gotten our pathetic POTUS wanting same here.
Anyway, in the end, the French made no big deal about this day, and very few nations did as well, aside from the jet overfly in Britain, where rhey take it pretty seriously still. In the US Trump’s embarrassing meeting with some old vets from WW II barely made any news. The matter here at least is forgettable, and likewise in most of the world.
But there is one place where that is not true and has not been ever since 1945, the former Soviet Union, and its main successorussia, although as noted above for them Victory Day is today, while I am now writing, May 9. In the Soviet period the whole long week between the Workers Day, May Day, and Victory Day, May 9 was a total national holiday. But now May Day has been downgraded and the long holiday has been long gone in Russia. But in the recent years Victory Day, May 9, has been increasingly emphasized and celebratred. Especially since he annexed Crimea and thus brought down on Russia western sanctions, Putin has puffed up this celebration with massive military parades and presentations, with a side aspect of this a revival of Joseph Stalin, the victor in the end of that war.
So this year was supposed to be his ultimate presentation. On April 22 there was supposed to be a referndum on a new Russian constittution that would allow Putin to run again in 2024 for two more 8 year terms. But, oh, a pandemic hit and the vote has been put off. Like his pal in Washington, Putin initially dismissed and ignored the invading virus, although has since put in place a much more severe regime of lockown than anything going on anywhere in the US. But in the last fes days the infection rate has soared wildly out of control in Russia with daily figures of new infections exceeding 10,000 per day, one of the highest rates in the world.
Well, tsk tsk. So, Great Leader Putin had been planning and building up towards this grand event that was supposed to succeed his elevation to essentially lifetime leadership like his neighbor in China has, Xi Jinping. But, oooops! The humongous and super grand beyond anything ever seen before, even beyond the shows in Paris that set Trump drooling, was planned to happened today in Moscow on this, the 75th anniversary of their great victory over Hitlerian Germany. But no show.
And it was a great victory, maybe the greatest in all of world history. Nothing else remotely compares. At Yalta it is reported that a reason FDR and Churchill did not push back too hard against Stalin, aside from the hard fact that the Red Army was already sitting in much of Eastern Europe (and especially in Poland), they were aware that something like 26 million Soviet people had died as a result of Hitler’s invasion of that nation, with their numbers of dead not even in the same order of magnitude. Many Americans ignorantly think that it was D-Day that did Hitler. No, it was Stalingrad, the bloodiest single battle in all of world history with over a million dead, followed by the battle of Kursk, by far the largest tank battle in history, after which it was all over, with D-Day basically a sideshow to make sure that 1814 would not be repeated, a time when Russian troops did get to Paris after Napoleon’s failed invasion of Russia, which led to Russian soldiers demanding drinks, “bistro, bistro!” which French entrepreneurs responded to, giving us the bistro.
So, with the possible aside from the flyover in the UK, most of the world outside of Russia has come to view VE Day as forgettable. The remaining vets are indeed over 95 and few in number, and the rest of us, especially in the US, have many other things on our minds. It is forgettable and has been forgotten.
The situation in Russia is more complicated, given the recent focus and buildup related to it by Putin. That the great celebration is not happening is clearly frustrating for Putin. But the word in various rceent reports has been that he is “bored,” although I doubt that is really accurate. Anyway, just as he was about to imitate Xi and grab lifelong power, the nasty virus showed up, and while imitated Trump and other authoritarian idiots around the world in initially ignoring it, eventually it blew up in his face and now Russia is shut down, no vote for his supreme leadership, and no massive three quarters of a century celebration of Victory Day. Instead reportedly he has disappeared from public view, hiding in his dacha while nameless underlings deal with the pandemic. It is not his problem. By mnay reports he is “bored.”