Significance of Low Sunday and May 9: Affinities, dissimilarities and specific features in times of war. IPN debate

The Low Sunday that already passed and the upcoming holiday of May 9 are two reference dates that can help realize the way of being of Moldova society and of other societies of the same area. The experts invited to IPN’s public debate “Significance of Low Sunday and May 9: Affinities, dissimilarities and specific features in times of war” discussed the purpose of these two events and the extent to which they were influenced by the Russo-Ukrainian war.

Igor Boțan, the standing expert of IPN’s project, said that according to the Orthodox calendar, this is the Black Week opened by Low Sunday that comes after the Bright Week. “The meek are pious beings that live far from the people, on the Saturday Water that is a river that springs from under the Life Tree in Paradise and represents the border between the two worlds. As the meek do not determine the passing of time, they celebrate Low Sunday in a week of the Resurrection, when they see red painted egg shells thrown by Christians on Easter passing on the Saturday Water. The faithful believe that the souls of the dead can be freed from the serious sins committed during the lifetime and therefore on Low Sunday they mourn for the dead and give red painted eggs, Easter bread and cakes and other things as alms,” stated Igor Boțan.

The expert noted that the legislation stipulates Easter, Low Sunday, the May 9 Victory Day and since 2018 also Europe Day that is celebrated also on May 9 among the nonworking days. “In Europe and America, Victory Day in Europe, as it is called, is a holiday during which the U.S., the UK and most of the countries in Western Europe celebrate the day Germany capitulated and, consequently, the end of World War II, on May 8, 1945,” explained the project’s expert.

The capitation act was signed on the night of May 9 and the differences derive from here. “The West celebrates the end of World War II, while the Soviets celebrated the victory in the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945). The difference is clear to everyone and the apple of discord is whether it goes to World War II or the Great Patriotic War,” said Igor Boțan. According to him, after the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, the day of May 9 in the post-Soviet space, primarily in Russia, is considered the Victory Day in the Great Patriotic War and the glory day of the Soviet Army. As a result, many misunderstands derive from here as this kind of exclusivism neglects the important role played by all the states of the anti-Hitler coalition in bringing the war to an end.

Civic activist Rodion Gavriloi, a graduate of the Orthodox Theological Seminar, said that Low Sunday in the Orthodox Church is a rather new feast day. Until a particular period of time, the religious books didn’t say this was a holiday for the commemoration of the dead. Low Sunday appeared in the Christian calendars because, according to church canons, the commemoration of the dead is banned starting with Passion Thursday before Easter until the first Sunday after Easter.

“This feast day is not celebrated all over the Orthodox countries. It is rather a local holiday. In the Republic of Moldova, I think it is celebrated the widest, but it is also observed in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Romania. In Moldova, it is celebrated wider because Parliament declared this day of Monday, in a week after Easter, a nonworking day,” explained the activist.

According to him, in Moldova this holiday is celebrated not really appropriately and this is seen in cemeteries. It is a ritual by which the people exchange presents and this is no longer aid. “The prayer for the dead is the essence of Low Sunday. After the Bright Week, we should not be sad, but should rejoice at the return to life of Jesus Christ,” stated Rodion Gavriloi.

The president of the Union of Historians of the Republic of Moldova, Doctor Habilitate Anatol Petrencu said that Germany in 1945 capitulated unconditionally first on May 7, but Joseph Stalin didn’t like this and asked the leaders of the states of the anti-Hitler coalition to consider this capitulation preliminary and organized another capitulation closer to Berlin. “He didn’t like it because the signing took place on the territory occupied by his allies. The unconditional recapitulation act was staged on the night of May 9 and World War II in Europe ended then. The West celebrates Victory Day on May 8, but, owing to the time zone, it was already the morning of May 9 in Moscow and the Soviets and the former Communist states therefore mark the Day of Victory against Nazi Germany on May 9,” said the historian.

Anatol Petrencu said that Stalin realized the losses and destruction were huge and no military parades and other festivities had been held for 20 years. The war ended on September 2, but the contemporary Russians do not agree with this date either and celebrate it on September 3 so that the holiday does not coincide with the celebration day of the rest of mankind. May 9, 1950 is another important date when wise people in Germany and France discussed and aimed to agree how to prevent such a war. They decided to celebrate a day of reconciliation of the nations that struggled between them on May 9.

The historian noted that the current administration of Russia reinterpreted history to show that only they scored a victory against Nazi Germany, while the current President of Russia Vladimir Putin said that Russia would have won this war without the assistance of Belarus and Ukraine. “This is an untrue, nationalist position that humiliates other nations. This victory of May 9 is the common victory of all the nations that formed part of the anti-Hitler coalition. Romania also contributed to the victory against Germany since August 23, 1944 until May 9, 1945, but the Russians will never recognize this fact. Currently, the day of May 9 is interpreted as a date of the Russians only and this surely generates concern. The real meaning of May 9 is the fact that the nations and states of the anti-Hitler coalition scored the victory against Nazi Germany and this is the truth. The distorted part is that only the USSR or Russia beat Nazi Germany and this is not true,” stated Anatol Petrencu.

The public debate titled “Significance of Low Sunday and May 9: Affinities, dissimilarities and specific features in times of war” was the 242th installment of IPN’s project “Developing Political Culture through Public Debates” that is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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