The history of what is called Victory Day on May 9 is a controversial one and can be better understood only if it is seen in pieces, as a puzzle piece in which this event appears in its full complexity. Everything started from the act of military surrender of Nazi Germany, which was signed late in the evening of May 8, 1945 (May 9 Moscow time) in a suburban settlement of Berlin. the time zone and Stalin’s ambition to emphasize the role of the Soviet Union in World War II determined the celebration in different days of the surrender of Germany in the West and in Moscow - on May 8 and, respectively, on May 9.
Only four military parades dedicated to Victory were staged in USSR
In the Soviet Union, when many veterans of World War II were alive, only four military parades were staged in Victory Day. The first parade was held in June 1945 and after this, Stalin, scared by the growing feeling of civic dignity of soldiers who defeated the German fascism, followed the path of minimization of the public value of Victory Day, simultaneously causing a new wave of political repression for strengthening the totalitarian political regime. Then, starting already with the epoch of Brezhnev, three more ostentatious military parades were mounted on May 9 – in 1965, 1985 and 1990. So, until 1965, May 9 in the Soviet Union was a day as any other and unofficially had the connotation of a day to commemorate those who died in war and an occasion for the veterans to come together to remember their past as combatants. Instead, the main Soviet propaganda narrative centered on the annual military parade with huge choreographies, which was staged in November to celebrate “the great October revolution”.
After the USSR dismembered, Victory Day in Russia and all over the post-Soviet space until 1995 didn’t have a special undertone. But in 1995, following the lamentable failure suffered by Russia in the first war in Chechnya, Boris Yeltsin, the then President of Russia, used the 50th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany as a PR opportunity, staging a military parade in Moscow and inviting a series of foreign officials to it, including the then president of the U.S. Bill Clinton. Since that year, the May 9 parades in Russia have been held on an annual basis and under President Putin took greater proportions, turning into a kind of “patriot exhibitionism”. In continuation, the day of May 9 became first of all a propaganda holiday of the Kremlin and less a holiday for commemorating those who died in World War II.
Victory captured for ideological purposes
In reality, Victory Day on May 9 was confiscated by the Kremlin’s propaganda and turned into an element of the state ideology of Putin’s Russia, which is increasingly centered on the restoration of the “historical Russia”. As any imperialist ideology, the concept of “historic Russia” needed also attractive symbols. On this occasion, in 2005, on the initiative of organizations from the Russian Federation, which was borrowed and amplified to the maximum by political technologists of the Kremlin, the ribbon of Saint George appeared, which was arbitrarily instituted as a symbol of Victory Day over Nazi Germany.
The bicolor ribbon was never broadly used as a symbol in the Soviet period. Moreover, this ribbon was broadly used during the war by the army of Vlasov, collaborationists with Hitler. From this viewport, the ribbon can be justly classed as a fascist symbol from the war times, but through the distorted imagination at historical level of the Kremlin’s propagandists, which was imposed as a distinctive sign on those who fought against the German fascism. The propaganda invention of this false antifascist symbol, the bicolor ribbon, then turned into an annual distribution of ribbons among the population, including in former Soviet republics. This action became one of the most successful ideological operations of the Russian imperialism in the post-Soviet space.
Bicolor ribbon, militarist symbol
In 2011, the symbol of the bicolor ribbon was supplemented with the initiative of marches of the so-called immortal regiment, when photos of relatives who fought in the war are carried on streets on May 9. The phenomenon initially spread in a number of cities in Russia, while after 2014, owing to the efforts of the Kremlin rulers, started to be present also in other countries, first of all in the CIS space. The fabricated character of these demonstrations is proven by the multiple photos of veterans shown by the press, which are later thrown into the dustbin or elsewhere. This proves that the participants in these marches often took accidental photos with them, which were distributed by the organizers, not necessarily of relatives. In the Republic of Moldova, the first that staged such an event, in 2016, was the PSRM.
Until 2014, the ribbon of Saint George was something that was occasionally seen on May 9, on the chest of politicians or cars of supporters. Only in 2014, following the crisis in Ukraine, the ribbon of Saint George became a Russian militarist symbol associated with the pro-Russian separatists. At that stage, even Belarus announced that it will celebrate Victory Day without the ribbon of Saint Gheorghe, as many other post-Soviet countries also renounced it as a symbol of the Victory. The launch of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine in 2022, accompanied by the board use of the bicolor ribbon by the aggressor army, fundamentally discredited this symbol, turning it into a symbol of aggression and war.
Stopped beginning of separation from “Russian world”
To protect national security, the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova adopted legislation that bans the utilization of letters Z and V and the ribbon of Saint George used as a symbol of the Russian army in the war in Ukraine. This war, the Moldovan legislation banned the dissemination or promotion of symbols that are associated with military aggression, war crimes and crimes against humanity. This way, the detachment from the symbols of the Russian world by the Moldovan society and the building of state resilience to the imperial pretentions of Moscow started. The recent interpretation of the legislation by the Constitutional Court, which opened the window for reintroducing the symbols of the imperial war in the Moldovan public space, can be justly conceived as an attack on national security.
Unlike the decision taken by the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Moldova, in other former Soviet republics the legislative practice is aimed at maximally protecting the public space in these countries from the interference of the imperial ideology and propaganda. For example, Latvia’s Parliament recently, on April 20, adopted the law on the banning of particular public events on May 9 as a matter of urgency, after giving it two readings. This way, the holding of any public events on May 9, except for those related to Europe Day, is banned. According to the official annotation, the goal of the law is to protect the interests of the Latvian state and society, to prevent disorder and to protect public health and morality. Furthermore, the law aims to prevent the threatening and denigration of the values of Latvia as a democratic state and as a national state, including the division of society, glorification of war, military aggression, totalitarianism and violence and also the distorted reflection of historic events. The decision was also taken in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
Instead, in the Republic of Moldova it is expected that the holiday bacchanalia in the spirit of the Russian imperial revenge will be resumed on Mau 9, with the broad use of the symbol of war in the formula of the bicolor ribbon. The Shor Party, with which the PSRM associated itself, already announced the holding of the so-called immortal regiment march in Chisinau even if in Russia, and also in the separatist Transnistria, this event in the public sphere this year was cancelled. Using the uninspired decision of the Constitutional Court, the Moldovan pro-Russian parties intend, by their actions on May 9, to maintain tensions in Moldovan society, to fully justify the quality of the fifth column that promotes the interests of the Russian imperialism in the Republic of Moldova. As the Kremlin’s propaganda uses for imperial purposes the memory of the soldiers who sacrificed themselves in the fight against fascism in World War II, in a similar way the Russian agents in Chisinau speculatively use the memory of heroes in narrow party interests.
Observer or promoter of new traditions?
In this difficult situation, the pro-European parties will choose the worst line of conduct if they remain a passive observer of the street bacchanalia of the fifth column on May 9. The tradition of commemorating the heroes of the war against fascism inherited from the Soviet practices should be supplemented with a new tradition animated by the celebration of Europe Day on May 9. A representative demonstration of the pro-European parties on the antifascist and anti-war theme can be staged in Chisinau on May 9 this year already. Only this way the destabilizing action of the pro-Russian parties can be overshadowed and the whole world can be persuaded that the Colorado ribbon represents not the Moldovan citizens, but only a marginal part of Moldovan society.
IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.