Бессмертный Полк: The Immortal Regiment

08 May, 2021

A Short History of День Победы

Victory Day is one of the most important celebrations in Russia. It marks the end of the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945). On 8 May 1944 at 22.45, Berlin time, Nazi Germany signed an act of Unconditional Surrender: this equated to 00.43, Moscow time, hence why Victory Day is marked on 9 May in Russia.

During Soviet times, Victory Day was haphazardly introduced as a celebration: it only became a non-working day in the Ukrainian SSR in 1963 and in the Russian SFSR in 1965. It was only officially recognised by the Russian Federation as a non-working holiday in 1991. Under Vladimir Putin, 9 May has risen to prominence like never before. The 60th and 70th anniversaries of Victory Day were particularly extravagant events, celebrated in 2005 and 2015 respectively. 

The Immortal Regiment’s Roots

Бессмертный полк is a huge event staged in Russia’s major cities, and around the world, on 9 May.

The Immortal Regiment began as a grassroots movement: the brainchild of three friends, who were in Tomsk at the time. All 3 of the friends were grandsons of soldiers, united by the fear that the sacrifices of their grandfathers’ generation were slowly being forgotten. Thus, they organised a parade to remind people of the human sacrifice of the great Patriotic War. Their parade, held in 2012, was attended by around 6,000 locals, bearing the portraits of their relatives. 

Since 2012 the Immortal Regiment movement has spread rapidly. In 2013 it was held in Moscow for the first time, and marches are now held in more than 50 countries. Participants often carry flowers, Russian flags, and even Soviet flags, along with photographs of those injured or killed in the War. The movement became an official nationwide event  in 2015. Marches are now state events, complementing the official military parades which also take place on 9 May.

Marches Around the World 

  • On 9 May 2015 the “Immortal Regiment” of descendants of WW2 soldiers marched for the first time in London from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square. Almost 2000 people took part.
  • In the UK, there have since been Immortal Regiment marches in Manchester, Derby, Edinburgh and Cardiff.
  • In Italy, marches have been held in Rome, Milan and Torino.
  • 8,000 participated in the Immortal Regiment marches in Toronto in 2018.
  • In Sofia, in 2018, the Immortal Regiment march attracted more than 2,000 Russian and Bulgarian veterans and locals.
  • In 2018 the Immortal Regiment even marched from Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. This year, for the second year in a row, the Berlin march will not take place due to COVID-19. However, in 2020, people did manage to honour the victims of the war at Soviet memorials in Treptow Park and Tirgarten.

The Immortal Regiment Marches on Virtually 

In 2020 organisers of the parade in Russia cancelled the event because of the pandemic. Although the event was initially postponed until July 26, the Day of the Russian Navy, it was subsequently postponed until 2021.

This year the march will take place online on 9 May at 3pm Moscow time. Participants have been able to upload information about any veteran relatives they have, so that their profiles can appear as part of the online march. 

С днем победы!

Want to find out more about how Victory Day is commemorated throughout Russia? Take a look at this article https://lidenz.ru/victory-day-russian-culture/.

Posted by Amy Wyatt

Привет! Меня зовут Amy. I study Russian and History at Durham University, and am currently interning and studying with Liden and Denz St Petersburg. I am particularly interested in Soviet and post-Soviet history, Russian literature, and current affairs.

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