A Small Dictionary of Victory Day
Perhaps the most famous Russian holiday, Victory Day or 9 May celebrates the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War (or “Great Patriotic War”, as Russians call it). On this day celebrations and commemorative events are held all over Russia, among which the huge parade on Red Square in Moscow is the most famous. Many are the symbols related to this celebration: from “Знамя Победы” (the Soviet Banner of Victory) to “Георгиевская ленточка” (St. George Ribbon), here’s a list of the most important words concerning Victory Day you really need to know!
Undisputed protagonists of the celebration, Veterans (Ветераны) are all those people who served the Soviet Army to defend their homeland during the Great Patriotic War and those who were awarded medals for services and sacrifices rendered to their Country.
A broadly recognized military symbol in Russia, Георгиевская ленточка (St. George Ribbon) consists of a black and orange pattern, with three black and two orange striped. It emerged as part of the Order of St George, established in 1769 as the highest military decoration of Imperial Russia. Nowadays, Георгиевские ленточки are worn by civilians on Victory Day to display gratitude and respect to the Veterans and to pay tribute to those who died for their Country during the Great Patriotic War.
Знамя Победы is the banner raised by the Red Army soldiers on the Reichstag building in Berlin, on 1st May 1945, thereby symbolizing the victory of the Soviet Union over the Nazi Germany. Even though the original Victory Banner is kept safe in the Central Museum of the Armed Forces in Moscow, on every 9th May a copy of Victory Banner is carried immediately behind the Russian flag by members of the Moscow Commandant’s Regiment Honor and Colours Guards.
Because of its blood red colour, Красная гвоздика (Red Carnation) has become the symbol of the blood shed during the war, representing the courage and the heroism of all soldiers who fought during the Great Patriotic War. Красная гроздика is often given to Veterans out of respect and laying an even number of red carnations at war memorial sites is a sign of mourning and tribute.
Минута молчания (Minute of silence) is a traditional television and radio program broadcast on every year at 18:55 on 9th May. Shown for the first time in 1965, Минута молчания is a solemn address dedicated to all those who died for the fatherland fighting the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.
Established in 1943, Орден «Победа» was the highest and rarest military decoration awarded for World War II service in Soviet Union. The Order of Victory was given only to high-ranking officers for successfully conducting large-scale fighting operations conducted by one or several fronts. In all its history, this Order has been awarded just twenty times to twelve Soviet leaders and five foreign leaders. Nowadays, the only recipient still alive is Michael I of Romania, who was decorated with the Order of Victory on 6th July 1945.
The ultimate symbol of Victory Day, Парад (parade) was held for the first time on 24 June 1945 in Moscow to commemorate the recent victory in war. Although the Moscow Parade took place at irregular intervals (just in 1965 and 1985), over the last twenty years it has become increasingly popular and is celebrated annually. In 2015, at the occasion of the 70th anniversary, more than 14 thousand military forces took place to the event, from officers to soldiers. And if you won’t be in Moscow on 9th May, don’t despair: as is tradition, 26 other Russian cities – including St. Petersburg – will hold their parades on this day.
Festive fireworks (Салют) were first used in Russia on 5th August 1943, when Soviet troops recaptured the city of Orel from German forces after 23 days of battle. However, only after the Victory over Germany, the festive fireworks became so popular as they started to be used for celebrating the Victory Day. If you’re in Moscow or St. Petersburg, don’t miss the chance to watch the fireworks displays, which are going to be held at 22:00 in both cities.
This post was brought to you by Martina Viérin, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz, St. Petersburg.