Victory Day in St Petersburg – Review
12 May, 2014
День Победы or Victory Day is a big holiday in Russia, to celebrate the end of WWII – Russia received news of the surrender from Nazi Germany at just past midnight Moscow Time on the 9th, so while VE day is the 8th in Europe, Germany’s capitulation is celebrated on the 9th here. While the holiday was pretty much stopped during Soviet times, Boris Yeltsin reinstated it, and it’s the biggest celebration in Russia after New Year’s Eve.
St Pete celebrated in style once more, and though all eyes were on Moscow for the “show of military strength”, there were plenty of events in St Pete too.
We went to see the parade along Nevsky Prospect at 5pm; choosing the huge parade over the other events, like a concert on Palace Square, or the concert at St Isaac’s Cathedral, and though it was rainy and cold, I’m glad we picked Nevsky. It may have been cold and rainy, and we did have to push through in order to get a view of the street, but it was really good show!
Every year they have this parade along Nevsky, and there’s usually 5000 soldiers and veterans taking part, but this year was a bit special, and St Pete invited family members of people who’d died in the war, be they soldiers or civilians, to carry photos of their relatives and walk behind the veterans, to form an “Immortal Regiment”. It was quite effective and moving when the Leningrad Blockade survivors marched past.
We were stood next to an elderly woman who was happy to chat to us, and told us that this was the first year in her memory that it had rained on the parade, and who also turned out to be a Leningrad Blockade survivor! She was just a child during the siege and showed us her identity card saying she was a Blockade survivor. It was super cool and lovely to hear her story. From what I understood from her, she was quite impressed that we – a bunch of foreigners – were joining in on such a Russian holiday.
Victory Day is really important to Russians, as they say that not a single Russian family was left unscathed by the war: everyone knew someone or lost someone in the war effort.
After the parade, there were fireworks over the Neva, released from Peter and Paul Fortress, which looked awesome against the sky, which hadn’t gone dark yet – I’d never seen fireworks in the daylight!
Overall, it was a very moving and impressive display from the city, for a very important and touching celebration.