Why May 9 Is Important For Russia: Putin Tries to Justify War in Ukraine

PeopleOther ♦ Published: May 9, 2022; 15:00 ♦ (Vindobona)

Russia today celebrates the Day of Victory over Fascism. For Russia, this holiday is a national sanctuary, for Putin's Russia the most important day for propaganda. Read more about May 9 and its importance for Russia?

The Victory Day parade is a show of military force. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons/ Kremlin.ru/ автор оригинальной фотографии — Александр Юрьев, обработка — Николай Александрович Колосов, CC BY 4.0

In the shadow of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, the country's largest military parade has begun in Moscow. Thousands of soldiers paraded in Red Square to mark the 77th anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany.

Russian President Vladimir Putin paid tribute to the Russian armed forces deployed in Ukraine.

Why does May 9 matter for Russia

May 9 is the day of the victory of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany.

On May 7, 1945, the German Wehrmacht surrendered. Consequently, the Wehrmacht stopped fighting the Allies on all fronts.

The surrender came into force on May 8. Parts of German troops had already surrendered before that. However, the Soviet dictator Stalin demanded that the surrender be repeated in Berlin.

Historically, due to the surrender that took effect one day later at midnight, Victory Day is celebrated in Russia on May 9.

The Soviet Union lost a lot of people in the Second World War and has by far the most war victims to mourn.

The day remained a silent commemoration until 1965 when the 1945 Victory Day Parade was first resumed.

In 1965, this holiday was introduced in the Soviet Union to commemorate the day of victory over the German Reich in World War II and thus the end of the "Great Patriotic War".

After an intermediate period of historical reappraisal, May 9 in the Russian Federation became the most important, and a rather history-forgetting holiday of the year from 1995.

Why does May 9 matter for Putin

The Importance of the Victory in World War II is by far the most important historical event, almost universally shared by the Russian people.

From the first day of his reign, Vladimir Putin brought back Soviet symbols. It was new that a president spoke about the victims of his own family. Victory Day was to become a symbol of unity, especially after the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, which was frightening for Putin.

The victory parade became more and more Putin's personal favorite propaganda tool.

Victory Day was marked by a military parade in Moscow, and Soviet leaders traditionally stand on the tomb of Vladimir Lenin in Red Square to observe it. The Russian leadership today does the same.

A strong sense of symbolism is evident in the timing of the Russian president's invasion of Ukraine, which came just a day after Defender of Fatherland Day, another key military holiday in Russia. Putin uses such Soviet traditionalism in Russian memory politics and uses these historical dates for propaganda.

Especially Victory Day with its great military parades and universal historical importance is a show of force. For Putin the perfect occasion to justify his government and his political decisions.

Putin justified war in Ukraine on May 9

Vladimir Putin used his speech, among other things, to justify the war in Ukraine. He thanked especially the troops and praised them for the fight in Ukraine. "Today, as in the past, you are fighting for our people in Donbas, for the security of our Motherland, for Russia," he said.

Putin stressed in his speech that the Russian army in Ukraine is fighting only against Nazis and defending ethnic Russians in the Donbas from extermination. The Kremlin reaches deep into the bag of tricks to portray Ukraine as a state ruled by Nazis, as reported by Vindobona.org.

The president pledged help to the relatives of injured and killed soldiers: "The death of any soldier or officer means suffering and irretrievable loss for relatives and loved ones," Putin said. "The state, regions, businesses and civil society organizations are doing everything to provide care and help to these families," Putin said in Red Square.

Special assistance will be provided to the children of the fallen and wounded, Putin said. "A presidential decree to that effect was signed today."

One measure is a quota system. Children of soldiers who fought in Ukraine would be entitled to ten percent of university places at state universities. In doing so, they would not have to take university entrance exams. Cadet and military schools would also be required to accept such children without an exam.

Putin also criticized the West and the U.S. He accuses them of aggressive foreign policy and support for the allegedly, according to Russian propaganda, Nazi government in Kyiv.

Vladimir Putin emphasized that "We will never give up our love for our Motherland, our faith and traditional values, our ancestors’ customs and respect for all peoples and cultures.

In his speech, Putin accuses the West of decay, "Meanwhile, the West seems to be set to cancel these millennia-old values. Such moral degradation underlies the cynical falsifications of World War II history, escalating Russophobia, praising traitors, mocking their victims’ memory, and crossing out the courage of those who won the Victory through suffering."

Putin ended his speech with a battle cry to the assembled soldiers: "For Russia! For victory! Hurrah!"

Zelenskyy reacted to the Victory Parade in Russia

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy condemned Russia's "appropriation" of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

President Zelenskyy also stressed the role of Ukraine in the Second World War and that Russia had not alone liberated Europe from Fascism. He also accused the Kremlin of fetishizing and twisting history to exploit the day of victory for propaganda purposes.

"Today we celebrate the Day of Victory over Nazism. And we will not give anyone a single piece of our history. We are proud of our ancestors who, together with other nations in the anti-Hitler coalition, defeated Nazism. And we will not allow anyone to annex this victory, we will not allow it to be appropriated," Zelenskyy emphasized the Ukrainian role in World War 2 in his statement on May 9.

Zelenskyy, who is himself Jewish and whose grandfather fought in the Red Army during World War 2, continued, "We won then. We will win now, too." The road to that goal, he said, is difficult, "but we have no doubt that we will be victorious."

President of Ukraine

President of Russia