As Russia continues to attack Ukraine, it is also preparing for its annual Victory Day celebrations back home.
‘Victory Day’ doesn’t reference the current conflict – rather is a day devoted to commemorating the official end of World War Two and the Allied defeat of Nazi Germany.
Countries all across Europe and parts of Central Asia mark a version of Victory Day, albeit some with different names such as VE Day, Victory in Europe Day or Liberation Day.
And in many places, including the Russian Federation, the day is considered a public holiday.
But what exactly is Russia Victory Day all about – and when is it?
When is Russia Victory Day?
Russia’s Victory Day happens on May 9 every year.
Victory Day is a major holiday in Russia – and most Russians will get the day off work on May 9.
In 2022, it takes place on a Monday. On years when May 9 falls on a weekend, they will get the following Monday off.
Victory Day is usually marked with a large, machinery-and-personnel-heavy military parade in Moscow’s Red Square.
Forbes reports that the size of the procession will be cut by 35% in 2022 due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Major cities across Russia also celebrate with parades, festivals and by gathering at memorials. Veterans are commemorated or celebrated, and it is considered a day of national pride.
What is the history of Russia Victory Day?
The day marks the very moment the Second World War came to an end.
Nazi Germany surrendered to the Allies (Great Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union) on May 8, 1945 at exactly 11.01pm.
Due to the time difference, World War Two ended on what was technically May 9 in Russia – which explains why Russia celebrates Victory Day then.
Originally, the Soviet Union (which contained modern-day Russia, Ukraine and Belarus) wasn’t one of the Allied powers.
WW2 began on September 1, 1939, and the USSR had signed a ‘non-aggression’ pact with Germany that August, agreeing not to go to war with the country.
However, the Soviet Union became one of the Allied forces after June 1941, when Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa – an invasion of the Soviet Union.
Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin took control of the Soviet Red Army, which defended its territory along the Eastern Front, eventually launching a counter-offensive.
Operation Barbarossa ended in December 1941, but the fighting with Germany continued for years. Notably, the Battle of Stalingrad (from July 1942 to February 1943) is dubbed as one of the longest and ‘bloodiest’ battles in modern history.
The Soviets suffered immense casualties throughout all of WW2, with 27 million soldiers and civilians losing their lives.
Obviously, this is just a snapshot of Russia’s involvement in World War Two.
Soviet forces also invaded Poland in 1939, as did Nazi Germany, relating to the then-pact between them.
In November that year, it invaded Finland, sparking the Winter War. It lasted until March 1940, but the Finns and Soviets fought again in The Continuation War from 1941 to 1944.
Jointly, the Soviets and Brits also invaded a neutral Iran over the course of a few days in August 1941.
When do other European countries celebrate Victory Day?
Victory Day – or a day with a similar sentiment – is also celebrated on May 9 in Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Serbia, among others.
Countries such as the UK and France celebrate VE Day earlier on May 8.
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