This past weekend was Victory Day, which commemorates Nazi Germany’s surrender to the Soviet Union and the end the Great Patriotic War (the Eastern Front of WWII). Before heading out to the countryside like most Russians do on a holiday weekend, I had a kefir (the best morning pick-me-up for a hangover, they say) and caught the parade on Dvortsovaya Ploschad.
The Victory Day Parade best known to the world is the one held on Red Square in Moscow, which was restored to a modern analogy of its Soviet-era, warheads-on-wheels splendor. This year, however, a new law has dicated Victory Day Parades be held in 23 Russian cities.
My Russian friends shook their heads in bewilderment that I bothered (“We’ve lived here all our lives and we’ve never gone to the parade!”) and stayed home to watch the Moscow parade on TV. Good move — on the people-packed expense of Dvortsovaya, nothing much was visible, and the parade was so pitiful I only glimpsed a few troop carriers and several rows of marching cadets before it apparently ended, leaving spectators to guess at what was next before wandering away when they decided that it was likely over (apparently Moscow had a real wham-dinger, with 9,000 personnel, 103 vehicles and 69 aircraft, albeit much of it dated Soviet hardware).
Other Victory Day sights were equally gloomy. Friday afternoon I stumbled upon a celebratory concert in Park Pobedi (Park of Victory) where some dude in a tuxedo was crooning over some canned Soviet tunes. If a giant Order of Victory (see left) replica hadn’t have been hanging over the stage, he would have looked like a groomsman singing karaoke at a reception.
As he wailed patriotic fluff like “Fireworks Display of Victory” (“Salut Pobedi”), old-timers and veterans’ wives jammed out in their black-and-orange remembrance ribbons and blazers festooned with medals. Those not yet crippled by arthritis snapped their fingers, the rest just swayed arm-in-arm like dandelions in the breeze.