On May 9th 1945 (Moscow time) Nazi Germany officially surrendered and the war in Europe ended. This day has a special place not only in Russian history but also in modern Russian society and culture. During the war, which is known in Russia as Великая Отечественная Война (the Great Patriotic War), the Soviet Union suffered immense losses. Most estimates put the number of Soviet citizens who died during the war at 25-30 million, although some estimates go as high as 40 million. When compared to the war losses of Britain, for example, which total approximately 465,000, the scale of the sacrifice of people from Russia and the other Soviet republics is made clear.
The legacy of this sacrifice still affects Russian culture and politics to this day. One of the most obvious manifestations of this is the celebration of День Победы (Victory Day), which occurs every year on May 9th. This day is a public holiday and therefore the Derzhavin Institute, along with many other Russian businesses, will be closed for the day. Whilst this means you won`t have any lessons, it does also mean that you will have the opportunity to get involved in the Victory Day celebrations.
The main event of Victory Day is the military parade on Дворцовый Площадь (Palace Square). If you have already seen videos of the Moscow Victory Day parade on Red Square, then you will know what to expect; a grand parade of soldiers and military hardware, some of which will be modern and some of which dates back to the Second World War itself. If you are more interested in the Russian Navy or naval warfare in general, then there will also be a naval parade down the Neva River. Both parades begin at 10:00 but, as they are very popular, it`s best to arrive early if you want to have a good view.
If you go to the square outside Казанский Собор (Kazan Cathedral) at 12:00 you will be able to listen to a “people`s choir”. This choir will be singing popular songs from the wartime period including “Катюша”, “Смуглянка”, “Тёмная ночь” and of course “День Победы”. Absolutely anyone and everyone is free to join the choir so if you want to sing along, you can. If you don`t know Russian wartime songs, you can learn them at the Russian song lesson that will be held at the Derzhavin Institute on Tuesday May 8th at 15:30.
A relatively new addition to the Victory Day celebration is Парад бессмертного полка (the March of the Immortal Regiment). This is another parade, but you`ll find it`s a little different to the ones mentioned above. You`ll see no tanks or weapons on this parade, only normal people walking with photos of relatives who fought and/or died during the war. If you want to see for yourself the scale of the Soviet Union`s wartime sacrifice, this is probably the best way to do that. The sheer number of people who attend and the number of photos they carry really brings across just how many people were affected by the war in a way that no number written on a page ever could. The parade will begin at 15:00 and will proceed from one end of “Невский проспект” (Nevsky Prospekt) to the other. During this time the Metro stations “Маяковская” (Mayakovskaya) and “Площадь Восстания” (Ploshad` Vosstaniya) will be closed, so choose one of the other stations along Nevsky Prospekt if you want to arrive after the parade has begun.