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Victory Day[a 1] is a holiday that commemorates the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945. It was first inaugurated in the 15 republics of the Soviet Union, following the signing of the German Instrument of Surrender late in the evening on 8 May 1945 (after midnight, thus on 9 May Moscow Time). The Soviet government announced the victory early on 9 May after the signing ceremony in Berlin. Although the official inauguration occurred in 1945, the holiday became a non-labour day only in 1965, and only in certain Soviet republics.
In East Germany, 8 May was observed as Liberation Day from 1950 to 1966, and was celebrated again on the 40th anniversary in 1985. In 1975, a Soviet-style "Victory Day" was celebrated on 9 May. Since 2002, the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has observed a commemoration day known as the Day of Liberation from National Socialism, and the End of the Second World War.
The Russian Federation has officially recognised 9 May since its formation in 1991 and considers it a non-working holiday even if it falls on a weekend (in which case any following Monday will be a non-working holiday). The holiday was similarly celebrated there while the country was part of the Soviet Union. Most other countries in Europe observe Victory in Europe Day, 8 May, as a national remembrance or victory day.
[Quoting Stalin:] Today, in Reims, Germans signed the preliminary act on an unconditional surrender. The main contribution, however, was done by Soviet people and not by the Allies, therefore the capitulation must be signed in front of the Supreme Command of all countries of the anti-Hitler coalition, and not only in front of the Supreme Command of Allied Forces. Moreover, I disagree that the surrender was not signed in Berlin, which was the center of Nazi aggression. We agreed with the Allies to consider the Reims protocol as preliminary.
A second surrender ceremony was organized in a surviving manor in the outskirts of Berlin late on 8 May, when it was already 9 May in Moscow due to the difference in time zones. Field-Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, chief of OKW, signed a final German Instrument of Surrender, which was also signed by Marshal Georgy Zhukov, on behalf of the Supreme High Command of the Red Army, and Air Chief Marshal Arthur Tedder, on behalf of the Allied Expeditionary Force, in the presence of General Carl Spaatz and General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, as witnesses. The surrender was signed in the Soviet Army headquarters in Berlin-Karlshorst. Both English and Russian versions of the instrument of surrender signed in Berlin were considered authentic texts.
The revised Berlin text of the instrument of surrender differed from the preliminary text signed in Reims in explicitly stipulating the complete disarmament of all German military forces, handing over their weapons to local Allied military commanders.
Both the Reims and Berlin instruments of surrender stipulated that forces under German control to cease active operations at 23:01 hours CET on 8 May 1945. However, due to the difference in Central European and Moscow time zones, the end of war is celebrated on 9 May in the USSR and most post-Soviet countries.
To commemorate the victory in the war, the ceremonial Moscow Victory Parade was held in the Soviet capital on 24 June 1945.
During the Soviet Union's existence, 9 May was celebrated throughout the USSR and in the countries of the Eastern Bloc. Though the holiday was introduced in many Soviet republics between 1946 and 1950, it only became a non-labour day in the Ukrainian SSR in 1963 and the Russian SFSR in 1965. In the Russian SFSR a weekday off (usually a Monday) was given if 9 May fell on a Saturday or Sunday.
The celebration of Victory Day continued during subsequent years. The war became a topic of great importance in cinema, literature, history lessons at school, the mass media, and the arts. The ritual of the celebration gradually obtained a distinctive character with a number of similar elements: ceremonial meetings, speeches, lectures, receptions and fireworks.
In Russia during the 1990s, the 9 May holiday was not celebrated with large Soviet-style mass demonstrations due to the policies of successive Russian governments. Following
Vladimir Putin's rise to power, the Russian government began promoting the prestige of the governing regime and history, and national holidays and commemorations became a source of national self-esteem. Victory Day in Russia has increasingly become a celebration in which popular culture plays a central role. The 60th and 70th anniversaries of Victory Day in Russia (2005 and 2015) became the largest popular holidays since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Russophone populations in many countries celebrate the holiday regardless of its local status, organize public gatherings and even parades on this day. Some multilanguage broadcasting television networks translate the "Victory speech" of the Russian president and the parade on Red Square for telecasts for viewers all over the globe, making the parade one of the world's most watched events of the year.RT also broadcasts the parade featuring live commentary, and also airs yet another highlight of the day - the Minute of Silence at 6:55pm MST, a tradition dating back to 1965.
In Israel, Victory Day on 9 May has historically been celebrated as an unofficial national remembrance day. However, in 2017, Victory in Europe Day was upgraded to the status of an official national holiday day of commemoration by the Knesset, with schools and businesses operating as usual. As a result of immigration of many Red Army veterans, Israel now hosts the largest and most extensive Victory Day celebrations outside the former Soviet Union. Traditions and customs of Victory Day are the same as in Russia, with marches of Immortal Regiments held in cities with large populations of Red Army veterans and their descendants.
Serbia celebrates 9 May as the Victory Day over Fascism but it's a working holiday. Still many people gather to mark the anniversary with the war veterans, including Serbian army, Minister of Defense and the President. The holiday was similarly celebrated there while the country was part of SFR Yugoslavia.
Uzbekistan has officially recognised 9 May from 2 March 1999, where the holiday was introduced as the "Day of Remembrance and Honour" (Xotira va Qadirlash Kuni). It is the only country in the Commonwealth of Independent States to not officially recognize the 9 May holiday as Victory Day. Under President Islam Karimov, the holiday was toned down, with many veterans being told not to wear their Soviet-era decorations or uniforms on the holiday. Since Karimov's death in 2016, the holiday has been celebrated there similarly to how it was celebrated while the country was part of the Soviet Union.
Partly recognized states celebrating Victory Day
Abkhazia has officially recognised 9 May since its declaration of independence in 1990. From 1951 the holiday was similarly celebrated there while the country was part of the Soviet Union.
South Ossetia has officially recognised 9 May since its declaration of independence in 1990. From 1951 the holiday was similarly celebrated there while the country was part of the Soviet Union.
Unrecognized states celebrating Victory Day
The Donetsk People's Republic has officially recognised 9 May since its declaration of statehood in 2014. The holiday is similarly celebrated there as it was part of Ukraine.
The Luhansk People's Republic has officially recognised 9 May since its declaration of statehood in 2014. The holiday is similarly celebrated there as it was part of Ukraine.
Transnistria has officially recognised 9 May since its declaration of independence in 1990. From 1951 the holiday was similarly celebrated there while the country was part of the Soviet Union.
The German Democratic Republic recognized Tag der Befreiung (Day of liberation) on 8 May, it was celebrated as a public holiday from 1950 to 1966, and on the 40th anniversary in 1985. Only in 1975 was the official holiday on 9 May instead and that year called Tag des Sieges (Victory Day). In Federal Republic of Germany, events are held on 8 May to commemorate those who fought against Nazism and lost their lives in World War II. Also, on 8 May, the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern since 2002 has recognised a commemorative day Tag der Befreiung vom Nationalsozialismus und der Beendigung des 2. Weltkrieges (Day of Liberation from National Socialism, and the End of the Second World War).
People's Republic of Bulgaria had officially recognized 9 May during its existence as a satellite state of the Soviet Union. Since 1989, all official celebrations of 9 May have been cancelled. As in other EC countries, the Victory Day in Bulgaria is 8 May, while 9 May is the Europe Day. However, some russophiles, eurosceptics and leftists gather unofficially to celebrate the Victory Day on 9 May. Flowers are generally laid at the Monument to the Soviet Army in Sofia.
The Immortal Regiment (Russian: ?; Bessmertniy Polk) is a massive civil event staged in major cities in Russia and around the world every 9 May. Since it was introduced in 2012, it has been conducted in cities such as Moscow, Washington D.C., Dushanbe, Berlin, and Yekaterinburg. Participants carry pictures of relatives and/or family members who served during the Second World War. The front line of the procession carries a banner with the words Bessmertniy Polk written on it. Up to 12 million Russians have participated in the march nationwide in recent years. Since 2015, the President Vladimir Putin and senior Russian officials have participated in the procession in Moscow. It has come under criticism by those who charge that participants are carrying photographs and discarding them after the event. Critics have also alleged it is an attempt by the government to promote its own domestic and foreign policies, rather than to honor the memories of the millions who perished.
The Easter joy of the Resurrection of Christ is now combined with the bright hope of an imminent victory of truth and light over the untruth and darkness of German fascism, which before our eyes is crushed by the combined force of our valiant troops and the troops of our allies. The dark forces of fascism were not able to resist the light and power of Christ, and God's omnipotence appeared over the imaginary power of man.
Every 26 April (Old Style, O.S.; 9 May, New Style or N.S.), the Russian Orthodox Church commemorates the dead, being the only special remembrance day for the dead with a fixed date. After the liturgy, a memorial service for the fallen soldiers is served in all churches and monasteries under the Orthodox Church. The annual commemoration on Victory Day "of the soldiers who for faith, the Fatherland and the people laid down their lives and all those who died in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945" was established by the Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1994. On the eve of the 65th anniversary in 2010, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow gave his blessing for all the churches of the Russian Orthodox Church to perform a "prayer service in memory of the deliverance of our people from a terrible, mortal enemy, from a danger that our Fatherland has not known in all history". The patriarch composed a special prayer for this rite, taking as a basis the prayer of Philaret Drozdov, written in honor of the victory of the Imperial Russian Army over the French Grande Armee during the Napoleonic Wars. The completion of the Main Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces was timed to Victory Day in 2020.
^Critics of the Immortal Regiment have accused the government of co-opting the tradition to promote patriotism and loyalty rather than remember the country's war dead. The event remains popular nonetheless, as many Russian families were affected by the war.