Crowds with banners amassed on red square, surrounded by thousands of military personnel and truck loads of heavy artillery. This was not a record anti-Putin protest but the annual Victory Day parade held every May 9th in honor of the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany. In a country that lost over 30 million during that war, it is traditionally the largest and most widely celebrated national holiday, what July 4th is to Americans and Bastille Day is to the French.
Yet this year, the commemorations hardly made the front pages. The top story on liberal Internet daily Gazeta.ru announced that detained leftist leader Udaltsov would contest the 15 day prison sentence he received after being arrested on the eve of Putin’s I nauguration. The piece jostled for priority with the 15 day sentence handed down to fellow opposition leader Alexei Navalny and breaking news concerning the tragic loss over Indonesia of a prototype Sukhoi superjet, Russia’s latest civilian airliner.
It’s disheartening to think that a mere half century after defeating Nazism, the former superpower struggles to make peace with its own self, let alone make a plane that can stay in the air for more than a half hour. For both regime and opposition, not much about Russia feels very victorious these days.
For my 93 year old grandfather, who went through Kursk and Warsaw before fighting his way into Berlin, each of his past 67 Victory Days has been an almost religious event. Let’s hope that he lives to see it return to the front pages as something over than a mere footnote to a torrent of bad news.