Immortal Regiment march in Moscow breaks attendance record, attracts millions across Russia (VIDEOS)
Hundreds of thousands of people have marched worldwide with portraits of their relatives who fought Nazism in World War II, in a tradition that started in Russia a decade ago. The streets of Moscow saw over 800,000 participants, which has become an absolute record for the event.
On Victory Day, May 9, more than 800,000 joined the Immortal Regiment march in the Russian capital, according to the Russian Interior Ministry. People flooded Tverskaya Street, one of Moscow's main arteries, and marched towards Red Square holding placards and photos of their family members to pay tribute to their heroic deeds during the Great Patriotic War.
People across generations could be seen cheerfully walking altogether through central Moscow.
"For me, the event is foremost the living memory for my father and all the people who gave their lives for us. We must try and be good, kind, honest, to be worthy of them. If we fail to do so, that would mean they fought and shed their blood in vain," an elderly woman in Moscow told the Ruptly agency.
"I carry the portrait of my grandfather. Starting from 1941, he delivered bread to the city of Leningrad. He returned from the war only in 1947, from Japan. I am very proud of him, and also proud to take part in the event like this," a little boy said.
The participants of the Immortal Regiment had to brave harsh weather conditions, with rain and a cold wind, as temperatures in Moscow were unusually low for this time of year at about 7C (44.6F).
Guests from other continents, with Russian flags in hand, were also among those marching in Moscow. "I think it's very special, honoring the ancestors, and it's a very important day for all of us. I'm from New Zealand, my friend is from America," a man told Ruptly, while his friend added the day "is very important for all countries and the people."
Russian President Vladimir Putin also joined the celebrations, walking with a portrait of his father, Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin, in Red Square.
Last year the Immortal Regiment saw around 500,000 participants in Moscow alone.
A wide range of Russian cities follow the tradition, which was initially started in the Siberian city of Tyumen 10 years ago. Back in 2007, the parade was known only locally, but in 2013 residents of 120 cities joined the march.
The Immortal Regiment march officially became an all-Russian public event in 2015, now involving 1,200 cities, to honor more than 27 million Soviet people who lost their lives in the Great Patriotic War.
Russia’s Victory Day celebrations traditionally start in its Far East, the earliest of the country’s time zones.
More than 1.6 million people joined celebrations in the Far East, the Urals and Siberia this year, which is double compared to last year's attendance.
This year in Khabarovsk, an airborne version of the Immortal Regiment was also held. The ‘Immortal Squadron’ of 10 planes flew over the Amur river to commemorate pilots who lost their lives during the war. This year the planes carried 29 photos on their hulls, but the organizers plan to take more next year.
Up to 50,000 took to the streets of Vladivostok to join the regiment. This year marks the fifth anniversary of the city’s participation in the event.
The symbolic movement took place around the world from May 7 to May 9, with Immortal Regiment parades held not only in the former Soviet republics, but also in the US, the UK, Canada, Mexico, France, Spain, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Australia and China among others.
Immortal Regiment marches have also been held in Ukraine. However, in some cities there, the victory-celebrating event has been overshadowed by nationalists who tried to disrupt the peaceful marches. In Kiev, participants were pelted with smoke bombs, bottles and eggs as they passed the building of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) on Tuesday.