ROAR: Russia defends “generation of victors”, invites former allies to parade

Vladimir Kremlev for RT
The authorities are focusing on social support for veterans and fighting falsifications of history as Russia prepares to celebrate the 65th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War [WWII].

President Dmitry Medvedev held a meeting of Victory Organizing Committee in Volgograd on March 25, the body that supervises the preparations for the holiday. He called on regional and municipal authorities to secure full material and social support for veterans.

Medvedev described the 1945 victory over fascism as “a key event of the 20th Century” and “a uniting topic,” adding that Russia should organize “a proper celebration of this holiday.”

This work should be accompanied by serious and large-scale information campaign because “we cannot allow the rehabilitation of Nazi collaborators,” Medvedev said, referring to attempts in some countries to glorify those fighting on the fascist side during WWII.

The generation of victors should be protected “from the cynical lies that appear from time to time,” the president said. He also urged Russians to emphasize “the humanistic value of the victory in the Great Patriotic War, in World War II.”

Some historians in Volgograd told Medvedev that it would be better to fight falsifications with “real facts,” many of which are classified, Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily said. “The truth is possible when archived documents are accessible,” said Lieutenant Colonel Maksim Zagorulko, who has been studying the history of the Stalingrad battle.

“Our task is that facts are available to the public and are assessed in the right way,” Medvedev said, adding that he has been discussing the idea of a new military archive with the defense minister.

The new archive should keep records of the Great Patriotic War and other military events, the president said. The work should be done professionally, “so that no cheats get involved,” and everyone could use the archived materials, Medvedev noted.

The public is not only concerned with the falsification of history as the country prepares to celebrate the victory in the war. There are different attitudes to the controversial decision to place stands in Moscow with information about former Soviet leader Josef Stalin.

Moscow’s committee on advertising explained its plans to decorate the Russian capital with such stands by the need to explain Stalin’s role in the war and victory over fascism. Human rights activists are protesting, condemning Stalin for mass repressions.

However, the federal committee on the preparations for celebrating Victory Day hinted that it would be better for the Moscow authorities to do without Stalin’s portraits. The committee said it would not decorate the streets of cities around Russia with posters and stands containing photos and information about Stalin.

Regional authorities may decide to allocate money from local budgets to make additional decorations. The federal committee made it clear that its decision “should be considered as a recommendation for the authorities in cities, first of all, to Moscow, where Stalin’s portraits may be placed along with other decorations,” Kommersant daily said. Posters with Stalin did not appear even in Soviet times,” a source in the committee told the daily.

At the same time, the federal committee cannot void decisions of local authorities, Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily said. The organizers of the celebrations on the federal side have decided to speak publicly on this issue because the committee has received “statements from veterans and public organizations,” its head Viktor Khrekov told the paper. “Not all of them want to see these portraits.”

The organizational committee was founded “in the accordance with the president’s order to prepare 65th anniversary of the victory, and it has declared its position,” Khrekov said.

The media note that the recommendation not to decorate cities with Stalin’s posters followed the criticism of the Moscow authorities from the leadership of the ruling United Russia party. The leader of its supreme council and State Duma speaker, Boris Gryzlov, publicly doubted that the mayor’s office was right in insisting on its decision.

However, it is still not clear if Moscow will celebrate Victory Day without the stands informing about Stalin. And his portraits have already appeared in the city of Kirov. First the local advertising agency Rikom placed posters featuring the former leader. They were removed after the mayor’s office interfered, saying that the move had not been approved by the city’s organizational committee on preparations for Victory Day.

A local veterans’ council, however, supported the initiative of the ad agency and defended the posters in the organizational committee. In the end, Stalin will be portrayed on posters along with military commanders of the Red Army, “thanks to whom Russia was able to win a victory in the war,” Kommersant daily said.

The Kirov mayor’s office stressed that these posters will not be done with “official decorations.” Nikita Belykh, the regional governor and former leader of the liberal Union of the Right Forces party, complained in his blog that “the authorities lack formal grounds to ban the Stalin portraits,” the daily said.

Another issue that may divide the public is the participation of US, British and French servicemen in the military parade that will take place on Red Square on May 9. The Communists oppose the invitation of “present NATO soldiers” to Russia, but they welcome foreign veterans in Moscow on Victory Day.

“We cannot calmly ‘digest’ the fact that the current servicemen of the US, Britain and France will march on Red Square,” said Ivan Melnikov, deputy chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. “Today these soldiers represent the anti-Russian bloc, NATO, leading aggressive policy around the world,” he told Gazeta daily.

The presidium of the party’s central committee even published a statement called “A NATO boot should not step on Red Square.”

Protesting against servicemen from foreign countries, the Communists are trying “to cloud the celebrations,” believes chairman of the State Duma’s Culture Committee Grigory Ivliev. Russia is inviting those who were “our allies during the war,” he stressed. “We should not invent enemies for ourselves,” the deputy added.

Speaking at the meeting of the Victory Organizing Committee in Volgograd, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said that the US, Britain and France would be represented by units of 75 people at the parade on May 9.

CIS countries may also send their servicemen for the parade, Serdyukov said, adding that this question is being resolved. More than 10,000 Russian servicemen are expected to take part in the event, which will consist of historical and modern-day parts.

Medvedev announced in Volgograd that the CIS leaders will arrive in Moscow on May 8 to take part in the informal summit. “We will expect the leaders of several other countries to come to Moscow on May 9,” he added.

Sergey Borisov, RT
Russian Opinion and Analytics Review