Sat | Jun 6, 2020

Vladimir Vinokurov | May 9 – the day world history changed

Published:Sunday | May 10, 2020 | 12:17 AM

May 9 marked a very special day for all Russians as the day of the victory over Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic war. At 00:16 hours on that day in 1945 Act of Military Surrender was signed by the German military leaders in Berlin. The commemoration of the Great Victory on May 9 has become a sacred annual tradition in Russia. But this year an especially important celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory with a grand parade on Red Square had to be postponed for first time since 1945 due to the pandemic.

The fall of the fascism in Europe was the result of the common war efforts of all Allied Powers. We remember the value of the assistance given by the United States and United Kingdom at the most difficult time for the Soviet Union when it fought the invading army in the first years of the war. I personally took part in a project to commemorate “Alaska to Siberia air route” which was used by Soviet and American pilots to fly US-built military aircraft to the USSR. And of course the opening of the Second front in June 1944 was a major milestone in WW2 when the Soviet Union and Allies joined forces to liberate Europe from the fascist plague.

But at the same time let’s not forget that the Soviet Union played a leading role in defeating Nazi Germany. I am emphasising this because of the regrettable attempts by some quarters to downplay this fact. If in the immediate aftermath of the WW2 the majority of the people in the West were cognisant of the crucial contribution of the Soviet Army to liberating Europe from Nazism, nowadays only a small minority are aware of this.

Stubborn Facts

As the second president of the United States John Adams once said, “facts are stubborn things”. How can the leading role of the Soviet Union in the victory over fascism be disputed, when the absolute majority of German military losses had been on the Eastern front (according to various estimates, from 75 per cent to 90 per cent). By the time of D-Day on June 6, 1944 the outcome of the war was already clear. The Soviet Army after winning a number of major battles (Moscow, Stalingrad, Kursk) liberated almost all of the Soviet territory and was advancing towards German-occupied East European countries. Even after the opening of the Second front by the allied countries, German army units in the West counted 73 divisions in comparison to 179 divisions in the East. So, the main fighting during the last year of the war was still on the Eastern front.

LIVES LOST

But the Victory came at a great price taking 27 million Soviet lives. The horrific magnitude of military and civilian losses brought the tragedy into almost every Russian home and its terrible consequences are still felt in our country. On a personal note, one of my grandfathers was killed in the war. The wish to cherish the memory of millions of those who sacrificed their lives for the Victory gave rise to a civil initiative in Russia that has acquired a truly global dimension lately – the march of the Immortal Regiment.

That is the main reason why May 9 is so important in Russia. And while recognising the defeat of fascism as a joint effort of all Allied Powers, we’ll always oppose any attempt to diminish the decisive contribution of the peoples of the Soviet Union to the Great Victory.

- Vladimir Vinokurov is the ambassador of the Russian Federation to Jamaica. Send feedback to russianembassyjamaica@gmail.com or columns@gleanerjm.com.