Staunton, May 7 – Despite or even because the Kremlin has done so much to promote Victory Day as an official celebration of national unity, far more Russians and especially the young now view it as nothing more than another day off from work, a major shift in attitudes from those of 30 years ago, according to Moscow experts.
Rosbalt journalist Dmitry Remizov spoke with four such authorities and summarized their views in an article posted on Friday (rosbalt.ru/russia/2017/05/05/1613457.html).
Historian Dmitry Puchkin says that “a large segment of Russian young people view Victory Day simply as another day off,” largely he suggests because of a decline in the quality of education in Russia and the passing of generations. For many young Russians, World War II is every bit as distant from their lives as 1812 or World War I. It becomes the subject of “comics.”
The powers that be bear an enormous responsibility for this development, he says, given that they promote the holiday but do nothing to improve historical education in Russia or to produce new quality films about the Great Fatherland War.
Lev Lurye, a teacher at St. Petersburg’s Classical Gymnasium, agrees. He says that “the state interference in the celebration of Victory Day has deprived it of sincerity” because “the more official propaganda there is, the less sincere are the memories” of the war. And if people think Putin and Shoygu “’took the Reichstag,’ the less popular will be the holiday.”
Pavel Kudyukin, a leader of the University Solidarity Union, says that the Kremlin has distorted the holiday because none of the current leaders have any direct connection with the war and therefore they have made the holiday in the minds of many as only “a sign of loyalty to the authorities and to their official conception of this event.”
And Aleksey Petrov, head of the Alliance of Young Scholars Club, says that the passing of the generation of those who lived through the war means that Russians today get their ideas about the war not from veterans but rather from information campaigns, sources that have less of an impact.
But he too blames the state for its compulsory approach to the holiday. When it was “voluntary,” people viewed Victory Day as something completely different, as theirs rather than someone else’s. Now, however, it has been reduced to an event they participate in only pro forma rather than by conviction.
Nonetheless, Petrov continues, Victory Day “remains the most significant holiday for Russian citizens.” Thirty years ago, there was November 7 and May 1; but efforts by the authorities to create other holidays with deep meaning for the population have come and gone without much success.
“And today, May 9 remains the only holiday which forces a family to go into the streets.” It would be a better one, he suggests, if people didn’t feel compelled to do so but rather acted on their own convictions. Unfortunately, given the interference of the state in these celebrations, that is unlikely to happen anytime soon.