Victory Day and the siege of Leningrad

Victory Day is a big deal in Russia. It marks the day when Nazi Germany surrendered to the Soviet Union after the Second World War, or Great Patriotic War as it’s known here, commemorating the estimated 28 million who lost their lives in the fight for independence. I think it’s particularly close to the hearts of those in St Petersburg, since the Germans blockaded their city for 900 days (well, 872, but who’s counting?), disrupting food, water, communications and energy supplies, ultimately resulting in the death of 1.5million civilians. They had to eat bread made of sawdust and their pets. Cannibalism was rumoured once all the animals had been toasted. For good measure, Hilter ordered the historic buildings without the city perimeter to be looted and destroyed.

According to Wiki:

“Economic destruction and human losses in Leningrad on both sides exceeded those of the Battle of Stalingrad, the Battle of Moscow, or the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The siege of Leningrad is the most lethal siege in world history, and some historians speak of the siege operations in terms of genocide, as a “racially motivated starvation policy” that became an integral part of the unprecedented German war of extermination against populations of the Soviet Union generally.

Today, everyone makes a point of thanking all those who played a part in saving their country. Celebrations being to ramp up several days before the event, with posts, banners, bunting and ribbons decorating the streets.

Banners

Big chiefs from V-day

9th May, lest they forget

They day itself involves enormous military parades in all of Russia’s biggest cities, people pouring in from the provinces to line the streets and pay their respects. Come the evening (but not necessarily nightfall – error) there are large firework displays too.

Heading up Novsky Prospect, closed for the day, to Palace Square

Marching by the Hermitage

People, as far as the eye can see

In Moscow, Putin and Medvedev also turned out to show their respects. Putin in his brand new role for the controversial six years…

But for me, the best bit are the flowers. People, especially children, wander around the streets with flowers – red carnations are the most popular choice, but also red-hued roses and tulips – and chocolates. Whenever they see a Vet with his medals and uniform on, they go and hand him a gift and say thank-you. By the end of the day, the Vets are wandering round with large bouquets of flowers and big grins. Lovely!

Little boy, dressed up as a sailor, giving a serviceman some respect. Power to him.

Even those who can’t walk join in on the flower collecting

Flowers piled on war memorials. Florists must do a storming trade.

Then everyone goes up to Palace Square to hang out and watch the music and Russian dancing for a while. Oh, and drink. They all started drinking at about 9am and it continued throughout the day. Street drinking is always encouraged by the provision of plastic glasses by all offies. Crowds had that weird beer-sweat whiff to them. Any excuse…

Palace Square and Victory Arch

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