День победы 2017 / Victory Day 2017

boy holding portrait of veteran

Audio content: Participants in Moscow’s Victory Day celebration tell the story of their family’s connection to the war.
Video content: Images of the “Immortal Regiment” Victory Day event in Moscow.

Links to two videos below.

My first blog post concerned the remarkable “Immortal Regiment” event that has become a popular part of Russia’s annual Victory Day (День победы) celebration on May 9. Two years later, the event has only grown in scale, and so I thought I’d offer some fresh material drawn from the most recent iteration of this popular parade. While many people associate Russia’s Victory Day celebration with the traditional Soviet military parade (the military parade still occurs; for images, see this video), the “Immortal Regiment” is a very different event, one based on the mass participation of regular citizens. The point is that people walk while carrying portraits of family members — parents, grandparents and great-grandparents — who participated in the “Great Patriotic War” (or, “Great Fatherland War,” Великая Отечественная Война), as World War II is known in Russian. The event allows even those ancestors who did not live to see the end of the war, or who were far away from major cities when Germany surrendered, to symbolically participate in a victory parade. The event mixes happiness and sorrow as Russians celebrate a historical moment of great national pride while preserving the memory of the immense sacrifices made to defeat the Nazis.

The “Immortal Regiment” is a new phenomenon in Russia. The first Immortal Regiment was spontaneously organized by journalists at an independent TV station in Tomsk in 2011. (The station, ТВ2, no longer broadcasts — like most other non-government-affiliated media outlets, it was gradually shut down in 2014.) The Tomsk event was soon picked up at the federal level and began to receive government support. “Immortal Regiment” marches now occur in cities across Russia and in former Soviet republics or nations with significant Russian populations. Vladimir Putin joined the event in Moscow for the first time in 2015 and this year once again walked at the head of the Immortal Regiment. Official estimates are that 850,000 participated in this year’s event in Russia’s capital, where the route runs down Tverskaia Street to Red Square, and that eight million people marched across the country.

The main symbol of Victory Day in Russia is

Read more…

Weekly Review: Spring Is in the Air

Here’s another short post on a few interesting elements in last week’s Russian news. The reports I saw made it very clear that spring is here!

Spring Cleaning: Десятки тысяч жителей России провели первый из трех длинных выходных за трудом на свежем воздухе

This was a very positive report from Channel One on volunteer clean-up days in parks across Russia. They even made brooms double as selfie sticks! I also noticed that several minutes later they reported on some small anti-Putin protests that happened that same day. Presumably they expect viewers to draw the desired conclusion about what kind of civic engagement is best.

Victory Parade Prep: На Красной площади пройдет первая совместная репетиция пеших расчетов и механизированной колонны
Handing out St. George Ribbons: По всей России стартовала акция «Георгиевская ленточка»

Another sign of spring is of course the early May holidays. Preparations are underway for WWII Victory Day (День победы) on May 9. Channel One had a reporter show off some military technology that will be featured in the parade. Another report displayed people handing out the orange-and-black Ribbons of St. George (Георгиевская ленточка). The ribbon was originally a component of a WWI and WWII military decoration and is now a common popular symbol of national pride.

Victory Day Parade: One of my earliest posts featured the popular “Immortal Regiment” parade that happens on May 9th — a remarkable phenomenon of contemporary Russia. It’s a great resource for learners or instructors.


Note to subscribers and visitors

Dear subscribers and visitors:

I was dismayed to realize that the video of the mortgage borrowers (the post from two weeks ago) was behind a paywall at телеканал Дождь. I’ve contacted them to try to work something out for the future. I would post the video files directly on my page, but I want to respect their copyright. Unlike Первый канал, Дождь doesn’t offer the option to embed their videos on my page. In the meantime, you can get ten days of free access if you click on the button “Бесплатно на 10 дней.” Or you could subscribe — it’s only about $6.00 / month, and they could use the support!

Getting things started

It is just over a week since I first registered the domain name and I’m enjoying the new role of webmaster. Last weekend I figured out how to work with WordPress, refreshed my Photoshop skills, and came up with a working design for the site. Now that the design is more or less established, it’s time to add content. I’ll probably put up several posts to get things rolling, and after that aim for a pace of about one new post a week.  Since I’ve been collecting media clips for a couple of years, I have a substantial reservoir of options to draw from, so some posts will pull out the best components of my personal “archive” while others will reference the latest twists and turns of life in Russia. I have no doubt that the Russian world will continue to produce fascinating new material for this site.

My goal for each post is to have a link to video, a time reference for the most interesting parts of the video, a short transcript of the most useful passages and a corresonding English translation. The translations will follow the Russian syntax fairly closely and as a result may sometimes read awkwardly; the priority is to assist those who are working with the Russian original. I’ll also provide some brief context for each clip. Readers should keep in mind that I am a cultural scholar, not a political scientist or sociologist, so my commentary will be that of a reasonably informed person rather than that of an in-depth scholar. (My “real” research actually concerns nineteenth-century Russian aesthetics!) I’d also like to point out that various browser add-ons exist that make it possible to download Internet video, which can be handy if you want to use something in class or save it for later offline use.

I’m wondering how the “politics” of this project will play out. My two main video sources are the federal Первый канал / Channel One and the Moscow-based independent channel Дождь / TV Rain, which is the only major television outlet that gives a voice to the political opposition. As I navigate between those two sources, will I be able to keep the site “fair and balanced”? Is that even possible? Probably not–but I’ll do what I can to present multiple perspectives on Russia, temper the negative with the positive, and avoid egregious sins against the truth.

Up until now my Russian current events collections have lived on my isolated hard drive, occasionally shared with small groups of students in class. I’m excited now to launch this project into the worldwide web, and I hope that it will be of use to my colleagues and to Russian language learners everywhere.