Along the Great Patriotic War theme, here is a picture of one of several "Mother Motherland" statues spread throughout the former Soviet Union, and erected as memorials to the Soviet victory. This particular model stands in Kiev, Ukraine, once second only to the Russian republic, and now scene of recent egg throwing Parliamentary shenanigans. One of the other famous statues can be found in modern Volgograd, ex. Stalingrad, one of the most important battles of the war, and the beginning of the end for Nazi forays into Russia. I don't know about you, but this looks like one tough chick, and not someone you'd want to meet in a dark alley in Kiev....also it does sort of give rise to the answer of why prior to 1990 Russian women were all stereotyped as not being the most feminine. Between the Eastern Bloc steroid fueled athletes, and representations like this, the deck was clearly stacked against them....
So last weekend I decided to go watch the May 9th Victory Day parade here in Moscow. I had gone to it back in 1995, or at least parts of it, that on the 50th anniversary of the war's end, so this time on the 65th I made sure I was in town. Interestingly, as the date got closer it became more and more unclear where one might be able to observe the parade in person. Half of central Moscow was blocked off, metro exits closed, etc. As it turns out, this is the first parade I've been to where the government doesn't actually want its citizens to be able to see it. Watching on TV is of course encouraged, but normal, non-elite-ni spectators are if anything discouraged to try and get close to the festivities, and are lucky to get within 2km of Red Square.
Does anyone else find this odd? My granted someone limited experience with parades in the US and elsewhere, is that generally they are put on for the crowds to line the street and "take part" as participants, whereas in this case, it would appear that it's pure political show, and if you're not invited, don't bother trying to view it. The amusing thing of course is how "normal" that is to all the Russians I spoke with. An Austrian guy said this reminded him of a North Korean parade he had "attended", where all foreigners were shipped out of the capital during the parade, watched it on TV at a special hotel in the countryside, and then returned. One American told of getting stuck a full street away from the parade route, view half blocked by a truck, trying to see anything at all, but all the locals simply indicated that this is how Soviet/Russian parades have always been, and it was best to simply go to the dacha and forget about it.
We eventually found a place to watch across the river from the Kremlin where the vehicles had to exit after passing through the square, and while not ideal, at least could take in the air show and see much of the equipment roll by. Now, whether there is much point to this is a good question. One friend of mine said "Russia, the only place that still even remembers the war", and another Russian friend said "Such a waste of money catering to the Russian "NASCAR" crowd or British "Football" hooligan types", basically saying that it appeals only to a those needing something to latch on to regarding Russia's current place in the world. All understandable of course, but it's an interesting challenge to on one hand venerate those who were sacrificed, while still being critical of Stalin and the leadership that sent untrained troops, pilots, and tankers up against Nazi forces time and time again, and generally treated their units as fully expendable. While effective in the long run, these tactics certainly helped create the massive losses endured. (See Charts Below)