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6 May, 2013 12:12   ▪   Viktoria Matola   ▪  

Only those countries which are influenced by Russia consider 9 May a festive day, says historian

Celebrating 9 May as Victory Day is Soviet legacy, says historian Volodymyr Viatrovych, chair of academic board at the Centre for Research on the Liberation Movement, in a commentary to The Ukrainian Week.

He believes that on that day Ukraine should honour the memory of the fallen in the war.

“I think that such commemoration would be the most acceptable for Ukrainians and would promote reconciliation among them, regardless of the fact which side of the front line their ancestors fought. The thing is that attempts to present this war as the Great Patriotic War, and 9 May as a great victory in it, are nothing but legacy of the Soviet myth which showed the war in black and white, with Nazis on one side and the so-called ‘ours’ on the other,” said Viatrovych.

“But that war was in fact yet another tragedy for Ukrainians, where they often fought against other Ukrainians for someone else’s interests. Therefore for us the end of that war should actually be remembered by commemorating the victims who pointlessly died in it.”

READ ALSO: Replacing Victory Parades With Commemoration

According to Viatrovych, from the historical viewpoint we should speak about the Second World War, rather than a Great Patriotic War.

“Chronologically this term is wider, beginning in 1939 and ending in 1945. And it is more diverse and multi-coloured than the simplified black and white concept of the Great Patriotic War, which is fed to the people,” said the historian adding that he is “embarrassed by the fact that Ukraine’s government is now reviving this Soviet myth.”

He says that Ukraine began to depart from that myth in 2005-06.

“First the term Great Patriotic War, coined by the Soviet propaganda, disappeared from history textbooks, and another term, the Second World War, was firmly established instead. Unfortunately, the celebrations (of 9 May as Victory Day. – Ed.) were renewed in 2010, but I think this is just a setback, an echo of the Soviet past. I am convinced that this tradition will become extinct with the change of government.”

READ ALSO: Eastern Convicts

Viatrovych also emphasises that 9 May is considered as a festive day in just a handful of former Soviet republics.

“For instance, the Baltic states have already joined other European nations and stopped considering 9 May as a cause for triumph. Only those countries celebrate it which, unfortunately, are still greatly influenced by Russia and where a sort of neo-Soviet renaissance is observed. Importantly, Ukraine officially celebrates Victory Day, while each year the commemoration day for the Holodomor victims is ignored. It is mostly marked thanks to the initiative of the public, while being neglected by the central authorities.”

As a reminder, the Lviv City Council has passed a decision to announce 8 and 9 May the Days of Mourning for the fallen in the Second World War and the victims of totalitarian regimes. Simultaneously the local councillors backed a ruling which bans the use of Soviet, Communist and Nazi symbols in Lviv.

In Ivano-Frankivsk the city council also announced 9 May the Day of Mourning for the victims of the Second World War. The councillors, too, forbade to display the symbols of non-existent and unrecognised states or military organisations on houses, offices and enterprises regardless of ownership.

READ ALSO: Blind Shoot On Victory Day

Prime minister Mykola Azarov denounced these rulings and called them illegal.

“I want to tell you clearly: I believe that regional councils are passing absolutely unlawful decisions. Moreover, immoral decisions. Naming the great holiday of Victory Day the Day of Mourning means insulting the memory of anti-fascists and ally soldiers, who actually allowed everyone, including these councillors, to enjoy the world and democracy,” added Azarov.

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