Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Sixty Two Years Ago - Victory Day in Europe

“Your name is unknown; your feat is immortal”; these words are inscribed on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow’s Alexander Park. On May 8th, 1945 shortly before midnight the German High Command in the presence of Soviet Union Marshal Georgi Zhukov signed a treaty of unconditional surrender to the Soviet Union.

Sixty two years ago the deadliest conflict in Europe came to an end; the worldwide destruction of militaristic fascism would be finalized in September of 1945. Historical consequences resulted in the Soviet Union taking on the biggest blow of the fascist machine, and for four years battling more than three quarters of the combined Nazi forces to their ultimate defeat in Berlin. The Soviet Union was not alone in its struggle. Almost all countries in Europe, defeated by the German Nazis, witnessed atrocities previously unknown both in their cruelty and their scale. Japanese militarism committed crimes in Asia almost mirroring the devastation done to the European continent. In the summer of 1942, the world saw the full extent of Fascist and Imperialist domination. Territories from Calais to Stalingrad, and from Manchuria to the Dutch East Indies lay in the hands of the enemy.

For Russia, May 9th has inherited the status as one of the few days in the year when the entire nation is united in their celebrations, remembrances, and, most importantly, in their views on the significance of those four years in Russian history. May 9th can almost be considered the Russian Day of Independence. To this date historians in Russia, and even worldwide engage in hostile debates about the events in the 1930s and 40s; many question the achievements claimed by the Soviet side; some attempt to rewrite history to shift or spread the blame for the war away from the Nazi regime onto the wrongdoings committed in the Soviet Union. These debates will continue for years to come; perhaps in one or two generations they will take a calmer route, as the eyewitnesses of the war-time and post-war events will no longer be with us.

But May 9th is not about the political backgrounds and the secret treaties that dominated the minds of those that decided the fate of the world back then; it is a day celebrating the defeat of fascism, defeat of imperialism, and defeat of all those values that permitted the idea of slavery, slaughter, and destruction. It is a day to remember those millions who gave their life to this cause without second thoughts; a day when we give our thanks to those who gave us a peaceful world.

Take a closer listen to history; the files below include Molotov's speech on June 22, 1941 announcing the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union, and Stalin's speech on May 9th 1945 to announce the capitulation of the Nazi army.

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