Initially, I planned to entitle these reflections, “The Preface to the Celebration,” but now, as May 9 is ending, I realize that the most important thing that we can learn from this great day is not what preceded it, but exactly what it will be followed by.
Indeed, we live in a time when the most pure, the most sacred and inviolable core of our tradition and worldview is under a direct attack. And unfortunately, currently, the poisonous caustic criticism of our narrative of the War from abroad is no longer a major threat. On the contrary, we see the attempt of a substitution of the very essence of our cultural codes, when the sacred and almost mystical feeling assembled from hundreds of shades of hope, valor, honor and pain, that we feel when we envision the nine characters 1941-1945 is attempted to be substituted by something flashy, vulgar and belligerent. It is an attempt to steal the Victory from us by creating a dummy instead of a character filled with meaning. It is an attempt to dishonor the memory by allowing corrupted thieves to rob veterans and then wear frontline medal ribbons on the lapel, to send the veterans expired products as “gifts” and to bind petty political gambles to the memories and respect to the War.
However, we shouldn’t be misled by those who use the vulgarization of the Victory as a ground to erase the memory of the War from our narrative, by blaming the Parade, the ribbons, the celebration and the commemoration. The War and the Victory are deep in our hearts, and neither actual nor moral corruptors are able to take it away from us. The current situation should not be the reason for fear or anger, on the contrary, what is happening is an ultimate incentive to realize that we can no longer rely on external forces to shape our personal communion with the greatness of the War. The current vulgarization and denial of the War is nothing more but a cause to understand that the memory and respect for the War must cease to be a context or a foundation of identity and become a moral act of volition.
When I see a large, fancy piece of candy with the Order of the Red Banner and the St. George’s ribbon on it, I must willfully suppress the initial hostile reaction of rejection. And I feel sincere joy, because now I can give this candy to my nephew so the narrative about honor, self-sacrifice and heroism would for him be connected with the pure bright and joyous emotions of childhood. This is more important than any aesthetic disputes.
When I occasionally immerse into the political hysteria of discussion about those who will come and those who will not participate in the Parade on May 9, I have to willfully suppress the initial reaction of indignation by those who did not come, and those who are using this refusal as a propaganda tool. And behind this veil of hatred, I see the perpetual power of the War commemoration, as today, on the Parade, people who were trained to kill each other – the soldiers of Armenia and Azerbaijan – were marching with arms in the same ranks, shoulder to shoulder. And in this act there is more recognition than any delegations or their absence could provide.
When the anti-Putin media are giving humiliating labels to deep and sincere expressions of respect and honor, when 7 million columns of my fellow citizens and I are lined up all across the country to honor the sacrifices of our veterans, I have to willfully suppress the feeling of disharmony and conflict. And only then do I see that in my country, agitated by human blood shed on our western borders, this single day passes without hatred, hysteria and accusations between hundreds and hundreds of centers of different identities, and it is more important than any speeches about unity and national reconciliation from the governmental thieves.
Tomorrow is a new day in which the War could once again become just an identity context, a breeding ground for speculation and accusations between governmental and anti-governmental fanatics, trying to catch us in their destructive gamble. But if today we remember this act of volition to protect the memory we will be able to transcend it to the future. By focusing not only on the offended aesthetic and political feeling, but also on the essential values of peace, unity, reconciliation and self-sacrifice, which saturate the War memory, we will be able to transform this memory toward the path of volitional emancipation from hatred towards the “Other,” from weakness and passivity, from the political gamble with our narrative and its corrosive humiliating context. And thus we will be able to transform our country.
I stand in the crowd and watch the Solemn Victory Salute. I hear children crying “Hurrah!” after each firework volley, and I feel how the blinding darkness of nothingness would have come for all of us if not for the heroism of our veterans 70 years ago.
Glory to the Victors!
Elisey I. Boguslavsky