Russian Victory Day

Russian Victory Day poster. Berlin, April 2010.

World War II was only yesterday. So one might surmise, during the month of April, by flyers posted in Berlin. Largely focused on May Day, a near equal number tend to be dedicated to commemorating Russia’s victory over the Nazis a little over a week later. Celebrated every 9th of May, the event marks Germany’s May 8th 1945 surrender.

A frequent subject of these flyers tends to be women. Soviet female soldiers, to be precise, many of whom took part in the Russian army’s push westwards, culminating in the decisive battle for the German capital. The theme of gender equality is pronounced, as is its obvious relationship to the triumph over fascism.

German Communist Party flyer. Berlin, April 2010.
German Communist Party flyer. Görlitzer Park, April 2010.

The idea of celebrating the Soviet victory gives many Westerners pause. Particularly foreign visitors to Berlin, considering the negative image of the former USSR that they were raised with, as a consequence of the Cold War. Not all Germans feel that way, particularly easterners, for whom the results of reunification have frequently proven mixed. Unemployment continues to run high, for example, and rightwing political organizations, nostalgic for the Nazi era, are surging in popularity.

Concentration camp flyer. Skalitzer Park, May 2010
Concentration camp-themed flyer. Kreuzberg, May 2010.

Still, there are some good things to remember. Such as the liberation of Nazi death camps, like Auschwitz, by Russian forces. Despite its appalling record of human rights abuses, and its discrimination against domestic Jewry, Stalin’s regime earned some mighty big credits, which both obscure, as well as complicate, the Communist legacy. Hence posters like this one, which have a multicultural hue to them. It’d be nice to remember the Soviet Union this way. One can understand why, considering the darkness which once reigned in Berlin.


Photographs and captions courtesy of Joel Schalit.

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