Friday, May 10, 2013

May 9th Celebrations

In America, I always knew Victory in Europe Day as May 8th but by the time the German surrender was made official with the Soviet Union it was May 9th in Russia and so their V-E Day or "Soviet Victory Day" as they called it, is celebrated the next day.

The relationship in Latvia between the Russian and Latvian populations is at times contentious especially with respect to citizenship requirements, language laws, and the views of recent history.  May 9th continues this as typically Russians view it has a wonderful celebration of military superiority while Latvians typically see it as the trading of one occupation for another from German to Russian rule.

As an interested American it is hard for me to find moral equivalency between the Soviets and Nazis but then it is hard to also consider what fifty years of Nazi German rule would have been like compared to Soviet rule.  Perhaps an oversimplified view would be that it would seem to be trading persecution based on religion and ethnicity for political persecution.  Of course, neither is desirable but can you say one is more preferable if forced to choose between them?  It was with these sort of thoughts in my mind that we went to the May 9th celebrations in Riga.

We did see some interesting pro-Russian sights including this car decorated as a Soviet tank.

The event was held at the park surrounding the Victory Memorial to Soviet Army monument and upon arrival you are given a Ribbon of Saint George which is the symbol of the highest military decoration given in Imperial Russia.  

There were several veterans from World War II there as well and it is a tradition to walk up to them and give them flowers to honor their service.  The photo in the bottom right corner is of one of the benches that the wives of deceased soldiers sit at and you can give flowers to them there.    

Along with flowers for the veterans, flowers are also laid at the war memorial itself.    

Flowers, flowers everywhere.

There were also food and souvenir stands as well as a concert that went well into the night. 

In the afternoon a cold front moved in and storms were approaching which brought with it some amazing clouds.

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