On May 9, all Russian cities and towns will be playing host to a large-scale activity that has of late become an indispensable part of V-Day celebration. Last year, 16 million people took part in the solemn procession, marching along the streets with the portraits of their relatives that made a decisive contribution to the crushing defeat of the Nazi Germany. Boris Levitsky, head of the regional branch of the All-Russia Movement ‘Immortal Regiment of Russia’, recounts the event.
“The activity that gave the name to our civic-patriotic movement, originated in Tyumen ten years ago – so it will be a jubilee procession this year. Then Gennadi Ivanov, chairman of the regional Council of Police Battalion Veterans, had an amazing dream: to the resounding melody of the Arise, Great Country!, people were marching holding black-and-white portraits of front-line soldiers in their hands. It was on the eve of the Victory Day, and Ivanov took that dream as a call for action. He rang round his friends, and they went into the streets with portraits of their fathers. Then Ivanov started sending out proposals to hold same activities in different regions. Two years later, processions with portraits of the victors spread to dozens of Russian cities.
“‘Immortal Regiment of Russia’ is everybody’s private history. It would be hard to imagine that it was the authorities that may have organized the event inducing people to march along the streets holding portraits of their ancestors in their hands, not to mention other countries. This was a new bright tradition of our history, generated by the people themselves. It is not a political activity – you won’t see banners of any political party or political slogans there. The activity is self-expressive: it proves that we are citizens of a great country, offspring of the heroes who remember their ancestors that gained the Great Victory. “I think that this year over 500,000 people will take part in ‘Immortal Regiment’ in the Krasnodar region – every tenth person.
“‘Immortal Regiment of Russia’ is not about the battlefields or armies, or strategic attacks. What it is, is about somebody from my own family, somebody who is part of it. It is very important to preserve our memory about the front-line soldiers, so that contemporary teenagers should know how their great-grandfathers and great-great-grandfathers were delivering Europe from fascism, what they endured while struggling for a peaceful sky for us, and what their every war decoration was won for.”