May 12, 2024

Snowing on Your Parade


Snowing on Your Parade
Delightful May weather in Moscow. Office of the President of Russia

Each year on May 9, Russia's leaders gather on Red Square for the country's main patriotic holiday: Victory Day, marking the defeat of the Axis in World War II. It's a dazzling sight: thousands of uniformed men and women, blaring marches, tanks, aircraft, and a speech from Putin.

Usually.

This year, however, was a bit... wonky. Here's what we noticed this time around. Check out a video of the entire event here.

Notably present:
  • Snow. Moscow saw an especially cold winter this past year, but one would think May would be a safe time (corroborated by hedgehog predictors). Not so: soldiers trooped through flurries, and Putin and other spectators wore heavy coats and hats.
  • An eclectic group. Victory Day's diplomatic guests often include foreign dignitaries from Russian allies, like Belarus and Central Asian countries. This year included the old standards, like our buddy Alexandr Lukashenko, and also the presidents of Cuba and Guinea-Bissau. Guinea-Bissau was not independent in the 1940s, although Cuba fought on the side of the Allies.
  • A garrulous veteran. Watch the stream to see Putin patiently indulge a talkative old man sitting next to him as he watches the parade, somewhat annoyed. Somehow it's strangely relatable to hearing out elderly relatives.
Notably absent:
  • A shoe. One unlucky soldier's shoe was left on the pavement, drawing social media ridicule. This is not the first time this has happened, but perhaps the first for Moscow.
  • Putin's voice. Putin's speech was, to be frank, a bit of a letdown. Lurching, abrupt, with a handful of fumbles (his voice catching, pages sticking, sudden moment of silence). The content was nothing special, either: the typical "fight against fascism" trope that's trotted out every year.
  • Badass military hardware. The highlight of the parade for our inner 13-year-old is the horde of tanks, trucks, and APCs that crawl across Red Square, followed by flybys of the latest in Russian military planes. This year, though, only one tank was present (an iconic WW2-era T-34), followed by missile trucks and light infantry transports. Two plane formations flew overhead, getting some (admittedly really cool) overhead shots of Red Square.  These were Su-25 ground attack aircraft (with smoke to appear like the Russian flag) and a small formation of Mig-29s and Su-30s. A far cry from just a couple years ago, when bombers thundered over the square in mid-air refueling and Red Square saw BMPT "Terminators" and the latest T-14 heavy tanks.

So what are we to make of it? Wartime shoestrings (thanks to the ongoing war in Ukraine)? Or just a couple blips? Hard to say. Maybe we'll have more to see next year, with the 80th anniversary of V-Day coming in 2025.

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