By Roman Bharati
Today in Moscow, as the Kremlin Clock chimed 10 AM, Russian military troops began their spectacular Victory Day Parade, marking 76 years since the surrender of Fascist Germany and the end of the war in Europe. Despite health and safety risks, the crowd enjoyed the parade as more than 10,000 troops marched on Moscow’s Red Square, displaying the military might of the Russian armed forces. In Russia, victory day is seen as a symbol of national pride and unity, as it was this war, referred to by Russians as The Great Patriotic War, in which the Soviet Union lost approximately 26 million citizens. Historians primarily attribute the extreme loss of life to the battles of Moscow, Stalingrad and Berlin. These three battles saw some of the harshest and bloodiest fighting on the eastern front.
The victory was due, in no small part, to the Western Allies, who fought valiantly on the western front. American, British, French and Canadian troops all played pivotal roles in the war, suffering a cumulative five million casualties. Concentrating on the D-Day invasion alone, it marked the turn of the tide for the control maintained by Nazi Germany. Partisan forces including Polish, Yugoslav, Italian, Greek, French and Belgian resistance also held significant importance in the fight against fascism. The atrocities committed by the Nazis during the Holocaust were responsible for the murders of six million Jewish people, often at notorious death camps such as Auschwitz, Belzec and Majdanek. In short, the war to end Nazism was very much a global effort.
Ultimately, approximately 75 million people perished during World War II, a hotly disputed number. Estimates have ranged, with up to 100 million people dying as a cause of the war. The variance in these statistics should serve as a testament to the horror of the global conflict.
Yet as the world progresses into the 21st century, far-right political movements and groups have started to gain significance across Europe yet again. In 2013, extreme right parties from the three Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) signed a declaration in Southern Latvia on cooperation in combating multiculturalism, globalization, and Russian imperialist ambitions. In Ukraine, increasing reports of far-right violence, ultranationalism, and erosion of essential freedoms are only proliferating. There are neo-Nazi pogroms against the Roma, rampant attacks on feminists and LGBT groups, book bans, and state-sponsored glorification of Nazi collaborators.
Perhaps most shockingly, the alt-right has seen a wave in Germany. Most recently, hundreds of people at an anti-lockdown protest charged the steps of the German parliament building, the Reichstag. In a collection of COVID-19 deniers and anti-vaxxers, fascists flew the imperial German flag in place of the banned swastika. For the country that generated the Nazis, these displays underscored the dangers of the volatile, conspiracy-addled far-right fringe that has evolved over the last decade. From QAnon to the Reichsbürgers, a far-right group that perceives itself at war with the state, Europe must overcome its growing fascist political movements.
However, fascism is not the only growing issue in Europe. This year’s parade comes amid increased tensions with the west. Especially neighbouring Ukraine, as it accuses Russia of massing troops at its border. The victory day parade is a glamorous show, an enormous display of military might. Military muscle is certainly the backing of Moscow’s foreign policy. Many who view today’s parade, especially the people in neighbouring Ukraine, will think of the Russian troops on the Ukrainian border. Just recently, the Russian armed forces carried out large-scale and heavy military exercises. There, they stayed on Russian soil, but they were close to the Ukrainian border. The big war that some people feared didn’t materialize, but the question is how quickly such a situation can repeat itself.
Fundamentally, the world must remember the terror of Nazism and fascist political policies. It was this very political ideology that led to the most extreme global conflict in the world. Further, we must use these memories to prevent another significant international dispute from occurring. Assuredly, we must use this anniversary as a moment to remember the sacrifices our forefathers made for the significantly liberated society we thrive in today. They sacrificed their lives for a better world – one in which we are more united than separated.