Today is Victory Day in Russia, so С Днем Победы [Happy Victory Day] to everyone who’s celebrating. Why is Victory Day celebrated on May 9 in Russia and other former Soviet countries, but on May 8 in Western Europe and America? (Not that it’s really celebrated in America, to be honest… more on that later.) Due to the time zone differences, it was already May 9 in the Soviet Union when Nazi Germany surrendered.
Russia really, really celebrates Victory Day. Growing up in the United States, I cannot remember any specific marking of the day. When I was old enough to know about World War II, I knew when Victory Day was just as a matter of historical trivia, but I never remember anybody celebrating. But in Russia, there is a huge parade in Moscow every year, and many other cities in both Russia and countries that were part of the Soviet Union hold parades and celebrations as well. Someday in the near future, I am going to attend the Moscow Victory Day parade. It must be something else to see.
While we’re on the subject, here’s an interesting cultural sensitivity question: is it rude to wish a German person a happy Victory Day? I wished some British people a happy Victory Day, but that’s different because we were on the same side in World War II. Seriously, is wishing a German (I’ve got a couple German friends here at university) a happy Victory Day basically like saying, “Yes, this is to remember that the country in which I was born and from which I have my citizenship, along with the country in which I’m currently living AND the country whose language I have devoted myself to studying all seriously beat your native country in World War II.” Because that just sounds, well, mean.
A few other interesting differences between America, Britain, and Russia: an American or Brit will call the war “World War II” and say it was from 1939 to 1945. A Russian calls it the “Great Patriotic War” [Великая Отечественная Война] and will say it was from 1941 to 1945.