Victory Day[a 1] or 9 May marks the capitulation of Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union in the part of the Second World War known in the Soviet Union as the Great Patriotic War where the Soviet Union fought against Nazi Germany. It was first inaugurated in the sixteen republics of the Soviet Union, following the signing of the surrender document late in the evening on 8 May 1945 (after midnight, thus on 9 May, by Moscow Time). The Soviet government announced the victory early on 9 May after the signing ceremony in Berlin. Though the official inauguration happened in 1945 (which means it has been celebrated since 1946), the holiday became a non-labour day only in 1965 and only in some of the countries.
In the former Soviet Union this festival was celebrated to commemorate the Red Army's victory over the Nazi forces.
In communist East Germany, 8 May was officially known and celebrated as "Liberation Day" and was a public holiday between 1950 and 1966, and again on the 40th anniversary in 1985. In 1975 a Soviet-style "Victory Day" was celebrated on 9 May. Since 2002, the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has observed a commemoration day known as the "Day of Liberation from National Socialism, and the End of the Second World War".
In 1988, before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Victory Day ceased to be observed in Uzbekistan, but was partially restored in 1999 as Memorial/Remembrance Day. After regaining their independence from the Soviet Union, the Baltic countries now commemorate the end of World War II on 8 May, the Victory in Europe Day. Although in Latvia there are still major celebrations held each year on 9th of May near the Victory Monument in Riga and in other cities as well, gathering veterans and people who are grateful for what they did, as well as featuring music and other live shows. In 2014, after the Russian military intervention in Ukraine, Ukraine joined the Baltic states in commemorating the end of World War II and the Victory in Europe Day on 8 & 9 May while in the Moscow Victory Day parade a unit garrisoned in the Hero City of Sevastopol paraded under the flag of the newly formed Republic of Crimea.
Two separate capitulation events took place at the time. First, the capitulation to the Allied nations in Reims was signed on 7 May 1945, effective 23:01 CET 8 May. This date is commonly referred to as the V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day) in most western European countries. Joseph Stalin was later displeased by these events, believing that the German surrender should have been accepted only by the envoy of the USSR Supreme command and signed only in Berlin and insisted the Reims protocol be considered preliminary, with the main ceremony to be held in Berlin, where Marshal Zhukov was at the time, as the latter recounts in his memoirs:
[Quoting Stalin:] Today, in Reims, Germans signed the preliminary act on an unconditional surrender. The main contribution, however, was done by Soviet people and not by the Allies, therefore the capitulation must be signed in front of the Supreme Command of all countries of the anti-Hitler coalition, and not only in front of the Supreme Command of Allied Forces. Moreover, I disagree that the surrender was not signed in Berlin, which was the center of Nazi aggression. We agreed with the Allies to consider the Reims protocol as preliminary.
Therefore, another ceremony was organized in a surviving manor in the outskirts of Berlin late on 8 May, when it was already 9 May in Moscow due to the difference in time zones. Field-Marshal Wilhelm Keitel submitted the capitulation of the Wehrmacht to Marshal Georgy Zhukov in the Soviet Army headquarters in Berlin-Karlshorst. To commemorate the victory in the war, the ceremonial Moscow Victory Parade was held in the Soviet capital on 24 June 1945.
The other World War II victory day, the V-J day (Victory in Japan Day) is commemorated in August.
During the Soviet Union's existence, 9 May was celebrated throughout the USSR and in the countries of the Eastern Bloc. Though the holiday was introduced in many Soviet republics approximately between 1946 and 1950, it only became a non-labour day in Ukrainian (1963) and Russian (1965) SSRs. In the latter one, a weekday off (usually a Monday) was given starting 1966 if 9 May was to fall on a weekend (Saturday or Sunday).
The celebration of Victory Day continued during subsequent years. The war became a topic of great importance in cinema, literature, history lessons at school, the mass media, and the arts. The ritual of the celebration gradually obtained a distinctive character with a number of similar elements: ceremonial meetings, speeches, lectures, receptions and fireworks.
In Russia during the 1990s the 9 May was not celebrated massively, because Soviet-style mass demonstrations did not fit in with the way in which liberals who were in power in Moscow communicated with the country’s residents. The situation changed when Vladimir Putin came to power. He started to promote the prestige of the governing regime and history, national holidays and commemorations all became a source for national self-esteem. Since then the Victory Day in Russia has increasingly been turning into a joyous celebration in which popular culture plays a great role. The celebration of the 60th anniversary of Victory Day in Russia in 2005 became the largest national and popular holiday since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
German Democratic Republic recognised Tag der Befreiung (Day of liberation) on 8 May, it was celebrated as a public holiday from 1950 to 1966, and on the 40th anniversary in 1985. Only in 1975 the official holiday was 9 May instead and that year called Tag des Sieges (Victory Day).
Federal Republic of Germany does not officially recognise 9 May as a holiday. However, celebrations continue to take place in some areas of the former German Democratic Republic. Also, on 8 May, the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern since 2002 has recognised a commemorative day Tag der Befreiung vom Nationalsozialismus und der Beendigung des 2. Weltkrieges (Day of Liberation from National Socialism, and the End of the Second World War).
Israel has celebrated for decades, although officially recognised 9 May since 2000. Parades are hosted in many cities across the country.
Kazakhstan has officially recognised 9 May since since its independence in 1991. It's a non-working day. The holiday is sometimes celebrated in connection with other national holiday on 7 May (Defender of the Fatherland Day). From 1947 the holiday was similarly celebrated there while the country was part of the Soviet Union.
Montenegro officially recognised 9 May as the Victory Day over Fascism as an official holiday;
The Russian Federation has officially recognised 9 May since its formation in 1991 and considers it a non-working day even if it falls on a weekend (in which case any following Monday will be non-working); The holiday was similarly celebrated there while the country was part of the Soviet Union.
Serbia celebrates 9 May as the Victory Day over Fascism but it's a working holiday. Still many people gather to mark the anniversary with the war veterans, including Serbian army, Minister of Defense and the President.
Uzbekistan has officially recognised 9 May from 1999, where the holiday was introduced as "Memorial/Remembrance Day". The holiday was also celebrated there while the country was part of the Soviet Union.
Russophone populations in many world countries celebrate the holiday regardless of its local status, organize public gatherings and even parades on this day. Some multilanguage broadcasting television chains translate the "Victory speech" of the Russian president and the parade on Red Square.
Victory Day London is a ceremonial event held annually since 2007 in London on 9 May in commemoration of the victory in the Second World War and the Arctic Convoys 1941-1945. A ceremony is held aboard HMS Belfast which took part in the Arctic Convoys, moored on the Thames. The event serves as a reunion day for British and Russian veterans of the Arctic Convoys with members of the British Royal Family present. Other participants include Russian ambassador, ambassadors of other FSU countries, British and Russian dignitaries. From 2012, the event is expanded with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, accompanied by cannons salute from HMS Belfast and Jason Kouchak performing Dark Is the Night. The concert is held in Hay's Galleria and is free to the public.
Soviet and post-Soviet symbols associated with the Victory Day