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Why Western nations and Russia celebrate the victory for WWII on different days

Why Western nations and Russia celebrate the victory for WWII on different days

Posted May. 08, 2015 07:16,   


Russia has set the day of commemoration for the victory of World War II on May 9, while other Western countries such as the U.S., the U.K. and France set it a day earlier on May 8. Why is that?

On May 7, 1945, Alfred Jodl, chief of operations for the German army, signed on the capitulation paper that said “The German High Command will at once issue orders to all German military, naval and air authorities and to all forces under German control to cease active operations at 2301 hours Central European time on 8 May and to remain in the positions occupied at that time” at Combined Forced Command in Rheims, France. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, however, contended that “As it was the Soviet soldiers that played a critical role for the victory and Berlin is the heart of the Nazi, the signing should be made in Soviet Command in Berlin.”

Having had no plausible reasons, the Allied Forces accepted the German general`s contention. In the end, Wilhelm Keitel, chief of Defense for Germany, signed again before Georgy Zhukov, chief of the General Staff of Soviet, at Soviet Command near Berlin at 10:43 p.m. on May 8. The time was 12:43 a.m. on May 9 in Moscow, which is why Western countries celebrate the victory on the 8th while Russia and socialist nations do it a day later.

This shows that Russia sees itself as playing the most critical role in securing the victory in World War II. Russian people call the war that drove out Napoleon in 1812 a “Patriotic War” and World War II a “Great Patriotic War.” They have great pride in that their ancestors had saved the world not once but twice. Most historians agree that Russia had played decisive role in winning World War II.

All through the second world war, the Soviet alone fought against 60-80 percent of German forces. Russians see that it is not Normandy Invasion but Battle of Stalingrad and Battle of Kursk that turned the tide of the war. At a six-month long Battle of Stalingrad from July 1942, Germany lost some 850,000 forces including about 91,000 prisoners, which dampened its fighting spirit. For this victory, Soviet military had a whopping 1.13 million soldiers killed or injured. At the Battle of Kursk in July 1943, some 1.3 million Soviet forces defeated about 800,000 German forces, reversing the tide of war. After the Normandy Invasion in June 1944, the U.S. and British forces fought against merely 560,000 Germans in the western front, while the Soviet alone counterattacked 4.5 million Germans in the eastern front.

Having fought with poorer war equipment, the war was especially costly for the Soviet Union. As many as 27 million people including over 10 million soldiers lost their lives, which accounted for 12 percent of Soviet population. Furthermore, one third of its territory was burned to ashes. Swelled with pride that the nation saved the world by defeating the Nazi who had dreamed of world domination, Russia makes grand celebration for 70th anniversary of end of World War II no matter how flagging the economy is.