05/10/2017, 10.20
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Victory Day over Nazis, in the sign of St. George

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The great celebrations of the end of World War II in the name of patriotism. Patriarch Kirill recalls the help of St. George, the protector of the city of Moscow, and the name of the "generalissimo" who led the Soviet army against the Nazis, Georgij Konstantinovich Zhukov. Patriotism among Catholics, even persecuted. Children's parades and awards. 55% of the population appreciates Stalin's role.  

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Victory Day was celebrated on May 9, recalling the triumph over the Nazis with the entry of the Russians into Berlin, which ended the Second World War. It is the most important and symbolic national holiday of contemporary Russia which, after the end of communism, abolished the great celebration of the October Revolution, which was celebrated on November 7th.

In the Solemnity of May, all the great events of Russian history, from the ancient victories against the Tartars, the Poles and the Napoleonic invasion, all concentrate on the evolution of the past Soviet greatness, which in its victory against Hitler had its greatest moment of glory. In Putin's Russia, which for some twenty years now has founded his policies on the exaltation of the country's national identity and universal mission, May 9th has taken on an even more important role in the process of Russian social cohesion.

Battling the dragon

This year in particular, after a period of uncertainty and public turmoil, in addition to the tragedy of the terrorist attack in St. Petersburg and the tensions of international politics, the national holiday has a special purification and unifying purpose. The Patriarch of Moscow Kirill (Gundjaev), who celebrated the liturgical memory of Saint George on May 6, emphasized this and attributed a prophetic role to the Palestinian martyr with regard to today's Russia. On the eve of the 72nd anniversary of Victory Day, presiding over the liturgy in the Church of St. George on the Inchine Hill (a church rebuilt precisely for purposes of patriotic devotion), the head of the Russian Church reminded that in Christian memory the ancient saints are still close and act together with the faithful of the Church on earth.

The 4th-century Palestinian martyr, who in Byzantine liturgy is called St. George the Victorian, is also the saint protector of the city of Moscow, his image is even on the city's heraldic effigy. According to the Patriarch's words, "these symbols of our national life are by no means related to his image. Why? Because throughout our history, our people, have turned to the holy and great martyr George in the most difficult moments Especially during military campaigns and have received the desired rescue. The holy martyr has brought our prayers before God , and God has listened to them, giving victory to our troops and our people. "

With these reflections on May 9 event, Kirill emphasized the close relationship between devotion and the Great Twentieth-Century Victory: "We can talk about coincidences and casuistry, but the victory in the Great Patriotic War was gained on the limit of the unbelievable.  Unmatched forces clashed, one of which was far superior to the other. The enemy was immeasurably stronger in everything: in economics, organization, armaments, and in many other fields, including the art of war. Our soldiers with their broken boots and bare toes, with thin uniforms in 30 degrees below zero, with 50-year old rifles and much lighter tanks went out to face these dominant forces.  The enemy, hungry ... well, this people, who seemed to be condemned to be a victim, unexpectedly obtained a formidable victory! And the last fires of the Great War were extinguished in the very days when we celebrate St. George the Victorian. Random? Some may think, but not us, men of faith. "The Patriarch noted a further coincidence, in the name of the general who led the Soviet armies against the Nazis:" And perhaps one may think it also a random coincidence that the Marshal of Victory was Georgij Konstantinovich Zhukov? Saint George wanted to manifest his presence among us through these signs, in the struggle for the victory of our country. “

The name of the great hero of 1945, whose statue stands at the entrance to Red Square, has been highlighted several times in the recent patriarchal homilies, as an example of abnegation and virtues necessary in Russia today. Then, concluded Kirill, "today we pray to the holy and great martyr George, so that our country is defended by internal and external enemies, and he guard our Moscow, strengthening the faith of the inhabitants of this city, so Moscow become the City of the First Throne [according to the medieval definition of Pervoprestolnyj] not only in title but also in the faith of the people who live there ... Then Russia will be invincible, and the city of Moscow will be the greatest! ".

Catholic patriotism

Even Russian Catholics, for their part, associate themselves with the celebration of national patriotism. The Archbishop of the Diocese of Mother of God in Moscow, Msgr. Paolo Pezzi, intervened in this regard at the fifth plenary session of the Interconfessional Consultative Committee, which took place in St. Petersburg on April 26th on the theme "Faith and Overcoming Social Contradiction: Lessons of a Century". Reflecting on the centenary of the October Revolution, the bishop of Russian Catholics recalled that "even the first Christians during the persecution, while denouncing their unfair character, never opposed the recognized power as such." By quoting the example of Saint Francis of Assisi, who considered "perfect joy" to be refuted by all, the Italian-Russian presbyter stated that "even if power is unfair, this does not revoke the citizen’s responsibility to fulfill their duty to society.  The peoples in the Soviet area suffered unspeakable persecution, civil war, repression, gulags, and hunger at the time. However, this did not prevent them from joining the struggle for freedom and independence during World War II, or from carrying out heroic actions in the labor and military field, under state banners, and a power which, moreover, had often been unjust. Similar words were expressed during the same forum by the head rabbi of Russia, Berl Lazar.

Uniforms and mythologies

While leaders of religions bless patriotic manifestations, the government is concerned about their proper execution. An especially highlighted problem in recent years is the overuse in the use of symbols and military uniforms during these great celebrations. Given the almost total disappearance of veterans, it has become very fashionable to dress children in in World War II uniforms (particularly required by KGB counterparts and general officers). In the Russian parliament, the State Duma, a bill was made in this regard to prohibit the use of patriotic military symbols for advertising purposes. The government in the meantime issued a decree to impose limitations and rules in exposing the "Cross of St. George", one of the major state and orthodox honors, which, after communism, replaced the famous " Order of Lenin ", which was awarded especially to war veterans. The cross with its band cannot be carried by "family members or third persons", especially children; It must be on the jacket and not on shirts, skirts and shorts, or even used as a necklace or hat décor.

On May 9 this year, a survey of the patriotic feelings of the population was carried out. For the first time, over half of the respondents (55%) favored Stalin's role as leader of Victory, attributing the myth of the "father of peoples" to Marshal Zhukov, the hero so dear to Patriarch Kirill.

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