Over a thousand people gathered at the Soviet War Memorial in Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park – opposite the Imperial War Museum, situated in Lambeth, South London. Those in attendance represented not only a cross-section of British, multicultural society, but also people from all over the world – including Russia and many former Soviet Republics. May 9th is the designated day for the celebration of the Soviet Union’s victory over the fascist forces of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany. This day recognised either officially or unofficially in many places in the world with Red Square in Moscow being the epicentre for the commemoration of Soviet war-dead which ranges in number from a conservative 27 million to a more likely 40 million.
This is a combined figure of all Soviet men, women and children who died either directly fighting in the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945), or died as a consequence of Nazi German military actions, pogroms, murders, executions and atrocities. The Soviet Union – a Communist State under the guidance of Comrade Joseph Stalin – led the world in its ideological and military opposition to Nazi fascism. Many British military personnel either assisted the Soviet war-effort through the North Atlantic Convoys, or were seconded by the British government to directly assist the Soviets in a number of different military capacities. It is a remarkable testament to the British way of life that the Soviet sacrifice is remembered in this distinctly ‘Internationalist’ manner. Despite the deliberate lies propagated during the US-led Cold War, every one of the many speakers delivered speeches of heartfelt dignity, respect and thanks to the Soviet people. There was a strong leftwing presence this year with wreaths of remembrance being laid by the:
Communist Party of Britain (CPB)
Communist Party of Great Britain-Marxist-Leninist (CPGB-ML)
Marx Memorial Library (MML)
International Brigade Memorial Trust (IBMT)
The Stalin Society
It was stated that all the veterans who are still able to attend are now in their 90’s, and it is discernible that their number decreases every year. There was around 20 British and Commonwealth representatives of various military arms, and this year saw around 20 veterans from the Red Army who marched to the Memorial with a special Red Flag. The audience expressed their gratitude with rounds of applause, with Russians in attendance giving the ‘hurrah’ at suitable moments. An important historical part of these events is provided by those dedicated men and women (some of them from Russia and other areas) who respectfully wear the various uniforms of the Red Army and in so doing, provide a ‘living history’. This includes a bearer of the Communist Red Flag who marches into the park with the veterans – representing the Soviet Red Army. Many Russian people in attendance silently hold-up portraits of their family members who gave their lives during the Great Patriotic War. It is interesting to observe that these young descendants of Soviet war casualties often also unfurl the Red Flag with its gold hammer and sickle and make pro-Communist statements.