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Hope Springs Eternal | May 9th 1945 – Victory Day, former USSR

Field-Marshal Keitel signing the ratified surrender terms for the German military

Field-Marshal Keitel signing the ratified surrender terms for the German military

In the Russian Federation and some former USSR countries, Victory Day marks the capitulation of Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union in the Second World War (also known as the Great Patriotic War in the Soviet Union and some post-Soviet states).

This surrender document was signed late in the evening on May 8, 1945 (May 9 by Moscow Time), following the original capitulation Germany agreed earlier to the joint Allied forces on the Western Front. The Soviet government announced the victory early on May 9 after the signing ceremony in Berlin. However, only since 1965 the Victory Day has been a holiday.

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History

Two separate capitulation events took place at the time. First, the capitulation to the Allied nations in Reims was signed on May 7, 1945, effective 23:01 CET May 8. This date is commonly referred to as the V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day) in most western European countries. The other World War II victory day, the V-J day (Victory in Japan Day) is commemorated in August, and is of considerably lesser significance in Europe.

However, the Soviet Union’s only representative in Reims was General Ivan Susloparov, the Military Liaison Mission Commander. General Susloparov’s scope of authority was not entirely clear, and he had no means of immediate contact with the Kremlin, but nevertheless decided to sign for the Soviet side. Susloparov was caught off guard; he had no instructions from Moscow. But if he did not sign, he risked a German surrender without Soviet participation. However, he noted that it could be replaced with a new version in the future. 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 May 8, when it was already May 9 in Moscow due to the difference in time zones.

Field-Marshal Wilhelm Keitel submitted the capitulation of the Wehrmacht to the Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov in the Red Army headquarters in Berlin-Karlshorst. To commemorate the victory in the war, the ceremonial Moscow Victory Parade was held in the Soviet capital on June 24, 1945.

Celebration

During the Soviet Union’s existence, the May 9 Victory Day was celebrated throughout the USSR and in the countries of the Eastern Bloc. It became an official Soviet holiday in 1965.

After the fall of the communism in Central and Eastern Europe, most former USSR countries, retained the celebration as a national holiday. Traditionally, ceremonial military parades are held on the day, such as the one in Moscow on the Red Square.

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