Sergei Loznitsa’s most recent film contrasts the sombre with the celebratory at the yearly pro-Russia gathering on Victory Day at the Soviet Memorial in Berlin.
Victory Day (Den’ Pobedy) is a precise observation of the pro-Russian gathering at the Soviet War Memorial in Berlin on the 9th of May. Like in his previous documentary Austerlitz (2016), the acclaimed Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa questions the use of historic places. In Austerlitz, Nazi concentration camps are consumed by tourists, whereas Victory Day demonstrates how the celebration in Treptower Park becomes a tool in the hands of the Russian government to promote its official narrative about World War II in order to raise patriotism.
Soviet Nostalgia and National Pride
In the 90s the Victory Day on the 9th of May was celebrated more silently. But after Vladimir Putin became the president of Russia, the government started promoting this holiday to cultivate national pride. Nowadays huge crowds gather to celebrate all over the former Soviet countries and other places with a large Russian-speaking diaspora. Berlin, where the last great battle of World War II took place, represents the end of the war. People from many places across the ex-Soviet Union have come here to celebrate victory 72 years after the bloody fighting.
Ex-KGB agent Vladimir Putin once said, “The collapse of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century.” This Soviet nostalgia is clearly visible in Treptower Park as well–people arrive bearing the red Soviet flags. Some visitors still live in the past: a woman in the film says, “We belong together, we are all Soviets.” A song is played, “Ukraine and Crimea, Belarus and Moldova, this is my country. Kazakhstan and Caucasus and Baltics as well. I was born in Soviet Union.” These words sound like a terrifying nightmare to most western Ukrainians and people in the three Baltic States. Probably the other countries mentioned also wouldn’t be happy to lose their sovereignty again. Present among the visitors at the Treptower Memorial are obviously many radicals who support separatists in Eastern Ukraine, openly admire Joseph Stalin and in their speeches refer to present-day Germany as fascistic.
«These young men certainly didn’t agree to die and become a propaganda tool for a political regime of which they could never have been aware.»