I just posted a link in my "And they say Russia isn't funny," section, but I think it warrants discussion on the main stage, and maybe it isn't as funny as it seemed to me in the first place. As reported in today's Moscow Times, larger than life billboards of Josef Stalin will go up in Red Square this spring, as part of the celebrations of the 65th Anniversary of the end of World War II on May 9th. This is to increase awareness and understanding of the role Stalin played in helping Russia win the war.
What on EARTH are they thinking?
I can only think this is a strategic move to prevent Joe Biden from attending the festivities, in which case, fair enough.
Could we have got through the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II without this? Are the human rights activists who are up in arms, right to be so? Or do the dwindling number of veterans of the Great Patriotic War deserve to have the larger than life billboards up, which seems a modest request, compared to…say…a pension they could live on?
I'm not sure, but what I do know is that World War II and the Russians' obsession with it is certainly a rich lode of material for people like me. I recently completed a new chapter in my book, in which I recalled the happy occasion of the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, butI must confess I never in my wildest dreams imagined life sized billboards of Stalin up in Red Square.
It is, however, moments like these that make the humorist in me pause…and question the material. It's moments like these, I expect the camera to pan down a close up shot of some good looking blond kid, singing "Tomorrow Belongs To Me." These are the roadsigns, I think, that come into such sharp focus in the rear view mirror.
I will certainly watch the drama unfold with interest, though it is unlikely HRH and I will be discussing it in any detail. You have to watch yourself when discussing May 9th.
Readers, what do you think? Log on and weigh in!
Here's what I wrote about May 9th in the book:
May 9th commemorates the
glorious moment in 1945 (choreographed by Stalin with the tacit agreement of
Roosevelt and Churchill, who no doubt just wanted the whole thing to end one
way or the other) when the Soviet Army triumphantly marched into a vanquished
Berlin. World War II, or
“The Great Patriotic War,” as any Russian schoolchild will tell you, was a
conflict primarily fought in the Eastern European theater of war: starring the Russians as the Good Guys
and featuring the Nazis as the Bad Guys. While many millions of brave and patriotic Russians
perished, the Soviet Forces ultimately triumphed over the powers of Fascism,
and peaceful productivity was restored to the peaceful-loving Soviet
people. Footnote: there
were, perhaps, other skirmishes taking place on the periphery of this major
conflict such as a minor air battle over the English Channel, and some
unpleasantness in the Pacific, but they do not cover this in national
curriculum of Russia, even in elite officer-training military academies such as
the one HRH attended.
I once rented a DVD of
“Saving Private Ryan,” which I chose because HRH loves war movies. This particular war movie, however,
almost led to divorce. HRH watched
the grisly 17-minute opening with its vivid portrayal of the mud and blood of Normandy in silence, then turned to me and asked casually.
“What are we watching, here?”
“Darling,” I said laughing, “you must
know what this is…this is the D-Day landings.”
HRH considered this for a moment, no
doubt groping back to military history lessons slept through. He shook his head, and gave me a
classic Slavic Shrug. He peered at
Tom Hanks slogging up a hill.
“Vietnam?” he took a stab.
“Vietnam…ha ha ha. Try the Allied landings in
France?” I tried another description.
“Petrovna,” he said patiently, “I’m
telling you – I have no idea what you are talking about. Is this World War I or something?” he
surveyed the screen with confusion.
“Darling,” I adjusted my tone in
deference to those few, to whom, we many, owed so much, “This is the turning
point in the World War II.”
A long pregnant pause.
“My dear,” said HRH evenly, “The turning
point of the war is the Battle of Stalingrad, and don’t you ever forget it.”
Dear Reader: Thanks so much for reading this post — it means a lot to me, as does your feedback. If you would like to leave a comment, just click on the teeny tiny "comment" word below, and an easy-to-use pop up comment window will appear. Thanks again!