May 8, 2005 by AK

The Great Pyrrhic Victory and Putin

What is Putin going to celebrate tomorrow — an even so grand that he has invited leaders of the world to join the festivities?

The victory of Good over Evil? But although the USSR fought on the side of Good, it didn’t quite stick to the part. Besides, not everybody agrees this ethical opposition is applicable to WW2.

The victory of the Allies over the Axis? More specifically, the Allied victory over Nazi Germany? Sure enough, the Soviet contribution to both was crucial, and to invite the leaders of former Allied countries to Moscow would be perfectly appropriate. But why bother about inviting the Baltic states, victims of Soviet victory whose contribution to the war was near-zero?

The victory in a war of survival, for Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusans, Kazakhs etc.? Yes, it would seem the right thing to celebrate but then again, only those who helped them out should be invited.

Putin, it appears, is going after all these interpretations. The problem with Putin (as well as the interpretations I impute to him) is that he refuses to fully acknowledge the price of victory — the price of survival. A Pyrrhic victory if there was one. I think it was Brecht who claimed it is the best people who die in wars. My grandfather used to say the real heroes all stayed in the battlefields. The human cost to the victors was enormous. Yes, the people who survived the war remember May 9, 1949, as an indescribably happy day — but still…

Tomorrow, Russian TV channels should show nothing at all or “tragic” war movies — those where all the characters you’ve come to love must die. Radio stations should broadcast requiems. Churches, mosques and synagogues should hold memorial services. Signs of mourning should be everywhere, in deliberate contrast to the youthful greenery.


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