Victory Day on 9 May, which commemorates ‘the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War’ was widely marked across the whole Caucasus region with public gatherings, wreath-laying, and speeches. In most places, the commemorations included the Immortal Regiment, which is a public march with people holding pictures of war veterans.
The term Great Patriotic War refers to the period of 1941–1945 when the Soviet Union fought against Nazi Germany. The term is prevalent throughout the Caucasus, except for in Georgia, where the term World War II (1939–1945) is used instead, covering also the period of the German–Soviet non-aggression pact of 1939 and subsequent Soviet occupation of Poland, Finland, the Baltic States, and Romania.
According to Russian sources, at least 249,100 Soviet soldiers from the Caucasus lost their lives during the conflict.
Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh
In Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, Victory Day coincides with the Liberation of Sushi Day, which this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Armenian victory over the Azerbaijani army in the town of Shushi (Shusha) in Nagorno-Karabakh in 1992.
Commemorative events in Stepanakert (Khankandi) and Shushi were attended by Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan. The anniversaries were also marked in several Armenian cities.
‘After 9 May 1992, this date gained a double meaning for our nation. The liberation of Shushi saved not only Stepanakert, but the whole people of Artsakh [Nagorno-Karabakh] from physical destruction. One thing is clear: we’re not planning to sacrifice our lives and freedom, our rights and dignity’, Sargsyan’s statement on the occasion reads.
Victory Day was traditionally marked in several cities and towns in Georgia. There was a minor clash in Gori, the birthplace of Joseph Stalin, between the Communist Party and members of the Stalinist Movement on one side, and a group of young people who were protesting against the use of communist symbols in the town, which was bombed by Russia in August 2008. Members of the Stalinist Movement marched in the street demanding the restoration of a monument to Stalin in the centre of Gori.
In most Georgian cities, local government representatives, war veterans and their relatives, as well as other people gathered at World War II memorials to pay tribute to victims of the war.
Two members of the Night Wolves, a pro-Kremlin Russian biker gang who were refused entry to Georgia on 2 May, showed up at the war memorial in Vake Park in Tbilisi. They said that they came to pay tribute to the victims of the war as ordinary citizens, not politicians.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs had said that Georgia refused more than 100 bikers of the Night Wolves entry into the country, but the two managed to cross the border as they weren’t wearing any symbols associated with the gang.
In Chechnya, each war veteran was paid ₽100,000 ($1,700) by the authorities to mark the anniversary. The main events took place in the centre of Grozny, where a military parade was held.
‘This holiday is marked not only by our country, but also by the whole grateful world that the Soviet army saved it from fascism. The events of the Second World War will never be blotted out of our memory, because it was our country that assumed the brunt of the struggle with a strong and ruthless enemy — fascist Germany’, Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of Chechnya said during the ceremonies.
During his speech, Kadyrov also said that today the West seeks to talk with Russia ‘in terms of sanctions and an economic blockade’.
‘Nothing can come of this. Contrary to the forecasts of our enemies, Russia is growing stronger every year, its economic and defence power is growing as well, while the unity of the nations [of Russia] is strengthening’, — Kadyrov said.
For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.