John Ham is chairman of the Miniature Armoured Fighting Vehicle Association, and is often first in line to review our books for Tankette magazine. He was recently in Moscow for the 70th anniversary of Russia’s victory over Nazi Germany, and has kindly provided us with a fantastic blog and some stunning photographs.
70 Let, 70 Years – is a slogan seen all over Moscow and Russia, marking the end of the Great Patriotic War and the victory over Nazi Germany. These celebrations and the recent East-West tensions over the Crimea made 2015 likely to be a year for an exceptional Victory Day Parade, and other commemorative events throughout the city and elsewhere in Russia. Just outside Moscow is the location of the Kubinka Tank Museum. I learned about this museum at the secretive Kubinka tank base and testing ground many years ago, and had wanted to visit it since then. Access then was difficult, especially for foreigners with much red tape and heavy fees. Arranged visits were sometimes unexpectedly cancelled. This year, particularly with the favourable currency exchange rates, and the prospect of seeing a big May Parade, I booked my flight and hotel, hoping that I would also manage to see the military museums. Apart from the obligatory visa application, in preparation, I started to learn some Russian. Although, probably not absolutely essential for tourist in central Moscow, it was useful to be able to read simple signage, getting around the Metro, and reading labelling on museum exhibits – at least to identify unfamiliar AFVs, of which more later.
The Victory Parade in Red Square is prohibited to the general public, and access roads in the area closed off on the morning of the Parade. There are a couple of rehearsals to which the public is allowed, but these took place before my arrival. On Parade day, Muscovites can catch a glimpse of participating vehicles as they enter or leave Red Square. On the wide ring roads on which the vehicles travel before forming up, and on leaving the city, they can travel at 40mph, so it can be very much a glimpse.
The plan was to meet Jim Kinnear and Andrey Aksenov, specialist Soviet military vehicle authors, both parade regulars, to go to a location that would provide better photo opportunities. In the event, we failed to reach it due to unprecedented extra security measures from sealed-off roads, additional safety barricades, and choked metro stations, packed with a very much higher number of Muscovites than usual. Eventually, we managed to find somewhere to see something of the often fast-moving parade vehicles, and have a flavour of the event as experienced by most spectators. Andrey Aksenov, by exceptional skill and good fortune, did manage to reach the planned location, and obtain some decent photos.
Following the Parade, in the afternoon, the march of the Immortal Regiment took place. This tradition honours the sacrifice and memory of servicemen and women who died in the Great Patriotic War. Relatives of the fallen march through the streets bearing photos of perished family members. Flowers are carried which are offered to surviving veterans. As it was a special commemoration, there was an exceptionally large number of some half a million participants, moving very slowly, and often pausing to sing patriotic songs led by uniformed re-enactors.
A number of anniversary events, displays and concerts were held in different locations and museums, and the day rounded off by a large firework display over Red Square in the evening. My thanks to Jim Kinnear and Andrey Aksenov for their generous assistance and photos.
Anyone wanting to view the parade in full can find it by clicking here.