Victory Day in Kharkov, Ukraine
The recent massive military parade in Moscow’s Red Square – shades of the Cold War! – was not the only locale in the former Soviet Union to host parades and military displays celebrating World War II Victory Day (May 9 in the former USSR). The following photographs were sent from one of our readers in Kharkov, Ukraine, the country’s second largest city (and notable for being the ‘birthplace’ of the T-34 tank). The industrialized city of over 1.5 million population (mostly ethnic Russians), was heavily fought over during the Great Patriotic War, with four battles and hundreds of thousands of casualties on both sides between 1941-43 (see our upcoming September 2008 issue of Armchair General magazine for an article on German Field Marshal Erich von Manstein’s February-March 1943 operation that recaptured the city during the Third Battle of Kharkov).
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Given its grisly World War II history, it is understandable why Kharkov’s residents continue to celebrate their hard-won victory that took such a terrible toll of its citizens.
This Victory Day parade took place May 9, 2008, at Kharkov’s Independence Square (one of Europe’s largest) in the shadow of the obligatory Lenin statue that stands on its edge.
All photographs by Vladimir Kvitko.
Arrayed along Kharkov’s Independence Square (directly behind the Hotel Kharkov, background) are Ukrainian military units representing all branches and services.
Two World War II Red Army reenactors (left) carry PPSH-41 submachine guns. Mr. and Mrs. Kvitko (right), parents of the reader who sent these photos, join the reenactors.
Many World War II veterans attended the parade, including this woman veteran. Among her awards is the Order of the Great Patriotic War and numerous campaign medals.
Red Army reenactors set up displays of original World War II equipment and vehicles. Interestingly, several of these vehicles are U. S. and British “lend lease” trucks. This sets this post-Cold War parade apart from those done during the ‘bad old days’ of the superpower confrontation, as Soviet officials would not have allowed such obvious evidence of the Allied contribution to Soviet victory to be shown.
A white uniformed naval contingent leads this section of the parade. Ukraine’s main naval base is Sevastapol in the Crimea (which it shares with Russia’s Black Sea Fleet). Stands of blue and yellow Ukrainian flags dot the square.