By Adrian Chan-Wyles and New Worker correspondent
YOUNG Russians last Friday were queuing to have their photos taken waving the hammer-and-sickle flag in a south London park and claiming that the Soviet Union was not dead after an emotional Victory Day ceremony.
The inscription at the Soviet War Memorial in the grounds of the Imperial War Museum, London reads:
“This memorial commemorates the 27 million Soviet citizens
and service men and women who died for the Allied Victory in WWII.
WE SHALL REMEMBER THEM”
And last Friday around 300 assorted veterans, representatives of the embassies of the former Soviet republics, civic dignitaries, communists, members of London’s Russian community and many others assembled at the memorial to do just that – remember and honour the Soviet heroes who delivered the world from the horrors of Nazism at very great cost.
The 9th May 2014, marks the 69th year since the forces of fascism represented by Nazi Germany and her allies, unconditionally surrendered to the Soviet Red Army in Berlin, bringing the war in Europe to an end.
A delegation from the Buddhist-Marxism Alliance (UK) attended the ceremony this year along with members of the New Communist Party who have attended the event every year since the memorial was unveiled exactly 15 years ago.
There were speeches from local Mayor Cllr Abdul Mohamed, Philip Matthews, Chair, Soviet Memorial Trust Fund and Alexander Kramarenko, Chargé d’Affaires of the Russian embassy, who wore a hammer-and-sickle badge in his khaki cap. He made a very poignant, measures speech stating that as long as Russia exists, the Soviet sacrifice will never be forgotten. He spoke at length about the importance of the defeat of fascism in 1945, and how it is important to remain forever watchful in the present time and to combat the narrow nationalism that leads to fascism.
Recent events in Ukraine, especially the massacre in Odessa, were in the thoughts of everyone present and the speakers referred to the dangers of Nazi ideology arising again.
Local Liberal-Democrat MP Simon Hughes, who is the Minister of State for Justice and Civil Liberties, struck the only discordant note of the ceremony. He began by saying he had visited Kiev many times recently, on behalf of the British government. He went on to speak of the European Union as a creation intended to bring peace to Europe and hoped that one day Russia would be brought into the fold – expressing the imperialist ambitions and intentions of the EU and the United States.
He then, without a shade of shame at his hypocrisy, called for outsiders to refrain from interference in the affairs of Ukraine.
Then followed the traditional wreath laying began. Three Soviet war veterans received loud applause, as did the veterans of the Arctic Convoys, who were present as usual in force.
Other veteran groups, who were also applauded, included the RAF Russian Association, International Brigade Memorial Trust, Burma Star Association, London Merchant Navy Association, Normandy Veterans Association, London & Greater London Merchant Navy Association, Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen & Women, Royal Air Forces Association, and National Service (RAF) Association.
The Moscow Second Guards Rifle Division re-enactment group were there as usual in their authentic uniforms.
Members of communist organisations were also applauded as they laid their flowers, including New Communist Party general secretary Andy Brooks.
After the wreath laying Aksinia Elovik, a teenage pupil of the Russian Embassy, sang a solemn and beautiful requiem unaccompanied, the Last post was played and Stanley Ballard of the Arctic Convoy Club gave the exhortation followed by two minutes silence and then reveille.
Alexander Kramarenko then invited everyone to drink a toast to the victory, with Vodka, wine and food laid on by the Russian embassy and the embassies of other former Soviet republics.
Ukraine was missing this year; their embassy laid its wreath the day before to avoid controversy – but showing that even the current fascist junta in Kiev cannot totally suppress the popular demand to mark Victory Day.
Then the informal part began, with London’s Russians singing and socialising. Someone set up an amplifier near the memorial and began to blast the old Soviet national anthem and brandished a hammer-and-sickle flag.
The effect was electric, people drifted from the food and drink marquees to line up to have their pictures taken waving aloft the old red flag and striking poses from old Soviet posters. Another Red Navy hammer and sickle flag appeared and the Second Guards Rifle Division unfurled their hammer-and-sickle banner again.
The music went on to play old Red Army favourites. Perhaps the vodka had something to do with it but things became very emotional and there were tears in many eyes and an outbreak of dancing when [Kalinka] was played. It was heart-warming to see the number of young Russians, alongside the veterans, taking up the flag.
It seems perhaps, like Joe Hill, the Soviet Union never really died.