The following videos are a comparison between the 1975 anniversary of the October Revolution in Moscow’s Red Square and the 2012 anniversary of Victory Day, the Russian commemoration of victory in the Second World War.
Both of these videos are almost an hour long, so it is not expected that anyone would watch them in their entirety. The first 10-15 minutes of each, however, are certainly worth a watch.
What is most striking about both of these videos are the precise similarities in their choreography and performance. Note that, although two decades removed from Soviet Communism, the symbols and ceremony of that society are still represented and in place. They have simply been appropriated and de-centered for use in a broader Russian nationalism. In the 1975 video, where Brezhnev and other Soviet leaders stand atop Lenin’s Mausoleum and survey the ceremony, Putin and Medvedev do the same in 2012. This is the same position that Stalin would have stood in the 1940s, and is still inherently connected to the Soviet past. Russia has not overturned their very recent past, they have simply re-fashioned it.
These videos bring it light how we in Canada are commemorating our own past. While in Russia it is clear that they are drawing a continuity between the Soviet past and modern-day Russia, Canada is currently inventing a commemoration of 1812 that has never existed before. Like these videos, we should consider what our own recent commemorations are attempting to tell us.