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Russia’s Immortal Regiment Parade Is a Huge and Very Important New Phenomenon

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Editor’s note: The Immortal Regiment parade keeps reaching gobsmacking proportions – 1 million people in Moscow this year alone, and 10 million countrywide. Dreamt up in Tomsk, Siberia in 2012, it has caught on like wildfire in Russia, and for good reason. It is brilliant political, historical, spiritual ritual and theater. It is heartrending and moving and only the coldest of hearts could not be moved by these rivers of humanity paying homage to their ancestors, as basic a human impulse as an any, one of the 10 commandments. Now it is spreading to other countries.

Among other things, the IR is brilliant PR. A colossal, to the point testimony to the horror of war, and the shared humanity of all those who have suffered in war. Russia really knocked it out of the park with this one.

Here is some great footage from yesterday’s 1 million strong Moscow march. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVWRQcXs81c

We searched the internet for information about it, and this 2016 Christian Science Monitor article by Fred Weir about it is really very good. Enjoy.


MOSCOW — Sofia Serbinenko was on the streets of Moscow with about 800,000 other marchers Monday, carrying a beribboned photograph of her great-grandfather, a Soviet fighter-bomber pilot who fought the Nazis in World War II.

“Victory Day has always been very important in our family,” says Sofia, an 8th grader. “I have read so many books about the war, and I think all the time about the people who died so that we could live. For me, with a good life today, it is only right to declare that I will always remember, and to express my gratitude.”

The march of the “immortal regiment,” in which Russians from all ages and walks of life carry pictures of ancestors who fought, was modest at its 2012 inception. But while the war ended 71 years ago, the efforts put into annual commemorations of that titanic victory over the Nazis seem to be actually growing in Russia.

In a remarkable feat of historical memory, today it is a vast torrent that fills the streets of every Russian city and has since spread to over a dozen other countries, including nine US cities this year, according to Russian media. This year it almost eclipsed the more familiar official military parade, in which thousands of troops, armored vehicles, and intercontinental missiles rumbled past the Red Square reviewing stand, while bombers and fighter planes roared overhead.

The originator of the “immortal” movement, Igor Dmitriev from the Siberian city of Tomsk, has complained that his idea for spontaneous, voluntary, and non-commercial acts of memory has been hijacked by the Russian state and turned into a regimented spectacle that validates official views. Some veterans also say it papers over unmet obligations of the Soviet and now Russian governments to those who fought in the war.

Yet it’s hard to deny the sheer weight of public enthusiasm on display, with whole families walking together to honor their ancestors, generating a mood that seems both somber and festive.

“It is something for parents to do with their children, generation after generation,” says Sofia.

‘Not something you can ever forget’

It seems a bit of a mystery why the World War II anniversary, which has faded with time almost everywhere else, appears to be a growing concern in Russia.

One answer Russians give is the immensity of Soviet sacrifice in the war, which still remains largely unknown in the West. About 28 million Soviets died and much of the country was devastated, leaving almost no family untouched.

The numbers are mind-boggling. About 3 million Soviet prisoners-of-war were worked to death in Nazi camps, 1.5 million died of starvation in the siege of Leningrad, and the fates of many millions more remain unknown to their relatives.

“My two grandfathers died in the war. One was missing and has no grave, even if we know approximately where he was killed,” says Grigory Kunis, coordinator of the “immortal” march in St. Petersburg, formerly Leningrad. “This is not something you can ever forget. For my family, it’s an incredibly important day.”

But as Russia drifts into a new era of geopolitical isolation and economic uncertainty, the unifying force of the anniversary is hard to ignore.

“Victory Day is practically the only 20th century event that all Russians, from every part of the political spectrum, can agree upon,” says Nikolai Petrov, a professor at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics. “Now the Kremlin is emphasizing the glorious Soviet past. But when you examine that past, almost every episode evokes controversy. All that we actually have is the victory over Naziism, and maybe Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. So, a big part of Victory Day is about official myth-building.”

Historical re-evaluation?

Serious historical controversy is brewing over the looming centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution, which arrives next year.

For many Russians the revolution remains a sacred event, and they regard the czarist regime it overthrew as odious. But President Vladimir Putin signaled that tough debate and historical re-evaluation may be in the wind when he told a group of supporters recently that Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin planted “an atomic bomb under the house called Russia,” which later exploded and destroyed the state.

“The anti-Nazi victory is a great source of pride for our people, and legitimacy for our state, at a time when there is quite a lot of uncertainty,” says Mr. Petrov. “So, the idea is to take every opportunity to celebrate it.”

Paradoxically, polls show that overall public interest in the anniversary is gradually declining, as one might expect as the event recedes in time. Alexei Grazhdankin, deputy director of the independent Levada Center in Moscow says that 82 percent of Russians said they were actively celebrating the day in 1995, but that fell to 75 percent in 2010, to 65 percent last year, and 63 percent today.

“The ‘immortal regiment’ has touched a public nerve, and inspired many to take part in it,” Mr. Grazhdankin says. “But, overall, the interest in Victory Day celebrations is inexorably decreasing.”

Promises unfulfilled

For Russia’s 3.4 million surviving war veterans, it’s a day to parade in the old medal-bedecked uniforms, and accept flowers, praise, and gratitude from strangers in the street.

But there is a nagging undercurrent of criticism from some veterans, and their supporters, who complain that despite the lavish public ceremonies on Victory Day, thousands of those who fought in the war have yet to receivethe housing that was promised to them 7 decades ago. Just last month Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ordered local governors to urgently provide apartments to 8,350 World War II vets who are still waiting in the queue.

Another controversy concerns the millions who went missing, most of whom died anonymously, whose relatives have received minimal state assistance and have little hope of closure.

“The USSR lost 15 million military people in the war, but the general staff only recognizes the figure of 11 million to this day,” says Mikhail Cherepanov, director of the Museum of the Great Patriotic War in Kazan, in the Volga republic of Tatarstan. Part of the reason for that, he alleges, is that the state does not have to pay full pensions for those who are missing-in-action to surviving families, but gives much lower allowances.

The task of locating and identifying remains of lost soldiers on Russia’s far-flung World War II battlefields also falls to private groups, with little state assistance, Mr. Cherepanov says.

“I still go every summer with young people, who dig in the forests and steppe, to locate unburied soldiers and try to restore their identities,” he says. “There are still so many of them. What prevents our government from making these efforts? Apparently it has too many other things to do, and different expenses to pay for.”

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Shocking news, Irish people may be sanest in Europe

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Ireland is running low on loopers. If we don’t watch out, we could emerge from the pandemic with our reputation for wildness completely shredded. We are in danger of being exposed as the sanest people in Europe.

Vaccines go into the arm, but also into the brain. They are a kind of probe sent into the national consciousness. In Ireland’s case, the probe has discovered exciting evidence of intelligent life.

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Vienna school under fire for sex ed class using doll for children as young as six

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According to Austria’s Kronen Zeitung newspaper, a teacher used a doll to explain “how sex works” to the children, while also encouraging them to use their hands and fingers on the doll. 

She said she wanted to “enlighten” the children about aspects of sex education. The children in the class were between the ages of six and ten. 

The teacher also explained to the children that “condoms should be used if you don’t want to have babies”, the newspaper reports. 

One boy was told to remove the clothes of the doll but refused before being told that he had to do so. 

The boys parents removed him from the school, saying that he was “overwhelmed” after the class and had started touching his sister inappropriately. 

“We have never seen our son like this before, he was completely overwhelmed” the parents said anonymously, “we are taking him out of the school.”

“We can already see the consequences. 

“A few days after these disturbing lessons, a classmate came to us to play. Like many times before, the boy also played with our ten-year-old daughter. This time he suddenly wanted to pull her pants down.

Peter Stippl, President of the Association for Psychotherapy, said that while sex education was crucially important, it needed to be age appropriate in order to be effective. 

“(This type of sexual education) scares the children! They get a wrong approach to the topic and their natural limit of shame is violated,” he said. 

“Sex education must always be age-appropriate and development-appropriate. Many children are six, seven or eight years old – or even older – not interested in sexual intercourse.

“We should never explain sexuality in schools in isolation from love and relationships. It makes you feel insecure and afraid. It harms the development of children.”

The Austrian Ministry of Education will now set up a commission to determine who will be allowed to teach sex ed in schools. 

The city of Vienna is also investigating the specific incident. 



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Madrid’s Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado granted World Heritage status | Culture

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Madrid’s famous Retiro Park and Paseo del Prado boulevard have been added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The decision, made on Sunday, brings the total number of World Heritage Sites in Spain to 49 – the third-highest in the world after Italy and China.

Up until Sunday, none of these sites were located in the Spanish capital. The Madrid region, however, was home to three: El Escorial Monastery in Alcalá de Henares, the historical center of Aranjuez and the Montejo beech forest in Montejo de la Sierra.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez celebrated the news on Twitter, saying it was a “deserved recognition of a space in the capital that enriches our historical, artistic and cultural legacy.”

Retiro Park is a green refuge of 118 hectares in the center of the city of Madrid. Paseo del Prado boulevard is another icon of the capital, featuring six museums, major fountains such as the Fuente de Cibeles as well as the famous Plaza de Cibeles square.

For the sites to be granted World Heritage status, Spain needed the support of two-thirds of the UNESCO committee – 15 votes from 21 countries. The proposal was backed by Brazil, Ethiopia, Russia, Uganda, Nigeria, Mali, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Oman and Saudi Arabia, among others.

Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.
Statue of Apollo in Paseo del Prado.Víctor Sainz

Prior to the vote, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the organization that advises UNESCO, had argued against considering the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park as one site, and recommended that the latter be left out on the grounds that there were no “historic justifications” for the two to be paired.

This idea was strongly opposed by Spain’s ambassador to UNESCO, Andrés Perelló, who said: “What they are asking us to do is rip out a lung from Madrid. El Prado and El Retiro are a happy union, whose marriage is certified with a cartography more than three centuries old.” The origins of Paseo del Prado date back to 1565, while Retiro Park was first opened to the public during the Enlightenment.

Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado.
Pedestrians on Paseo del Prado. Víctor Sainz

The ICOMOS report also denounced the air pollution surrounding the site. To address these concerns, Madrid City Hall indicated it plans to reduce car traffic under its Madrid 360 initiative, which among other things is set to turn 10 kilometers of 48 streets into pedestrian areas, but is considered less ambitious than its predecessor Madrid Central.

The 44th session of the World Heritage Committee took place in the Chinese city of Fuzhou and was broadcast live at Madrid’s El Prado Museum. Perelló summed up the reasons to include Retiro Park and El Paseo de Prado in less than three minutes.

“When people say ‘from Madrid to heaven’ [the slogan of the Spanish capital] I ask myself why would you want to go to heaven when heaven is already in Madrid,” he told delegates at the event, which was scheduled to take place in 2020, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Every year, UNESCO evaluates 25 proposals for additions to the World Heritage List. In the case of the Paseo del Prado and Retiro Park, the site was judged on whether it evidenced an exchange of considerable architectural influences, was a representative example of a form of construction or complex and if it was associated with traditions that are still alive today. The famous park and boulevard sought to be inscribed on the UNESCO list in 1992, but its candidacy did not reach the final stage of the process.

Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).
Etching of Paseo del Prado from Cibeles fountain, by Isidro González Velázquez (1788).Biblioteca Nacional de España

The effort to win recognition for the sites’ outstanding universal value began again in 2014 under former Madrid mayor Ana Botella, of the conservative Popular Party (PP), and was strengthed by her successor Manuela Carmena, of the leftist Ahora Madrid party, which was later renamed Más Madrid. An advisor from UNESCO visited the site in October 2019.

English version by Melissa Kitson.



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