A new campaign is calling on Georgia to fight back against the Kremlin’s manipulation of World War II history and commemorate the end of the war on 8th May, alongside other European countries.
The initiative, launched by Georgian NGO the Media Development Foundation (MDF), aims to raise awareness of the Kremlin’s politicisation of World War II commemorations and symbolism, including the "Immortal Regiment" and St George’s ribbon. MDF has released a short documentary
focusing on the Kremlin-funded "Immortal Regiment" campaign, and is calling on Georgians to share the documentary and celebrate Victory Day on 8th May with the #VEdaywithEurope hashtag.
Tamar Kintsurashvili, Executive Director of MDF, commented: "Millions of people from across Soviet Republics, Europe and US gave their lives for freedom in World War II. We should honour and respect their sacrifice, and not allow them to be used as a tool of the Kremlin’s current aggressive foreign policy. We are calling on Georgians to stand up and stop the Kremlin’s cynical manipulation of their memory by commemorating Victory Day with Europe on 8th May.”
Western Europe commemorates Victory in Europe Day (VE Day) on 8th May, while in Russia the event is marked on 9th May with the "Immortal Regiment” parades, which triggered public protests and debate
when they emerged in Georgia in 2017. By appealing to common historical memory and manipulating its symbolism, the Kremlin is seeking to use World War II commemorations to further its own political agenda and influence foreign citizens.
The idea for the Immortal Regiment celebrations, in which people march with pictures of their grandfathers who fought in the war, was originally conceived by three Russian friends. The first march took place in 2012 and it quickly took off across Russia. But by 2014 the Kremlin had taken control of the parades, sidelining the initial organisers and smearing them as foreign agents. It is no coincidence that St. George's ribbon was chosen as a symbol of the "Immortal Regiment", which has been widely used since 2005 in Russian state-funded victory parades. The ribbon later became a symbol of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ‘Novorossiya’ concept, appropriating the memory of millions of soldiers for Russia’s contemporary expansionism and interference.
This year the coronavirus pandemic is preventing the Kremlin from demonstrating its alternative history in the streets so the "Immortal Regiment" has moved online