While Germany and many other countries celebrate May 8 as "Liberation Day", Russia and other successor states of the Soviet Union celebrate May 9 as "Victory Day" a day later. It is considered one of the most important days in the country and is intended to commemorate the end of World War II in Europe and the victory of the Red Army over Nazi Germany.

For this reason, commemorative events and parades take place in many cities in the country. A central part of the commemoration is also a military parade that is held annually in the center of Moscow. Under President Vladimir Putin, the militarization of the parade has increased sharply.

What is celebrated on May 8

The fact that May 9 is celebrated as an anniversary in Russia is connected with the historical circumstances of the time. On May 7, German Colonel-General Alfred Jodl first signed the deputy surrender of all Wehrmacht forces in Reims, France. It entered into force the following day.

The Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, however, insisted on a repetition of the surrender and summoned the German commanders-in-chief to Berlin on May 8 in order to be able to present himself as the real winner of the war.

Ukraine: How the Russian attack is changing the culture of remembrance

The Russian signature on the surrender declaration was delayed until late in the evening. According to Moscow time, the armistice did not come into force until 9:1945 a.m. on May 0, 01 – and gave the Soviet Union its own day of remembrance.

Against the backdrop of Russia's war of aggression, a debate has also developed in Ukraine about the memory of the end of the Second World War. So far, Kiev has celebrated the victory over Nazism at the same time as Russia on May 9. However, in 2016 – two years after Russia's annexation of Crimea – May 8 was introduced in Ukraine as a day of remembrance and reconciliation.

Europe Day: 9 May and the Schuman Declaration

President Volodymyr Zelensky has now announced that from next year onwards he will only celebrate May 8 as a public holiday – together with most other states in Europe. 9 May, on the other hand, is considered Europe Day and marks the anniversary of the Schuman Declaration of 1950, in which Robert Schuman outlined a plan for the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, which became the European Union today.