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Key facts about Victory Day Parades in Moscow’s Red Square

The TASS Factbox editorial board has put together material on the history of Victory Day Parades in Red Square
Victory Parade in Moscow’s Red Square, June 24, 1945 Mark Redkin/TASS
Victory Parade in Moscow’s Red Square, June 24, 1945
© Mark Redkin/TASS

MOSCOW, May 8. /TASS/. On May 9, 2019, Russia will hold a military parade in Moscow’s Red Square to celebrate the 74th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s Victory over Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. 

First parade

The first Victory Parade in Moscow’s Red Square took place on June 24, 1945. The parade was commanded by Marshal of the Soviet Union Konstantin Rokossovsky and reviewed by Deputy Supreme Commander-in-Chief Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgy Zhukov. Twelve combined regiments were formed to take part in the parade (ten from all the fronts operational at the end of the war, one from the Navy and one from the People’s Commissariat of Defense). Each regiment comprised over a thousand of the most distinguished combatants, including Heroes of the Soviet Union and cavaliers of the Order of Glory. The commanders of fronts and armies marched in front of the regiments.

The consolidated regiment of drummers, units of the Moscow garrison, the orchestra of 1,400 musicians also took part in the Victory Parade. A total of about 40,000 personnel and around 1,850 pieces of military hardware were involved in the parade. The parade’s airborne part was cancelled over bad weather. A total of 200 flags and banners of the defeated German troops were thrown to the foot of the Lenin Mausoleum.

1965 parade

In 1946 and 1947, May 9 was a holiday in the USSR but no parades were held on that day. In 1948-1965, Victory Day was not officially celebrated. In 1965, which marked the Victory’s 20th anniversary, this date again became a national holiday and a day-off. The second parade devoted to the Victory in the Great Patriotic War took place on May 9, 1965. During the parade, the Victory Banner was carried across Moscow’s Red Square for the first time. The Victory Banner was carried by Hero of the Soviet Union Colonel Konstantin Samsonov who was assisted by Heroes of the Soviet Union Sergeant Mikhail Yegorov and Senior Sergeant Meliton Kantaria who had hoisted a flag over the Reichstag on May 1, 1945. The parade also involved units of the Moscow garrison and cadets of higher military institutions. Almost a third of the parade’s participants were veterans of the Great Patriotic War.

Parades in 1985 and 1990s

The next Victory Parade took place on May 9, 1985. Apart from military units and modern military hardware, columns of war veterans took part in the parade along with combat vehicles of World War II (T-34-85 tanks, self-propelled SU-100 artillery guns, BM-13 ‘Katyusha’ guards multiple rocket launchers). The military personnel involved in the parade’s historical part were dressed in the uniforms of the period of the Great Patriotic War.

The parade that took place five years later, on May 9, 1990, also featured military hardware of the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War. In the parade’s historical show, a prime mover with the exact copy of the Monument to the Soviet Liberator Soldier in Berlin’s Treptow Park rolled through Red Square.

Victory Day Parades in Red Square

The historic 1945 Victory Parade was reproduced in Red Square on May 9, 1995. The war veterans’ consolidated regiments represented all the ten wartime fronts with their combat banners. Servicemen of the Russian Army dressed in the uniforms of the period of the Great Patriotic War also marched across Red Square.

No air parades over Red Square were held on any of Soviet and Russia’s state holidays from 1958. In 1995, the Russian authorities made a decision to supplement the military parade with its air component: a formation of 79 combat planes and helicopters (including the Tu-95 and Tu-160 strategic bombers) flew over Moscow’s Poklonnaya Hill (home to the Victory Park) to mark 50 years of the Victory.

Also in 1995, the Russian government passed a federal law on memorizing the Victory of the Soviet people in the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War. Under the document, military parades involving armament and military hardware and using the copies of the Victory Banner began to be held annually on May 9 in Moscow, hero cities and also cities accommodating the headquarters of military districts, fleets, all-arms armies and the Caspian Flotilla.

In 2000, war veterans took part in the parade’s foot columns for the last time. In 2005, they rode across Red Square in 130 vehicles stylized as GAZ-AA wartime trucks to celebrate the Victory’s 60th anniversary. The Russian government also made a decision that year to install special tribunes for war veterans in Red Square. Former Wehrmacht servicemen who had come to Moscow as members of the German delegation led by Germany’s Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder were present as guests at the military parade in Red Square on May 9, 2005.

In 2010, foreign servicemen from 13 countries, including from Great Britain, the United States, France, Poland and the Commonwealth of Independent States (75 personnel from each country) took part in the festive procession in Red Square for the first time since 1945. The 2011 Victory Parade involved a record number of servicemen of almost 20,000 personnel in Russia’s modern history.

Return of heavy armor, flyovers of aircraft

Heavy armor started to roll through Moscow’s Red Square from 2008 as an important specific feature of Victory Day Parades. Starting from May 9, 2008, combat aircraft flights over Red Square became an integral part of military parades: on that day, 32 planes flew over the Russian capital. Their number increased to 69 a year later and to 127 in 2010.

In 2011 and 2012, the parade’s air program involved only five Mi-8 helicopters, which carried large flags of the military branches of the Russian Armed Forces. In 2013, 2014 and 2016, the number of fixed-and rotary-wing aircraft involved in the air parade corresponded to the Victory’s anniversary. In 2017, Russia cancelled its air parade over bad weather.

In 2012-2014, the Victory Parade demonstrated Russia’s latest ground-based military hardware: Tor-M2U anti-aircraft missile systems, Taifun K-63968 armored vehicles and Khrizantema-S anti-tank missile complexes.

At its jubilee parade in 2015 to mark 70 years of the Victory, Russia unveiled promising military hardware: the T-14 tank and the T-15 heavy infantry fighting vehicle based on the Armata combat platform, the VPK-7829 wheeled armored personnel carrier (based on the Bumerang platform), the infantry fighting vehicle and the tracked armored personnel carrier based on the Kurganets-25 platform, the BTR-MDM ‘Rakushka’ airborne assault armored personnel carrier, the 152mm Koalitsiya-SV self-propelled howitzer, Taifun-U enhanced protection armored vehicles, Epokha remote-controlled universal combat modules and other hardware. The 2015 jubilee parade involved the largest number of military hardware items: 194 wheeled and tracked vehicles and also 140 aircraft and helicopters.

2018 parade

The military parade to celebrate the 73rd anniversary of the Soviet Union’s Victory over Nazi Germany in the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War involved over 13,000 personnel and 150 weapon systems. Russia demonstrated for the first time during the military parade in Red Square its Uran-6 mine-clearing and Uran-9 fire support robotic vehicles, and also Katran rotary-wing unmanned aerial vehicles and Korsar fixed-wing drones (carried on cargo platforms). The Russian National Guard demonstrated its Tigr, Patrul and Ural vehicles. A total of 75 aircraft and helicopters of Russia’s Aerospace Force flew over Moscow’s Red Square, including two latest Kinzhal airborne platforms (MiG-31 planes armed with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles). The 2018 Victory Parade was commanded by Army Commander-in-Chief Colonel-General Oleg Salyukov and reviewed by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.