Moscow military parade. Vladimir Putin’s decision to revive this symbol of the cold war is, critics fear, a step closer to turning Russia into a pastiche of the Soviet Union
by Luke Harding in Moscow
It was one of the highlights of the Soviet calendar – a chance for the communist superpower to show off its military might and for ordinary citizens to check that their gerontocratic leaders were still alive, perched on top of Lenin’s tomb.
But 17 years after the last hammer and sickle tanks trundled through Red Square, the Kremlin is to revive on May 9 the Soviet-era practice of parading its big weaponry, the Russian defence ministry confirmed yesterday. As well as 6,000 marching soldiers, it will show off its latest tanks and rockets – such as the new intercontinental ballistic missile, Topol-M.
“Under the plan adopted by the president, land and air military equipment will be involved in the parade on Red Square,” General Yuri Solovyov said. The parade will include the new S-300 missile defence system that Russia has just sold to Iran.
The decision to revive this symbol of the cold war is likely to provoke criticism from opposition parties, which accuse Vladimir Putin of turning Russia into a pastiche of the Soviet Union. The parade might also raise a few quizzical eyebrows inside the British embassy in Moscow. Last week, Russia closed the British Council’s two regional offices in St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg using what UK officials described as “classic KGB tactics”.
The British ambassador to Moscow, Tony Brenton, compared today’s Russia to the Soviet Union after officers from its domestic intelligence agency – the FSB – interrogated British Council workers.
Putin has already shown his fondness for Soviet emblems, such as updating the Soviet national anthem. One observer said yesterday that the Kremlin was using symbols from the past to recreate a “new national idea” of Russian greatness.
Nikolay Petrov, scholar-in-residence at the Carnegie Centre in Moscow, said: “It’s an ideological concept. The point is to show that Russia was great before the revolution, was great during Soviet times and to say we are restoring its greatness.”
The Soviet Union’s military parades – to celebrate victory over the Nazis on May 9 and the Bolshevik revolution on November 7 – were watched by millions live on TV. Combat vehicles were last paraded in Red Square on November 7 1990.