Monday, May 09, 2005

Before you showed me what you really are

Just the fact of parades in Red Square to celebrate the putative heroism of Stalin during WWII have been duly noted as incredibly creepy on their own, but how about this? Soldiers dressed in the uniforms they wore in 1945 belted out patriotic wartime songs, and fighter jets screamed over Red Square as many paid tribute to fallen soldiers and millions of civilian dead. Oy. Where to begin? We in the west have a similar problem with deifying WWII as the best, most just war in memory, to the point where all others are deemed petty and opportunistic, without benefit of being fought against genuine Nazis. Russia's issues seem to go deeper, though, fetishizing even the appearance of their army, not just the fact that it won. Do we have that problem? I don't recall ever seeing currently enlisted troops costumed in historical uniform for odd displays of pageantry - at least, not those not already performing some ceremonial duties. Parading troops in period uniform through Moscow is none-too-subtle wish-fulfillment for the dehumanizing mass displays that characterize authoritarian rule; but then, we knew that, didn't we: Putin upset many when he said last month that the collapse of the Soviet Union was "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century." Vladimir Putin is no friend nor ally to the United States, or the west in general. I'm disappointed President Bush (and Adrienne Clarkson, for that matter) chose to attend, even if his other stops on this tour are to the successor states of the USSR. Being present for this kind of display legitimizes and condones a trend in behaviour of the Russian government that arguably seems to be as threatening as that of the Cold War.

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