Who needs Merkel? German citizens’ initiative traveled to Moscow on May 9 instead
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
In March of this year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declined Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invitation to attend Russia's annual Victory Day parade in Moscow on May 9. Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert tried to justify the controversial decision by saying that "in view of the Russian actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine participating in the military parade was not appropriate."
In order to avoid causing a major scandal, Merkel proposed to visit Moscow one day later to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier together with Putin. The Russian President agreed to the compromise but Merkel’s snub of the Victory Day Parade didn’t go down well in Moscow.
Alexey Pushkov, the influential head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Russian State Duma, expressed what many people in Russia and Germany were thinking: "What’s this - an attempt to rewrite history?” Pushkov argued that the German Chancellor made this “tactical move” to please the United States, which is not far-fetched considering Merkel’s track record.
During her career, Merkel has been doing Washington’s bidding more often than not and the Ukrainian crisis is no exception. Recently, the German Chancellor was even praised by none other than George Soros for not pursuing German interests in the ongoing crisis.
Therefore, Merkel’s snub of the Victory Day parade came as no real surprise but it was still noteworthy given the significance of this year’s parade.
Attending Russia’s biggest-ever Victory Day parade, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the capitulation of Nazi Germany to Soviet forces, does not seem too much to ask considering that the people of the Soviet Union shouldered most of the burden of defeating Hitler in what Russians still call the Great Patriotic War.
Chancellor Merkel and the German establishment lose no opportunity to invoke the horrific crimes of the Nazis when it comes to Israel but honoring the sacrifices of the Soviet Union is apparently not as important as scoring a few points in Washington.
Fortunately, many people in Germany beg to differ. Fed up with Merkel’s behavior, a small group of Germans decided to take matters into their own hands.
On the day on which German media broke the story of Chancellor Merkel declining Putin’s invitation, some Germans came up with the idea of representing their country in Moscow themselves.
Shortly thereafter, the citizens’ initiative “Deutschland sagt Danke” (“Germany says ‘thank you’”) was born. The initiative was spearheaded by peace activist Evelin Piètza, who has been covering the conflict in Ukraine since 2013, and set out to express the German people’s gratitude to the Russian Federation and the Soviet Union for their contribution to Germany’s liberation from Nazism.
After spreading the word on social media, about 30 people from Germany (including this author) eventually made their way to Moscow and met for this first time in front of the Bolshoi Theater on May 8. Thanks to the support of Yuri Kofner, the founder of the Eurasian Youth Movement, the group got permission to hold two events in Moscow.
On May 9, after the Victory Day parade, the German citizens’ initiative laid down flowers at the obelisk “Городу-Герою Москве“ (“Hero City Moscow”) on Dorogomilovskaya Zastava Square, where they were joined by Olga Zinovieva, the widow of prominent Russian logician and writer Alexander Zinoviev.
One day later, while Merkel was meeting with Putin and laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the small group of Germans commemorated the victims of the Second World War and laid a wreath at the Eternal Flame at Victory Park on Poklonnaya Hill.
Judging by the positive reaction from the people in Russia, the citizens’ initiative was a resounding success and the planning for next year is already underway.
Even if Germany’s political leaders refuse to learn from history and prefer to play Cold War, the German people won’t support another war against Russia and they will never forget the sacrifices of the people of the Soviet Union.
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
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