Today is Victory Day

It is only in the last few years that, thanks to one of our resident Russophiles, LP, I have come to appreciate a good May 9th party. May 9th, as you may know, is the day that Russia and the other former Soviet republics celebrate as Victory Day, when the Allies finally overcame the Nazis in 1945. Here in the west, VE Day is May 8th, but it was after midnight in Moscow when the documents were signed, so May 9th is the big day.

In the US, VE Day is not that big a deal. It may or may not actually be acknowledged on the calendar you have closest to hand. In the former Soviet Union, however, it’s a huge holiday. The reason behind the difference may most plainly be stated mathematically: the US lost approximately 420,000 people in the war; estimates for Soviet dead run between 23 and 27 million, military and civilian. That’s almost 14% of the country’s pre-war population, about one-third of all the people who died in the war.

So you see why the Russians celebrate May 9th. You’d celebrate, too, with parades and air shows and vodka.



Did I mention vodka? As LP has so generously taught me, a shot (followed by a pickle) is the beverage of choice. For a little food, maybe some herring and scallions on black bread (newspaper tablecloth optional).

Vodka, pickle, etc.

Another particular favorite at LP’s annual May 9th party is what the Russians call “Korean salad”, which is like a slaw of shredded carrots and enough garlic to turn your breath into a dangerous weapon.

Speaking of food, I read an interesting review of a recent book, The Taste of War, that argues that World War II was not a war fought over ideas (as Americans readily think), but over territory caused by food crises in Germany and Japan.

Whether ideological and/or material, it was a horrible, horrible war, and very, very horrible for the Soviets. As Billy Bragg reminded us in the late stages of the Cold War, “They died fighting on our side, you know.” So do our brothers and sisters in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, etc., a kindness today and have a shot of vodka in their honor. LP will thank you for it, too.

7 responses to “Today is Victory Day”

  1. LP says:

    Timofei, this brings a tear to my eye. I’m so glad you have come to love the May 9 celebrations! Looking forward to lifting a glass with you this evening – and to all the Whatsiterati, have a little nip of vodka in honor of our allies today!

  2. FPS says:

    When I was in Russia the trick they showed me to drink vodka I really should not have been drinking (in unmarked green bottles portending blindness and other problems) was to drink the shot of vodka and then sniff the bread. It kept you from drowning in the fumes of bad vodka, basically. But was also a nice little ritual. I would do it right now but I have neither vodka nor black bread. I could do it with like Ritz crackers and creme de violette or something. Eh.

  3. Dave says:

    My roommate and I just drank a toast to the victory of Soviet power over fascism.

  4. Natasha says:

    You guys should come visit me at The Master and Margarita, Russian Fusion Bistro, Deli, and Bar in Huntington Beach. I just opened it :) We have all sorts of Vodka, (Russian Standard is our well), freshly baked breads, crepes, coffee and rum. We serve cherry pickled tomatoes for chasers – it’s fun – everyone loves it. We have been opened for just a few days, yet we are getting some good Yelps. I am very excited! Happy May 9th!

  5. Natasha says:

    It’s all about the arts. We’ll have jazz bands in about three weeks. Also, art showcases, so if any of you paint, please, bring it — we can display and sell it.

  6. J-Man says:

    Congrats Natasha!

  7. Natasha says:

    Thanks, Jen :) would love for you to perform here sometime :) love your music