Victory Day is an annual celebration in many countries of Europe and US to mark the victory of Allied Forces over the Nazi Germany in the year of 1945 during The World War II. The biggest of all these celebrations is generally held at the Red Square in Moscow. This year, being the 70th anniversary of Victory Day Celebration, it was supposed to be one of the grandest celebration. For many of the alive War Veterans, it might be the last major celebration also.
It was indeed planned at a grand scale and many of the World’s top leaders were invited for the event, but in protest of Russia’s alleged military involvement in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, many of the western leaders did not attend the event. However , the leaders from the countries like China, India, South Africa, Venezuela, Vietnam, Many CIS countries, UN Secretary General etc were present at the event.
When I booked the return ticket to Russia, Victory Day Parade was nowhere in the mind, in fact, I had no idea of the parade. While working on the itinerary, I came to know about the Victory Parade and since, my dates was coinciding with the parade’s date, I decided to include that also in the itinerary.
Timings of The Parade: The Victory Day Parade is an annual celebration on the 9th May of every year. It generally starts at 0900 AM at Red Square, but depending on the your location along the parade route, it may take upto 3 hours to reach there.
It is always better to reach at your chosen spot as early as possible (preferably by 0800 AM), otherwise, you may not be able to get a nice view of parade due to the huge crowd. Early arrival is also necessary to grab a nice spot to take pictures.
Good Locations to view the Parade: The best location for the parade is the Red Square. But unless you are having strong political or official contacts, you can not go to the Red Square to watch the parade. From Red Square the parade normally proceed on Tverskaya Street and ends near Mayakovskaya Metro Station. You can stand anywhere along this route to watch the parade. They may chose a slightly different route, but it normally proceeds along this route. Official announcement on the final route is normally made a week prior.
There are three segments in this parade. First segment includes the marchpast by the various units of Russian Armed Forces as well as some foreign troops (e.g. China and India this time). The marching contingents do not proceed on the roads beyond Red Square and normally terminate near Red Square. So, never expect to see them.
Second Segment includes the display of the military equipments, tanks, missiles, armoured vehicles etc. They move on the road till Mayakovskaya Metro Station. So, you can easily watch their movement.
Third Segment includes the flypast by many fighter jets and helicopters. Some of these aircraft formations are visible from your spot, however, some may not be visible to you, because they are intended to fly over the Red Square area. Also, the electric wires along the roads for the Trams and Electric Buses may not allow to take some good pictures of the flypast.
Taking all these considerations in the mind, if you are not able to get the hot seat in Red Square area, you have following options for the best view of this parade:
1. Book A Hotel in Red Square Area: If money does not matter, then this is the best option to offer you a guaranteed spectacular view of the parade. Some major hotels like The National, The Carlton-Ritz, The Four Seasons are located in the Red Square area, but their prices for a night start from 10000 Rubles onwards.
2. Try to reach as close to The Red Square as possible: The chances are very limited, unless you start very early in the morning. However, if you are unable to reach the right spot to watch the marching contingents, then it does not matter whether you are at the near end to the Red Square or at the far end.
3. If only interested in Flypast, go to the higher grounds: Electric wires over the roads in Moscow always hinder the best view of the flypast. Better to reach at a slightly higher ground. Red Square, Manege Square, Tver Street and Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills) observation decks are the some nice spots to watch the best of the flypast.
4. Live Telecast on the television: If you do not want to watch it from the road, Live Telecast is the best option to enjoy the whole parade. Just sit in your couch, relax and enjoy the parade as well as the fly past.
5. Watch Practice Run: Before the actual parade on May 9, the Armed Forces conduct 2-3 practice runs in Moscow and it is accessible to the general public. All of these practice runs normally conduct between May 2 to May 8, the exact date is revealed only about a week prior. They attract relatively less crowd, therefore people can stand relatively closer to have a good look on the parade as well as the fly past.
Note: The fact is that a really huge crowd arrive on the streets to witness this celebration. If you grab a good spot due to an early arrival, you still can’t expect to click good pictures, because of the constant push from the crowd. However, if you are at the far end on the route, you may get some comfortable space.
What to do After the Parade? The Victory Day Parade starts at 0900 AM and normally ends at 1200 PM. But, at any given spot (except Red Square), it does not take more than one hour to watch the parade. I suppose, that everybody gets free by 1200 PM after watching the parade. However, this is not the end of the victory day celebrations. This is the biggest day of celebration in Russian Society and also a major holiday. Majority of Muscovites walk all around with the orange and black ribbons attaching to their clothes, khakhi caps on the head and Russian flags in the hand. The Moscow city as a whole is bustled with many activities on Victory Day including concerts, films and other festivities. To enjoy most of it, better to move towards other points of celebration after the Victory Day Parade. The probable locations to explore are:
1. Bolshoi Theater: It is located near the Red Square, therefore, it is very difficult to reach before the end of the parade. But, after the parade, you should be able to reach following a tight security check in the area.
Bolshoi Theater is itself a big historical landmark. Many of the war veterans from the World War II arrives there in the full uniform, decorated with their medals. A huge crowd of Russian males, females and children gather here at the venue to show the respect, to listen the real stories and to pay the tributes to all those war heroes.
2. Gorky Park: Gorky Park is a major park in Moscow along the Moscow River. Its a huge park having many food joints/restaurants, artificial lakes, spectacular fountain and Tulips plantation. A large section of crowd arrives here in Gorky Park after the Victory Parade gets over. You can enjoy the performances by musical bands, other live performances, boating in the lakes, kite flying etc inside the park.
On a wide stage inside the park, I enjoyed the spectacular dance performances, one by one, by the groups of complete strangers formed instantly from the crowd. Sometimes, I think Russian society has a great mutual respect and personal bondings like us in India. Its a very different feeling from whatever we think about the western culture on the mutual relations.
3. VDNKh Exhibition Center and Amusemtent Park: It is another great venue for the day-long events. Being an amusement park, its a big favourite spot for the children. The enclosure of VDNKh center contains the beautiful gardens, many golden fountains and many statues of Soviet leaders.
4. Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills) : It is one of the highest point in Moscow offering a panoramic view of the city. It is also a good spot to watch the fly past as they approach over the city.
Night Shows of the Fireworks: A spectacular show of fireworks starts in the night exactly at 1000 PM from 16 different locations around the city. The area of Red Square (still closed to the general public), Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills) and VDNKh Center are the best places to enjoy this fireworks.
My Personal View on the Victory Day Parade: I watched the Victory Parade from the farthest end near Moyakovskyaa Metro Station. I was not able to see any marchpast of the military units, but I managed to watch the military hardware, missiles, tanks and armoured vehicles. It was very tiring to stand at a single place for 3 hours before staring the parade. and when the parade passed through, I wasn’t feel very excited.
The only good thing was the excitement of Russian Citizens and their chanting of Russia-Russia with the waving of the national flag, when the tanks/vehicles were passing. I find our Republic Day Parade more spectacular and more accessible to this Victory Parade. However, in Russia, there was no restrictions on public movement to watch the parade, you can take your camera with you, but in India’s Republic Day Parade, you have to pass through a thorough security check and you can’t carry anything with you like camera, mobile, even a pen.
After the parade, I really enjoyed the crowd and various performances at Bolshoi Theater, Gorky Park and VDNKh center. The dance performances at the Gorky Park was really very nice.
In the night, I was completely disappointed by the fireworks. My hostel friends from Australia and Malaysia, also did not find it too great. As per a local Russian friend, it was one of the grandest fireworks show with relatively longer duration than the earlier shows and lasted in about 15 minutes, but it was not very spectacular in my opinion at least.
However, overall, Victory Day is a good day to spend in Moscow. This is the day, when this bustling city comes to standstill and people do not rush in white collars to the workplaces. Rather, they come out on the streets to enjoy together, dance together, sing together and celebrate together. The whole day, you can only sense patriotism in the air.