This is whats behind the Russian May 9 parade

In addition to a speech by the President, the Russian Victory Day also includes an extensive military parade prior to the speech. Thousands of soldiers parade and stand in Red Square. But whats behind that parade? We explain it in four questions and answers.

This is what the military parade looked like:

What does Putin want to convey with such a parade?

The main goal of the parade was to reflect annually on the Soviet Unions victory over Nazi Germany during World War II, says Peter Wijninga, defense specialist at The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies. โ€œBut this year there was another reason: to increase support for the special military operation in Ukraine.โ€

The parade has been a tradition since the 1960s: โ€œThe Soviets felt that they received too little recognition from the West for their part in the liberation of Europe, and, moreover, that they had suffered more and contributed more to victory,โ€ says Wijninga. โ€œWith the parade, Russias pride had to return.โ€

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union sometimes showed a new missile at the parade, to show the innovative power of the Soviet army. Wijninga did not see anything like this coming by this year. โ€œIt was actually – like the speech Putin gave after the parade – quite subdued. Maybe thats smart too, because you dont want the enemy to see what you have left to do.โ€

Can Russia miss all those troops at the front line?

In the parade, โ€œa couple of thousandโ€ soldiers walked, honey Wijninga. Not much, considering that Russia has about a million active military and many more reservists.

And the soldiers who walked along are also not soldiers that Russia could send to the front at the moment, says associate professor of military strategy and Colonel Han Bouwmeester. They are mainly cadets (soldiers in training) and troops who have a purely ceremonial function. โ€œAnd there is a Kremlin regiment, permanently stationed in Moscow to protect the Kremlin.โ€

In his speech, Putin claimed that soldiers โ€œfrom all regionsโ€ marched on the square. โ€œThats not right,โ€ says Bouwmeester. โ€œThe boys from disadvantaged regions are fighting at the front, they do not participate in the parade.โ€

A large number of military vehicles also drove with it. โ€œWith that, Russia wants to show: the whole world thinks that we need all our equipment, but that is not the case. Some of it will be needed for training units, but there will also be material that is back for maintenance or that is wrong.โ€

Why all those different uniforms?

During the parade, the colourful set of uniforms stands out: from dark blue suits with white headgear to light brown and red hats. All those uniforms were designed in 2008 by Russian clothing designer Valentin Yudashkin, says Wijninga. โ€œThey are not worn at the front, but are made specifically for these kinds of ceremonial matters.โ€

The difference in clothing is to distinguish between the different regiments, says Bouwmeester. For example, the two regiments that ran in front are clearly distinguishable: the Preobrazhensky regiment and the Semyonovsky regiment.

โ€œBoth regiments were formerly known as Peters toy soldiers, because they were founded in 1683 for Tsar Peter the Great, who was 11 years old at the time,โ€ says Bouwmeester. The regiments served as the tsars personal bodyguard, until the Tsar Empire ended in 1917 with the Russian Revolution. In 2013, Putin refounded them.

Another striking regiment, unlike most groups that came along, consisted entirely of women. โ€œThese are the female cadets of the Air Force Academy,โ€ says Bouwmeester. โ€œWomen have not so long had access to combat functions within the Russian army, and the Russians, unlike us, choose to train male and female military personnel separately.โ€

It is no coincidence that the members of the participating regiments are very similar and even about the same height, says Bouwmeester. โ€œImaging is very important for the Russian armed forces. They want to create the perfect picture: if youre five inches too tall, you can forget about walking with them.โ€ Ethnicity also plays a role: there are hardly any ethnic minorities to be seen.

What is the significance of the flags that the troops carry?

The flags are also intended to indicate the different regiments. โ€œSuch a flag is the pride of a regiment,โ€ says Bouwmeester. Some of the flags have inscriptions. โ€œThese are achievements: special operations that such a regiment carried out during the battle.โ€

The Dutch armed forces have a similar system: with us, each military unit has its ownbanner. โ€œAnd also in the Netherlands, we know these inscriptions: for example, 18 units will soon be allowed to bear inscriptions because of their contribution to the mission in Uruzgan.โ€