No-one revered the Second World War quite like the Soviet Union. Known as the Great Patriotic War, the Soviets glorified the conflict and built monolithic, beautiful and intimidating memorial complexes across the country to honour the heroes and victims of the war. The memorials are all strikingly similar in certain respects: they all play haunting music, feature an eternal flame (found in most cities), have an odd statue montage of a group of soldiers, and are all on a ridiculous scale.
Soviet war memorials are incredibly moving and fascinating places. The atmosphere is hard to describe – visiting is definitely a must.
Today, no-one commemorates, or celebrates, WWII like Russia. If you get the chance, visit during the 9th May. The anniversary of the end of the war, the day is a national holiday in Russia and a huge celebration of the Soviet Union and its victory. Expect huge crowds, a brilliant atmosphere and a military parade.
Here is a selection of photos taken at a few Soviet war memorials I’ve visited over the years: the Mamayev Kurgan complex in Volgograd, which is by far the largest and the grandest; the Monument to the Heroic Defenders of Leningrad in St. Petersburg; the Piskaryovskoye military cemetery in St. Petersburg; the Museum of the Great Patriotic War in Kiev; and I have also included Cosmonaut Alley in Moscow, which I think is a perfect monument to a different war altogether – the Cold War.
How: Easyjet now fly to Moscow Domodedovo from Manchester and Gatwick, while WizzAir flies to Kiev from London-Luton. Jet2 also offer package deals to St. Petersburg.
The Soviet, and subsequent Russian, interpretation of the Second World War is a fascinating topic to discuss, but far too complex to go into here. Definitely worth reading up on!