The Appropriation of Victory Day by the Russian Propaganda

News | Memory and Disinformation Studies | Blog Post 8 May 2020

The Appropriation of Victory Day by the Russian Propaganda


Although, the European countries celebrate the day of the victory in the Second World War on 8 May, Georgia as well as the post-Soviet countries, excluding the Baltic states, are among those countries that celebrate this day on 9 May. In 1945, the capitulation of Germany was signed at 22:43, 8 May, European time while it was already 9 May in Moscow and, historically, this is the reason why the Victory day is being celebrated on different days in Europe and Russia. However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, this difference acquired a political meaning.


In contemporary Russia, similarly to the Soviet Union of the Cold War period, 9 May has a political connotation – Russia actively tries to diminish the role of Western world and monopolize the victory. This is yet another attempt to represent the post-Soviet space, which it considers to be its privileged sphere of influence, as separated from the West and maintain exclusive control on it. For this, the pro-Russian groups in the post-Soviet countries, that have chosen the euro-integration course, actively oppose the celebration of Victory Day on 8 May and organize different activities.


At the events, organized by the pro-Russian groups, symbols as the ribbon of Saint George (so-called Georgiyevskaya ribbon (lentochka)), which has become a symbol of Russian propaganda related to the Second World War since 2005, by Vladimir Putin’s order, often appear such. Also, anti-Western and pro-Russian slogans are often heard there. Regardless of the state of emergency, the above-mentioned groups plan to held a demonstration on 9 May 2020 (it should also be noted that, in Russia, the military parade for 9 May has been postponed). On 5 May, the representative of the movement Immortal Regiment in Georgia, Irakli Kipiani said that on 9 May they would gather in Vake Park, at the Grave of Unknown Soldier and several drones would carry the Georgievskaya ribbon over Tbilisi.


Immortal Regiment is a branch of the organization of the same name based in Russia. Officially, Бессмертный полк Грузия (Immortal Regiment of Georgia) was registered by the Ministry of Justice on 9 October 2019. Irakli Kipiani does not reject that the organization receives funding from Russia: “We are funded by the foundation Russkii Mir. We do not hide this. Also, Georgian businessmen who are based in Russia”, - he said. The above-mentioned organization is a political tool of Putin’s government through which they try to strengthen the regime and increase the Kremlin influence beyond Russia, especially in post-Soviet space.



Source: FB – Бессмертный  полк Грузии



What is Immortal Regiment?

Immortal Regiment is an organization based in Russia which acts in two directions: first – on each 9 May, they organize a demonstration in which the descendants of the soldiers died in WWII participate and second – so-called “People’s Chronicles” in which the descendants can upload the photos and stories of their ancestors who have died in WWII. Before the establishment of the organization, the first big demonstration was organized by the three journalists – Igor Dmitriyev, Sergey Lapenkov and Sergey Kolotovkin in the city of Tomsk on 9 May 2012 and 6,000 people participated in it. In 2013, the march was held in 120 cities and in 2014 – in 500 cities while on 4 February of the same year, the Ministry of Justice of Russia officially registered the movement Immortal Regiment. The official website of the Regiment is According to Lapenkov, although the objective of the founders was the establishment of apolitical movement which would be focused on the stories of particular families and individuals, since 2015, the have gradually lost the control on the march thanks to the MP of Moscow Assembly from Communist Party, Nikolay Zemtsov.



The demonstration of Immortal Regiment


In 2015, Zemtsov independently registered the organization “Immortal Regiment – Moscow” and then renamed it “Immortal Regiment – Russia”. The official website of this organization is Zemtsov started a close collaboration with the local government and the organizations affiliated with it while the Immortal Regiment became involved in the preparation activities for the 70th anniversary of the Victory in the Second world War. Since then, there have been several cases when the public schools were given quotas for the participation in the march, some students declared that they were ordered to participate in the march and carry the portraits of the people unknown to them, some activists were forbidden to take to photos of American and British soldiers that provided the Soviet Union with military technique. Moreover, Zemtsov declared that Immortal Regiments would organize the demonstration in Donetsk and Lugansk with “not only the portraits of the veterans of the war but also the photos of those soldiers who died in fight against Ukrainian Fascists”. The same year, it was the first time when Vladimir Putin also participated in the march, at which he arrived with the portrait of his veteran father.



Vladimir Putin participating in the Demonstration of the Immortal Regiment


Putin’s interest in march was, first of all, facilitated by the development of the new national narrative, which, on the one hand, was needed for maintaining Putin’s rating and, on the other hand, was necessary for legitimizing the aggressive foreign policy, especially after the annexation of Crimea in 2014. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was serious identity crisis in Russia. For a long time, it was difficult to create a new identity and narrative in a new geographical borders, political reality and international order until Putin’s government started the enhancement of the patriotic narrative about the Great Patriotic War. This narrative was beneficial politically. On the one hand, the stories about the heroism and struggle of the Russian people facilitates the unity in the Russian population and, on the other hand, the representation of Russia as a savior of Europe enhances patriotism and imperialism among the Russian society. Interestingly, according to the social surveys, the positive attitudes toward Stalin’s figure in Russian increases from this period and culminates in 2019 with 70%. Therefore, through the Immortal Regiment, the narrative about the Great Patriotic War acquired a more universal and its influence went beyond the borders of Russia and transformed into an international movement.


Immortal Regiment as an international movement serves Russia’s goal to monopolize the victory in WWII. In the post-Soviet states, through this movement, Russia strengthens its exclusive influence and propagated the concept of Russkii Mir. For this, in 2007, on the basis of Putin’s decree, “The Foundation of Russian World” was established. Its goal is to spread Russian language, culture and values globally as a counterweight to western influence. Also, Immortal Regiment exists in western countries, where, through this movement, Russia is represented as a main heir of the victory in WWII and superpower, which cares about the maintenance of order in the world.

Russia tries to fully appropriate the victory in WWII. Contemporary Russian propaganda neglects the involvement of western world, their financial support, opening of the second front and other important issues without which the defeat of Fascism would have been impossible. It distorts real facts, for instance: about the Polish soldiers killed in Katyn; the war crimes on the territories “liberated” during WWII – rape of women and children; Russia does not care about the people resettled first to the Nazi labor camps and then to Siberia or other places. Russian media actively propagates Stalin’s image as an “effective manager”, “a man, who won WWII”. A few people and organizations researching Stalinist repressions are still a subject to repressions in a contemporary world. For instance, the head of Karelian Memorial, Yuri Dmitriyev is arrested with fake accusations. Also, the head of Chechnian Memorial, Eiub Titiyev spent 14 months in preliminary detention. Immortal Regiment, nowadays, is one of the most widespread tool of Russian soft power, which propagated the narrative about WWII created by Putin in Russia as well as beyond.



How was the Immortal Regiment of Georgia Founded?


Immortal Regiment of Georgia is a branch of the analogous organization in Russia. Its heads, according to their Facebook page, are Revaz Gogidze and Anzhelika (Lika) Zakharova. Gogidze also led the marches of the Regiments, that have been carried out in Georgia since 2017. In the public register, Patriotic People’s Movement – Immortal Regiment of Georgia is registered on his name and his partner is Rusudan Chakvetadze. According to an excerpt from Public Registry, the email of the organization is and the address – 2, Leonidze street (74/14), Tbilisi, Georgia. Floor 5.

In the description of the organization page, it is indicated that the demonstration was first held in Tbilisi, Georgia on 9 May 2017, in 2018 – Tbilisi, Batumi, Gori, in 2019 – in Tbilisi, Gori, Batumi, Ninotsminda and Akhalkalaki. The spouses, Zakharova and Gogidze are also the founders and heads of the other organizations – “Anti-Fascist Coalition of Diverse Georgia” and “The Congress of Russian and Russian-Speaking Communities of Diverse Georgia”.


Interestingly, in 2019, for announcing its demonstration, the Immortal Regiment of Georgia used the song by a Russian rapper Vova Prime – USSR, in which he glorifies the Soviet Union and expresses his desire to restore a “big family”. Meanwhile Gogidze mentioned: “Our movement is not pro-Russian, we commemorate the deal heroes. From the very beginning, we spread the information that we want to gather the Georgian immortal regiment and hold the demonstration. Therefore, those who will come to Vake Park today, will become the members of our Immortal Regiment”.


The establishment of Immortal Regiment in Georgia is a clear example of how Russia attempts to unify the stories about WWII and the people who have died there under the Russian narrative. Regiment is a part of Russian soft power, which uses the Soviet totalitarian symbols, St. Georgia ribbons that are banned [1] in many countries and tries to influence the society. The organization actively focuses on the religious sentiment of the population. In Georgia, the founder are probably well-aware that the Soviet symbols are banned by the “Freedom Charter” for which the symbol of the organization in Georgia is St. George. Their page periodically congratulates the society religious holidays, shares the photos of children, supports the initiatives of the Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia, etc. In 2019, the demonstrations of the Immortal Regiment were held on the occupied territories of Georgia – Abkhazia and South Ossetia.



The FB Posts with Religious Content By Immortal Regiment - Бессмертный  полк Грузии


The Second World War, which has been weaponized by the Russian soft power, is one of the most painful events in the history of Georgia. According to different data, from 70,000 to 300,000 Georgian soldier died in WWII, but the representatives of the Immortal Regiment do not talk about the such painful events as the Battle of Kerch in 1942, in which the Georgians have experiences the greatest loss as the 224th division was fully destroyed. Due to Soviet and now Russian propaganda, Kerch is still represented as an example of heroism butt the real facts are different. The greatest part of the experienced Georgian soldiers as well as the soldiers of the other Soviet republics died during the 1937-1938 purges. As the historian, Giorgi Mamulia says, “In Georgia, only older Generation was left for military service, the men of 30-45-year-old, peasants, out of whom only 30% understood Russian. It was necessary to create such conditions the soldiers to understand the orders. For this, the national formations were created”. Therefore, these divisions were severely defeated by the experienced Nazi military units lead by Erich von Manstein and Wolfram von Richthofen. After the Kerch operation, Germans lost 38,362 people, Soviet Union – 570,600 [2]. Georgians also participated in the “Winter War” of 1940 against Finland during which Soviet Union toll the Karelia regions. Some researchers consider these events a part of WWII. The Immortal Regiment of Georgia as well as the Russian Immortal Regiment and it other branches do not say anything about the above-mentioned events.  



International Situation around the Immortal Regiment


The demonstrations of Immortal Regiment are held in different countries annually: USA, UK, France, Argentina, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Germany, Poland, China, Italy, Moldova, Serbia, Montenegro, etc. In the most of the cases, the Russian diaspora and the local pro-Russian organizations participate in the demonstrations.In some countries, the organizers also met resistance and criticism.

In 2019, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Pavel Klimkin voiced an idea to organize a demonstration of people tortured during Stalin’s repressions instead of the Immortal Regiment march. Russian Duma MPs and senators from Crimea, Olga Kovitidi and Sergey Tsekov attacked Klimkin’s idea. Another Russian MP, Ruslan Balbek called him to resign. The press speaker of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Mariya Zakharova called Klimkin to organize a demonstration at which they would carry the photos of people killed by the Ukrainian nationalist Stepan Bandera.

In Ukraine, this issue was not left neglected by the social activists and in 2019, for “trolling” the participants of the demonstration, they took the photos of an American porn-star, Sasha Grey, Ronald Reagan and other. According to them, they wanted to emphasize the absurdity of the situation as the majority of the demonstrators were carrying the photos of “fake” ancestors.



The Demonstration Mocked by the Ukrainians – Sergeant Khalkov, Eduard Starkoveniko, Proporshchik Torenko


In 2019, the President of Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko came out against the Immortal Regiment demonstration and said that Belarus has a similar project “Belarus Remembers” and it had been established earlier than the Immortal Regiment. He also criticized those who attempt to privatize the commemoration of the Great Patriotic War. In Kazakhstan, the city of Aktobe, the local government refused carrying out the demonstration as long as, according to them, after finishing the march, the portraits of the people who died in WWII end up in bins.


In 2018, the City Hall of Tashkent did not allow the Immortal Regiment to hold the demonstration in Uzbekistan. Instead of the Immortal Regiment march, in Uzbekistan, as a rule, the Day of Glory and Victory is celebrated. Also, the local government of the capital of Tajikistan, Dushanbe did not allow the Immortal Regiment to hold the demonstration but up to 500 still gathered. The organizers of Immortal Regiment march were refused to hold the demonstration in Jurmala, Latvia as well based on the argument that they applied to relevant institutions late.



Through Immortal Regiment, as one of the tools of soft power, Russia attempts to create a unified Russian narrative for the countries that, like Georgia, have experienced a great loss in the Second World War. This, on the one hand, served the strengthening of Putin’s regime and legitimization of his foreign policy inside Russia. One the other hand, through the usage of such soft power instruments, Russia attempts to maintain the exclusive influence on post-Soviet space and the enhance Russia’s positions in relation to the other countries.


Today, when Georgia faces important challenges in terms of the unity of the country, security, independence and democratic development, the activation of Russian soft power instruments, such as the Immortal Regiment, may seriously damage Georgia’s national interests. Although, according to the recent sociological surveys, the majority of Georgians support the Euro-Atlantic integration of the country, the establishment of the new center of Russian soft power and their activation may change this data in the future. The Immortal Regiment enhances the Soviet sentiments and represents Russia as a “savior” of the world. While Russia actively propagates the Eurasian civilization as an alternative to the Western world and the new center of power, the enhancement of Soviet sentiments in the Georgian population may increase the skepticism toward western institutions and the shifting of the Georgian foreign policy vector from the West to the North. In order to counter Russian propaganda’s attempt to “weaponize” the sensitive topics for the society such as WWII, it is of paramount importance for the state to have a coherent policy for supporting the research and popularization of history in the country.


In Georgia, the stories of those people who have been the victims of Stalin’s terror or have died in the Second World War due to ineffective planning, lack of recourses and the negligence of human life, should be adequately researched and commemorated. Similarly to Russia, only a few organizations work on the issue of the victims of repressions in Georgia with its own recourses and periodically with the support of international funding. As long as the state has no will, historical research is passive. The research of the Second World War and the issues of repressions should be fully freed from Russian influence. Through the contemporary wester historiography standards, Georgia should pay appropriate attention to the issue of commemoration of the victims of Soviet repressions.




[1] The symbol is officially banned in Ukraine and Estonia. Active talks are underway in Lithuania, Latvia and Georgia to equate the ribbon with Soviet symbols, although the change has not been officially made into the relevant laws. Unofficially, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan refuse to use the symbol - these countries have developed their own symbols of victory in World War II, as well as Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, which are less loyal to the symbol.


[2] Hooton, E.R. (2016). War over the Steppes: The air campaigns on the Eastern Front 1941–45. Oxford: Osprey.





This material has been financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida. Responsibility for the content rests entirely with the creator. Sida does not necessarily share the expressed views and interpretations.

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