As Victory Day approached in Russia this year, the country prepared to celebrate its most patriotic holiday. Images of World War II have become ubiquitous in public, as ribbons and military paraphernalia blanket a nation nostalgic for its great defeat of Nazi Germany.
All that holiday material, however, requires finding old photos of Soviet soldiers, and the task has confused many in Russia, ranging from art teachers to marketing experts.
Parents in the city of Berezniki, near Perm, were outraged this week, when sixth graders brought home from art class a holiday card meant to honor the 70th anniversary of the USSR’s victory in WWII. The cards apparently featured a St. George’s ribbon, the words “70 Years of Victory!” and a photograph of soldiers during the war. The troops depicted, however, are from the Wehrmacht, not the Red Army.
The photograph was allegedly printed and copied for the students by their art teacher. According to what one parent told the news website V-Kurse.ru, the art teacher is the school’s vice principal for studies and pedagogical work. The school’s director says he’s unaware of any art projects featuring German soldiers, but promised to look into the matter. Berezniki’s city council has also said it will investigate.
School teachers, incidentally, aren’t the only ones struggling to distinguish Russia’s greatest heroes from its worst enemies. Last week, a news portal outside Moscow found itself in trouble after releasing a Victory-Day-theme billboard advertisement that accidentally featured Luftwaffe pilots. The billboard, whose slogan was “They fought for the Motherland!” remained up for about 12 hours, before it was removed and replaced with an advertisement showing a Soviet, not a German, soldier.
Activists from the All-Russia People’s Front, a movement in Russia started in 2011 by Vladimir Putin, have called on the authorities to fine the website responsible for the billboard.
Meanwhile, outside Yekaterinburg, someone has plastered the streets with Victory Day posters showing the St. George’s ribbon enfolding a battalion of Wehrmacht soldiers.
It remains unclear if this was a prank or a marketing mistake, though the town’s mayor, Stanislav Shangin, says he believes it’s the former, and says he knows who ordered the “provocation.” Shangin has asked the district attorney and local branch of the Federal Security Bureau to investigate.