Celebrating the October Revolution
Red banners in parade past Lenin’s Tomb on Red Square
[NOTE: This blog is an updated version of one that appeared Nov. 7, 2011.]
Every year on November 7th, the Soviets put on a massive celebration honoring the Great October Revolution. When the Soviets changed their calendars to match those of the western world, the date of the October Revolution in 1917 fell on Nov. 7th.
In the two years we lived in
this huge Bolshevik celebration was something to behold. The Soviets prepared for this for days in
advance, because it involved many thousands of Soviet soldiers, sailors,
airmen, as well as still more thousands of civilians. For us military and naval attachés, it was
also an opportunity to see whatever the Moscow Soviet Union
wanted to show off in their latest weaponry.
We were invited to come in uniform and sit in reserved seats, right below the tribune where General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev and all the Politburo and all the Soviet generals and admirals stood to review the parade.
However, in the years I was there, we were directed to show American disapproval with the Soviet invasion of
so we did not accept the invitation to sit in the stands just beneath all the
Soviet leaders. Afghanistan
Instead, we showed up heavily wrapped in warm civilian clothing, in the crowd with hundreds of thousands of Russians.
[Isn’t it strange that twenty years later
would invade ?] Afghanistan
This day was a day to observe Russians celebrating the birth of their
, to watch the marching troops, and
hopefully, to discover a new missile or other weapon the Soviets were
producing. It was a tremendous
celebration, even though it could be pretty chilly. Millions of Russians would drink quite a lot
of vodka before the day was over. Communist State
For American and allied military attachés in the Embassy, after several hours of standing in frigid weather watching the parade, we’d show up at the home of one of us for plates of steaming hot American chili, Danish or Czech beer, and Swedish Glögg (a lethal concoction of akvavit, red wine, port, cinnamon and other spices).
Watching an event in Red Square is one of life’s exciting experiences, I think, because your mind can take you back to grainy black-and-white images of Marshal Stalin standing atop that tribune, as the Red Army troops, the same ones who had defeated the Nazis at
Stalingrad and many
other battles, marched in review. On one
end of the square is St. Basil’s Cathedral, and all along another side are the
onion domes of churches inside the Kremlin.
Red Square parade, 1941
As we were walking from our Embassy toward the parade, my 20-year-old son Mark was with me. He had been studying at the
University of Maryland
in Munich, but he was in on holiday. He spotted an older Russian woman on a
stepladder, trying to hang a Soviet flag on the street. Mark saw that she was
having trouble doing it, so he gallantly took her place on the ladder and hung
it up. It’s a good thing that had not
happened during the days of Senator McCarthy! Moscow
Mark later got a job as a security clerk at the construction site for the new American embassy in
. He had to check the identification badges of
Soviet workmen coming to work on the site.
It did wonders for his ability to speak Russian! Moscow
American Army Marching in Red Square: What a fascinating experience it was in 2010 to see pictures of an American Army unit marching in Red Square, to help the Russians celebrate the Allied victory over
May 9th, 1945. ( Germany America, Great
Britain and France
celebrated on May 8th, but the actual German surrender happened
time, hence May 9th.) Moscow
U.S. Army helps Russians Commemorate Victory over Germany May 9th, 2010
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