"Victory Day" has been rebooted since Vladimir Putin took the reins of Russia over a decade ago. May 9th is the official day that marks the end of what Russians call "The Great Patriotic War," otherwise known as WWII to the rest of us.
Russians do have a lot to celebrate really, WWII was the bloodiest for Russia out of all the allies, and without their dedication on the Eastern Front the world may be a different place today. Still, one cannot help but have the specter of the Cold War and the Soviet days come to mind when watching this type of military parade in Red Square. Even the gold-on-red sickle and hammer next to the CCCP "Order of Victory" medal continue to stand vigil over Red Square till this very day.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, and Russia's economically and culturally tumultuous 1990's, these types of displays were by and large thought of as inappropriate and much of Russia's military apparatus was falling into disrepair and inorganization. After Vladimir Putin became President in 2000, he focused on revitalizing nationalism among the Russian populace. Strong-armed tactics in Chechnya along with rebooting modern displays of military might and showcasing common events that evoke nationalistic sentiment have all become part of the Putin program. At the top of this list was bringing back the Victory Day parades in Red Square. These Soviet era like demonstrations of a reinvigorated "Russian Bear" have grown once again to be the largest of their kind in the world, although they do fluctuate from year to year. This year had over 11,000 troops, 150 vehicles and seventy aircraft participating.
Back in the 50's and 60's, Victory Day was often the type of event where new Soviet military capabilities would be unveiled, sending American and Western European military analysts into frenzy. Once again the world casts a much keener eye on Russian displays of military might after their invasion of Crimea and the continued proxy warfare that exists within a Ukraine that is inching closer and closer to full blow civil war.
The special importance of Victory Day this year was not lost on President Putin either, as he quickly flew to his new territory in Crimea to view their Victory Day celebrations. This will be the first time Putin has set foot on Russia's freshly annexed strategic peninsula on the Black Sea. Was this Mr. Putin's "Mission Accomplished" moment or just the beginning of a larger set of goals in the region?