Kazakhstan is a proud and relatively new country, having only celebrated its 20th birthday last December. It wants to showcase its national culture to the world; one example is the rise of the Kazakh language. This is often to help the country recover from its time as the Kazakh SSR, when the Soviet Union used its land for projects as diverse as water irrigation, gulags and nuclear testing. There are few Soviet events that are openly celebrated here, but the 9th of May is one of them.
On the 9th of May, Germany surrendered and the Allies had won the war. You may see that as a typo – in Britain we are always taught that VE Day is on May 8th. Apparently, the reason that it is celebrated a day later in the former USSR is because of the delay in the message being relayed to Moscow.
Kazakh fun fact: Kazakh soldiers were among the first to reach Berlin in April 1945, and three of them helped to hoist the Red Flag over the final Nazi stronghold.
Either way, Victory Day is a big celebration in many of the 15 former Soviet republics, and Kazakhstan is no exception. It is yet another national holiday, which once again meant that we had time on our hands to explore the city which didn’t really exist when this celebration first occurred.
The weather matched the mood in Astana, the Sun searing down on smiling faces as crowds congregated eagerly close to Congress Hall. They were waiting for what turned out to be a concert of patriotic singing and dancing, the performers in which were all dressed perfectly in old Soviet uniforms. It was a shame that the main memory for us was one of the dancing soldiers slipping and falling. It was a nice show of pride and euphoria that must have matched the mood all those years ago.
Astana itself has been decorated for the occasion. The town had most definitely been painted red with posters and banners exclaiming and reminding of the importance of the day.
The events carried on into the dark night, which was illuminated with booming and ferocious fireworks. Car alarms were set off in copious numbers, such was the power of the soundwaves generated from each colourful explosion. It all added to an atmosphere of military might and power that is a stark reminder of this new country’s past.
Though this past may be chequered and often painful to learn about, there are plenty of times of celebration, and Victory Day is just another one.
Love you all