Report from GN Conference and
Study Tour to Russia
From: Dave Webb
April 25 - May 9 2019
Our translators and Guides
We left Moscow to fly to Simferopol on the Tuesday, ariving about 3pm and travelled to our hotel. We were aware of the fact that, at the break up of the Soviet Union, the US and NATO had promised to President Gorbachev that NATO would not move one inch closer to Russia.We were also aware that this was a lie and that NATO was planning to include Ukraine and Georgia in its ranks as soon as it became possible.
The US and the EU could not be sure exactly how Putin would react when he saw that the US was manipulating political conflict in Ukraine to install a pro-Western government keen to join NATO. This was not a mere matter of a “sphere of influence” in Russia’s “near abroad”, but a matter of life and death to the Russian Navy, as well as a grave national security threat to Russia on its border.
Putin could underreact, and betray Russia’s basic national interests, allowing NATO to advance its hostile forces to an ideal attack position. Or he could overreact, by sending Russian forces to invade Ukraine. The West was ready for this, prepared to scream that Putin was “the new Hitler”, poised to overrun poor, helpless Europe, which could only be saved (again) by the generous Americans.
Thanks to the fact that the overwhelming majority of Crimeans felt Russian, having been Russian citizens until Khrushchev friviously bestowed the territory on Ukraine in 1954, a peaceful democratic solution was found. Crimeans voted for their return to Russia in a referendum which was legal according to international law, although in violation of the Ukrainian constitution, which was by then in tatters having just been violated by the overthrow of the country’s duly elected president, Victor Yanukovych, facilitated by violent militias. The change of status of Crimea was achieved without bloodshed, by the ballot box.
Simferopol was our first stop in Crimea.
Simferopol has been the capital city of the Republic of Crimea since 2014 within the Russian Federation. It is an important political, economic and transport hub of the peninsula, with a population (in 2014) of 332,317.
There is archaeological evidence that originally there was an ancient Scythian city there known as the Scythian Neapolis. It was also home to a Crimean Tatar town, Aqmescit.
Just opposite the hotel was the Church of St Luke. Saint Luke
was Bishop of Simferopol and
Crimea and known as the Blessed Surgeon. He was born Valentin Felixovich
Voino-Yasenetsky on April 14, 1877 and died June 11, 1961. He was a doctor of
Medicine, Professor, and State Prize winner and became the
Archbishop of Tambov and Michurinsk in 1944, and later of Simferopol and the
Crimea. While he was an Archbishop he was also a practicing surgeon and
taught and published books and articles on anesthesia and surgery.
Catherine the Great annexed the Crimea in 1783 after her first war against the Turks and nine years after the Crimean Khanate had gained independence from the Ottoman Empire. In 1787, Catherine held a triumphal procession in the Crimea, which helped provoke the next Russo-Turkish War from 1787-1792, which was restarted by the Ottomans but was a catastrophe for them. It ended with the Treaty of Jassy (1792), which legitimised the Russian claim to the Crimea and granted the Yedisan region to Russia.
May Day Parade in Simferopol
Crimea has 175 ethnic groups and many of them wore traditional costumes during the May Day parade through the streets of Simferopol. Lots of people were keen to pose behind our “No to NATO” banner with us and it also attracted the media.
The crowd along the parade route gave us a warm reception.
Following the parade we went straight to a round table conference - “Public Diplomacy as the Instrument of Developing Friendship and Understanding among Peoples.”
The conference was chaired by Yakov Slytsky, Director of the Department of International Relations and Interregional Cooperation, State Enterprise of the Republic of Crimea, “The House of Peoples Friendship”.
Thre were greetings and speeches of welcome from:
Svetlana Kolodyazhnaya-Sheremtyeva, the assistant to the Permanent representative of the Republic of Crimea to the President of the Russian Federation Georgy Muradov; Yuri Gempel, Chairman of the Committee on interethnic relations of the State Council of the Republic of Crimea (the Parliament of Crimea); Yan Ephstein, Director of the Black Sea Association of International Cooperation and Bruce Gagnon, the coordinator of the Global Network.
In his blog, Bruce reported on his speech:
Others included: Larisa Sokirskaya Director of “House of Peoples’ Friendship” – the territory of peace and understanding between peoples. Andrey Falaleev Rector of V.I. Vernadsky Crimean Federal University.
Following the speeches there was a brief ceremonial signing of an Agreement of Cooperation between the Global Network and the "Black Sea Association for International Cooperation" (BSAIC).
Signing of Agreement on Cooperation with the Black Sea Association for International Cooperation
The youth camp was established on 16 June 1925 and originally hosted 80 children but it then grew rapidly and in 1969 it had an area of 3.2 kmē. It consisted of 150 buildings, including three medical facilities, a school, the film studio Artekfilm, three swimming pools, a stadium for 7,000 and facilities for various other activities. Unlike most of the young pioneer camps, Artek was an all-year camp, Because of the warm climate it was able to open all year round and welcomed children from the Soviet Union and other communist countries. In its heyday, 27,000 children a year took holidays there and between 1925 and 1969 the camp hosted 300,000 children including more than 13,000 children from 70 foreign countries. After the break up of the Young Pioneers in 1991 its prestige declined, though it remained a popular vacation destination.
Just outsdie the main building there were two statues to Russian heros of the past perhaps to inspire the young visitors. Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin (1799 – 1837) and Nadezhda Konstantinovna Krupskaya (1869 – 1939).
Pushkin is considered by many to be the greatest
Russian poet and the founder of modern Russian literature. He published his first poem at 15
and at his graduation from the Tsarskoye
Selo Lyceum he recited his controversial poem "Ode to Liberty“.
Poems like this led to his being exiled by Tsar Alexander the First,
however, Pushkin went on to write
Boris Godunov and Eugene Onegin was serialized between
1825 and 1832.
Inside the building there was a monument to Yuri Gagarin
Further in there was an exhibition of the Soviet Union during the Cold War Space Race ...
... and a short introductory talk by our guides, including a demonstration of the spinning chair used in the trianing of cosmonauts.
In another room was another exhibition about Samantha
Smith. She was an American schoolgirl from Manchester,
Maine, who spent a week here during her visit to the
Soviet Union. Samantha became famous as a "Goodwill Ambasador"
during the Cold War. In 1982 at the age of 10 she wrote
to the new General Secretary of the Communist Party,
Yuri Andropov asking him what he would do to avoid a
nuclear war with the US.. She received a personal reply
and an invitation to visit the Soviet Union. She
accepted and attracted a lot of attention in the media.
She went on to write a book about her visit, Journey
to the Soviet Union, but unfortunately she was killed in a plane crash
at the age of thirteen in August 1985.
Members of our party came from Maine and John and Carrie Schuchardt from The House of Peace in Massachusetts and the Samantha Smith Chapter of Veterans for Peace - they brought some items for the exhibition including a poster of Martin Luther King and these were exchanged with items presented by the exhibition organisers.
Our next stop was Livadia Palace, the summer retreat of the last Russian tsar, Nicholas II, and his family in Crimea.
The region is known for its healing climate and it became a popular resort, especially following the development of the railroads in the 19th century. In 1861, Tsar Alexander II bought land in Livadia and built the Grand Palace as a gift to his wife. It was also here, at the Church of the Holy Cross, that the last Russian Tsar Nicholas II came to the throne and where his bride-to-be, Princess Alix converted to Orthodoxy and adopted the name Alexandra Feodorovna.
Perhaps the Palace is most widely recognised as the meeting place for the Yalta Conference in 1945, when Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin met to determine the future of Europe.
US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was given 43 rooms in the Palace to house the members of the American delegation. The Russian delegation was housed in the Yusupov Palace, and the British in the Vorontsov Palace some five miles away. There is a museum at the palace and it is still sometimes used for international summits.
Above we see the reception room of President Roosevelt.
He held two
meetings here with Stalin..
Immediately after the Revolution, the palace briefly became a museum preserving the heritage of imperial family life. Later on, it served as a tuberculosis sanatorium for peasants and from the end of World War II until Stalin's death in 1953, the residence was used as a dacha for state officials. In 1993, the palace was reopened as a museum..
One of the rooms displays pictures made by the royal children.
The statue in the grounds shows the iconic picture of the three world leaders at their meeting in 1945. A favourite place for tourists!
In the afternoon the study group split into three groups. One went to the house of Anton Chekov, another to visit some military veterans and the third to visit a local group of high school students.
Council of Veterans
Some of the group went to meet up with the Council of Veterans. Here we see Will Griffin with an impressive 93 year old WW II veteran. He joined the Army of the former Soviet Union at 16 years old (he lied about his age) and today still does push-ups for exercise.
He joined the Army as the Soviets were pushing the German fascist army away from the Soviet Union and he was stationed in Romania, Hungary and Austria.
Now he is concerned about climate change and says the future of our children depends on what we do now.
In his blog, Bruce itemises some of the things he said:
have a negative attitude today about US-NATO military
encirclement of Russia.
High School Students
A second group visited a school for people with learning difficulties run by Valentina, a friend of Tania's.
On the right we can see Mary Beth with Mary, a Crimean debate teacher who brought her high school students along to meet people, practice their English and act as interpreters.
The third group visited the house of Anton Chekhov (1860-1904). The White Dacha, was designed by L.N. Shapovalov and built in 1898 - after the success of The Seagull. Chekov took up residence there after his father died in order to help him cope with tuberculosis. He planted a variety of trees and kept dogs and tame cranes..
After Chekhov's death (1904) the house was looked after by his sister, Masha, until 1921 when it became a museum. During the Nazi occupation Maria Pavlovna refused to leave and put up pictures of Hauptmann (the German dramatist) on the wall and refused to let a German officer move into her brother's rooms. Nothing went missing but the house was damaged by the Luftwaffe during one of the last air raids on the area.
The Harbour, Yalta
Our hotel in Yalta was close to the harbour area which, in the evening, was full of life and music.
The first stop was at the ancient Greek colony of Chersonesus, which was established in the 6th century BC by settlers from Heraclea Pontica, across the Black Sea.
The Saint Vladimir Cathedral is a Neo-Byzantine Russian Orthodox cathedral on the site of Chersonesos and commemorates the place where it is thought that St. Vladimir was baptised.
'The Valley of Death'
Moving on again, we paused at the site of the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade which ocurred on 25 October 1854 during the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War. The war was fought between British and Russian troops and Tennyson immortalised the event in his poem of the same name. It was a failed military action led by Lord Cardigan and was due to a miscommunication which resulted in Cardigan's light cavalry chrging a Russian artillary battery. There were very high British casualties with no military gains.
The Siege of Sevastopol ocurred from 1854-1855 during the Crimean War. Anticipating the siege, the Russians scuttled ships of the Black Sea Fleet to block and protect the harbour, to use their naval cannon as additional artillery, and to free up the ships' crews as marines. After the war, it was quite a technological challenge to recover the ships.
Balaclava has occupied a place in military history for centuries. More recently however visitors to the town have been able to experience and tour an old Soviet Submarine base that was constructed during the Cold War.
The gun battery was used by the Soviet
Union during World War II in the Crimean Campaign. The
invading German forces gave the battery its English name - Maxim Gorky (after the author and political
activist) - it is not the Russian name..
The nazi forces reached the Crimea in the autumn of 1941 and overran most of the area. Sevastapol stood out as the only target not taken. Several attempts were made to secure the city in October and November 1941 and a major attack was planned for late November. However, heavy rain delayed it until 17 December 1941 and even then the attempt was unsuccessful.
In an attempt to divert nazi forces to protect their new
acquisitions, Soviet forces
launched an amphibious landing on the Crimean peninsula at Kerch in
December 1941. It saved Sevastopol for a time
but the bridgehead in the eastern Crimea was finally
eliminated in May 1942. The battles had resulted in over 80,000 defenders
being killed. However, the
onset of the Crimean blitzkrieg was
delayed. The evacuation was to take place close to the 35th
battery. Not much remains today - just a solitary rock with a protruding
rail remains. Maxim Gorky II was finally taken on July
4, after the Sapun positions were captured, making it
the last major pre-war fortification to take part in a
Organisers of the Crimea Spring
While here we had the opportunity of meeting key organisers from the 'Crimean Spring'. They told us how, following the right-wing coup in Ukraine, the Crimean people quickly organized local militia to resist any incursion and a referendum on whether to return to Russia or stay part of Ukraine. There was a 96% vote for integration into the Russian Federation, with an 83% turnout. The official result was the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and integration of the region into the Russian Federation.
We could see that a lot of critical construction work was now taking place where previously, as part of Ukraine, little attention was being paid to the Crimean Peninsula..
This was the final stage of our
visit to the Crimea.
St Petersburg lies on the Neva River, at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea. It was founded by Peter the Great in 1703 and during 1713–1728 and 1732–1918, it was the capital of Imperial Russia. In 1918, the central government bodies moved to Moscow, 388 miles to the south-east.
In 1914, after the outbreak of World War I, the Imperial
government renamed the city Petrograd in order to remove
the German parts of the name. On 26 January 1924,
shortly after the death of Vladimir Lenin, it was
renamed to Leningrad. On 6 September 1991, the original
name, Sankt-Peterburg, was returned.
There are so many amazing buildings in the city
and so much history that a visit is required in order to
really appreeciate them.
There are so many amazing buildings in the city and so much history that a visit is required in order to really appreeciate them.
The City Duma, shown above, was established in 1785 in the course of Catherine the Great's municipal reform. Emperor Paul replaced it by the so-called Ratusha, but his son, Alexander I, had the Duma restored four years later. Nicholas I, the next emperor, expanded the institution from six to twelve members in 1846 and Alexander II of Russia reorganized it again during the reform of the 1870s. In September 1918 the Duma was abolished and its functions devolved on the Petrograd Soviet. The headquarters of the Duma were erected on the main city street, Nevsky Prospekt, between 1784 and 1787 and the Italianate tower was added in 1799–1804. Two more floors were added to the building in 1913–14.
Singer House, also known as the House of Books, is located at the intersection of Nevsky Prospekt and the Griboyedov Canal. It is recognized as a historical landmark and is officially an object of cultural heritage. It was the former Russian branch of the Singer Sewing Machine Company.
The Winter Palace was the official residence of the
Russian Emperors from 1732 to 1917. Today, the palace and its precincts
form the Hermitage Museum, situated between Palace Embankment and Palace
Square. It has been calculated that the the Winter Palace has
1,786 doors, 1,945 windows, 1,500 rooms and 117 staircases..
The State Hermitage Museum is the second largest museum
in the world. Founded in 1764 to house Catherine the
Great's art collection. It was been oprn to the public
sine 1852. The museum collections are spread over six
buildings along the Palace Embankment including
the Winter Palace.
The Church of the Savior on Spilled
Blood was erected on the site where political nihilists fatally wounded
Emperor Alexander II in March 1881, the church was constructed between
1883 and 1907, funded by the imperial family. In order to build a
permanent shrine on the exact spot where the
assassination took place, it was decided to narrow the
canal so that the section of road on which the tsar had
been driving could be included within the walls of the
Our visit to the Political History Museum was very interesting and informative. The story of the revolution was described in pictures, posters and exhibits.
A severe shortage of bread resulted in mass demonstrations on February 23, 1917 in Petrograd. These developed within few days into the real uprising and the revolutionary events of February – March 1917. The result was that the Russian monarchy fell from power and was replaced by a Provisional Government. Members of the Provisional Government came from various liberal and left-wing political parties, some previously represented in the Duma, and others in the Petrograd Soviet. Russia became one of the most democratic countries in the world: class privileges were abolished, political freedoms were proclaimed, amnesty on religious and political cases was declared, the death penalty was abolished, and all political parties received the possibility to operate legally.
However, the Provisional Government faced a number of
difficult issues: the agricultural issue, the national
issue, the issue of war and peace. Convening the
Constituent Assembly, called upon to determine the
future political system of Russia, was delayed several
times. It had neither a clear program of actions, nor a
leader who could rally previous political forces. It
didn’t have full power in the country, or even
Petrograd. The influence of the Petrograd Soviet, which
had become a source of real power, was continuously
growing. Future political crises became inevitable.
escalated amongst Russia's businessmen and industrialists in the
Provisional Government. Support for the restoration of order was strong
even amongst the politicians who formed the Provisional Government..
After a failed coup, Kornilov was removed from his position as Commander-in-Chief and incarcerated in the Bykhov Fortress with 30 other army officers accused of involvement in the conspiracy. The Provisional Government had lost all credibility and crumbled. On 15 September Kerensky proclaimed Russia a republic - contrary to the non-socialists' understanding that the Provisional Government should hold power only until a Constituent Assembly should meet to decide Russia's form of government, but in line with the long-proclaimed aim of the Socialist Revolutionary Party. He formed a five-member Directory, which consisted of himself, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mikhail Tereshchenko, Minister of War General Aleksandr Verkhovsky, Minister of the Navy Admiral Dmitry Verderevsky and Minister of Posts and Telegraphs Aleksei Nikitin. He retained his post in the final coalition government in October 1917 until the Bolsheviks overthrew it on in November 1917.
Shortly after Lenin seized power with the Bolshevik
"October Revolution" Kornilov managed to escape from
Bykhov Fortress and went on to establish the Volunteer
Army, which fought the Bolsheviks during the Russian
Civil War. He was killed in battle against Bolshevik
forces in the town of Ekaterinodar in April 1918.
The Russian Civil War (7 November 1917 – 25 October 1922) immediately after the two Russian Revolutions, as many factions vied to determine Russia's political future.
Green Armies - armed peasant groups which fought against all governments in the Russian Civil War from 1917 to 1922. The Green armies were semi-organized local militias that opposed the Bolsheviks, Whites, and foreign interventionists, and fought to protect their communities from requisitions or reprisals carried out by third parties. The Green armies were politically and ideologically neutral, but at times associated with the Socialist-Revolutionary Party.
Red Army - founded by Vladimir Lenin and Alexander Bogdanov that split from the Menshevik faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) at its Second Party Congress in 1903. The RSDLP was a revolutionary socialist political party formed in 1898 in Minsk to unite the various revolutionary organisations of the Russian Empire into one party.
White Movement - a loose confederation of anti-communist forces that fought the Communist Bolsheviks, also known as the Reds and to a lesser extent continued operating as militarized associations insurrectionists both outside and within Russian borders in Siberia until roughly World War II (1939–1945).
Allied Intervention - After the Bolshevik government withdrew from World War I, the Allied Powers openly backed the anti-communist White forces in Russia. Allied efforts were hampered by divided objectives, war-weariness from the overall global conflict, and a lack of domestic support. These factors, together with the evacuation of the Czechoslovak Legion, compelled the Allied Powers to withdraw from North Russia and Siberia in 1920, though Japanese forces occupied parts of Siberia until 1922 and the northern half of Sakhalin until 1925.
Lenin worked in this office practically every day from April 4 to July 4 1917. When he returned from exile, he became actively involved in the political life of revolutionary Russia. In his work “April Theses” Lenin said that the program of the Bolshevik Party was to create a socialist revolution. He announced this for the first time in the mansion of M. F. Kshesinskaya on the night of April 4, 1917 right after his arrival in Petrograd.
E.D. Stasova, the secretary of the Central Committee of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (Bolsheviks), used to work in the same room. Her desk is to the left of Lenin’s table. The room has access to a balcony, from which Lenin and other Bolshevik leaders often made speeches to the workers and soldiers of Petrograd.
Lenin made his last speech from the balcony on July 4, 1917, when addressing the Kronshadt sailors who arrived at Petrogradto take part in a demonstration against the Provisional Government. During the suppression of the July demonstrations on July 6, 1917, troops of the Provisional Government took over the Kshesinskaya mansion and destroyed the Bolsheviks’ headquarters.
The museum also included some of the lowlights of the Soviet history - such as ‘The Great Terror’ – Stalin’s purges from August 1937 – November 1938 when approx. 1.7 million people were arrested on political charges, 700,000 of whom were executed.
Peter and Paul Fortress
From the museum we went to the nearby Peter and Paul Fortress. This is the original citadel of St. Petersburg, founded by Peter the Great in 1703 and built to Domenico Trezzini's designs from 1706 to 1740 as a star fortress. In the early 1920s, it was still being used as a prison and execution ground by the Bolshevik government.
Now an important part of the State Museum of Saint Petersburg History which also owns virtually all of the building, except the part occupied by the Saint Petersburg Mint.
Under the Provisional Government, hundreds of Tsarist officials were held in the Fortress. During the July Days demonstrations, the Fortress garrison of 8,000 men declared for the Bolsheviks and on October 25, the fortress was taken by theBolsheviks. Following the ultimatum from the Petrograd Soviet to the Provisional Government ministers in the Winter Palace and after the blank salvo of the Cruiser Aurora, the Fortress fired 30 or so shells at the Winter Palace. Just two hit, inflicting only minor damage, and the defenders refused to surrender at that time. On the morning of October 26, the Winter Palace was taken by forces under Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko; the captured ministers were taken to the Fortress as prisoners. Between 1918 and 1921 at least 112 persons, including 4 grand dukes, were killed here.
The Peter and
Paul Cathedral is a Russian Orthodox cathedral located
inside the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg,
Russia. It is the first and oldest landmark in St.
Petersburg, built between 1712 and 1733 on Hare Island
along the Neva River.
The Cruiser 'Aurora'
Another popular attraction was the 'Aurora' - a 1900 Russian cruiser, currently preserved as a museum ship in Saint Petersburg. Aurora was one of three Pallada-class cruisers, built in Saint Petersburg for service in the Pacific. During World War I Aurora operated in the Baltic Sea performing patrols and shore bombardment tasks. In 1915, her armament was changed to fourteen 152 mm (6 in) guns. At the end of 1916, she was moved to Petrograd for a major repair. The city was brimming with revolutionary ferment at that time and part of her crew joined the 1917 February Revolution.
The ship's commanding officer, Captain Mikhail Nikolsky, was killed when he tried to suppress the revolt. A revolutionary committee was created on the ship, with Aleksandr Belyshev elected as captain. Most of the crew joined the Bolsheviks, who were preparing for a Communist revolution. At 9.40pm on 25 October 1917 a blank shot from her forecastle gun signalled the start of the assault on the Winter Palace - it signalled the beginning of the October Revolution.
In summer 1918, she
was relocated to Kronstadt and placed into reserve.
642,000 people died during the siege of Leningrad alone - mostly from starvation - and a further 400,000 died during evacuations. Altogether 28 million Soviet citizens lost their lives during the war – something it will take a long time to forget.
Some half a million of them, including 420,000 civilians, are buried in the cemetery's 186 mass graves. The slightly raised mounds are marked by year and a long alley leads the visitor to a monument with a statue of the Motherland, portrayed as a grieving woman. Many of St. Petersburg families come to the cemetery once or twice a year to bring flowers and pay tribute to the city's defenders, perhaps to members of their own family, who died during the Siege, which the Russians call Blokada.
Victory Day (May 9th)
is a holiday in Russia that commemorates the surrender
of Nazi Germany in 1945. It was first inaugurated in the
15 republics of the Soviet Union, following the signing
of the German Instrument of Surrender late in the
evening on 8 May 1945 (after midnight, thus on 9 May
Moscow Time). We watched the parade build up during the
day it moved quietly (except for a few sporadic laments)
along the main street which had been closed to traffic
for this purpose.
guide in Crimea arranged for her friend Elena (centre, above), who lives in St
Petersburg, to escort our group in the 'Immortal Regiment' march which
we joined when it was fully underway. It drew well over one million people
altogether and they walked more than three-miles
through the city to Palace Square.
Elena carried a photo of her grandfather who fought
against the Nazis during the war.
Elena later wrote, "Exactly 1
million, 180 thousand people participated in the
Immortal Regiment this year in St. Petersburg. Please
tell your colleagues that we all in one boat on the
We all made our various ways home!
But not before we had agreed and issued the following:
This report was presented by Mary Beth Sullivan, Rev.
Bill Bliss, and Bruce Gagnon on behalf of the Global
Network. It was sponsored by PeaceWorks of Greater
The purpose of the Russia study tour was to listen,
learn, and stand against the constant demonization of
Russia by the western media. The idea was to build
people-to-people bridges between our nations rather than
an escalating arms race which could bring us WWIII.
During the WW II Nazi invasion of the former Soviet
Union 28 million citizens lost their lives from the
fascist attacks and occupation of the Soviet Union and
the memory of that war is deep in the consciousness of
the Russian people to this day.
Victory Day (May 9th) is a holiday in Russia that commemorates the surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945. It was first inaugurated in the 15 republics of the Soviet Union, following the signing of the German Instrument of Surrender late in the evening on 8 May 1945 (after midnight, thus on 9 May Moscow Time). We watched the parade build up during the day it moved quietly (except for a few sporadic laments) along the main street which had been closed to traffic for this purpose.
Our guide in Crimea arranged for her friend Elena (centre, above), who lives in St Petersburg, to escort our group in the 'Immortal Regiment' march which we joined when it was fully underway. It drew well over one million people altogether and they walked more than three-miles through the city to Palace Square.
Elena carried a photo of her grandfather who fought against the Nazis during the war.
Elena later wrote, "Exactly 1
million, 180 thousand people participated in the
Immortal Regiment this year in St. Petersburg. Please
tell your colleagues that we all in one boat on the
We all made our various ways home!
But not before we had agreed and issued the following:
We all made our various ways home! But not before we had agreed and issued the following:
This report was presented by Mary Beth Sullivan, Rev. Bill Bliss, and Bruce Gagnon on behalf of the Global Network. It was sponsored by PeaceWorks of Greater Brunswick, Maine.
The purpose of the Russia study tour was to listen, learn, and stand against the constant demonization of Russia by the western media. The idea was to build people-to-people bridges between our nations rather than an escalating arms race which could bring us WWIII.
During the WW II Nazi invasion of the former Soviet Union 28 million citizens lost their lives from the fascist attacks and occupation of the Soviet Union and the memory of that war is deep in the consciousness of the Russian people to this day.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4