Russia’s May 9 Victory Day is a major holiday and source of pride for authorities and citizens alike.
Everyone is given an official day off in honor of the occasion and schoolchildren are encouraged to “voluntarily” attend military parades, organize concerts for local veterans, and participate in official celebrations.
But this year, some children are being pushed to take that pride to bizarre lengths.
A group of young filmmakers in Samara, for instance, showed off their patriotism by producing a Victory Day-themed sketch involving the ghost of a 10-year-old boy dressed in a Soviet military uniform.
When a group of young children encounters the ghost, he somberly explains that his father went to war and fascists executed his mother. The boy says he worked in an artillery plant before joining guerrilla fighters and perishing during a mission.
As he walks away from the kids, a girl asks: "Hey, is dying scary?"
“That’s not important,” the ghost boy answers, looking back. “What’s important is that we won.”
Some were appalled, saying the video propagated the notion that children should die in the name of their motherland. The YouTube channel that originally published the video first disabled the comments section, which was full of critical remarks, and later took it down completely.
But another video posted to YouTube took the connection of children to death a step further. Ten-year-old Anya explains at the start that her great-grandfather died last year and that she would like to tell his life story. She shows an urn that she says holds his ashes.
She then sits over a backlit surface with black material scattered across. While tracing images through the ashes with her finger, she describes her great-grandfather’s World War II heroics. Anya draws swastikas with the ashes as she explains how her elder fought fascists.
The video, which had been viewed more than 230,000 times on YouTube before being made private on May 6, was apparently made as part of a media campaign in advance of a still-unknown film.
The video was largely met with ridicule on Twitter.
“We had two bags of grass, 75 mescaline tablets, five sheets of acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and grandpa’s ashes,” one user wrote, alluding to a famous passage from the Hunter S. Thompson novel Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas.
Some without the resources to make videos though, seem to be keen to celebrate WWII veterans by dressing their children up as Soviet soldiers. Uniforms in kids’ sizes are sold in abundance over the Internet.
A VK group sells costumes for boys in all sizes -- the smallest, for 1,800 rubles ($27), fits a 1-year old. The khaki outfits are completed with garrison caps adorned with red stars, belts, and St. George ribbons.
Yelena Anisimova, a Russian photographer, bought a number of these costumes for family photo shoots she titled I Am A Hero’s Grandchild. She charges 1,000 rubles ($15) for the photos, including costume rentals for children and their parents.
The mother of a boy and a girl who were photographed in full attire commented that the children were delighted with the process. “All day Kirill was telling everyone that he was a soldier,” the woman wrote.
Internet users also discovered WWII costumes being made for newborns. For 950 rubles ($14.50), one can get a khaki onesie and a complementary garrison hat. The seller, however, warns that the outfit is made for outings and photo shoots -- not sleep and play.
“Buttons and a star are real, made out of metal, so we don’t recommend leaving the child in the costume unsupervised,” the description reads.