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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

How Putin's May 9th Ideology Has Come Back To Haunt Him

May 8th and May 9th crystallizes the divergent fates of Ukraine and Russia. For Vladimir Putin, the victory of the "Great Patriotic War" is at the core of his national narrative. More than 14 months into his invasion of Ukraine, who still believes the story?

Image of ​Russia's President Vladimir Putin attending a Victory Day parade held in Red Square to mark 78 years since the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II on May 9th 2023.

Putin attending at the Victory Day parade on May 9 in Red Square to mark 78 years since the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

Pierre Haski


PARIS — In the run-up to May 9 last year, speculation was rife that Vladimir Putin would use the anniversary of the victory over Nazism to announce the end of his "special military operation" in Ukraine. This year, Russia is still very much at war in Ukraine, and the atmosphere in Moscow is very different.

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May 9th crystallizes attention as it is at the heart of Putin's ideology. It illustrates the divergent fates of Ukraine and Russia: as a supreme symbol, Ukraine now marks the date of May 8, aligned with European ceremonies to celebrate the end of World War II. The Nazi capitulation was indeed signed at 11:01 p.m. Berlin time on the 8th, which was 12:01 a.m. Moscow time on the 9th…

The victory anniversary of the "Great Patriotic War" is at the core of the national narrative in Moscow as it has been written and rewritten by the Putin system. It is the backdrop for the invasion of Ukraine, with the initial hype about "denazification." One year later, who still believes it?

The "immortals' parade" canceled

Putin had nothing positive to announce Tuesday, not even the capture of the ruined city of Bakhmut: Wagner's militiamen have partly conquered it at the cost of tens of thousands of lives. But the Ukrainian defenders did not give up, and Putin cannot even claim this success.

Above all, the Russian authorities have canceled the "immortals' parade", the centerpiece of the militarization of Russian memory and identity. The "immortals," at the core of the May 9 parade, is an initiative that started from the grassroots, to honor the memory of the dead on the front.

Putin has recovered it: in 2018, he marched at the head of a million people, a portrait of his grandfather in hand. Similar parades occurred around the world with Russian communities; even here in Paris, at the Père Lachaise cemetery.

Image of \u200bServicemen march during a rehearsal of a military parade

Servicemen march during a rehearsal of a military parade marking the 78th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II in Novosibirsk, Russia, on May 9th, 2023.

Kirill Kukhmar/TASS via Zuma

Battle against the West

In a book dedicated to the "immortal regiment" — this is its title (ed. Premier Parallèle) — the historian of Russian origin Galia Ackerman underlines that with this parade, "the Russians reaffirm first of all their victory over the Nazis, and thus show to the whole world their moral superiority, first over the West, and then over the rest of the world.

Vladimir Putin, you were beaten to the punch.

This year, the parade has been canceled in Moscow and in several Russian cities.

An unofficial explanation is the fear of seeing portraits of victims of the war in Ukraine appearing among those of the World War II. A sign of an imperceptible unease, which adds to the absence of any significant foreign guest on the Red Square.

Far from triumph

Putin is settling into the long war, as opposed to last year when he still hoped for a quick success. He can no longer back down, if only because of the war crimes committed.

This gloomy May 9 is neither about triumphalism nor questioning: in the exaltation of the great patriotic war, Putin is looking for reasons to hold on, to survive, by designating the West as the adversary instead of the Nazis of yesterday.

But in the battle of symbols, it was Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky who fired the first shot, declaring on Monday, May 8, that the Russians would be pushed out of Ukraine, "like the Nazis in 1945."

Too bad, Vladimir Putin: you were beaten to the punch.

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Shame On The García Márquez Heirs — Cashing In On The "Scraps" Of A Legend

A decision to publish a sketchy manuscript as a posthumous novel by the late Gabriel García Márquez would have horrified Colombia's Nobel laureate, given his painstaking devotion to the precision of the written word.

Photo of a window with a sticker of the face of Gabriel Garcia Marquez with butterfly notes at Guadalajara's International Book Fair.

Poster of Gabriel Garcia Marquez at Guadalajara's International Book Fair.

Juan David Torres Duarte


BOGOTÁ — When a writer dies, there are several ways of administering the literary estate, depending on the ambitions of the heirs. One is to exercise a millimetric check on any use or edition of the author's works, in the manner of James Joyce's nephew, Stephen, who inherited his literary rights. He refused to let even academic papers quote from Joyce's landmark novel, Ulysses.

Or, you continue to publish the works, making small additions to their corpus, as with Italo Calvino, Samuel Beckett and Clarice Lispector, or none at all, which will probably happen with Milan Kundera and Cormac McCarthy.

Another way is to seek out every scrap of paper the author left and every little word that was jotted down — on a piece of cloth, say — and drip-feed them to publishers every two to three years with great pomp and publicity, to revive the writer's renown.

This has happened with the Argentine Julio Cortázar (who seems to have sold more books dead than alive), the French author Albert Camus (now with 200 volumes of personal and unfinished works) and with the Chilean author Roberto Bolaño. The latter's posthumous oeuvre is so abundant I am starting to wonder if his heirs haven't hired a ghost writer — typing and smoking away in some bedsit in Barcelona — to churn out "newly discovered" works.

Which group, I wonder, will our late, great novelist Gabriel García Márquez fit into?

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