http://youtu.be/4aFjviMrD7U Today is Victory Day in Russia, a major national holiday commemorating the victory over Nazi Germany. The Soviet Union bore the brunt of the war against Hitler and suffered terribly. I understand their pride, and am moved by their passion. You can't listen to the Russian national anthem or look at wartime posters without feeling it yourself.
But I find some aspects of the celebration irritating. Russia barely acknowledges the role of its Western allies, and completely ignores the war in the Pacific, where my grandfather fought for four years. Nor is there discussion about the holocaust or the evils of Nazi ideology. It's all about Germany invading Russia, as if Russia were not an invader itself. After all, the European war started when the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany jointly invaded Poland in 1939 in full partnership. This disgrace is never, ever mentioned.
But most of all, I think Russia would be much better off if it moved on. It's been a few generations. Surely there must be something new to accomplish now.
I did have one positive experience related to the war. On a two-day train ride from Saratov to Almaty in 1994, I shared a cabin with an old, one-legged Russian war veteran. He had fought against the Germans and spent the rest of his life in Kyrgyzstan on a collective farm. He told me he remembered getting sacks of flour from the Americans during the war. He was so pleased that fifty years later, he finally met an American whom he could thank for it.