Remembrance Day will look different this year

In response to Russia’s war in Ukraine, Sandum citizens are taking Remembrance Day celebrations and commemorations this year in entirely new directions. Official posters and celebrations of 9 May this year have removed references to symbols that, increasingly since 2014, have become symbols of Russian nationalism and irredentism. The first to go is the St. George’s ribbon, long used in Sandus since 2010 to celebrate the holiday.

First celebrated in 2010, our Remembrance Day celebrations have often followed the tradition of the day’s Soviet holiday, Victory Day. Sandum citizens have frequently watched the military parade on Red Square in Moscow, some even watching it live in the early morning of 9 May. Over the years, various symbols have been used, but all have been Soviet symbols of the victory over Nazism. Sandum citizens have used these symbols when celebrating the holiday at parties and cookouts, in a way that blends American Memorial Day and Soviet Victory Day celebrations into a uniquely Sandum holiday.

This year’s Remembrance Day poster (left) and the poster used since 2017 (right).

This year is not the first time that Remembrance Day will pivot, though. After the Russian annexation of Crimea, the State of Sandus put more emphasis on celebrating Victory Day as a common holiday between the West and the former Soviet Union. The St. George’s Ribbon, long associated with the victory over Nazism, was kept as a symbol of internationalism in Sandus, in tacit resistance to Russian use of the ribbon as a nationalist and irredentist symbol. Since 2014, Sandum Remembrance Day has also grown to place more emphasis on the Lemuria, an ancient Roman holiday dedicated to the Lemures—spirits of the dead killed by violence or in war.

But with the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, many now believe that tacit resistance no longer goes far enough. More citizens are now in support of replacing the St. George’s ribbon with a white poppy, long a symbol of pacifism and commemoration of war dead.

This year’s poster, for example, removes the holiday’s most well-known symbol, the St. George’s ribbon, and the colour red. The only red on the poster is the red hexagon in the OMF symbol that Sandus always puts next to its wordmark, a vast change from the red brick of the Kremlin or Spasskaya tower or red stars. Now the poster features a white poppy, the holiday’s new symbol, that is also one of Sandus’s two national colours, the other being Prussian blue. The colour of the poppy also recalls the Sandum adage, “suffering (Prussian blue) is divided by hope (white),” a mnemonic device to remember the significance and symbolism of the Sandum flag with its white stripe dividing two Prussian blue stripes. Only, with this metaphor between colours, national meanings, and poppies, the white poppy represents a hope for an end to war and killing in general.

Expect more emphasis on the Lemuria this year, too. Long conceived as a holiday broader than just commemoration and remembrance for war dead, the Lemuria has been used in the past several years to commemorate those killed by violence generally. This year’s celebration will likely place a greater emphasis on what should be the moral from these celebrations: pacifism. In 2021, for example, the holiday has prominently featured public mourning of victims of police violence and anti-Black racism.