Saturday, May 9, 2009



May 9 is
Victory Day in Russia, the equivalent of V-E Day for the U.S. and Europe, where it is celebrated on May 9 (different time zones).

Pictured above, a Soviet boy playing on one of the tanks in one of the memorials to the Battle of Stalingrad, one of the turning points of "The Great Patriotic War," or World War II. By this boy's time the city had lost the "Stalin" in its name, and as "Volgograd" now honored the river Volga and not the former Leader of the USSR.

It was 1984, and I was wandering around the Soviet Union for seven weeks by myself, exploring and taking photographs. By the time I arrived in Volgograd, I was quite cut off from the outside world.

So it was left to an angry woman in this city in which, as the Soviets saw it, they helped save the world from the Nazis, to inform me that President Ronald Reagan had threatened to bomb the USSR.

It was the summer of the Los Angeles Olympics, and the Soviets were staging a tit-for-tat retaliatory boycott of those Olympics. The U.S. had devastated them by boycotting their 1980 Moscow Olympics after they had invaded Afghanistan.

The Chinese in more recent years could not have wanted their Olympics more than the Soviets wanted theirs then, or Vladimir Putin wants the Winter Olympics in Sochi now.

The Cold War had newly heated up. Into this time of tension, Ronald Reagan let fall his "joke," in the warm-up to one of his Saturday radio addresses. He declared "Russia" an outlaw nation and announced that the bombs would fly in five minutes.

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