Victory Day or 9 May is a holiday, that marks the capitulation of Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union at the end of Second World War. Also it’s known as the Great Patriotic War, in the Soviet Union.
The Ribbon of Saint George or Saint George’s Ribbon is a widely recognized military symbol in Russia. During Soviet times, the ribbon held no public significance. In 2005, as a response to the pro-democratic Orange Revolution in Ukraine, the ribbon was revived in Russia. The ribbon of Saint George is also used by civilians as a patriotic symbol and as a symbol of loyalty to the Kremlin, particularly since 2014. In Ukraine and the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), the symbol has become widely associated with Russian nationalist and separatist sentiment. However, in Estonia the ribbons are not banned and during the Victory Day celebrations, many drivers decorate their cars with the Ribbon of Saint George. Last year, in the republic of Georgia, Russian tourists, bikers and drivers had to remove their Saint George’s Ribbon’s, after angry backlash from the locals. Saint George’s Ribbon is also banned in Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
The symbolism of the orange and black (or yellow and black) is thought to represent fire and gunpowder of war, or the death and resurrection of Saint George, or the colors of the original Russian imperial coat of arms (black eagle on a golden background).
The colors of orange and black are still bugging Ukraine. While in 2014, pro-Russian separatists continued to tighten their grip in eastern Ukraine, some angry Ukrainians have given them a nickname that sums up just how they feel about teeming swarms of unwanted pests: “koloradi.” The term is short for Colorado potato beetles; the invasive, plant-eating insects that are the scourge of gardeners and farmers around the globe. Saint George’s Ribbon is also banned in Ukraine.
So, basically, Russia is the only country, where Saint George’s Ribbon is widely used as a decoration, during the Victory Day celebration. Often, Russians go overboard, while trying to show respect to their ancestors who fought in World War 2. This results in so-called an annual “St. George’s Hysteria”, when store owners decorate their merchandise with the ribbons, factories producing goods packed in symbolic orange and black colors, restaurant owners make Victory Day colored foods and so on.
Most of the Russians love it, while many consider this Saint George’s Ribbon madness inappropriate. Those who oppose, consider the way of decorating sales, merchandise with ribbons as a disgusting way of running a business, making money on the war. Others point out that the country used to live fine without the ribbons from 1945 till 2005 and the Victory Day was still celebrated.
This year’s Victory Day celebration is a week away, but images of overused ribbons started to pop all over the Internet, once again questioning the reason behind usage of Saint George’s Ribbon.