Not Victory Day: what holiday is celebrated on May 9 in Ukraine

Yulia LoseynkoLife
From now on, Ukraine will celebrate Europe Day together with the entire EU

On Monday, May 8, 2023, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy issued a decree that completely changes the configuration of May holidays in our country. In particular, on 9 May, we will no longer celebrate Victory Day, it will be a different holiday.

As OBOZREVATEL has learnt, it will now be Europe Day. It is celebrated on May 9 by all EU countries, and Ukraine is now joining them. The presidential decree states that it was adopted "being aware of the European identity of the Ukrainian people, in order to strengthen the unity of the peoples of Europe, ensure peace, security and stability on the European continent, demonstrate commitment to the ideals and values of democracy, and support the initiatives of youth and other public associations." The previous version of the presidential decree on Europe Day has been invalid since 2003. The decree comes into force from the moment it is published.

What is Europe Day?

The holiday was established in 1949 in honour of the founding of the Council of Europe. This event took place on May 5 and was celebrated on this date until 1964. At the European Council summit in Milan, May 9 was recognised as one of the official symbols of the EU. This marked the proclamation of the Schuman Declaration, the document that actually launched the European Union. It was adopted on 9 May 1950.

The Schuman Declaration, in particular, states: "Peace in the world cannot be secured without a building effort commensurate with the level of danger it faces. An organised and viable Europe can make a fundamental contribution to civilisation by ensuring peaceful relations between nations...". Thus, the document postulates common European values - peace, cooperation and prosperity of all states.

The holiday is celebrated in all EU countries and many neighbouring countries. It is intended to strengthen unity between countries. The EU recommends that it be considered a public holiday and a day off.

How Europe Day used to be celebrated in Ukraine

Since 2003, Ukraine has celebrated Europe Day on the third Saturday of May. Leonid Kuchma established it to "take into account Ukraine's strategic course towards European integration". On this day, various educational and cultural events were held to introduce Ukrainians to the EU countries and the values of this association. By the way, the European Union Treaty clearly defines six such values:

  • respect for human dignity;
  • freedom;
  • democracy;
  • equality;
  • the rule of law;
  • respect for human rights.

As Ukraine has the status of an EU candidate country since 2022, it was a logical decision to move the celebration of Europe Day to coincide with the rest of the EU. Moreover, the victory over Nazism is not celebrated on the continent on May 9.

What about Victory Day?

Celebrating Victory Day over Nazism on May 9 was an exclusively Soviet tradition. It emerged because by the time Germany finally signed its surrender in World War II, Moscow time had already arrived. By contrast, the document came into force at 23:01 on May 8, European time.

Ukraine inherited this holiday from the USSR and gradually transformed it from a Soviet propaganda holiday to a more European one. The symbols of the holiday were not the red star and St George's ribbon, but the red poppy as a symbol of the victims of all armed conflicts, and the pacifist slogan "Never Again". However, the date remained the same - May 9.

In 2015, the Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation was added to the holiday by a decree issued by then-President Petro Poroshenko. In honour of the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazism in Europe, he introduced a commemorative date of May 8. However, it has so far been neither a public holiday nor a day off.

Current President Volodymyr Zelenskyy proposed that the Verkhovna Rada adopt a law establishing May 8 as the Day of Remembrance and Victory over Nazism in World War II. Thus, in essence, a single holiday divided into two days should become a single date. It is not yet known when this presidential bill will be considered.

Earlier, OBOZREVATEL told more about the history of the Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation in Ukraine and the world.

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