Victory Day in Azerbaijan
Victory Day in Azerbaijan commemorates the triumph of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany in World War II. Observed on May 9th, it is an important holiday in most post-soviet republics, and Azerbaijan is no exception. Roughly 600,000-800,000 Azerbaijani soldiers, or approximately one-fifth of the entire population of Soviet Azerbaijan, fought in World War II. The public holiday is a chance for Azerbaijanis to pay tribute to surviving veterans and to the memory of the many soldiers who lost their lives in battle.
Since more than 80 percent of the Soviet Union’s oil enterprises were located near Baku, Azerbaijan was one of the first regions to come under attack from German forces in World War II. After being ordered to seize Baku, the Nazis launched Operation Edelweiss on September 25, 1942 in an attempt to gain control of the Caucasus. Despite losing over 100,000 soldiers in the fight, the Nazis were never able to wrest control of the region.
During World War II, Azerbaijani partisan parties were also fighting in France, Italy, the Crimea and Belarus, and today memorials dedicated to Azerbaijani servicemen can be found throughout the former USSR, most notably in the Russian cities of Taganrog, Yalta and Sevastopol. No less than 128 Azerbaijani soldiers were awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union, the highest possible honor in the country.
Initially after regaining independence, local authorities removed May 9 from the Azerbaijan calendar, yet it was restored in 1994 and has been celebrated ever since. Today, Victory Day in Azerbaijan is celebrated with an array of festive events. Wreaths and flowers are placed at World War II memorials and surviving veterans are congratulated for their sacrifice by Azerbaijani authorities and citizens. One of the most important events is the military parade held in capital city Baku. Both the army and naval forces participate in the parade, which culminates in a grand fireworks show.