I recall watching military parades on TV as a youngster and knowing that I wasn't the only kid who wanted to be a soldier, and a decade later I wasn't just a soldier, but a combatant in one of the bloodiest conflicts of the twentieth century.
As a result, be careful what you want for since dreams do come true, and now let's look at why Western society dislikes large military parades but some do, and what makes them so unique.
Because I participated in multiple military parades, allow me to approach this topic more professionally and objectively.
Countries such as Russia (USSR), China, and, at one point, Warsaw Pact countries such as North Korea held military parades not just to demonstrate the force of their weaponry, but also to provide civilians with peace of mind.
Citizens could readily see where their money was going by exhibiting and parading firearms, or so we were informed.
Second, exhibiting armament and weapons openly communicated to foreign and domestic adversaries what armaments were available.
Third, after a military parade, I was approached by a "journalist" who asked me a lot of questions about the RT 20 domestic made weapon, or better known as the hand cannon 20 mm. My boss advised me to give all facts since he was from a three-letter agency and was claiming to be a journalist, which he clearly wasn't, but he was capturing a lot of details so the military parade could be used as an open source of intelligence.
Last but not least, when a military parade takes place, two things are important: first, it is something called "citizen pride," and second, the military parade symbolises the country's standing (economic, social, etc.).
A military parade pits East and West against each other
When we talk military parades nowadays, most people think of Russia, China, and North Korea... Individuals who appreciate military parades as well as those who do not share their excitement for them share this association.
But first, let's journey back in time, throughout history where Kings have projected their power by deeds of strength and awe since the dawn of human civilisation.
Friezes depicting heroic conquests were used by ancient Mesopotamian emperors to decorate their palaces and citadels. These pictures typically depicted a massive potentate striding in front of his army and crushing on his opponents' skulls.
As a result, a monarch's stature and political power were elevated.
The honourable triumphs of antiquity were one of the most important rites of the Roman Empire. Generals and emperors who had won battles would march from the Field of Mars into Rome's massive Temple of Jupiter, through temples and thousands of adoring peasants.
Everyone wore laurel wreaths and sacrificed bulls. Conquered nations' looted possessions were conveyed in chariots, and abducted barbarians were dragged along in chains. Some slaves were encouraged to murmur "Memento mori" (Remember you are mortal) to their captors as part of a drama meant to connect the Roman public to its leaders.
For many years, these Roman rituals left an indelible mark on Europe.
Every Easter, battalions of soldiers, dignitaries, and clergy would march past the city's renowned Basilica of San Marco and towards the ports to watch the Doge (Duke) of Venice board a ship, sail into the harbour, and cast a gold ring into the waves. Venice was the centre of a powerful Mediterranean empire at the time. This highly public act symbolised Venice's divine union with the Adriatic Sea, which served as the foundation for the Doge's wealth and power.
As empires disintegrated into nation-states and adopted a more open tone of hostility, these exhibitions of might lost their mystique.
The Prussian army's elite unit, noted for its rigid lockstep discipline, modernised the military parade. Armies from throughout the world copied the salutes and drills employed by the German kingdom.
Some of the strict constraints enforced on troops marching into Beijing may be traced back to Prussian tactical directions, such as the precise distance between an infantryman's nose and that of his colleagues on either side.
Another legacy handed to the world by the Prussians was the infamous goose step, which was first performed by pompous officers in the 17th century. The sheer scale of the iconography—massive Nazi rallies were staged across entire zeppelin fields, ostensibly representing the physical manifestation of the party's ideology—made it even more potent.
Similar patterns arose for other authoritarian countries, such as the Soviet Union (Russia), which paraded phalanxes of tanks and advanced missiles past the Kremlin every May.
The intricately planned competitions known as Mass Games, which involve many dancers and volunteers, are a distinctive communist heritage. These events continue to take place on a regular basis in North Korea, where tens of thousands of people undergo months of training and mechanically perform strange tableaux praising the opaque leadership of the isolated rogue regime.
Nowadays, victory marches are performed by the majority of nations, including many democracies, to demonstrate their military superiority and to honour prior sacrifices.
Let us now return to the present, to the current military parades.
In actuality, military parades have become identified with Russia due to their loyalty to the military and the weapons that represent their nation's pride.
Every year on May 9, the country commemorates Victory over Fascism Day, and the main events on Moscow's Red Square are capped off with a traditional military parade.
Russia proudly shows its military's highest levels, as well as a variety of armaments ranging from artillery to aeroplanes. Such manifestations have been widespread during the Cold War, and it is thought that the Russian state leadership is doing so to draw attention to its trump cards among its rivals.
The United States of America, which is by many metrics the world's most powerful nation and whose weaponry are equivalent to or even greater to those of Russia and are held in Moscow practically annually, does not appear to prioritise self-promotion.
To commemorate Independence Day in 2019, former US President Donald Trump ordered armed forces from the Pentagon to the streets of Washington. The "rest of the world" expected to see an incredible display of American military capability accompanied by a variety of military acrobatics.
Despite the fact that it is widely known how Americans feel about military parades, optimists predicted that they would be happy as well. Particularly if they are conducted by one of the most disliked American presidents in recent history, who wanted to organise a parade of military forces and the entirety of the war potential in 2018, prompting considerable public outrage.
The 2019 Independence Day parade "succeeded" and was the first large military celebration held in Washington since 1991, when the Gulf War's victory was celebrated.
From honouring historic wars to Lincoln's death to presidential inaugurations, there is something for everyone.
Prior to 1991, there were only six other important military parades in American history. The year 1865 marked the first formally documented military parade in the United States. In an effort to boost morale in the grieving country, President Andrew Johnson's successor organised a procession identical to this one month after President Abraham Lincoln was slain.
Johnson declared the Civil War to be over and requested a Grand Military Review to honour the American forces that saw the conflict through to a successful conclusion.
The second great parade was held a year after the end of the First World War, in 1919. In New York, a parade of over 25,000 soldiers carrying various weapons and military equipment took place. A week later, the same thing happened on Washington's streets.
In 1942, New York hosted an unprecedented military parade. On that occasion, civilians and government representatives marched for 11 hours in support of American soldiers who had volunteered to fight in World War II.
When fascism was finally defeated four years later, a parade of 13,000 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Brigade marched through New York in front of roughly four million spectators to commemorate the end of fascism.
Before the aforementioned 1991, two other military parades were staged in the United States, both of which marked the president's inauguration. Soldiers marched through the streets of Washington during both John F. Kennedy's and Dwight Eisenhower's inaugurations in 1961.
Can I ask you a question?
Why is it that the United States of America, whose military power is "side by side" with Russia's, does not organise regular military parades, while the "babies" prefer to boast about their military resources?
The Russian procession conveys a Kremlin message.
Military parades are a public image associated with Moscow and the Russian military force, and the practise of organising them is as old as organised military units. The parade on Red Square, with its display of sophisticated heavy weaponry, is symbolic of the Cold War era, when it was an opportunity to introduce new things from the Soviet military industry.
It was typical for new equipment to be closely guarded until the parade, which was an opportunity to show off some of the Soviet Army's new assets to the world. It was estimated in the political milieu of so-called Kremlinologists who was where on the stage for the guests of honour in connection to the current leader, and who was out of favour. The Kremlin sends a strong statement with military parades in Moscow.
The Cold War value system and images were restored in numerous parades in recent years, which is why the march on Red Square is regarded as a key occasion to observe the top of the state's words, according to tradition.
Modern Russia holds parades in the old way, with heavy equipment echelons, but also "revived history" tanks and self-propelled guns from WWII, as well as people dressed in Eastern Front uniforms.
While Moscow hosts the largest parade, Russians often hold parades in smaller cities on Victory Day and other events.
Chinese parades seem similar to Russian parades. Our interlocutor explained us that the model was inspired by communism, which is why the Chinese like to display echelons of tanks and ballistic missiles.
Americans are vehemently opposed to power consolidation.
In the United States, parades are more focused on people, particularly civilians who frequently participate in activities alongside military formations. Military equipment is shown on a smaller scale, but it depicts a different cultural pattern of the military's involvement in society.
Although the United States does not stage large parades, it is not far behind Russia in terms of organising other military celebrations and activities. Hundreds of such military displays take place in the United States each year, but they are local events, as opposed to Russia's method of a centralised state and a centralised display of power in Moscow, followed by direct TV transmission in large towns.
Citizens in the United States, as well as numerous historical organisations that organise public reenactments of major wars, played an important part in nurturing military traditions and organising the march. The American Civil War and World War II are the most popular subjects. Tanks are a simplified illustration.
The Russians placed the T-34 in a battalion of professional military personnel who are paid by the state to show historical military equipment, but in the United States, the owners of the tanks and other combat equipment on display are private individuals.
Instead of a parade like Victory Day (May 9 according to the "Russian" calendar), D-Day is remembered with a series of commemoration events and parades. A replica of the June 1944 parachute landing with the original twin-engine C-47 is routinely organised on "round" anniversaries.
"Parades are expensive and unnecessary; money could be spent more wisely."
Former President Donald Trump was so impressed with how the French organised and conducted their parade on the Champs-Élysées in 2017, that he advocated doing something similar in 2018. Few people agreed with him, and the general public was the most outspoken opponent of holding a military parade.
Citizens in the United States believed that such manifestations had no effect or benefit, that they served only to promote Trump, that they were too expensive, and that all of that money, which came mostly from taxpayers, might have been spent on far more productive activities. Despite strong opposition, the parade was held in 2019.
Propaganda and war films
In contrast to praising military parades, Americans express their superiority in other, and many would argue far more effective, ways, such as through propaganda reflected in films and glorifying US military feats, which creates the impression that US war operations around the world are justified. This type of propaganda has been perfected to near perfection.
The Americans have a powerful propaganda machine, and they have created a strong image of their global domination and importance through war films and other kinds of mass culture. Even among their adversaries, who frequently develop an image based on American films, American military iconography is dominant.
The global recognition of Anglo-Saxon military history, which affirmed through films even minor wars that were not very significant in world history, such as punitive measures against Indians or the defence of the Alamo Fort, is indirect evidence of propaganda's strength. Even in science fiction films, American military symbolism is crucial.
I'll let you determine whether parades are necessary, for whom, and why.
We'll see what all of this means for regular people and people.