May 17, 2017

1943. Skyrockets Fly Over Moscow

Red Army Triumphs Continue
Victory celebrations in Red Square in Moscow to mark V-E Day in the Soviet Union, May 9, 1945 (source)
(For more, see the complete 1943 Moscow reports)

From Newsweek, September 20, 1943, pp. 34-35:
Moscow Celebrates

To hail the victories Moscow artillery roared out salute after salute, with a record twenty salvos from 224 guns for Stalino. Bill Downs, Newsweek and CBS correspondent, cabled this vivid picture of how the victorious capital celebrated the summer triumphs.

"Stalin's orders specifying that Moscow celebrate the Red Army's summer victories has been a popular signal to take a lot of the grimness from ordinary living which for the past two years has characterized Russia's life-and-death struggle. No one can order people to laugh—but rocket displays and booming siege guns are like a shot in the arm to Muscovites, who are usually undemonstrative.

"The first celebration on Aug. 6, signalizing the Orel-Belgorod break-through, was the most colorful. Light anti-aircraft gunners, who had been sitting with nothing to do atop the city's buildings for more than a year and a half, contributed to the demonstration with great bursts of tracer bullets. Added to the ordinary skyrockets and Very lights popping up all over the city, this celebration was a notable night in Moscow.

"All celebrations occur after the daylight factory shifts and when the office workers are home. The Moscow radio—an elaborate public-address system, since the Russians have had no private radios since the war began—announces through the streets and apartment loudspeakers that an important announcement will be made in a half hour. There is great amount of telephoning between friends and some betting on what town will be announced as captured.

"Then the entire city quiets down and crowds gather at the corner speakers to hear the news. There is no cheering but lots of grins and hand-shaking.

"Then there is another brief wait for the fireworks. At the zero hour, the artillery battery at Moscow's western outskirts lights up the sky, and a few seconds later there is a low rumble like distant thunder. The skyrockets, carefully prepared before the announcement, are scattered through every section of the city and are shot off as fast as possible by the members of the security police squads. Red, green, and white, they shoot a couple of hundred feet in the air, filling the sky with colorful designs before burning out.

"The Muscovites, however, have had so many celebrations in a row that they are getting used to them. The first couple of Orders of the Day brought out hidden bottles of wine and vodka from many cupboards for private toasts. But now the string of Red Army victories has got the good citizens of Moscow victory-conditioned. They bring out toasting bottles only for the larger towns these days, and already they are saving up for Smolensk and Kiev."