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Russian War Veterans Criticize Trade of War Artifacts

Russia's annual Victory Day parade was held in Moscow (on Tuesday), marking the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. But as VOA's George Dwyer reports, many veterans of the conflict are expressing indignation at the ongoing commercial trade in artifacts from that historic period.

The 61st anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany, by what was then the Soviet Union and allies including the United States, featured a parade of aging war veterans, some of whom used the occasion to complain that artifacts and symbols once revered by the nation are now being debased.

Ret. Colonel Leonid Krutov says the past has more value than what money can buy. "The Communists have saved the world from fascism, whether you want this or not. Today's young people are pouring mud, on the past. All they think about is the dollar, the money."

These veterans, and others nostalgic for the Soviet past, bemoan a thriving market for items that once evoked patriotic spirit. Over time, they have become curios for tourists and young Russian collectors. At Moscow's Izmailovo market, loads of surplus army gears are up for sale.

Some tourists have opposing views about the commercialization of Soviet history. One woman said, "It's like selling your soul to a certain extent, isn't it. It's such an important part of their past and their history and it meant a lot I suppose a lot to some people."

While a man countered, "Yeah, but they should be allowed to make money out of it now given they lived through it the good and the bad. Mainly the bad from what we read. And now they're making money out of what was put upon them. So I think there's a point in them selling it, making commerce out of it."

Russian artisan Sasha Novikov thinks so, too. He spends his days searching through Moscow's flea markets for unused items, and then turning them into pop art. Many of Sasha's pieces -- like this clock -- have found their way into the second hand gift stores that have sprung up around the Russian capital.

"We've made it a colonel because in my opinion it reminds me of one. It has shoulders, it has an ideal place for hat badge and simply the clock was made in the hope of being redone one day into this excellent colonel. We've extended the life of this old clock and in my opinion it looks quite good."

But in the opinion of others here, including even some young people, Sasha's artworks do not look so good. They feel their ideology and their communist past are being mocked. Viktor Anpilov is the leader of Worker's Russia. "The right of the working people to rule the country. That is the main achievement of the socialist period when the workers and peasants ruled the socialist country. Now the power belongs to the Bourgeoisie."

And the economy is more or less capitalist. One person's junk is another person's treasure. And there is a ruble to be made.