In coordination with the Kremlin, Russian activists plan an ex-USSR-wide distribution of black-and-orange ribbons meant to commemorate the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany. The caveat is that the St. George’s ribbon has evolved to embody Russian power and nostalgia for the USSR; concepts that many in the Caucasus are not willing to wear on their sleeves.
The state-run Russian Information Agency (RIA Novosti), a champion of the annual St.-George's-ribbon campaign, has announced that on May 9, the 69th anniversary of the 1945 Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, millions of ribbons will rain down on ex-Soviet countries, the South Caucasus included.
In an April 29 talk show, headlined “St. George’s Ribbon Struts across the Planet,” RIA Novosti claimed that a massive ribbon-handout rally would be held in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku. The ribbons, talk-show participants said, also would be up for grabs at the Russian embassies in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Moldova. In the case of Georgia, which severed diplomatic ties with Russia after the two countries' 2008 war, the Russian consulate at the Swiss embassy would provide the ribbons.
Many pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine are wearing these ribbons, and the show host made sure to take a swipe at Ukrainian “nationalists” and their alleged attempts to “erase the historic memory" of the war.
But it looks like the show and its claims of a post-Soviet team spirit may have been ultimately meant for a domestic, Russian audience.
Despite RIA Novosti's imposing descriptions, Azerbaijan quickly denied planning any grandiose Russian-ribbon-wearing day. Whether it was after a call from above or not, the local pro-government activist group Ireli, tagged by RIA Novosti as the rally's main organizer, also denied any such plans, 1news.az reported.
For their part, Armenian news sources confirmed plans to distribute over 20,000 ribbons on May 9; not surprising, given Yerevan's close alliance with Russia and upcoming accession to the Moscow-led Customs Union.
In Georgia, there has been hardly any mention of a planned Russian-ribbon invasion.
It might prove tricky to tie ex-Soviet folks together with a ribbon which largely stands for Russian power; particularly in those countries with separatism problems of their own.
The Armenian and Azerbaijani participants in the RIA Novosti show, for instance, took time out from the bonhomie to exchange barbs about their own war over breakaway Nagorno Karabakh.
Come May 9, the actual proportions of the Russian-ribbon-rally campaign may become more visible.