Late in the evening of 8 May 1945 and by Moscow Time after midnight and therefore on 9 May, Field Marshall Wilhem Keitel signed Germany's ratified surrender terms, handing over the document to Marshall Georgy Zhukov in the Soviet Army's headquarters in Berlin-Karlshorst. Russia's leader Joseph Stalin, treated with near contempt the Allies' surrender document obtained a day earlier in Rheims, France – "Victory in Europe Day", telling Marshall Zhukov:
"...The main contribution...was done by (the) Soviet people and not by the Allies...I disagree that the surrender was not signed in Berlin, which was the centre of Nazi aggression..."
Come forward 69 years to Friday 9 May 2014 and Russia's President Vladimir Putin would remind the crowds in Moscow and later on the same day in Crimea, and a now much greater worldwide audience, that this is a day burned into the Russian psyche like no other, for reasons still as relevant.
Reuters reported part of his speech in Red Square:
"The iron will of the Soviet people, their fearlessness and stamina saved Europe from slavery. It was our country which chased the Nazis to their lair, achieved their full and final destruction, won at a cost of millions of victims and terrible hardships.
"We will always guard this sacred and unfading truth and will not allow the betrayal and obliteration of heroes, of all who, not caring about themselves, preserved peace on the planet."
Moscow's Victory Day Parade included a fine display of some of Russia's best military hardware, including tanks, ballistic missile launchers, fighter jets screaming low overhead and a parade of over 11,000 troops. It was the biggest event of its kind for over 20 years and since the end of the Soviet era.
Leaving the podium, President Putin, accompanied by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, made a point of meeting and shaking the hand of several of his troops in person. Actions and words underscored a strong political message for home and abroad, not a little aimed at the government in Ukraine and its Western backers.
There is no doubt that President Putin's handling of the political crisis in Ukraine meets with the wholehearted mandate of the great majority of Russians. With an approval rating between 70 per cent and 80 per cent between 2000 and 2008, this "collapsed" to just 61 per cent by November 2013, still a figure that most political leaders in the West would die for.
Russia's respected Levada Centre, free from state interference, put the President's approval rating at nearly 72 per cent by mid-March 2014 and even higher to 80 per cent after the President's address on Crimea to the Russian Parliament, shortly afterwards.
Most Russians, not just those in Eastern and Southern Ukraine who desire to re-join the Motherland, agree with their President that the regime in Kiev is dominated by neo-fascists and a point made by President Putin in his Victory Day speeches, appeared to indicate that Russia didn't sacrifice over 20 million people in the Great Patriotic War to defeat Germany and Nazism, only to see it rise in a modern format 470 air miles south of Moscow in Kiev.
Later on 9 May, President Putin flew to Sevastopol in Crimea where the country's Black Sea Fleet is based to review a large air and sea display witnessed by over 150,000 people. Amongst the hardware, probably pride of place went to the Slava (Glory) Class, Guided Missile Cruiser "Moskva" with its anti-ship missiles which have a range of 288 miles and there were numerous other vessels including guided missile hovercraft and a massive Russian Air Force flyover to keep the crowds suitably impressed.
The message was very plain: gone are the bad old days of former President Yeltsin who lost for Russia its superpower status, we're not quite there yet but everything is proceeding in the right direction.
President Putin's speech wasn't bad either, telling the city's residents, including some now very old World War II veterans, that he was "...delighted to be here in the heroic Sevastopol on this sacred day, and to celebrate the most important holiday of our country together with you..."
The city in late 1941 withstood a siege of 250 days under attack from German and Romanian armies with great loss of life and was liberated on 9 May 1944 with more loss of life, when it was made a Hero City of the Soviet Union.
(In the 1941 Battle of Kiev, Russia lost 616,000 soldiers dead or captured, many of the captured being killed or worked to death in German POW camps, and the city was also given the title of Hero City).
Another small dig at his opponents reported by Russia Today, was delivered by the President after praising the deeds, courage and valour of the veterans when he told them that they had made a "huge moral contribution to Crimea's and Sevastopol's return to our homeland." Whatever else might be negotiated, the message was clear that Russia intends to hold Crimea for ever.
In sharp contrast to the Victory Day celebrations taking place across Russia, in most of the Ukrainian cities where Russians form only a small portion of the population, the celebrations were cancelled and those in Kiev were very much scaled down. As many as six million (more by some estimates) ethnic Ukrainians fought under the colours of the Soviet Union against the Germans and their allies so it is safe to suggest that many will take a dim view of their leaders in Kiev, whether or not they otherwise support Ukraines's current leaders.
An added insult for many veterans was the decision made by Kiev to exchange the traditional St George's Ribbon used by Russia as the symbol of military valour, for a red poppy. This was not a very popular move especially with older members of the public and the Ukrainian government may be misunderstanding the Red Poppy as the British and Commonwealth Armistice Day symbol. (The equivalent in France is the Blue Cornflower).
There were no doubts as to where the people's sentiments lay in the big centres of Eastern Ukraine where Russians usually make up a majority of the population. In Donetsk, some people were even holding up pictures of Stalin – didn't think that was pc in Moscow! – and some banners read "Death to Fascists".
A few members of the public were keen to tell (Western) reporters that Victory Day hasn't always been universally celebrated throughout Ukraine because Ukrainians in the Great Patriotic War fought on both sides, which is very true, and, the real punch line: the right-wing ministers in Kiev are inspired by the likes of the former Ukrainian Partisan Army.
Didn't the Partisans fight the Germans!? Russian Partisans did but usually the Ukrainian Partisans had different priorities. Many of them fought under group headings such as the Ukrainian Insurgent Army or the Army of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationals (OUN) and "assisted" and often joined the German SS in hunting down and killing Poles, Jews and Russians – and Ukrainians who didn't agree with them.
All happened a long time ago? Well that depends on how old you are but in 2010, former outgoing President of the Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko, officially rehabilitated the ultra-nationalist leader Stepan Bandera, remembered as an OUN leader who had played a prominent role in the ethnic cleansing in Volhynia, before and after the withdrawal of German forces in the area and made him (posthumous) "Hero of Ukraine".
No doubt the above was done with the approval of the Social National Party of Ukraine, known as Svoboda and which plays a prominent role in the current Ukrainian government. Not all Russian jibes are without foundation.