Great Patriotic War (term)

The Great Patriotic War (Russian: Вели́кая Оте́чественная война́, romanizedVelikaya Otechestvennaya voyna)[a] is a term used in Russia and some other former republics of the Soviet Union[1] to describe the conflict fought during the period from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945 along the many fronts of the Eastern Front of World War II, primarily between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. For some legal purposes, this period may be extended to 11 May 1945 to include the end of the Prague offensive.[2]

1963 Soviet stamp commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad, with caption reading Великая Отечественная война 1941-1945гг (The Great Patriotic War 1941-1945).
Ukrainian stamp commemorating the "60th anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War", 1945–2005 (Ukrainian: 60-річчя Перемоги у Великій Вітчизняній війні, lit.'60-richchia Peremohy u Velykii Vitchyznianii Viini').
Belarusian stamps for "70 years of victory in the Great Patriotic War 1945–2015" (Belarusian: 70 hadow Peramohi w Vyalikay Aychynnay vayne 1945–2015).

The end of the Great Patriotic War is commemorated on 9 May.


The term "Patriotic War" refers to the Russian resistance to the French invasion of Russia under Napoleon I, which became known as the Patriotic War of 1812. In Russian, the term отечественная война originally referred to a war on one's own territory (otechestvo means "the fatherland"), as opposed to a campaign abroad (заграничная война),[3] and later was reinterpreted as a war for the fatherland, i.e. a defensive war for one's homeland. Sometimes the Patriotic War of 1812 was also referred to as the Great Patriotic War (Великая отечественная война); the phrase first appeared in 1844[4] and became popular on the eve of the centenary of the Patriotic War of 1812.[5]

After 1914, the phrase was applied to World War I.[6] It was the name of a special war-time appendix to the magazine Theater and Life (Театр и жизнь) in Saint Petersburg, and referred to the Eastern Front of World War I, where Russia fought against the German Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.[6] The phrases Second Patriotic War (Вторая отечественная война) and Great World Patriotic War (Великая всемирная отечественная война) were also used during World War I in Russia.[6]

The term Great Patriotic War re-appeared in the Soviet newspaper Pravda on 23 June 1941, just a day after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. It was found in the title of "The Great Patriotic War of the Soviet People" (Velikaya Otechestvennaya Voyna Sovetskogo Naroda), a long article by Yemelyan Yaroslavsky, a member of Pravda editors' collegium.[6] The phrase was intended to motivate the population to defend the Soviet fatherland and to expel the invader, and a reference to the Patriotic War of 1812 was seen as a great morale booster.

The term Отечественная война (Patriotic War or Fatherland War) was officially recognized by establishment of the Order of the Patriotic War on 20 May 1942, awarded for heroic deeds.


The term is not generally used outside the former Soviet Union, and the closest term is the Eastern Front of World War II (1941–1945). Neither term covers the initial phase of World War II in Eastern Europe, during which the USSR, then still in a "non-aggression pact" with Germany, invaded eastern Poland (1939), the Baltic states (1940), Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina (1940) and Finland (1939–1940).[2][7] The term also does not cover the Soviet–Japanese War (1945).[2]

In Russia and some other post-Soviet countries, the term is given great significance; it is accepted as a representation of the most important part of WWII. Until 2014, Uzbekistan was the only nation in the Commonwealth of Independent States that does not recognize the term, referring to it as World War II as well as the Victory Day on May 9 as the state holiday - the Day of Remembrance and Honour.[8]

On 9 April 2015, the Ukrainian parliament replaced the term "Great Patriotic War" (Velyka vitchyzniana viina) in the country's law with the "Second World War" (Druha svitova viina),[9] as part of a set of decommunization laws. Also in 2015, Ukraine's "Victory Day over Nazism in World War II" was established as a national holiday in accordance with the law of "On Perpetuation of Victory over Nazism in World War II 1939-1945". The new holiday is celebrated on May 8 and replaces the Soviet-Russian Victory Day, which is celebrated on May 9. These laws were adopted by parliament on April 9, 2015 within the package of laws on decommunization.[10]

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  1. ^ Additional translations in languages of the former Soviet Union:
    Azerbaijani: Бөјүк Вәтән мүһарибәси, romanizedBöyük Vətən müharibəsi; Belarusian: Вялікая Айчынная вайна, Vialikaja Ajčynnaja vajna; Estonian: Suur Isamaasõda; Armenian: Հայրենական Մեծ պատերազմ, romanizedHajrenakan Mec paterazm; Georgian: დიდი სამამულო ომი; Kazakh: Ұлы Отан соғысы, romanized: Uly Otan soǵysy; Kyrgyz: Улуу Ата Мекендик согуш, romanizedUluu Ata Mekendik soghush; Lithuanian: Didysis Tėvynės karas; Latvian: Lielais Tēvijas karš; Romanian: Marele Război pentru apărarea Patriei (Moldovan Cyrillic: Мареле Рэзбой пентру апэраря Патрией); Tajik: Ҷанги Бузурги Ватанӣ, romanizedChangi Buzurgi Vatanī; Turkmen: Бейик Ватанчылык уршы, romanized: Beýik Watançylyk urşy; Tatar: Бөек Ватан сугышы, romanized: Böyek Watan suğışı; Ukrainian: Велика Вітчизняна війна, romanizedVelyka Vitchyzniana viyna; Uzbek: Улуғ Ватан уруши, romanizedUlug‘ Vatan urushi.


  1. ^ Україна, Віталій Червоненко ВВС (9 April 2015). Рада ухвалила "декомунізаційний пакет". BBC News Україна (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Федеральный закон № 5-ФЗ от 12 января 1995, "О ветеранах" (in Russian)
  3. ^ For example, one of the books published shortly after the war was titled Письма русского офицера о Польше, Австрийских владениях, Пруссии и Франции, с подробным описанием похода Россиян противу Французов в 1805 и 1806 году, также отечественной и заграничной войны с 1812 по 1815 год..." (Fyodor Glinka, Moscow, 1815–1816; the title was translated as "Letters of a Russian Officer on Poland, the Austrian Domains, Prussia and France; with a detailed description of the Russian campaign against the French in 1805 and 1806, and also the Fatherland and foreign war from 1812 to 1815..." in: A. Herzen, Letters from France and Italy, 1847-1851, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995, p. 272).
  4. ^ It can be found in Vissarion Belinsky's essay "Russian literature in 1843" first printed in magazine Otechestvennye Zapiski, vol. 32 (1844), see page 34 of section 5 "Critics" (each section has its own pagination).
  5. ^ For example, several books had the phrase in their titles, as: П. Ниве, Великая Отечественная война. 1812 годъ, М., 1912; И. Савостинъ, Великая Отечественная война. Къ 100-лѣтнему юбилею. 1812—1912 г., М., 1911; П. М. Андріановъ, Великая Отечественная война. (1812) По поводу 100-лѣтняго юбилея, Спб., 1912.
  6. ^ a b c d The dictionary of modern citations and catch phrases, by Konstantin Dushenko, 2006. (in Russian)
  7. ^ Davies, Norman (2006). "Phase 1, 1939-1941: the era of the Nazi-Soviet pact". Europe at War 1939–1945: No Simple Victory. London: Macmillan. pp. 153–155. ISBN 9780333692851. OCLC 70401618.
  8. ^ "World War II -- 60 Years After: For Some Central Asians, 'Great Patriotic War' is More Controversial Than Ever".
  9. ^ Ukraine Purges Symbols of Its Communist Past, Newsweek, (10 April 2015)
  10. ^ "Про увічнення Перемоги у Великій Вітчизняній війні 1941-1945 років". Retrieved 1 February 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

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