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The term Great Patriotic War (Russian: Вели́кая Оте́чественная война́ Velíkaya Otéchestvennaya voyná[1]) is used in Russia and some other former republics of the Soviet Union to describe the period from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945 in the many fronts of the eastern campaign of World War II between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany with its allies.

The canonical end of Great Patriotic War is 9 May 1945, but for some legal purposes its period is extended to 11 May 1945 to include the end of the Prague Offensive.[2]

Since the early 1980s, the Great Patriotic War is sometimes referred to in Russian texts by the acronym "ВОВ", but this abbreviation is often criticized as "clearly failed, contradicting both to the signified notion and to linguistic taste" (явно неудачн[ая], противоречащ[ая] и обозначаемому понятию, и языковому вкусу),[3] "clearly disrespectful" (явно неуважительная),[4] "barbaric" (варварская),[5] "absolutely unacceptable" (совершенно недопустим[ая]),[6] "hasty, careless" (торопливая, небрежная)[7] etc.


The term Patriotic War refers to the Russian resistance of 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 (inside otechestvo, "the fatherland"), as opposed to a campaign abroad (заграничная война),[8] and later was reinterpreted as a war for the fatherland, i.e. a defensive war for one's homeland. Sometimes the war of 1812 was also referred to as Great Patriotic War (Великая отечественная война); the phrase first appeared no later than 1844[9] and became popular on the eve of the centenary of the Patriotic War of 1812.[10]

Since 1914, the phrase was applied to World War I.[11] 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.[11] 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.[11]

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.[11] 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.


File:Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Alexander Garden.jpg

Memorial Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Moscow Kremlin

The term is not generally used outside the former Soviet Union (see Eastern Front). There is a difference between this phrase and World War II or the Second World War, as the Russian term denotes only the war between Germany and its European allies, and the Soviet Union. The war with Japan (including the invasion of Manchuria) and the war on the Western front are not referred to by this term.[2] Nor does it cover the Soviet Union's 1939 attacks on Poland, Finland, the 1940 invasion of the Baltic states, or the 1941 invasion of Iran.[2]

See also


  1. Azerbaijani language: Бөјүк Вәтән мүһарибәси; Belarusian language: Вялікая Айчынная вайна; Estonian language: Suur Isamaasõda
    Armenian language
    Մեծ Հայրենական պատերազմ
    Georgian language
    დიდი სამამულო ომი
    Kazakh language
    Ұлы Отан соғысы; Kyrgyz language: Улуу Ата Мекендик согуш; Lithuanian language: Didysis Tėvynės karas
    Latvian language
    Lielais Tēvijas karš
    Moldovan language
    Мареле Рэзбой пентру апэраря Патрией; Tajik language: Ҷанги Бузурги Ватанӣ; Turkmen language: Бейик Ватанчылык уршы; Tatar language: Бөек Ватан сугышы, Ukrainian language: Велика Вітчизняна війна, Velyka Vitchyznyana viyna
    Uzbek language
    Улуғ Ватан уруши
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Federal Law № 5-ФЗ, 12 January 1995, "On Veterans"
  3. С. Виноградов, Культура речи, in: Агитатор, 1986, № 14, p. 60.
  4. Ф. Нодель, Что я скажу ученикам в год 50-летия Победы?, in: Народное образование, 1995, № 4, p. 98.
  5. Н. Еськова, Варварская аббревиатура, in: Наука и жизнь, 2000, № 5, p. 38.
  6. В. К. Карнаух, Завоевания: формы цивилизационного воздействия, in: Военные традиции России, СПб., 2000, p. 31.
  7. Н. Антуфьева, Не называйте их ВОВами, in: Центр Азии, № 19 (May 14, 2004).
  8. For example, one of books published short 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).
  9. It can be found in Vissarion Belinsky's essay "Russian literature in 1843" first printed in magazin Otechestvennye Zapiski, vol. 32 (1844), see page 34 of section 5 "Critics" (each section has its own pagination).
  10. For example, several books had the phrase on 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.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 The dictionary of modern citations and catch phrases by K. V. Dushenko, 2006. (Russian)

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