In an exchange with reporters outside the White House on Friday, Donald Trump said that he is now considering a visit to Russia next year at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Responding to a reporter’s question, Trump acknowledged that Putin invited him to attend Russia’s annual May Day parade, according to CNN, via Twitter.
But Trump may have actually been referring to the annual Victory Day parade, a celebration of Russia’s military and a commemoration of the Russian Army’s takeover of Berlin, Germany, which marked the end of the Second World War.
“It’s a very big deal, celebrating the end of the war,” Trump said, as quoted by CNN. “I would love to go if I could.”
The modern May Day holiday began in 1889 as International Worker’s Day, according to the history site Russia Beyond. In 1918, it was adopted by the newly formed Soviet Union as a celebration of international Communism.
The founder of Soviet Communism, Vladimir Lenin, saw the holiday as a symbol of a global, violent revolution.
“Prepare for an almighty battle, Comrade Workers,” Lenin wrote in an essay explaining the May Day holiday. “Stop the plants and factories on May 1, or take up arms.”
Over the years, the holiday became less about a call to world revolution and more about paying homage to Soviet political and military leaders, Russia Beyond explained. With the fall of the Soviet Union, 1991 marked the final May Day parade in Moscow’s Red Square. The local Moscow city government, however, revived the May Day parade in 2014, as a celebration of Russia’s resurgent military power, as demonstrated by the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March of that year.
In 2017, Trump attempted to counter the May Day holiday by declaring May 1 “Loyalty Day” in the United States.
The Victory Day holiday, which was revived by Putin in 2008, also features a massive parade displaying Russia’s military weaponry, with marches by thousands of soldiers as well. Victory Day in Russia is celebrated on May 9, not May 1.
Trump appears to have confused the two holidays. In June of this year, Putin extended an invitation to Trump to attend the annual Victory Day parade in 2020, according to a Reuters report.
Putin’s chief spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said that Trump reacted positively when Putin invited him to the annual display of Russian military might.
The current Russian president did not invent Victory Day, however. The holiday was first celebrated by the Soviet Union in 1965, 20 years after the end of World War II. Though the holiday is considered a solemn one, in remembrance of the Soviet Union’s 27 million war dead, many Russians take advantage of the two holidays, nine days apart, to enjoy a two-week vacation.
Trump’s stated hope to travel to Russia for the May Day holiday was met with sarcasm by Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris, who took to her Twitter account.
“Always nice to spend time with supporters on the campaign trail,” Harris quipped, in response to the news of Trump’s possible Russia visit.