On May 7th, 1945, Nazi Germany signed an unconditional surrender of its armed forces, effectively bringing an end to the second world war in Europe. As news spread across the globe, raucous parties soon followed. From Paris to London to Rome, over to the United States and even Canada, citizens took to the streets to celebrate the Allied victory.
Then news arrived in Russia…
At 1:10 AM on May 9th, 1945, the announcement was delivered by Yuri Levitan, the chief announcer of Radio Moscow. “Moscow is speaking,” the broadcast began, “Fascist Germany is destroyed!” (Even if you don’t understand Russian, it’s still pretty neat to hear the tone of this message).
And then things got really crazy. Despite the late hour, just about all of Russia flocked to the streets immediately. Citizens ran through Moscow in their pajamas, soon joined by the embassies of Allied Nations. Celebratory gun fire shot through the sky, as search lights illuminated the dark night. “It was impossible to describe everything that happened that day,” remembers one Muscovite. “We drank to the victory and to those killed, wishing to never see such a massacre again.”
By the time Joseph Stalin addressed the elated nation twenty two hours later, the Russian people faced a new problem: they’d polished off the country’s entire supply of vodka. As one reporter noted, “There was no vodka in Moscow on May 10, we drank it all.”