May is a busy month in Kazakhstan. There are several important and very patriotic holidays. May 1st is Day of Unity, which is celebrated as a day of friendship and tolerance of all peoples living within Kazakhstan. May 7th is Defenders of the Fatherland. This is a newer holiday first celebrated in 2013 to mark the creation and founding of the nation’s Armed Forces. It honors past and current service men and women and, from what I understand, is sometimes called Men’s Day since military service is required of all men here. May 9th is Victory Day, which marks Germany’s unconditional surrender in Moscow. We don’t often hear of Kazakhstan playing a part in World War II, but it did so as it was part of Russia and many Kazakhstani soldiers died defending their homeland. As you can see, very busy month for national holidays.
This year marked the 25th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s Armed Forces and to celebrate, the government organized their biggest military parade to date. While it was on Defender’s Day, I think it was also meant to capture the patriotic spirit of the other neighboring holidays. We went downtown to witness the festivities. Unless you have tickets, you don’t get to see the entire parade unfortunately. We lined up with thousands of others behind the starting point of the parade where many of the tanks were waiting to move—why they don’t have people line up after the front is confusing to me, but whatever. From our vantage, we didn’t get to see any of the soldiers marching or anything that happened at the front which was several blocks away. We did get to see the helicopters fly overhead in a “25” formation to mark the 25th anniversary. We also saw an impressive display of military equipment including tanks, trucks, very large guns and missile launchers…and even though they are a landlocked country, they appear to have a Navy!
After the parade portion, there was also an airshow with a variety of helicopters, bombers, fighter planes, and other aircraft. The show ended with four MiGs flying up and shooting fireworks out the back. On our walk back, we spotted the starting line of the parade, which had a lot of bleachers and the beautiful flag and colors of Kazakhstan everywhere. I imagine there was an impressive opening ceremony with speeches and some sort of display (we heard loud booms before the parade started, so I assume they fired off some weapons).
This type of parade was new to me and was definitely an interesting experience!