In this painting dating from 1946 Vikulov captured the Leningrad celebrations of the first anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany. Given that Victory Day, celebrated on 9th May, is one of Russia’s most important holidays it is interesting to note that in the immediate post-war period it was an ordinary working day. The 1945 order of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet which introduced it as a public holiday had already been amended by 1947 restoring it as a working day, which it would remain until the 1960s.
For the first anniversary celebrations of 1946 Stalin ordered salutes to be fired in Moscow and the capitals of the other Soviet Republics, as well as Lvov, Koenigsberg and the Hero Cities of Leningrad, Stalingrad, Sevastopol and Odessa. Leningrad was the first city to receive the honorific title of ‘Hero City’, having survived a crippling siege lasting for 872 days, during which well over a million of its inhabitants perished either through starvation or German shelling. The city itself was badly damaged by the bombing. None of this suffering and destruction is visible in Vikulov’s view of the city, the buildings appear intact and large crowds have gathered on Troitsky Bridge to watch the fireworks. Vikulov also used artistic licence in his depiction of the city’s skyline, bringing both the Peter and Paul Fortress as well as the opposite bank of the Neva with the Admiralty and St Isaac’s, into the frame.