Great Patriotic War (term)

This article is about the term. For the military details, see Eastern Front (World War II).
Not to be confused with Patriotic War of 1812.

The term Great Patriotic War (Russian: Вели́кая Оте́чественная война́, Velíkaya Otéchestvennaya voyná[1]) is used in Russia and other former republics of the Soviet Union (except for the Baltic States, Georgia, and Ukraine) to describe the conflict fought during the period from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945 along the many fronts of the Eastern Front of World War II between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany and its allies.

The Great Patriotic War is commemorated on 9 May 1945.


The term "Patriotic War" refers to the Russian resistance to 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 (otechestvo means "the fatherland"), as opposed to a campaign abroad (заграничная война),[2] and later was reinterpreted as a war for the fatherland, i.e. a defensive war for one's homeland. Sometimes the Patriotic War of 1812 was also referred to as the Great Patriotic War (Великая отечественная война); the phrase first appeared no later than 1844[3] and became popular on the eve of the centenary of the Patriotic War of 1812.[4]

After 1914, the phrase was applied to World War I.[5] 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.[5] 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.[5]

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.[5] 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.


The term is not generally used outside the former Soviet Union (see Eastern Front). There is a significant difference between this phrase and World War II or the Second World War, as the Soviet term does not cover the initial phase of World War II during which the USSR, then still in a non-aggression pact with Germany, occupied six European countries, namely Poland (1939), Finland (1939), the Baltic states (1940) and Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina (1940).[6] The term does also not refer to the Soviet Union's 1941 invasion of Iran alongside Britain, the war with Japan (which included the Soviet–Japanese War (1945)) nor the war on the Western front.[7]

On 9 April 2015 the Ukrainian parliament replaced the term "Great Patriotic War" (Velyka vitchyzniana viina) in the national lexicon with "Second World War",[8] as part of a set of decommunization laws.

See also


  1. Azerbaijani: Бөјүк Вәтән мүһарибәси; Belarusian: Вялікая Айчынная вайна; Estonian: Suur Isamaasõda; Armenian: Մեծ Հայրենական պատերազմ; Georgian: დიდი სამამულო ომი; Kazakh: Ұлы Отан соғысы; Kyrgyz: Улуу Ата Мекендик согуш; Lithuanian: Didysis Tėvynės karas; Latvian: Lielais Tēvijas karš; Moldovan: Мареле Рэзбой пентру апэраря Патрией; Tajik: Ҷанги Бузурги Ватанӣ; Turkmen: Бейик Ватанчылык уршы; Tatar: Бөек Ватан сугышы, Ukrainian: Велика Вітчизняна війна, Velyka Vitchyznyana viyna; Uzbek: Улуғ Ватан уруши
  2. For example, one of the books published shortly 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).
  3. It can be found in Vissarion Belinsky's essay "Russian literature in 1843" first printed in magazine Otechestvennye Zapiski, vol. 32 (1844), see page 34 of section 5 "Critics" (each section has its own pagination).
  4. For example, several books had the phrase in 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.
  5. 1 2 3 4 The dictionary of modern citations and catch phrases by K. V. Dushenko, 2006. (Russian)
  6. Davies, Norman (2006). "Phase 1, 1939-1941: the era of the Nazi-Soviet pact". Europe at War 1939–1945: No Simple Victory. London: Macmillan. pp. 153–155. ISBN 9780333692851. OCLC 70401618.
  7. Federal Law № 5-ФЗ, 12 January 1995, "On Veterans"
  8. Ukraine Purges Symbols of Its Communist Past, Newsweek, (10 April 2015)
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