President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy awarded the honorary name «Edelweiss» to the 10th separate mountain assault brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
«In view of the exemplary performance of the assigned tasks to protect the territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine, I will award the 10th separate mountain assault brigade of the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine the honorary name «Edelweiss», — says the message on the website of the Office of the President.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation reacted as follows:
«They say there are no Nazis in Ukraine? Here is another piece of proof for the blind and deaf. On Valentine’s Day, Zelenskyy officially named the Ukrainian Edelweiss division after the infamous unit of the Nazi Wehrmacht responsible for war crimes».
Journalists of the Russian publication TopWar compare the Ukrainian 10th Separate Mountain Assault Brigade with the First Mountain Division of the Wehrmacht, which bore the same name:
«Edelweiss» is a really beautiful name. You can’t argue. If murderers, executioners, fanatics were not hiding under it.»
The President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin also mentioned the Edelweiss division during his speech before the Federal Assembly:
«One of the brigades of the armed forces of Ukraine… was given the name «Edelweiss» as a Nazi division.»
The analogy with the name is false
«The 1st Mountain Infantry Division of the Wehrmacht was never officially called «Edelweiss». It was «in absentia» called «Edelweiss» because of the mountain flower on the emblem. Our «Edelweiss» was named so because the team works in the mountainous part, and edelweiss is a well-known mountain flower,» explains Mykola Posivnych, candidate of historical sciences, senior researcher at the Institute of Ukrainian Studies named after I. Krypyakevicha.
Speculating on the name of the Ukrainian brigade and comparing it with a division of the Wehrmacht, Russian propagandists for some reason do not mention the fact that from 2011 to 2016, the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs had a special purpose unit called «Edelweiss».
Also, according to the logic of the Russians, in their production, there are «Nazi» mountain backpacks «Edelweiss», designed for the transfer of property by military personnel of special and intelligence units of all branches of the military and special services.
Aishat Kadyrova, the daughter of Ramzan Kadyrov, who is the head of Chechnya and whose troops took part in the offensive on the Kyiv region, presented a clothing collection in 2020 that was inspired by the edelweiss flower. However, for Aishat, edelweiss is «a symbol of love and loyalty.»
What do Wehrmacht soldiers have to do with the Armed Forces of Ukraine?
«What the 1st Mountain Infantry Division of the Wehrmacht did is common knowledge. They were condemned. But we are not attached to them. The Russians specially prepare the facts and mix them with each other, adding their vial of poison. This is their standard work,» says Mykola Posivnych.
Moreover, during the Second World War, the name «Edelweiss» was associated not only with the Wehrmacht.
A youth group called the Edelweiss Pirates operated in Germany. Its members opposed the status quo of Nazi Germany. The Edelweiss pirates were mostly young men between the ages of 14 and 17: the age when one could leave school but not yet be conscripted. They protested against the system of that time and arranged their free time independently (at that time young people attended schools on «correct education») and fought with the police, later they started organizing small sabotages.
Not the only Third Reich
Yaroslav Shpet, author of a blog about history and travel and editor-in-chief of the historical online media «Prostir», told about what other significance the edelweiss flower had in history:
«With the flourishing of mountain tourism at the end of the 19th century, the edelweiss became a sign and symbol of climbers. Soon the edelweiss was adopted as a symbol on the logo of numerous alpine clubs and associations. In particular, in the Austro-Hungarian army, the symbolic connection between the bold and hardy alpine plants and the necessary tenacity, agility and modernity of the alpine troops was recognized and emphasized and often promoted with badges and awards depicting the edelweiss.
And in 1907, the Edelweiss was already officially established by Emperor Franz Joseph I as a sign of the imperial-royal mountain troops, so three whole regiments even on the eve of the First World War wore the Edelweiss on the collar of their uniforms. By the way, the Austro-Hungarian mountain troops were formed by mountaineers from all over the empire, including Ukrainians from the Carpathians, so to a certain extent, modern Ukrainian mountain infantry and hunting brigades can be considered descendants of the same Austrian alpine companies and regiments.»
That is, the edelweiss flower is an ancient symbol of resilience that inspired people and reflected their strength and fortitude.
Moreover, there are no historical parallels between the military units of the Wehrmacht and the Armed Forces of Ukraine: these are different historical eras, different countries, and different ideologies. One thing in common here is a mountain flower, which emphasizes the specifics of the unit’s work.