Armenia Marks Soviet Victory in WWII


YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Tens of thousands of people walked to a World War II memorial in Yerevan on Sunday as Armenia marked the 65th anniversary of Soviet victory over Nazi Germany which had taken a heavy toll on its population.

More than 100 Armenian soldiers, meanwhile, marched through Moscow’s Red Square with troops from Russia, other ex-Soviet republics and key NATO states, in a massive military parade watched by several world leaders, including President Serge Sargisian.

In a written address to the nation issued on the occasion, Sargisian spoke of his “pride” for hundreds of thousands of Armenians, among them over 30 generals, who fought in the Red Army in 1941-1945.

“Our people saved nothing for that victory,” he said. “We suffered numerous casualties, whose memory will be kept alive by our children as well. We had heroes and military leaders, whose exploits will inspire the current and future generations as examples of patriotism and the art of warfare.”

At least 320,000 residents of Armenia, then a republic of less than 1 million people, were drafted to the Soviet army during the bloodiest war in the history of humankind. The total number of its Soviet Armenian participants is estimated at more than
500,000. Only just over half of them returned home alive.

The overall number of Soviet citizens killed in the war totaled a staggering 26 million. More than 8.5 million of them were soldiers. The number of surviving war veterans has shrunk rapidly in the past few decades. Only about 3,700 veterans remain alive in Armenia. Hundreds of them were at the center of public attention on Sunday in Yerevan’s Victory Park, the main venue of V-Day celebrations in the country. With wartime medals decorating their chests, they silently filed past the eternal fire of the war memorial
to pay their respects to their fallen comrades.

Prime Minister Tigran Sargisian, Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and other top Armenian officials as well as representatives of foreign diplomatic missions in Yerevan laid flowers by the fire in the morning. Scores of ordinary Armenians did so throughout
the day. The culmination of the celebrations in Moscow was Russia’s biggest military parade since the break-up of the Soviet Union staged on Red Square.

“Sixty-five years ago, Nazism was defeated and a machine that was exterminating whole peoples was halted,” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev  said in a speech preceding the impressive display of his country’s military might. “There was one choice — either
victory or to become slaves.”

The parade also featured troops from several other ex-Soviet nations, as well as the United States, Britain and France, Russia’s WWII allies. In a moment of great symbolism, an Armenian army company that goosestepped in the vast square was led by a grandson of Sergei Khudyakov (born Armenak Khanferiants), a Soviet Air Force marshal who played a prominent role in the war. Sargisian sent wreathes to the Moscow graves of Khudyakov, Marshal Hamazasp Babajanian and Admiral Ivan Isakov (born Hovannes Ter- Isahakian) on Saturday. He also made a point of visiting the tomb of the Red Army’s most famous ethnic Armenian commander, Marshal Ivan Baghramian. The latter was buried under the Kremlin wall facing Red Square.