By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Armenia celebrated on Thursday the 57th anniversary of Soviet victory in the World War II, with thousands of elderly veterans and their younger countrymen laying flowers at a war memorial in Yerevan.
An official ceremony at the capital’s Victory Park, attended by government members and the top brass of the Armenian army, began with a minute of silence in memory of the victims of the bloodiest war in the history of mankind. A company of soldiers then marched past the eternal fire on a hilltop overlooking the city center.
In a written message, President Robert Kocharian thanked the Armenian veterans for their contribution to the 1945 defeat of Nazi Germany which he said “opened a new era of peaceful, creative work” for the Armenian people. Prime Minister Andranik Markarian likewise emphasized the significance of the “great victory.”
Some 600,000 citizens of Soviet Armenia, then a republic of less than two million inhabitants, took part in the war. Only half of them stayed alive. There are now more than 15,000 living veterans left in Armenia, most of them in their late 70s and 80s. The white-haired men and women wearing Soviet and Eastern European war decorations have been a fixture at May 9 celebrations.
Many of them have been left impoverished over the past decade, barely surviving on measly pensions and other social benefits paid by the state. Nostalgic feelings toward Soviet past are therefore not uncommon among them. “I used to live in a better state,” said one veteran.