By Emil Danielyan
Armenia officially marked on Monday the 60th anniversary of the end of the World War II, honoring and remembering hundreds of thousands of its citizens that contributed to the Allied victory over Nazi Germany.
Hundreds of gray-haired war veterans wearing wartime medals were joined by senior government officials as they paid tribute to their fallen comrades at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Yerevan’s Victory Park. Thousands of younger Armenians laid flowers by its eternal fire throughout the day.
The nationwide celebrations began with a military parade and ended with a concert and fireworks show at the WWII memorial in Yerevan. Separate wreath-laying ceremonies were also held by the statutes of the two most prominent and high-level Armenian participants of the war: Marshal Ivan Baghramian and Admiral Ivan Isakov.
President Robert Kocharian issued a written address to the nation in connection with the “glorious jubilee”. “Armenia’s revival was made possible by that victory and [ensued] peace,” he said. “Armenians showed unique examples of bravery and sacrifice within the ranks of the Soviet army.”
Kocharian issued the statement ahead of his departure to Moscow at the weekend. He was among nearly 60 heads of state and government and other international dignitaries that arrived in Russia to take part in the anniversary celebrations.
Their presence in Moscow’s Red Square on Monday underscored international recognition of the Soviet Union’s decisive role in the defeat of Nazi Germany. According to newly released official figures, the Soviet Union lost 26.6 million people in four years of savage fighting with Germany, far more than all other Allied countries combined.
Some 600,000 citizens of Soviet Armenia took part in what many people in the former USSR call the Great Patriotic War. Nearly half of them lost their lives - a catastrophic death toll for what was then a republic of less than two million inhabitants.
Just over 19,000 war veterans remained alive as of May 2000. Their number must have shrunk considerably since then.
The veterans as well as other elderly people form one of the most socially vulnerable sections of Armenia’s population. Many of them barely make ends meet, living off modest pensions and other benefits paid by the state.