By Ruben Meloyan
Armenia on Friday officially marked the 63rd anniversary of the end of the World War II, honoring and remembering hundreds of thousands of its citizens who contributed to the Soviet-led defeat of Nazi Germany.
As always, the celebration of what is a public holiday in the country began with senior state officials laying wreathes at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Yerevan’s Victory Park. Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian and parliament speaker Tigran Torosian led the ceremony in the absence of President Serzh Sarkisian, who traveled to Nagorno-Karabakh earlier this week.
Hundreds of gray-haired war veterans wearing wartime medals and holding flowers filed past the eternal fire of the war memorial to pay their respects to their fallen comrades throughout the day. Thousands of younger Armenians also took part in the annual remembrance.
In a written address to the nation, President Sarkisian described the Soviet victory in the war as an “exceptional event” and noted a “considerable role” played by Armenians in bringing it about. “The victory achieved at the cost of enormous sacrifices enabled our people to not only heal the wounds but also develop the country,” he said. “Modern-day Armenia is the continuation of a republic that survived and prospered thanks to the feat of those who achieved the victory.”
More than half a million residents of Soviet Armenia took part in what many in the former USSR call the Great Patriotic War. Approximately half of them lost their lives - a huge death toll for what was then a republic of less than two million inhabitants.
The number of Armenian war veterans has been shrinking rapidly and, according to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, currently stands at approximately 5,600. The Armenian government decided on Thursday to double monthly benefits paid to them in addition to their modest pensions. Prime Minister Sarkisian told reporters in Victory Park that the veterans will also benefit from a further increase in social spending which the government plans for next year.