Hundreds of Russian and Armenian soldiers marched in Armenia’s second city of Gyumri on Friday in a joint parade that marked the 69th anniversary of the Soviet victory in World War Two.
An Armenian general commanding the parading troops used the occasion to also publicly congratulate the Armenian military on the 22th anniversary of a key victory in the Nagorno-Karabakh war, which was marked on the same day.
“Congratulations on the 69th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War and the liberation of Shushi,” he told Armenian troops lined up on Gyumri’s central square.
“Hurrah! Hurrah!” they shouted in unison before goose-stepping through the sprawling square to the accompaniment of military marches. They were followed by soldiers of the Russian military base headquartered in Gyumri.
The parade watched by thousands of local residents also featured armored vehicles and artillery systems belonging to the Russian and Armenian armed forces. It began with a procession of open-top vehicles carrying Armenian veterans of World War II.
A smaller number of Armenian and Russian soldiers marched at a war memorial in Yerevan’s Victory Park after Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian and other senior Armenian officials laid flowers by its eternal fire. Thousands of ordinary Armenians, many of them gray-haired war veterans wearing their wartime medals, visited the memorial throughout the day.
At least 320,000 residents of Armenia, a republic of approximately 1 million people as of 1941, were drafted to the Soviet army during the bloodiest war in the history of humankind. Only just over half of them returned home alive.
President Serzh Sarkisian paid tribute to their contribution to the Soviet victory in a statement issued on the occasion. “During World War II, hundreds of thousands of Armenians fought in the trenches of justice and freedom and came out with credit,” he said.
Sarkisian also mentioned the anniversary of the Karabakh military operation, which proved critical for the outcome of the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan. “On May 9, 1992, we were once again in the trenches of justice and freedom, fighting against national discrimination and genocide,” he said, adding that the capture of Shushi, the Karabakh town until then mostly populated by Azerbaijanis, saved the Karabakh Armenians from “physical annihilation.”
Incidentally, Sarkisian was in Karabakh on Friday, taking part in official ceremonies celebrating the victory date.