Speaking at the ceremony, the President described each of the five cities that received the honorary title separately. President Medvedev recalled the battles around Volokolamsk when the Nazis were converging on Moscow; the partisan movement nearby the city of Bryansk; the large-scale military operations by the Transcaucasian Front near Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria; the Vyborg Offensive and breaking through the Mannerheim Line in 1944, when 300-year-old Vyborg was returned to Russia; and the role of Kalach-on-Don during the Battle of Stalingrad.
City of Military Glory is an honorary title awarded in the Russian Federation. It was established by the Federal Law of May 9, 2006. The title is awarded to Russian cities whose defenders displayed courage, steadfastness and mass heroism in fierce battles in the cities themselves or in their environs. The title is also awarded to the Hero Cities of the Russian Federation.
The title City of Military Glory has been awarded to 27 cities.
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Speech at Ceremony Conferring Honorary Title of City of Military Glory to Mayors of Volokolamsk, Bryansk, Nalchik, Vyborg and Kalach-on-Don
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Dear veterans, dear friends,
First of all let me cordially wish you Happy Victory Day. Our people were victorious in what really was one of the most brutal wars of the twentieth century, and indeed one of the most brutal wars ever known to humankind. They saved our country, saved Europe from Nazism and gave us all the gift of a future. It is our duty to honour the heroism of every one of our nation’s defenders, those who fought in the major battles, those who fought to occupy nameless hills, those whose presence on the battlefield and the home front helped us inch closer to the great Day of Victory.
During the Great Patriotic War, many defenders and residents of our cities demonstrated this sort of courage and heroism, including in Volokolamsk, Bryansk, Nalchik, Vyborg and Kalach-on-Don, the cities that today were awarded certificates conferring on them the honorary title of City of Military Glory.
During their long history these towns have often been subjected to enemy attack: during the time of the Golden Horde [1240–1502], during the Time of Troubles [1598–1613], during the Great Northern War [1700–1721], and during the War of 1812. In the 20th century during the Great Patriotic War, these cities were once again the scene of very heavy fighting. There is a famous phrase: ”Russia is huge but there is nowhere to retreat: Moscow is behind us!“ These words were uttered during the battle of Volokolamsk. There was almost a month of heavy fighting on the outskirts of the capital, but the Nazis could not break through our defensive lines. It was here that people first began to talk about the legendary Katyusha [rocket], and the heroic exploits of the ‘panfilovtsy’ [surviving soldiers of the 316th Rifle Division under the command of Major General Ivan Panfilov who was killed in action during the Battle of Moscow in November of 1941] became a true symbol of courage and selflessness.
There is another city that deserves this great honour: Bryansk. The partisan movement that developed near Bryansk during the most difficult years of the war was referred to as an important second battle front. In the occupied territories the fields literally burned under the feet of the Nazis. From October 1941 to September 1943 the guerrillas killed 100,000 Nazi soldiers and officers, and derailed over a thousand enemy trains. Leo Tolstoy once remarked that a people who can engage in all-out guerrilla warfare during a conflict is invincible, and the Bryansk partisan movement confirmed the truth of this.
We also know that by attacking the Soviet Union, the Nazis hoped to sow ethnic and religious strife among our peoples, thus helping to achieve their criminal goals. In doing so, they clearly miscalculated. All the peoples of our great country stood up in its defence, and those of different nationalities and faiths showed at that time an unprecedented solidarity. Representatives of our traditional religions played an important unifying role during the Great Patriotic War.
The defence of the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria, Nalchik, was an example of genuine national unity. During a large-scale military operation, the Transcaucasus Front disrupted enemy plans to seize the Black Sea ports and oil fields.
In the military history of our country Vyborg also occupies a special place. By making it part of Russia during the Northern War, Peter the Great strengthened Russia’s position on the Baltic Sea and ensured the safety of the new capital. Incidentally, in June we will be celebrating the 300th anniversary of the city of Vyborg. I was recently there: the city is growing and it is a very pleasant place to visit. During the Great Patriotic War Vyborg proved once more that it is worthy of its glorious history established during previous eras. In 1944, troops of the Leningrad Front led by Marshal Govorov broke through the so-called Mannerheim Line, and Vyborg, together with the Karelian Isthmus, was again reunited with our country.
Throughout the world the symbol of the intractability of our people’s will is Stalingrad. Many cities were involved in the Battle of Stalingrad. Among them was Kalach-on-Don, near which one of the key battles was fought in November 1942. It was here that troops from three fronts merged and completed the encirclement of German forces, and the Soviet army launched a broad offensive: from Leningrad to the foothills of the Caucasus. This was already a prologue of the Great Victory.
Dear friends, in the city of Bryansk, which receives this honorary title today, there is a majestic memorial, the Mound of Immortality. More than 40 years ago a time capsule was put into a gun barrel there. In it, there is a plea to our descendants to love their country and protect it. It is a sacred covenant for all of us — for all citizens of the Russian Federation.
Today, along with veterans there are young people, young residents of these Cities of Military Glory, who will be receiving certificates. I think this is as it should be, because it is the young who must not only continue the work of their fathers and grandfathers – they must also at the very least remember what happened. And this is sometimes not so easy.
Once again I heartily congratulate all veterans and all citizens of Russia on the upcoming holiday, Victory Day, and all residents of Volokolamsk, Bryansk, Nalchik, Vyborg and Kalach-on-Don on receiving the honorary title of City of Military Glory. I wish you all health and success.
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In addition to the fact that today really is a remarkable day for residents of the cities who have received the honorary title of City of Military Glory, today is also a day in May close to Victory Day. All of us – and I hope the veterans more than anyone – are in a good frame of mind.
You know, we have always been proud of the cities that we refer to as Hero Cities. This honour has been awarded in previous years. There are 12 such cities, including some that are now in other countries. But this does not devalue in any way the heroism of those who fought in other places, including in those cities that have just received this honorary title.
Veterans know that victory was forged not only in places where the great and monumental battles were fought — it was forged in other, often difficult circumstances, perhaps not so significant in the course of the war at that time. The victory was won behind the enemy lines. It was won across the whole territory of the Soviet Union, which is why we are awarding these honorary titles today. That is why the Cities of Military Glory will be singled out in a special way near our sacred monument, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
There is one more thing that I would like to repeat because it has to be said, even though it might seem superfluous. The history of the Great Patriotic War is now understood in different ways. Unfortunately, there are various interpretations that go beyond the bounds of legitimate inquiry — in effect they are a way of scoring political points. And it is precisely this kind of event, which we have created to honour the memory of the people who gave their lives in the fight against Nazism, that will enable us to ensure that their memory lives on and that humanity will always be grateful for what has been done. Let me say again that this victory should not be used to serve the political ambitions of individual leaders, nor should it become a bargaining chip in a political game. Our people have paid too high a price to be indifferent to this subject, and we will never be indifferent either.
Once again I heartily congratulate the veterans on the upcoming holiday. God bless you, we love you, and we will do our best to help you.
I congratulate all the residents of the cities that have received this honorary title. You are now residents of cities whose names will remain forever in the annals of our homeland.
All best wishes for the upcoming holiday!