President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon colleagues and veterans,
The Organising Committee has developed a fine tradition of holding its meetings on preparing for victory anniversary celebrations at the 1941–1945 Great Patriotic War’s main battle sites. Today’s meeting is no exception, as we are here in the Belgorod Region, which saw very fierce fighting during those days. We are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the legendary battle of Kursk at this time, and I of course want to take this opportunity to sincerely congratulate everyone, especially the war veterans, on this symbolic date.
Events such as the battles of Kursk, Moscow, Leningrad, Stalingrad, and the Caucasus do not simply mark stages in the Great Patriotic War, but are the fabric from which our country’s heroic history and the common memory of our forebears’ valour and courage are woven. Their dedicated love for the homeland is an example to all of the post-war generations. It is our duty to follow this example and preserve and hand down to our descendants the truth about the war, the facts, and the heroes, including by marking anniversary dates and important events in our history on the scale they deserve.
May 9 is of course one of the most sacred and important dates. We have less than two years to go before the 70th anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War. Preparing for the celebrations is a big task and we must do everything to make sure the anniversary is celebrated at the highest level and with depth and substance. Of course the veterans are the main participants in these celebrations. We must step up our work to improve the social and economic conditions for Great Patriotic War veterans, invalids, participants, and those with equivalent status.
We will examine the proposals in this area at today’s meeting. Let me stress that we must always keep actual individuals at the centre of our attention.
The regional and municipal authorities must clearly identify each individual veteran’s needs and resolve their problems without conditions. This is to be done right away, not waiting for 2015 to come around. It is important to be creative in preparing the celebrations, and even more important to be sincere. If you are sincere, the veterans, the people who should be at the centre of our attention, will feel this warmth. Our young people should feel it too.
We have to specially design programmes for young people and get professionals involved who know how to prepare these sorts of events with a modern and substance-filled approach. No one needs formal events held just for the record, and this kind of thing should not exist at all. We must organise this anniversary decently and pay close attention to the artistic and humanitarian sides of the celebrations.
We have already developed some good formats for work with young people. They include theme-based school events, meetings with war veterans, and laying flowers at war memorials. But I am sure that new approaches are required in patriotic education too, today, approaches designed for today’s people, today’s youth.
In particular, I propose that we turn to the search for heroes of the Great Patriotic War not yet known to the general public. The military archives hold thousands of documents with unique information about remarkable facts and heroic deeds, and we must persistently release these facts from the archives, year after year, make them public, make films about them, organise memorable events based around them.
I hope very much for help here from the media, the film industry, historians, local historians, museum curators, and archivists and librarians.
Victory Day is a very honest and sincere holiday and we should treat it accordingly. We are to also undertake large-scale work to get military burial sites into decent order.
I met just before with Great Patriotic War veterans and nearly all of them touched on this issue in one form or another. I am talking above all about small village memorials and common graves and monuments. We should get children and teenagers involved in this noble work too, and organise youth volunteer brigades. But let me stress that civil society initiatives alone will not be enough to resolve this whole task. The state and local authorities also have a duty to organise and finance this work.
I ask you too, not to forget about the Soviet military burial sites abroad. They also need to be looked after in general and kept in order. During these preparations for the 70th anniversary of the victory, I ask you to pay particular attention to the international component and organise, including with the help of our institutions abroad, thematic events in which our compatriots abroad and war veterans from the CIS and Baltic countries, from the allied armies, and the descendants of those who fought Nazism in Germany itself will be able to take part.
The victory against Nazism belongs to the entire Soviet people. It was achieved not just through force of arms but also through the strength of the brotherhood in combat and labour between people of all different nationalities. The anniversary celebrations and their preparations should help to develop this friendship and strengthen understanding and trust between peoples who lived together for decades in a single country, defended it, rebuilt it from the ruins, and supported each other as only the closest of kin can do. We must do everything we can to pass the memory of this brotherhood on from one generation to the next.
Let me add that we plan to issue a common Commonwealth of Independent States anniversary decoration to mark this date. It will be an honorary order – 70th anniversary of Victory in the 1941–1945 Great Patriotic War — which will be presented to those who fought on the frontlines. A medal of the same name will be presented to Russian veterans and foreign citizens who fought in USSR armed forces national troop formations, or in partisan detachments and underground groups. We hope that these decorations will be approved at the Council of CIS Heads of State meeting.
Based on our experience organising the celebrations of the 60th and 65th anniversaries of the victory, we would like you to establish an organising committee to organise the main events for the 70th anniversary celebrations.
As for the committee’s membership, I think this is a matter for the members of the Victory Organising Committee to decide together with the relevant federal and regional authorities.
Thank you for your attention.