Vladimir Putin: People of Russia, fellow countrymen, and veterans!
June 22 is one of the most tragic dates in our history. On that day 60 years ago – today we are marking its 60th anniversary – the Great Patriotic War began.
That war was a terrible stab in the back for the Soviet people.
It was the attack on the USSR that initiated the most bloody phase of the Second World War, a catastrophe that divided the 20th century into a “before” and an “after” — before and after the war.
Nazi aggression reached its summit of cruelty in the attack on our country. The Nazis sought not just to break our people's will but to enslave us and destroy our nation. Twenty-seven million dead — no other country paid such a high price.
June 22 became a real test of the strength of our national spirit and a time that proved the unity of all the peoples of the Soviet Union.
There were still 1,417 fighting days to go. But already on that first day the people made their choice to be with their Fatherland in those times of danger, to defend it to the death, and not to let it fall into the hands of the enemy. This choice decided the outcome not only of the Great Patriotic War, but of the entire Second World War.
Many years have now passed but we can still see the consequences of that war today.
We can still see people's ruined lives, the letters announcing the deaths of loved ones, now yellowed with time, that almost every family has. A whole generation of young people was wiped from existence by that war. Even today, our demographic problems are in many ways a result of the legacy the war left us. One cannot know Russia without understanding just what our people lived through during the war and what experience we gained on the frontlines and in the rear. Without this knowledge, there is no understanding the special feelings we have for our armed forces and the defenders of our Fatherland.
Without that there is no understanding why our blockade survivors are in the habit of storing stale bread. Why our people hate war so much and what the origins are of the phrase so often repeated by our elders and now by younger people: “whatever, as long as it’s not war.”
The memory of those terrible war years will remain forever as an undying national sorrow etched into the hearts of all those who lived together in our united country, all those who have had more than their share of grief, who traversed all the hardships of the war and did not simply survive but stood firm and emerged victorious.
June 22 is a day of remembrance and sorrow. That is the way it is entered in the calendar of our national history. But it is also a day of warning and a day of reminder.
We will fight to uphold the truth about this war and oppose any attempts to distort and alter it, any attempts to degrade and insult the memory of those who lost their lives. There is no deceiving history. History's lessons are there for us to heed and remember, especially when they come at such an immeasurably great price.
It is bitter to hear the Second World War described as only a war for world supremacy between two totalitarian ideologies. It is bitter to see heroes declared criminals and criminals heroes. The Great Patriotic War was not a war between the Russians and the Germans. It was a war against Nazism. Soviet soldiers together with the Allies brought liberation from the brown plague to the peoples of the world and the German people. And we know that the people of Germany are aware of the consequences of that terrible catastrophe. And we value their far from symbolic attitude to the victims of Nazism.
In 1945, Nazism was brought down. But the roots that fed it have not been completely eradicated. Their poisonous shoots still sprout in different parts of the earth.
To this day, the world has not rid itself of ideologies that spread extreme nationalism, religious fanaticism and the idea of world domination. There are still those who need new fuehrers. Who parasitize on people’s troubles and promise simple solutions to complex and very involved problems. Who, in order to achieve their ambitions, are prepared to go to any lengths – defying morals, blood, and human lives. The crimes of Nazism and its collapse are the most dire warning to all those who call to expel non-Russians and non-Orthodox believers from the country. Who blame their own mistakes on them. Who seek there a justification for problems and difficulties. Hatred of aliens and intolerance towards others inevitably grow into a dictatorship and terror towards one’s own people. It is an axiom, and every civilised person must know and remember it.
There is one more lesson. On the eve of the war, none of those who shaped the destinies of the world could assess the danger. Millions had to pay ultimately with their lives for this political shortsightedness and inability to put aside personal ambitions.
The act of Nazi aggression has borne terrible testimony to what can result from the trampling of standards of international law. And it does not seem accidental that Europe should have begun to speak with full voice about human and civilian rights and norms of international law after the Second World War.
Big wars do not just start by themselves. They flare up out of local conflicts. This is why one of the main objectives of global politics is to unite forces against the threats that already genuinely exist today. These threats are above all, without exaggeration, international terrorism and nationalist and religious extremism. They have emerged today under new banners, but they are still the same old Nazi ideas.
People of Russia!
We will be coping with the consequences of this tragedy not a year or two. Even today we hear its echo. For more than half a century Russia and other Commonwealth countries have been treating their wounds. It is true that we have together restored our cities and raised our country from ruins. But no one will return to us the millions who died. The people who never had time to build their own homes and bring up their children. Who failed to consummate their loves and complete their studies. But they did the most important thing in their life – they defended the Fatherland. They upheld its sovereignty and dignity. They gave us a future. And we will never forget that.
Please observe a minute’s silence in memory of the war heroes who fell on the battlefield for the Fatherland.