President Vladimir Putin:
I congratulate you most sincerely on this, the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad. I welcome the heroes of the battle and all those who have come here today to mark this glorious date.
Historians and military specialists have written much about the significance of the Battle of Stalingrad. But this is a victory that goes well beyond the bounds of military science alone and cannot be fitted into any usual historical description because it captures the very essence of the people’s spirit and the nation’s honour and dignity.
The capture of Stalingrad as a major industrial centre and important communications hub was of decisive importance for the Nazis. If they were victorious here they would have received the advantage they needed for a decisive turn in the war in general.
The enemy mobilised a strong force for this battle, a force on which it especially counted on and pinned particular hopes. The German command hoped for not just a successful but also a speedy outcome to this battle. The long and difficult battle for Stalingrad wore the enemy down, however.
For a whole 200 days and nights, fierce battles raged on this Volga River soil. The losses were terrible – a high price to pay for victory at this strategically important, final and decisive turning point.
The Nazis never fulfilled their hopes for marching victoriously into the city. They never managed to seize the initiative and launch a broad offensive. The defeat of Paulus’ army delivered the final blow to the Nazi leadership’s plans for success on the eastern front.
The Second World War brought people of different nationalities and religions together in the common fight. This can be seen by looking at those gathered here today. Representatives of different countries, different political views and convictions, joined forces in the face of a common threat.
Today, 60 years on, we can fully appreciate the success of the anti-fascist coalition and see once again the danger of new threats emerging.
This experience of unity is particularly valuable now when terrorism and extremism have reared their heads in our world. It is a valuable experience for the anti-terrorist coalition in which Russia is a consistent ally and partner.
But those who still have the instinct to invade, to use terror to control the destinies of entire peoples, would also do well to remember the lessons of World War II. Terrorists, after all, like the Nazis in the 1930s-1940s, often speak of world domination and of their liberating mission. But this liberation extends only to their own freedom to do as they please and commit crimes against their own fellow citizens and their own people.
The war unleashed by Nazi ideology and propaganda cost the lives of millions of people, including Germans, hundreds of thousands of whom died during the Battle of Stalingrad. This tragic price is also one of the terrible lessons of the war.
We see how modern Germany assesses this page in its history and with what respect Germans today show the memory of the Soviet soldiers who fell vanquishing Nazism and opening the road for the construction of a democratic Germany. In his statement of February 2 this year, marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Stalingrad, the Federal Chancellor of Germany said, “Stalingrad has become the symbol of the immeasurable suffering endured by millions of people as a result of Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union. What happened at Stalingrad remains in the collective memory of our peoples. From this mutual suffering, reconciliation, peace and the strong ties of friendly partnership are born. We will make every effort to continue developing our relations. This is our duty before those who fell at Stalingrad.” It is hard not to agree with these words. For my part, I would like to note that Russia, like no other country, knows what war is. It also knows the value of peace.
This is why we respect other peoples’ right to sovereignty, independence and free development. We will continue to develop relations based on a positive partnership with all countries and will work to strengthen international and European security.
In conclusion, I would like once more to say warm words of thanks to the veterans of Stalingrad. You did not surrender and did not retreat. You upheld the glory of Soviet and Russian arms, you defended peace and you won the war.
You have shown in your lives that our country has always known how to defend itself and how to unite in the face of a common misfortune and common great undertaking.
This national unity, a centuries-old victorious tradition are the most valuable and treasured heritage that you have handed down to your descendents. It will continue to be passed on from one generation to another. I bow low before you, dear veterans of Stalingrad.
I wish you long life and health and congratulate you on this celebration, dear friends!