President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, dear friends, dear veterans,
I want to start by congratulating you all most sincerely at this time that we celebrate Victory Day, the victory that changed the entire world, changed the way we value human life, and the way we see the ideals of peace and freedom, for which our fathers and grandfathers fought.
Today, on the eve of this holiday of such tremendous importance for our country, the title of City of Military Glory is being conferred on three of our towns – Kronstadt, Vyazma and Naro-Fominsk.
This great victory that we are celebrating was won through big battles and also through combat for every height, every settlement, every town, no matter how big or small. We know that they put everything they had into their defence, every ounce of strength and all their moral reserves, and thus was forged the common cause of victory. This applies entirely to the three towns I have just named, each of them well known for their military past.
Founded by Peter the Great, Kronstadt has gone down in history as a defender of Russia’s seas, a fortress city that has withstood many attacks. It was the departure point for Russian naval squadrons that won major naval battles in the eighteenth century – the battles of Gangut, Grengam and Cesme. The sailors of the Baltic Fleet also displayed unprecedented steadfastness during the blockade of Leningrad. They defended the approach to the city from the sea and, together with those fighting on the Leningrad front, broke through the blockade and routed the enemy forces on the Karelian Isthmus.
Kronstadt is still one of Russia’s main naval bases today, and its sailors continue to perform their service in defending the lives and health of our people and ensuring our country’s security.
Vyazma, one of Russia’s oldest towns, celebrates its 770th anniversary this year. Its location on the Old Smolensk Road has always made it one of the Russian state’s most important advance posts.
It was in the forests around Vyazma that Denis Davydov’s partisan detachment fought in the Patriotic War of 1812. It was here that the famous Battle of Vyazma took place. In 1941, the town again made its mark by holding back the Nazi divisions launched on an offensive against Moscow. At tremendous cost, the enemy forces were worn down and subsequently stopped.
Naro-Fominsk was also the site of exceptionally heavy fighting. The enemy understood the town’s tactical significance and concentrated large forces there in the aim of taking Moscow whatever the cost. But the enemy advance was blocked and the Nazi forces were forced back to the Nara River. Our troops not only stopped the Nazis’ advance but dealt the enemy a considerable blow.
The soldiers of the 33rd Army under the command of General Mikhail Yefremov displayed exceptional courage in the fighting around Vyazma and Naro-Fominsk. As I said, these battles not only thwarted the enemy plans to seize Moscow, but were of strategic importance for our forces’ subsequent offensive and, ultimately, for our victory.
Dear friends, today, obelisks mark the sites of these fierce and bloody battles, and people come to them over and over to pay tribute to the feats of their fellow townspeople. The memory of these heroic acts is immortalised in the names of streets and squares. It is our duty to preserve this heritage and pass on to our young people the most sacred feeling that every Russian citizen has – love for the Motherland.
Once again, I want to congratulate you, dear veterans, and residents of Kronstadt, Vyazma and Naro-Fominsk, on the conferral of this title of City of Military Glory, and I wish you good health, peace and happiness.
What distinguishes human beings from the other inhabitants of this planet is that they have a soul and they have memory. What is happening today pays tribute to this memory, and it also indicates our assessment of our past, and our plans for the future.
A lot is being said now about the price we paid for victory, and about the lessons of the Great Patriotic War. I too spoke about this, yesterday, and again today.
Of course we must make every effort to ensure that the memory of these glorious pages of our history is never erased. It must remain an integral part of our daily life. The knowledge of our countrymen’s feats, of the part our country played in the Second World War, must be handed down from generation to generation, so that no one will attempt to distort history and create new myths in the name of achieving various political objectives.
I think that this is the main sense of the ceremony taking place in the Kremlin today.
Today, when I laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and laid flowers at the monuments to the Hero Cities, the thought occurred to me that our Cities of Military Glory also deserve a monument in Moscow testifying to their status — aside from the monuments in the towns themselves, of course. I think this would be fair, and it would underscore the importance of what the people of these towns achieved. We will definitely look at how we can go about commemorating these glorious names and create the possibility for building such a monument.
Dear veterans, I want once more to congratulate you from all my heart on the upcoming Victory Day holiday, and I congratulate the residents of the towns that have just received the title of City of Military Glory –Kronstadt, Vyazma and Naro-Fominsk. I want to congratulate all of our citizens on tomorrow’s Victory Day holiday, a holiday of great importance that we all hold sacred. I wish you all good health and success.