President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Dear friends, dear veterans,
It is a great pleasure to see you here today in the Kremlin’s St George Hall. This hall celebrates our military glory and everything here bears witness to our forebears’ military feats.
This official ceremony today marks the first occasion at which the medals commemorating 65 years since victory in the 1941–1945 Great Patriotic War are being awarded. Our country followed a very long and difficult road to this victory. The Battle of Moscow took place at precisely this time, during these December days, and still to come were the long years of war, great hardship and loss, but you stood firm, knowing that the country’s fate was in your hands, and nothing could break your spirit and your determination to liberate your homeland.
Next year, 2010, has been declared Year of the Veterans in the Commonwealth of Independent States. It will take place under the slogan We Won Together! Our peoples made a common and indivisible contribution to this victory. This anniversary medal is being awarded not only to veterans from Russia but also from the CIS countries, as well as to citizens of other countries, who fought Nazism together with our country’s people.
The young generations need to know (and know well) about our country’s feats in the World War II. In this respect, your personal accounts, dear veterans, are the most precious and important piece of historical truth. We place great value on veterans’ organisations’ involvement in giving our young people a patriotic upbringing. I want to thank you all for continuing this work.
It is the state’s duty to look after our veterans and guarantee their welfare every single day. I announced already that, on my instruction, changes were made to the law and it is now possible to provide all veterans in need with housing regardless of whether or not they have filed an official request. The federal budget for 2010 allocates substantial sums of money for various social benefits. Although the global financial crisis has put the budget under some constraint, all of our social obligations to you, dear veterans, will be carried out in full.
I want to stress at the same time that all of these state support measures cannot substitute for the genuine care that we, Russian society, need to display as a whole, and not just from time to time, when anniversaries come around, important and fine occasions though they are, but in our ordinary everyday lives.
Dear friends, present here today are veterans of practically all the different battles in the war and members of partisan detachments. We have here veterans who took part in home defence groups and toiled in the rear, residents of blockaded Leningrad and former inmates of concentration camps. We never forget what you did for us, for your descendents, for your country and the entire world. Every medal awarded today pays tribute to the heroic destiny of a single individual, and the destiny of an entire generation of our country’s people.
I offer you my sincerest congratulations and wish good health and many long and active years of life.
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It really is a great pleasure that here in this special place we are decorating the first group of many veterans, many of those who took part in the Great Patriotic War, on the occasion of the 65th anniversary since the war’s end.
Much time has gone by indeed. I can recall how we celebrated victory anniversaries 30 or 35 years ago. I lived in Leningrad then, and of course I went with my parents to visit the war memorials. My relatives came to stay, my grandfathers who took part in the war. I was just a child then, but those events seemed close in time, even for me. There were many veterans – you were all younger then – and there was a special atmosphere. A lot of time has passed since those days too.
It is very good that we are here today and that for each of us, for you of course, for your families, for the young people present here, and for me as head of state, this date has lost nothing of its significance and value and has not faded in any way.
But we must not passively watch on at the way events in the war are interpreted in other countries, and sometimes in our own country too. We are involved in history not in order to rewrite it, not in order to give it this or that assessment, but in order to ensure it is based on facts and make sure that the truth triumphs.
The truth, as our veterans said when receiving their decorations, lies in the indisputable fact that the Soviet people and the Red Army won the war, no matter what some individuals write in various books, no matter what the historic debates, and no matter what the statements of opportunist politicians. Our task, the task for Russians of all generations and for the Russian state, is to preserve the memory of the Great Patriotic War, and in this I am counting very much on your help. Thank you immensely for all you have done.
I sincerely congratulate you once more on your new state decorations and I wish you health, happiness, long life and the joy of being together. I offer you my sincere congratulations.