President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Friends, veterans,
First of all, I would like to wish you a Happy New Year. I am very happy to see all of you.
This new year is a special one for our nation, because this year is the 65th anniversary of our Great Victory. Perhaps, on the eve of this Victory, we are more acutely aware of its meaning for our nation and for the entire world, as well as the historic projection of what happened during that period.
Russia will always honour the memory of those who defended our nation’s independence and who restored it from the ruins during the difficult post-war period. And we will remember and celebrate the military feats by the Cities of Military Glory, which will be awarded corresponding certificates. We already have nineteen such cities in our nation. Today, three more cities – Pskov, Kozelsk, and Arkhangelsk – will also receive this honorary title.
For centuries, Pskov served as one of Russia’s outposts. It was essentially the first city to take a blow from the foreign troops arriving from the West, and throughout its history, it has withstood many sieges. Alexander Nevsky’s victory on Chudskoye Lake was fateful for our nation and proved the unprecedented resilience of the Pskov residents. They didn’t bend their necks during the Livonian War or in the early 17th century when invaders once again surrounded the city. Pskov also fought valiantly in the Great Patriotic War. The fierce battles near this city weakened the Nazis as they headed toward Leningrad. Pskov’s partisans were a mighty threat to the fascists, and it is no accident that Hitler maintained here one of his best fortified defence lines. Finally, at the beginning of this decade, Pskov paratroopers from the famous 6th squadron performed a truly heroic feat by engaging in an uneven battle with militants in the North Caucasus to defend our nation.
Kozelsk, one of the oldest Russian cities, earned fame in the 13th century for its unparalleled heroism in its resistance to Batu Khan: this small city withstood a long siege during which the Mongolian army suffered very considerable losses, as recounted in many historical chronicles. During the years of the Great Patriotic War, Kozelsk played an important role in defending our nation and particularly in protecting our capital. During the Kaluga offensive operation, Kozelsk was the place where a large group of enemy forces was blocked, and this had strategic significance for the counteroffensive near Moscow. Today, the missile division stationed in Kozelsk defends our citizens’ peaceful life and ensures our nation’s security.
Arkhangelsk, founded by Ivan the Terrible, has always been a sensitive area of national defence as Russia’s first sea port and shipbuilding centre. It contributed to Peter the Great’s success in the Great Northern War. In the grim 1940s, the city ensured uninterrupted movement of convoys carrying freight to the front, including freight delivered as part of the so-called lend-lease. The sailors of the White Sea Flotilla honourably defended their native city, and today, their descendants – the officers and sailors of Russia’s naval forces – are defending the northern borders of our Motherland.
I would like to once again sincerely congratulate all of the veterans and residents of Pskov, Kozelsk, and Arkhangelsk on being awarded the honorary titles of City of Military Glory.
I would like to wish everyone health and success in this new year and I would like to once again remind you that little time remains before our Victory celebrations. The federal government, the municipal and regional authorities all have some very serious responsibilities to carry out in a rather short period of time in preparation for the upcoming celebrations of the Great Victory anniversary.
* * *
The history of Russia – the history of a large and very complicated state – has never been straight or simple, nor will it ever be. Naturally, our goal is to ensure that our nation develops along a set scenario, to provide normal living conditions for all our citizens, and to make life in our country comfortable and decent. At the same time, we understand that protecting and defending a nation like the Russian Federation is a very difficult task: we have the longest-spanning border, the largest territory in the world, a truly great supply of natural resources, and most importantly, a rich diversity of people. Thus, the history of our nation has always been quite dramatic. Nevertheless, we have been able to defend our country in the most difficult situations, repelling attacks by our enemies, eliminating those enemies and helping not only ourselves but our neighbours as well, including Europe, during the Second World War.
The cities of Pskov, Arkhangelsk, and Kozelsk are three different cities that have something in common though. They are truly ancient and well-known, and today, they are being recognised as Cities of Military Glory. I am certain that their residents will see events such as this one as another demonstration of the attention our nation pays to the problems in their regions and as another acknowledgement of the heroic feats of our predecessors, but not only our predecessors.
In my opening remarks I specifically noted that there are people living in each of these cities today who just recently performed military duty and services and who did so with honour. Some of them did not return home, and naturally, we honour their memory – it is sacred to us.
So, when the mayors of these cities spoke here and said that their cities were the outposts defending the interests of our Motherland, this was no exaggeration or figure of speech. This is a historical fact.
But our task is to ensure that the glorious history of Pskov, Arkhangelsk, and Kozelsk is not limited to the heroic deeds of our ancestors, our predecessors. We ourselves must continue contributing to this history. We must work to revive Russia and we must modernise our nation, our economy, and our society. This, too, is often a very difficult goal, but the future of our nation depends on how successful we are in achieving it.
I would like to once again wish all the veterans here a happy 2010, which is a special year for our nation. My address is, first and foremost, directed to you, and I wish you health and happiness. We will do everything we can to ensure that this year is remembered as a special, an anniversary year, and to ensure that it is a happy one for every family, particularly the families of veterans.
I sincerely congratulate all the residents of Pskov, Arkhangelsk, and Kozelsk on being recognised as Cities of Military Glory and I hope that together, we will see new labour and military achievements. I count on working together and achieving excellent results.
I have visited Pskov and Arkhangelsk, but I have not yet visited Kozelsk, so I will need to go there at some point. Sooner or later, the President must visit this well-known town, which has played such an important role in our nation’s history.
I congratulate you again!