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President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: My greetings to our veterans and to you all!
Sixty five years have passed now since our Great Victory. Several generations have grown up since then, but we all count May 9 as a special day – the day when we remember our great victory.
The Great Patriotic War will never be just a historic abstraction for our people, never just a postcard date or an event celebrated only in movie battle scenes.
I record this from Volokolamsk. In late autumn of 1941, intense battles had been raging here for almost a month. The Nazis were making a push towards the capital, cynically proclaiming that “we will breakfast in Volokolamsk and dine in Moscow”. But as they approached the capital they encountered unprecedented and very fierce resistance for the first time in the whole campaign.
Everyone has heard about the heroic feat of the Panfilovtsy, these heroes who fought here to the death. I just visited the small but very pleasant little museum dedicated to them. They succeeded in stopping the enemy’s advance, but at a terrible and tremendous cost. After the battles around Moscow our forces launched their offensive. For these and other feats I recently issued an executive order awarding Volokolamsk the title of City of Military Glory.
I talked today with young people from the Panfilovets military-patriotic search club based in Volokolamsk, and I want to say good on them for their work! They devote their time and effort to searching soldiers missing in action, and do that not for money or fame, but because their heart tells them to. They set a real example for us all. It is our duty not just to know the name of each and every soldier who fell in those days, but also to bury them in accordance with our traditions with full military honours, as is the custom all around the world. In this we show our special memory of this war and its heroes.
I want to thank everyone who has visited my blog and shared with me their memories of what the war meant for their families. Some of you are still searching for the graves of loved ones, and some of you are simply doing your bit to help veterans in their everyday lives, and during these great anniversary celebrations. I want to thank our young compatriots who are living in various foreign countries but show care and concern for our veterans. It is good to see that there are people such as you out there.
I have already said on other occasions that my family, as so many other families around our country, preserves the memories of the war years as something sacred. My father comes from Kursk Region, and this part of the country, like Orel and Bryansk Regions and the whole of central Russia, was completely churned up and trampled underfoot by the war. These regions were the scenes of cruel and terrible battles. Retreats and offensives alternated and the situation was changing constantly. Eyewitnesses recalled how when the spring came and melted the snows, laying bare the collective farm fields, corpses were strewn everywhere. It was a terrible sight to behold. Old people, adolescents, children, buried the dead, dug common graves. These graves can be found practically in every village. In most cases they were marked with just modest little obelisks. You can see these modest monuments all across our country. Today it is especially important to preserve these silent and penetrating testimonies to the events of the Great Patriotic War. They are not as impressive as big monuments, but they penetrate the soul with just as much intensity.
My grandfather, Afanasy Medvedev, left for the front as a volunteer in 1941. He fought near Novorossiisk at Malaya Zemlya. When he told us stories of these times he always had tears in his eyes and always relived the emotions each time. Some sources say that the house my ancestors lived in, like many other homes in the village of Mansurovo, where they were from, was burned down by the Germans at the end of the war.
My other grandfather, Veniamin Shaposhnikov, also fought in the war, while my mother and grandmother were evacuated to Tajikistan. Such was the situation for a great many people, practically for the whole country back then – fathers and grandfathers were fighting, and the women were in the rear, helping the front, or sent into evacuation.
During these days in the run-up to May 9, thousands of people have been congratulating veterans and congratulating each other, including via the internet. These various posts on the war are really very insightful. Most of them are honest and sincere and filled with a special light. They are not about people trying to show themselves off in any way – not that I am against this – but there is really something special in the emotions that come through in what people write on this subject. This really is something that unites us all.
A new portal, Chronicle of Victory 1941–1945, opened on May 6 on the site www.pobeda-info.ru (this news was announced). This portal was the initiative of our Telecommunications Ministry. I have taken a look at how it is working and I liked what I saw. This is the first time that digitalized archival documents and periodicals have all been brought together on one resource. There are some very interesting things there. I saw the very interesting [1945 documentary film] Victory Parade, filmed on captured colour film. We’re used to seeing only black and white footage of the Victory Parade, and this colour version really looked fantastic. There are also huge numbers of other archival documents and video materials. They come from the collections of the biggest Russian and foreign archives. Most important of all, the site works fast and is easy to open, and it gives access to authentic historical evidence. This guarantees that future generations will have real information about the war. The site also provides access to a huge number of periodicals, including the newspapers Izvestia, Krasnaya Zvezda, and many more. I think it offers a very useful resource for anyone with an interest in the events of those years.
We celebrate Victory Day every year with a parade on Red Square. This is our tradition, and we will continue it this year. But this year’s parade will be special. For a start, the parades will take place at the same time throughout every region in our vast country. What’s more, for the first time, our soldiers, the descendents of the victors, will be joined on Red Square by soldiers and officers from our close friends – the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, and from the countries with whom we fought together as allies to defeat the enemy back then. I think that this parade is a symbol of our victory and at the same time a tribute to the feats of the liberators, those who we shall never forget.
Everything that we see around us, everything that we admire, love and hold so dearly, everything we have, the entire life of the post-war generations – if we have all of this today it is thanks to our forebears, who showed such steadfastness in the ruthless battle against the enemy.
When it comes down to it, we ourselves are the result of the Great Patriotic War, we, our future, and our children’s future.
Recorded on May 7th, 2010 in Volokolamsk, Moscow Region