YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Tens of thousands of people walked to a World War II memorial in Yerevan on Sunday as Armenia marked the 65th anniversary of Soviet victory over Nazi Germany which had taken a heavy toll on its population.
More than 100 Armenian soldiers, meanwhile, marched through Moscow’s Red Square with troops from Russia, other ex-Soviet republics and key NATO states, in a massive military parade watched by several world leaders, including President Serge Sargisian.
In a written address to the nation issued on the occasion, Sargisian spoke of his “pride” for hundreds of thousands of Armenians, among them over 30 generals, who fought in the Red Army in 1941-1945.
“Our people saved nothing for that victory,” he said. “We suffered numerous casualties, whose memory will be kept alive by our children as well. We had heroes and military leaders, whose exploits will inspire the current and future generations as examples of patriotism and the art of warfare.”
At least 320,000 residents of Armenia, then a republic of less than 1 million people, were drafted to the Soviet army during the bloodiest war in the history of humankind. The total number of its Soviet Armenian participants is estimated at more than
500,000. Only just over half of them returned home alive.
The overall number of Soviet citizens killed in the war totaled a staggering 26 million. More than 8.5 million of them were soldiers. The number of surviving war veterans has shrunk rapidly in the past few decades. Only about 3,700 veterans remain alive in Armenia. Hundreds of them were at the center of public attention on Sunday in Yerevan’s Victory Park, the main venue of V-Day celebrations in the country. With wartime medals decorating their chests, they silently filed past the eternal fire of the war memorial
to pay their respects to their fallen comrades.