Article by H.E. Mr. Vladimir Goncharenko, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Brunei Darussalam, in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory
“Days and nights we fought hard and we stood to bring this day as near as we could” – these are the lyrics of a Soviet song dedicated to 9 May– the Day of the Victory over Nazism, the day of joy and sorrow, the day of the end of World War II in Europe and – for the peoples of the former Soviet Union – the day of the end of the Great Patriotic War. In Russia 2020 was declared the Year of Memory and Glory: we are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory.
Our nation is well aware of what war is. It brought grief and innumerable suffering to each family. Soviet people did not spare their lives for the sake of freedom of their country and peaceful future. Many went to the front straight from school and forever remained there, on the front line. The Victory was gained at the cost of the hardest, irreplaceable losses on the frontlines and on the home front. The estimated death toll of the Soviet Union from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945 stands at more than 25 million people. 1710 cities and towns were destroyed, 70 thousand villages were burnt down.
Concentration camps of the Third Reich became sinister evidence of human cruelty. Millions of broken lives, atrocities, tortures and experiments on living people as well as cremation furnaces and gas chambers lie behind the notorious names of “Auschwitz”, “Dachau”, “Majdanek”, “Buchenwald”, “Treblinka” and many others. The number of prisoners of camps, prisons and ghettos is estimated at 18 million people; of these, 11 million people were killed, tortured to death or died by starvation and diseases.
The peoples of the Soviet Union and other countries became the object of the inhuman ideology of Nazism, and then – the victim of aggression on behalf of the most powerful, well-organized and motivated war machine of that time. Nevertheless, at the cost of great pains, the Soviet Union made a decisive contribution to defeating the enemy. Nobody thought of themselves and everyone worked heroically, including women and children. From a soldier to a general, our warriors fought in the cold and the heat, in small and large battlefields, and feats of tremendous spiritual power were accomplished at each military line. Our troops won great victories in the decisive battles for Moscow and Stalingrad, in the battles near Kursk and on the Dnieper, broke the siege of Leningrad and together with the Allies – USA, Great Britain and France – liberated European capitals from the nazi and fascist plague.
Unfortunately, today it is with bitterness that we are witnessing attempts to rewrite the history, discredit the heroes, diminish the role of the Soviet Union in World War II and even more – to equate the Soviet Union with Hitlerite Germany, nazi aggression with the liberating mission of the Red Army. Memorials, monuments to warrior-liberators and the graves of fallen soldiers are desecrated and destroyed. One of the latest sad examples is the removal of the monument to the Soviet Marshall Ivan Konev in Prague in April 2020, practically a month before the anniversary of the liberation of the city. The Soviet Union is portrayed as an aggressor and modern Russia is accused of being “militarized”. Doubts about the fair nature of the world order that was approved in the UN Charter following World War II are fuelled among the public. A policy seeking to undermine the existing international legal system and to replace it with a so-called “rule-based order” was adopted.
In this context it is particularly important to remember how, faced with the common threat – the inhuman ideology of National Socialism, the states with different political and socio-economic models managed to overcome differences and get united for the sake of the triumph of peace and justice. During the war we stood shoulder to shoulder.
There were partisans, the Resistance Movement, anti-fascist fight that united those who combated invaders in the territories occupied by the Third Reich and in Germany itself. The Soviet Union, France, Yugoslavia and some other countries had the largest resistance movements. Their participants conducted counterpropaganda, organized strikes, diversions and sabotage attacks – and their activities brought the Victory closer.
There were Arctic convoys that played an important role in delivering strategic cargoes to USSR under the Lend-lease program, especially during the early phase of the war – their history abounds in examples of mutual help among British and Soviet sailors and aviators and keeps the memory of feats accomplished by crews – 101 ships were sunk, lost.
There was a fighter aircraft unit – Fighter Squadron 2/30 Normandie-Niemen. It comprised French pilots who fought against the enemy on the Soviet-German front. From March 1943 to 9 May 1945 the Fighter Group “Normandie III”, which later became the Fighter Regiment “Normandie-Niemen”, followed a glorious battle route from the Kursk salient to Königsberg. The French pilots carried out over 5200 combat sorties.
There was the Western front opened in 1944 with the landing of the Allied forces in Normandy, which became the largest amphibious operation in the war history. The offensive from the Atlantic coast conducted by the Allies helped to accelerate the defeat of the enemy and limited the capability of the Nazis to deploy reserve forces against the Red Army.
There was the meeting on the Elbe River in April 1945 between the Red Army and troops of the Allies. This event became a shining symbol of brotherhood in arms between our countries during World War II. As it is stated in the Joint statement by President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and President of the United States of America Donald Trump commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the meeting on the Elbe, dated 25 April 2020, “This event heralded the decisive defeat of the nazi regime. The meeting on the Elbe represented a culmination of tremendous efforts by the many countries and peoples that joined forces under the framework of the United Nations Declaration of 1942. This common struggle required enormous sacrifice by millions of soldiers, sailors, and citizens in multiple theaters of war”.
Finally, in 1945 the Allies referred to themselves as the United Nations. They laid the foundation of a new architecture of international relations and equal cooperation between sovereign states. To preserve peace, ensure its resilience and stability, prevent the recurrence of such a terrible tragedy – that was the common goal.
All this we cherish as before.
As Vladimir Putin said, “the Victory in the Great Patriotic War was ensured not only by military force but also and above all by unity: the unity of our people’s will and the striving of many nations to unite in the fight against a common threat. We know without a doubt that we have no right to forget the mandate of those who protected the lives and freedom of future generations, our lives and our freedom”.
We are convinced that today we shall also be guided by striving for peace, justice and harmony. Russia is open to cooperation with everyone who is willing to be good partners. Understanding of collective responsibility as well as commitment to peace and security are particularly important in responding to common threats, challenges and crises; they are important now, when the international community is facing COVID-19. The crucial thing is to remember that we can be united.
I would like to conclude by quoting the abovementioned Joint Statement by Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump: “The “Spirit of the Elbe” is an example of how our countries can put aside differences, build trust, and cooperate in pursuit of a greater cause. As we work today to confront the most important challenges of the 21st century, we pay tribute to the valor and courage of all those who fought together to defeat fascism. Their heroic feat will never be forgotten”.
We would like to congratulate all readers of this article on the 75th anniversary on the Great Victory!