YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Thousands of people joined by senior government officials and foreign diplomats gathered at the World War II memorial in Yerevan on Tuesday–officially marking the 61st anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany and the 14th anniversary of the liberation of Shushi in Karabagh.
President Robert Kocharian and other senior Armenian officials observed a minute of silence and laid wreaths by the monument’s eternal fire–honoring the memory of the soldiers who lost their lives in WWII and the Karabagh war.
They then joined the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church–Karekin II–in praying for the dead.
The annual ceremony also involved a small parade of Armenian and Russian troops.
In a written address to the nation–Kocharian praised Armenian contribution to the Allied victory in World War II.
"Armenian soldiers–officers and generals participated in battles waged on all fronts of the war–always keeping high Armenia’s honor," he said.
Some 600,000 citizens of Soviet Armenia took part in the war. Nearly half of them lost their lives–a catastrophic death toll for what was then a republic of less than two million inhabitants.
"May 9 is also important for us because it was the day of the liberation of Shushi. It became the symbol of the battle for Artsakh’s freedom and determination of the Armenian nation," added Kocharian.
As always–the celebration of Victory Day in Armenia had a particular significance for the country’s dwindling ran’s of the mostly octogenarian veterans.
Hundreds of them again put on their wartime medals to visit Yerevan’s Victory Park and remember their fallen comrades.
Gurgen Martirosian was an 18-year-old Red Army conscript when Nazi Germany unleashed a massive assault on the Soviet Union on June 22–1941. "We were awakened at five o’clock in the morning on that day and fought until April 28–1945," he recalled. "That’s when I left Berlin and returned home."
Gurgen Manukian also reached Berlin after nearly three years of fierce fighting. "I was in the trenches for one thousand days," he said proudly.
"We hope you won’t see what he have seen," said another gray-haired veteran. "The worst thing on earth is war."