YEREVAN (Combined Sources)–Armenia on Friday officially marked 16th anniversary of Shoushi’s Liberation and the 63rd anniversary of the end of the World War II, honoring and remembering hundreds of thousands of its citizens who contributed to the Soviet-led defeat of Nazi Germany.
As always, the celebration of what is a public holiday in Armenia began with senior state, military, and diplomatic officials laying wreathes at the World War II memorial in Yerevan’s Victory Park. Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan and parliament speaker Tigran Torosian led ceremonies at Victory Park and then at Yerablur National Cemetery in honor of the memory of those who died during WWII and the Liberation of Karabakh.
For Armenians May 9 is also the anniversary of the 1992 Liberation of Shoushi from Azeri occupation. A turning point in the Karabakh Self-Defense movement, The Liberation of the strategically vital mountain town was the first significant military victory during the Nagorno-Karabakh liberation movement. The successful battle, which was organized and carried out without the approval of Armenia’s senior leadership, ushered in a series of Armenian victories over Azerbaijani occupying forces, including the liberation of the Lachin corridor connecting Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
President Serzh Sarkisian traveled to Nagorno-Karabakh earlier this week to take part in celebrations in honor of the 16th anniversary of Liberation of Shushi as well as Victory Day. In the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, May 9 is celebrated as the Day of the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army.
At Victory Park, hundreds of gray-haired war veterans wearing wartime medals and holding flowers filed past the eternal fire of the war memorial to pay their respects to their fallen comrades throughout the day. Thousands of younger Armenia’s also took part in the annual remembrance.
In a written address to the nation, President Sarkisian described the Soviet victory in the war as an "exceptional event" and noted a "considerable role" played by Armenia’s in bringing it about.
"The victory achieved at the cost of enormous sacrifices enabled our people to not only heal the wounds but also develop the country," he said. "Modern-day Armenia is the continuation of a republic that survived and prospered thanks to the feat of those who achieved the victory."
More than half a million residents of Soviet Armenia took part in what many in the former USSR call the Great Patriotic War. Approximately half of them lost their lives–a huge death toll for what was then a republic of less than two million inhabitants. With the Nazi’s set on capturing the oil fields of Baku, Armenians perceived a possible Nazi advance into the Caucasus as a prelude to Turkish involvement in the war. The possible threat of a Turkish attack on Soviet Armenia motivated hundreds of thousands of Armenia’s in Soviet Armenia to fight valiantly to defend their "Fatherland," Soviet Armenia.
The number of Armenian war veterans has been shrinking rapidly and, according to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, currently stands at approximately 5,600. The Armenian government decided on Thursday to double monthly benefits paid to them in addition to their modest pensions. Prime Minister Sarkisian told reporters in Victory Park that the veterans will also benefit from a further increase in social spending which the government plans for next year.