YEREVAN (RFE/RL–Armenpress)–Armenia officially marked on Monday the 60th anniversary of the end of the World War II–honoring and remembering hundreds of thousands of its citizens that contributed to the Allied victory over Nazi Germany.
In two-day official celebrations–Armenia also marked the 13th anniversary of Mountainous Karabagh’s ancient city of Shushi from Azerbaijan.
"I think that if the Shushi operations had failed the Azerbaijanis would have easily occupied Karabagh," Defense Minister Serj Sarkisian said on Monday–after visiting Yerevan’s Yerablur military cemetery with other senior government officials and the top brass of Armenia’s Armed Forces.
The fall of Shushi was one of Azerbaijan’s most serious military setbacks and proved vital for Armenian victory in the 1991-94 war. The anniversary was marked as a day of mourning in Baku.
President Robert Kocharian issued a written address to the nation in connection to both victories:
"In 1992–the Armenian people achieved a new victory after liberating the town of Shushi in Karabagh. In the war imposed on us we again proved that we are always ready to protect our people’s right for peaceful life. Again congratulating all of us on the great date I wish all us peace. Our devotion to the fatherland should be displayed in the raising of the new generation and the building of a new state."
For Victory Day celebration–hundreds of gray-haired war veterans wearing wartime medals were joined by senior government officials as they paid tribute to their fallen comrades at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Yerevan’s Victory Park. Thousands of younger Armenia’s laid flowers by its eternal fire throughout the day.
The nationwide celebrations began with a military parade and ended with a concert and fireworks show at the WWII memorial in Yerevan. Separate wreath-laying ceremonies were also held by the statutes of the two most prominent and high-level Armenian participants of the war: Marshal Ivan Baghramian and Admiral Ivan Isakov.
Praising the bravery of Armenian soldiers during WWII–President Kocharian told the nation–"Armenia’s revival was made possible by that victory and [ensued] peace," he said. "Armenia’s showed unique examples of bravery and sacrifice within the ran’s of the Soviet army."
Kocharian issued the statement ahead of his departure to Moscow at the weekend. He was among nearly 60 heads of state and government and other international dignitaries who arrived in Russia to take part in the anniversary celebrations.
Some 600,000 citizens of Soviet Armenia took part in what many people in the former USSR call the Great Patriotic War. Nearly half of them lost their lives–a catastrophic death toll for what was then a republic of less than two million inhabitants.
Just over 19,000 war veterans remained alive as of May 2000.