Liberation of Shushi and Victory Day Marked in Yerevan

YEREVAN (combined sources)–Scores of veterans–joined by thousands of young Armenia’s–laid flowers at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Yerevan on Wednesday as part of the celebrations of the 56th anniversary of Soviet victory in World War II. A stream of people walked silently past the eternal fire at the city’s Victory Park devoted to the victims of the world’s bloodiest war.

Official ceremonies marking the event were opened by Prime Minister Andranik Margarian–members of government and top military officers of the Armenian armed forces. The officials bowed their heads as they laid wreaths at the memorial to the millions of Soviet soldiers and civilians killed between 1941 and 1945.

"The May 1945 victory gave our people a historic opportunity to return to a peaceful and creative work and to build our country," President Robert Kocharian said in his congratulatory message to the Armenian veterans. Kocharian paid tribute to the "weighty contribution" of Allied victory over Nazi Germany.

Some 600,000 citizens of Soviet Armenia–then a republic of less than two million inhabitants–took part in the war. Only half of them stayed alive. There are now 16,000 living veterans left in Armenia–most of them subsisting on meager state pensions. Many of them turned out in full regalia for the holiday–wearing Soviet and Eastern European war decorations. Those who went to Victory Park were treated to a bowl of Russian kasha and glass of vodka–a symbolic reminder of the basic food staple of Red Army soldiers.

The liberation of Shushi was also marked throughout the capital. The Yerkrapah Union of Volunteers also celebrates the Day of Yerkrapah–which is not included on the official list of holidays. Commenting on this–Minister of Defense Serge Sargssian stressed that it is not the Day of Yerkrapah–but the Day of Freedom-Fighters–and it must be celebrated by a united Armenian people–not just by certain political parties.

On the occasion of the 9th anniversary of liberation of Shushi–the Yerkrapah Union of volunteers organized a number of arrangemen’s–one of them being a visit to the Yerablur Pantheon. Speaker of the Armenian Parliament Armen Khachatrian–Prime-Minister Andranik Margarian–Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian–Defense Minister Serge Sarkissian and military officials paid homage to the memory of the perished soldiers. They also laid flowers and wreaths on the "Berd Par" monument.

At the Mayr Hayastan Military Museum–a section dedicated to the liberation of Shushi was inaugurated–and a film dedicated to the liberation was shown. The second floor of the museum displays the history of the Artsakh war.

Thereafter–the procession walked to the memorial of the two great Armenian military commanders Andranik Ozanian and Vazgen Sargssian. Medals were awarded to several freedom-fighters. The event concluded with a visit to the Sardarapat Memorial Complex.

Speaking to reporters–Armenian Prime-Minister Andranik Margarian said–"We are showing the conclusion of the century with not only losing land–but also with victory–which is the victory of our spirit."

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