CELEBRATING VICTORY DAY, RUSSIANS HONOR THE VETERANS AND THE ARMED FORCES

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The revival of heroic and patriotic traditions in state policy is firmly connected with political realities

For 53 years the Victory Day has been a national holiday. However in the post-Soviet era the measures, connected with its celebration are not so expensive, but they still remain the most massive ones, and are organized after the May 1st celebration for a whole week until May 10th. This year the plan of the solemn celebration of the 53 rd anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War was discussed during the meeting of the Russian organizational committee for preparation and organization of the celebrations, connected with the memorable events of domestic military history and for the veterans affairs on April 22. The meeting was organized under leadership of acting Senior Vice Premier Boris Nemtsov in the government House.

In accordance with this plan all celebrations were organized. On May 3 a meeting of the war veterans, decorated with the Order of Fame was organized in Bolshoi Theater. On May 5 Muscovites and guests of the capital greeted participants of the Great Patriotic War, Heroes of the Soviet union in the large big cinema and concert hall, Rossiya. As it was reported, these meetings began with the laying of wreaths and flowers by the war veterans at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the monument to Marshal Zhukov.

On May 7, on the 6th anniversary of the Russian Armed Forces formation, a solemn meeting and holiday concert, devoted to Victory Day, was organized in the State Kremlin Palace. More than 5,000 people were invited of which the overwhelming majority of them were veterans of the Great Patriotic War and acting generals and officers of the Armed Forces. On May 8 the laying of wreaths and flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier will be organized. It is planned that President Yeltsin will participate in this ceremony, as well as government leaders, federal Assembly members, representatives of the Defense Ministry’s commission, Moscow government and veteran’s organizations. The celebration will be crowned by the military parade, which will be commanded by Defense Minister Marshal Igor Sergeev.

These celebrations had previously been held in Moscow on Victory Day. However the distinctive peculiarity of the present celebrations and the atmosphere, in which they are organized, is a special attention and (in a good sense) pragmatic approach of the Kremlin both to the veterans and to the acting officers of the Russian Armed Forces. We think that this is not accidental as next year elections to the State Duma will be organized, and in 2000- those for the presidency. The veterans and officers represent almost 1/5 of the country’s voters. It is no secret that that the majority of them sympathize with the opposition. The present power does not have the money for the material stimulation of the veterans and the Armed Forces. Unfortunately, during the last six years, moral stimuli were not used, which, as the studies of the social psychologists demonstrate, can be very effective. Probably today the Kremlin chose to revive the heroic and patriotic traditions as one of the methods for obtaining of the militaries’ sympathies.

Recently the President signed important documents about the revival of the Cossacks. On the eve of the celebrations the new law On military duty and military service came into force, the work of the presidential council for cooperation with the public veterans’ unions, as well as with the unions of reserve officers, presided by marshal of aviation Alexander Yefimov, was activated.

According to him, the cadet institutions are becoming prestigious educational institutions. The priority entry is given to the children whose parents of died or were wounded, fulfilling their professional duty, as well as to the orphans. Alexander Yefimov pointed out that local self-government organs are being actively involved in this process, as well as parents; state structures, including the military ones; veteran; and youth organizations.

The Russian state governmental military historical-cultural center and Russian journalists union announced a nation-wide contest for the best journalists work devoted to the military-patriotic theme in 1998. The goal of the contest is activation of the activity of Rosvoentsentr, ministries, public and veteran organizations, responsible for the military-patriotic upbringing of the youth. According to the contest conditions, the journalist’s materials should reflect the history and combat traditions of the Russian Armed Forces, contribute to strengthening of the country’s defense power, support and consolidate the movements of the veterans of wars, military service and law-enforcement organs.

For the winners diplomas of three degrees are established, as well as the corresponding premiums and prizes. Representatives of the government point out: The awards are given for the works, which are outstanding by the novelty and topical character and public importance of the contents, brightness and original method of the material presentation.

Members of the nation-wide public organization Union of Search Organizations started its work as well. They found and buried remains of hundreds of thousands of unburied soldiers and found tens of thousands of names of soldiers missing in action. Active members of the cultural-historical center Iskatel and the military-patriotic union Stolitsa created a unique catalog of the name plates of the soldiers, killed during the World War II, found during their search. It consists of more than 15,000 identified names of officers and soldiers and more than 1.5 million inquiries about the search for those killed and missing in action. This experience will serve for the creation of the public-state system for immortalization of the memory of the Motherland’s defenders.

Thus, the patriotic component of the new ideology, being formed by the government, is already present. The Cossacks are already de-facto participating in the guarding of the country’s borders. Preparation is under way for the revival of the Cossack formations within the Armed Forces. The law On military duty and military service introduced the obligatory demand regarding the initial military training (including the commercial schools). It is no accident that during the discussions of the plans for the Victory Day celebrations, at his meeting with veterans on May 9th Defense Minister Igor Sergeev called them to actively participate in realization of the law’s clauses.

The presidential resolution about revival of the cadet corps institutions in Russia is realized to a significant extent. There are 150 different cadet educational institutions currently operating in Russia: corps, schools, boarding schools and cadet classes. Besides the high level education they create favorable conditions for the intellectual, cultural-moral and physical development of the children and teenagers, their inoculation with the love of the Motherland, its history and traditions of the Russian soldiers. The image of the future defender of the Motherland is being formed among the cadets. Until recent the democratic press was not very keen on the patriotic theme. However establishment of the premiums for materials of this direction is an important stimulus for creative activity and consideration of the values, with which the society lives.

The power is also activating its positive moral influence on the Armed Forces. For example, on the eve of Victory Day Boris Yeltsin signed the decrees about the nomination of a large group of generals on the top ranking posts in the power structures. Many of them were promoted to the rank of genera. On May 8th their solemn representation to the president was organized in Yekaterininsky Hall of the Moscow Kremlin. As reported by the presidential press service, the greeting of the new military leaders was organized within the frames of the celebration of the 53rd anniversary of the Great Victory.

Such an attentive attitude of the President to the military is most probably not accidental. The current year is very important for him and his entourage. The government was replaced. The attempts are made to stabilize the economy and start the transformations, connected with changing of the structure of benefits (that, is, their cancellation) for many categories of he citizens, restructuring (reduction) of the military-industrial complex and radical reduction of the Armed Forces. All this will undoubtedly harm the interests of a numerous group of people, and may provoke their discontent. Under such conditions the loyalty of the power structures generals is one of the most important guarantees of stability and order in the country.

Meanwhile so far this loyalty is questioned. According to the reports from the troops, there are cases, when some officers try to participate in the political struggle. In some Russian garrisons the officers are operating, carrying out the propaganda for the opposition parties and movements. On the eve of the May celebrations leaflets with the call for participation in the protest actions were distributed even in the General Staff.

Observers point out that politicization of the Armed Forces, which was recently started, is connected with the difficult economic condition of the country. Representatives of the defense Ministry are afraid that very soon the defense budget of 1998 will be sequestrated, despite the fact that almost 90% of it is spent on maintaining the troops. Thus, if the extra-budget sources of financing are not attracted, the money allowances and wages arrears to the servicemen and civil personnel will keep on growing. Now they amount to more than 11 billion new rubles, that is, 1/10 of the defense expenses, planned for 1998. (Overall, the debts to the Armed Forces amount to more than 40 billion rubles.)

It is clear that in such a situation different emergency situations can not be excluded. Only one person, whom the people in the troops know very well, may remove all negative circumstances. Igor Sergeev was and still remains such a person. However we should also take into account that in the present conditions of socioeconomic crisis the troops’ morale, effectiveness of the Armed forces command and realization of the military reform depend not only upon him, but also on the whole country’s leadership, and upon the President in particular, first of all, on the timely and regular character of assignment of funds for the defense needs.

This is a brief outline of the situation on the days of the Victory Day celebrations of the Russian people and Armed forces.

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