Last Wednesday, the country celebrated the 62nd anniversary of the Great Victory over German fascism. General of the Army Vladimir Bakin, Commander of the Moscow Military District, told WPS that about 7,000 servicemen participated in the victory parade on the Red Square, including servicemen clothed in uniforms of the Great Patriotic War times and carrying banners of ten fronts of the Great Patriotic War. A holiday salute was arranged in the afternoon in Moscow and in other Russian cities. Veterans were the focus of attention. The parade and the celebration symbolize that Russia remembers the bloodiest wars and honors the memory of the dead. However, let us see if Russians really have a careful and respectful attitude to memory of those who fought during the war.
On the eve of the Victory Day, the country was indignant about demolition of the Bronze Soldier monument and soldiers’ graves in Tallinn. Really, it was a desecration of the sanctuary that Estonian authorities relocated. Humankind has an unofficial rule not to touch or move graves. This is written in the Geneva Convention as well. Tallinn had a different opinion. The Russian Foreign Ministry and Russian society appealed to UN and OSCE but are somehow ignored. Has Europe grown callous or is something different afoot?
It is no secret that in time, memory about the war is vanishing. People somehow lose the blessed feeling of memory of the heroic past and the feelings to war veterans that every normal person should have. For example, Moscow condemned Estonia justly. However, authorities did almost the same on the eve of Victory Day in Khimki (Moscow Region). A monument and the remains of six pilots were located not far from the Leningrad Highway. The remains of the pilots were somehow relocated to a cemetery but the monument was left. At first, officials of the Khimki administration were going to dismantle the monument. They stated that a reserve road from Khimki to the Leningrad Highway would be built in place of the monument. However, evidently being afraid of public opinion, the head of the administration of Khimki announced now that “the monument will remain in its place.” Why was it necessary to touch the remains of the dead pilots? This question is asked now by the leftist radical youth organizations. On April 22, they spoke against the relocation of the pilots’ graves and the demolition of the monument. Their protest rally was called illegal, OMON riot police punished participants of the protest rally cruelly and there were many wounded. Are these actions of the Russian OMON better than the actions of the Estonian police that has dispersed the demonstrators defending the Bronze Soldier from demolition in Tallinn?
It is known that the culture of a nation and its values start from the respect of a nation to its past. Not everything is OK in this field in our country. Major General Alexander Kirilin, director of the military memorial center of the Russian Armed Forces, told WPS that “the remains of about 9 million people lie in Russia and abroad in 52,000 detected military graves. The names of only 25% of them are identified.” There are many places remaining on the territory of Russia where the remains of people lie outside their graves. It is not incidental that the Defense Ministry organized a whole search battalion to solve this problem.
Meanwhile, two Chechen wars passed and soldiers missing in actions appeared again. So it happens that there is no one to seek them now.
On February 20 of 2003, members of the presidential commission for prisoners of war, internees and missed in action said that 832 servicemen were sought after the two Chechen wars. Of them, 590 were from Defense Ministry, 236 from the Interior Ministry and six from other security agencies.
According to presidential decree No. 480 of April 30 of 2005, all concern about the dead defenders of the Fatherland in the state was fully reassigned to the Defense Ministry. In accordance with this document, an interagency commission for prisoners of war, internees and missed in action was recreated (the old presidential commission was disbanded). The President instructed his aide, Lieutenant General Vladimir Shamanov, to become the chair of the commission. However, Shamanov stated work on seeking of servicemen killed in Chechnya was not a part of his duties. He added that the commission of which he was the chair did not even start its work and “composition of the commission and provisions on its work were not approved yet.” Recently, Major General Kirilin explained to WPS that “in the framework of the Southern Federal District, all search for soldiers and officers missing in the antiterrorist operation in the North Caucasus is coordinated by presidential plenipotentiary Dmitry Kozak.”
However, according to Valentina Melnikova, chair of the union of soldiers’ mothers committees, “no work is done in Russia now on the search for the soldiers missing in Chechnya.”