Recently, director of the military memorial center of the Armed Forces, Major General Alexander Kirilin, announced that the Defense Ministry was taking measures for the establishment of military memorial units in military districts and fleets. In 2006, the special 90th separate search battalion was formed in the Armed Forces. The battalion fulfills certain tasks of searching for unregistered military burials and unburied remnants of soldiers in the areas of fighting during World War II. In two years of work, personnel of the battalion excavated the remains of 1,949 soldiers. This is not very much but it is very important because, unfortunately, the remains of millions of our soldiers lie in nameless graves or simply in the ground. This year, the search battalion of the Defense Ministry found more than 100 Soviet soldiers in the Leningrad and Kaluga regions.
Colonel Yury Klenov, aide to the Commander of the Leningrad Military District, reported, “The beginning of search work for 2008 was preceded by a big preparatory work in archives and reconnaissance of the battlefields. All organizational issues were settled with the local power bodies, police, military enlistment and registration offices and combat engineers of the district. Activities were also coordinated with the youth search groups.”
Besides this work, the Defense Ministry is also coordinating documents for reorganization of the military memorial center of the Armed Forces into the department for the commemoration of servicemen who died while defending the fatherland. It is planned to establish officers military memorial groups in embassies in many countries where are our military burials. These groups will search for missing soldiers and will care for soldiers’ graves. The Defense Ministry also created a unified database on almost 19 million Soviet servicemen who died or were missing in action during World War II.
The general emphasized, “since the moment of opening the electronic portal on March 31 of 2007, it was visited almost by 1 million people from more than 80 countries. Representatives of Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Belarus, US and Israel turn to it most often.”
Kirilin adds that the state budget for 2008 includes the allocation of 64 million rubles for further development of the database about losses during years of World War II.
The general said, “We have not accomplished the electronic database and will continue it. In 2008, we plan to download data for almost 600,000 dead Soviet soldiers and we call on our colleagues from the former Soviet republics and from other European countries to join this work.”
Meanwhile, problems do remain in the military memorial work of the Defense Ministry. Recently, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported that three-fourths of our dead soldiers remained in nameless graves. The state that has hundreds of billions of petrodollars does not have money for the arrangement of military graves of World War II. The newspaper quotes Major General Alexander Kirilin as saying that in Russia “only 15-16% of military memorials are in a good condition and approximately 40-45% of cemeteries are in a condition close to unsatisfactory.” The Defense Ministry plans to finance activities of the military memorial groups abroad only starting from 2010. The ministry plans to normalize the condition of all military cemeteries in the country and abroad only by 2015.
According to Nurdi Nukhazhiev, ombudsman of Chechnya, about 4,500 people were missed on the territory of the republic in two campaigns. Along with this, 31 persons are registered as missing in action in the Defense Ministry. However, Russia did not establish a federal commission for locating missing (kidnapped) people yet. There is only the interagency commission in the Defense Ministry that searches for missing servicemen.