AP NEWS
Related topics

Soviet Leadership, War Veterans Mark Victory Over Nazi Germany

May 9, 1991

MOSCOW (AP) _ The Soviet Union today marked the 46th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany with muted ceremonies that gave unusual emphasis to the role of the United States in winning the war.

The day’s main parade featured Soviet and American marching bands and World War II vintage military gear in a light-hearted celebration on Tverskaya Street, rather than a fearful display of military might through Red Square.

″We met with Americans at the Elbe and now they’ve come here to meet with us,″ said Nikolai Dezayuba, an elderly veteran of the historic meeting of the Soviet and U.S. forces on the banks of the Elbe River in Germany in 1945. ″We hope the friendship will be strengthened not only politically, but economically as well.″

However, Defense Minister Dmitri Yazov wrote in the Comunist daily Pravda that military parity with the West must be maintained. He said there is no guarantee that current ″positive processes″ are irreversible.

Prominent in the parade, right behind the Soviet Army band, were the Nicolet High School Band from suburban Milwaukee and a Ford armored car given to the Soviets under the World War II Lend-Lease program of military aid.

Nicolet band leader Nick White said he was told the prominent position was given to the Americans ″to signify the allied relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States in ending World War II.″

″I think it’s fabulous,″ said 17-year-old drummer Matt Neesley on Wednesday night at the Nicolet band’s first Soviet performance, at the Moscow Circus. ″It’s hard to believe it’s actually happening.″

Wearing a jacket heavily laden with war medals, 65-year-old Gen.-Maj. Alexander Olshansky marched behind the Americans. He was only 18 when he shook hands with American troops at the end of the war, in which millions of Soviets were killed.

″We want to send the friendship that we received at the Elbe down to our sons, grandsons and great-grandsons,″ he said.

Also marching in the parade were the San Pedro High School drill team from San Pedro, Calif., and the Cascade High School Marching Band from Everett, Wash., wearing heavy red jackets and silver cummerbunds.

″I love it. It’s great,″ said Michael Martin, the band’s percussion instructor. ″The first two nights we stayed with families, and we’ve been eating like you wouldn’t believe and seeing how they live. It’s wonderful.″

Earlier in the morning, President Mikhail S. Gorbachev presided over a solemn wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier next to the Kremlin Wall. The public was kept a half-mile away.

″Without this victory, our country and the world as we know it would not exist,″ Gorbachev said in brief comments to a handful of reporters at the ceremony. ″This is a day of remembrance.″

Military bands playing the national anthem marched past Gorbachev and other government and Communist Party leaders in the tulip-filled Alexander Gardens. They shook hands with rows of generals before leaving. The defense minister, like his soldiers, was in full uniform.

In the past, Soviets have used the occasion to celebrate the triumph of their Communist leadership against Nazi invaders, the advance of the Red Army through central Europe and the establishment of socialist governments there.

No Red Square parade was planned, in contrast to last year’s 45th anniversary, when tanks, missiles and troops marched past Gorbachev and other leaders on the Lenin Mausoleum. The next major parade is expected on the 50th anniversary.

Elsewhere in the city, veterans, their chests covered with medals, held their own parades. In one, nearly 400 people marched five blocks to a cemetery, where they placed flowers and candy on the graves.

″I come to the cemetery quite often, but on Victory Day I would come here no matter what the circumstances, even if I was ill,″ said Alexei Loktiyonov, a World War II veteran wearing a colonel’s uniform. ″You can’t forget the dead.″

Alexei Lukyanov, who served at the front during the war, came to remember a friend who lost a leg in the fighting and who died six months ago.

″It doesn’t matter that there is no big parade today,″ he said. ″I have such difficult, sad memories about the war that I would come to the cemetery even if there were no parades, if there were no wars, if there were no weapons.″

AP RADIO
Update hourly