Russia - Ghana relations/

SPEECH BY H.E. VALERY ORLOV,
AMBASSADOR OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION,
AT THE OPENIN CEREMONY OF THE PHOTO EXHIBITION
"PEOPLE WHO WON THE WAR"
(APRIL 18, 2005)

Your Excellencies,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you very much for heeding our invitation to spend this afternoon with us, launching the photo exhibition "People who won the war" dedicated to the 60-th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic war. I would like to express our special gratitude to the management of the University of Ghana, Legon for the kind assistance in conducting this photo exhibition at the University's premises.

On May 9, 2005 Russian people will celebrate the 60-th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic war. This is an enormous historic event in the life not only of the Russian people but of mankind as a whole, because this war is the largest catastrophe in the history of mankind, and the greatest lesson for current and future generations. We must pay tribute to the memory of victims of the Second World War. And we must remember this lesson, and make the necessary conclusions from it to build a modern safe world. This photo exhibition is one of the functions devoted to the memory of veterans and victims of the Great Patriotic war organized by Russian Embassies not only in Ghana but all over the world.

Great Patriotic war was a terrible stab in the back for the Soviet people. It lasted 1417 days (almost 4 years). It was the most bloody phase of the Second World War, with its litany of catastrophes that divided the twentieth century into a before and after - before and after the war.

Nazi aggression reached its summit of cruelty in the attack on our country. The Nazis sought not just to break our people's will but to enslave us and destroy our nation. According to Nazi plans, the Soviet Union was to be carved and liquidated as a state. Its territory was to be divided into four Reichskommissariats, or German provinces. Moscow, Leningrad (now Saint-Petersburg), Kiev and a number of other cities were to be blown up, flooded, wiped off the face of the earth.

Twenty-seven million dead - no other country paid such a high price or 14 percent of the country's population. The Soviet Union accounts for almost half of the casualties of all the warring states. Every fourth warrior who died on the battle fields of the Second World War was a Soviet soldier. The Nazis lost some 70 percent of their servicemen and combat equipment at the Soviet-German front. Casualties were the heaviest on both sides in 1941 and 1943. Historians say that on the average 8,000 Soviet soldiers died daily at the Soviet-German front at that time. In addition a million Soviet men and officers died in the battles for the liberation of Europe. Two thirds of those who died on the battle fields are young men from 19 to 35.

The memory of those terrible war years will remain forever as an undying national sorrow etched into the hearts of all those living together in our united country, all those who have had more than their share of grief, who traversed all the hardships of the war and did not simply survive but stood firm and emerged victorious.

We will fight to uphold the truth about this war and oppose any attempts to distort and alter it, any attempts to degrade and insult the memory of those who lost their lives. There is no deceiving history. History's lessons are there for us to heed and remember, especially when they come at such an immeasurably great price.

Great Patriotic war became a real test for the strength of our Motherland's national spirit and a time that proved the unity of all the peoples of the Soviet Union. Soviet people made their choice to be with their Fatherland in these times of danger, to defend it to the death and not to let it fall into the hands of the enemy. This choice decided the outcome not only of the Great Patriotic war but of the entire Second World War.

Many years have now passed but we can still see the consequences of that war today.

We can still see people's ruined lives, the letters announcing the deaths of loved ones, now yellowed with time, that almost every family has. A whole generation of young people was cast out of existence by that war. Even today, our demographic problems are in many ways a result of the legacy the war left us. One cannot know Russia without understanding just what our people lived through during the war and what experience we gained on the frontlines and in the rear. Without this knowledge, there is no understanding the special feelings we have for our armed forces and the defenders of our Fatherland.

The Second World War brought people of different nationalities and religions together in the common fight. Representatives of different countries, different political views and convictions, joined forces in the face of a common threat. Today, 60 years on, we can fully appreciate the success of the anti-fascist coalition and see once again the danger of new threats emerging.

The opening of the second front in Europe made an invaluable contribution to our common victory. Together with the soldiers of the Red Army they fought to the end, defeated the aggressor and restored peace and freedom to the peoples of Europe. The meeting of our armies on the Elba in the victorious spring of 1945 symbolized the invincibility of fraternity forged in battle and the triumph of justice.

The traditions of partnership and unity born during those hard and difficult years help us today to take a stand against the common threats we face and strengthen our cooperation in the interests of stability and security in our world.

The importance of the victory over fascism, the importance of the Soviet Union in this victory, cannot be disputed. Of course, some pseudo-researchers, and strangely enough even in our country - out of inertia, I assume - still attempt to cast doubt on the importance of the Soviet Union's contribution to the war on fascism. I think that this will soon be forgotten. Especially as our partners, our allies during the Second World War talk about this openly and freely. French President Jacques Chirac talked about this during the meeting with Russian President in the ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the allied landing in Normandy. According to Mr.V.V.Putin, the US President, in a private conversation, told him directly: "If it hadn't been for Russia, none of this would have happened". This is the most understandable, simple, honest, open and objective assessment of the events of the Second World War.

Thank you for your kind attention. Now I would like to ask you to get acquainted with our photo exhibition.

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