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Launching the Memory Watch national commemorative event

April 6, 2015, Novgorod Region

While on a trip to Novgorod Region, Vladimir Putin took part in the plenary meeting of the Memory Watch 2015 national commemorative event, which officially got underway in the Novgorod Region town of Staraya Russa.

The President announced that he has signed executive orders conferring the title of City of Military Glory on Staraya Russa, Gatchina, Petrozavodsk, Grozny, and Feodosia.

The President also visited an exhibition of projects carried out by search groups from around Russia, We Live and We Remember.

Earlier in the day, Mr Putin laid flowers at the monument to Soviet soldiers at the cemetery in Marfino village, where more than 4,000 soldiers and officers are buried.

Memory Watch encompasses a series of events that include search expeditions, official meetings, reburials of fallen soldiers found by the search groups, and patriotic events to immortalise the memory of those who gave their lives defending their country. This year, representatives of search groups from 74 of Russia’s regions will take part in the events.

Speech at plenary meeting of Memory Watch 2015 national commemorative event

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Friends, veterans,

Let me start by congratulating the search groups on the start of this latest Memory Watch commemorative event. It is starting this year in Novgorod Region, on land that since the days of Alexander Nevsky has held a special place in Russia’s military history. 

In the thirteenth century, the people of Novgorod fought back Swedish and German conquerors. People’s militias formed here too in 1612 and 1812, and in World War I.

The region’s most difficult and tragic hours came during the Great Patriotic War, of course. Fighting continued uninterrupted here for more than two years and cost the lives of around 850,000 people, our soldiers and officers. Seventy years later, search groups are still searching for and finding the remains of the fallen.

Friends, you and your comrades are returning to us the names of the fallen soldiers, the names of those who never came home to their mothers, wives and children. You are binding together once more the pages of entire families’ histories and are adding to our common history concrete, and most important, truthful facts. 

It is not so often that you find a medallion of course (we just visited the exhibition, had a look at everything) and are able to read what they say, but it is already very valuable that, thanks to your efforts, our country is able to pay military respects to known and nameless fallen soldiers. 

Your selfless and devoted work keeps our grateful memory burning, makes sure we never forget the tremendous cost we paid for Victory and for our country’s freedom and future. 

You are opening a new season in the field today, but this is more of a symbolic event because as your colleagues were saying before, this work continues practically all year round. You carry out search work and also take care of common burial sites, do archival work and organise commemorative and educational events. 

The search groups unite young people, different people, around values that have truly determining importance for us. You show what true patriotism is all about and what it really means to know and respect your country’s history and take pride in your country and your forebears’ military glory.

It is to your great credit that every year, more and more people, particularly young people, which is most important, are taking a real interest in our country’s heroic past.

An active position as citizens and involvement in our country’s destiny are typical for the search groups’ members. I am sure though, that you learned this selfless interest, perseverance and devotion from the older generation. 

Let me take this opportunity to greet once again the Great Patriotic War veterans present today. I want to thank the soldiers and say from all my heart that we will never forget what you did for Russia and the world.

In a month’s time, we will celebrate our biggest and what you could call our most honest holiday, Victory Day. Seventy years have passed now since that day, but time has no power over what we feel towards this triumph of people of all ages, and no power over the unique spiritual strength and joy in life that distinguish the generation of victors.

You traversed privation, pain, and loss, but you overcame these trials, vanquished a ruthless foe, rebuilt ruined cities and continue now to serve our homeland, as tireless, sincere, and full of optimism as ever. Your contribution to raising the young generation and the active help you give public organisations deserves the highest praise and the state authorities’ real support.

We will definitely continue to give our support to the veterans’ unions and the search groups, to everyone ready to work for the common goal of building and strengthening Russia and preserving our history and national memory.

Thank you very much for your work. Thank you for your attention. I wish you good luck in 2015. Thank you.

* * *

Friends, let me thank you again for your work. We just witnessed for ourselves the results that you achieve. This is one family’s history, but you are piecing together our entire country’s history, not letting history be destroyed, on the contrary, strengthening its most just foundations. 

Throughout the former Soviet Union, there were many tragedies related to war, but there are of course places that have traversed particularly severe trials. I want to inform you that I have signed executive orders conferring the title of City of Military Glory on several Russian towns – Staraya Russa, Gatchina, Petrozavodsk, Grozny, and Feodosia. 

Thank you.


April 6, 2015, Novgorod Region