Spirit of the Elbe
On April 25, 1945, Soviet and American troops met at the River Elbe. Today we celebrate the 74th anniversary commemorating all veterans and fallen soldiers. Representatives of the embassies of Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, as well as the US Department of State took part in the wreath-laying ceremony at the Arlington National Cemetery where The Spirit of the Elbe marker and tree was dedicated in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Link-Up.
Remarks by Ambassador Anatoly Antonov at the Spirit of the Elbe ceremony
Dear colleagues, dear friends,
Today we commemorate an event of great importance. The encounter at the Elbe River between the Soviet and U.S. troops took place exactly 74 years ago.
This meeting at the Elbe made history. In order to defeat the common enemy Moscow and Washington joined forces and set their differences aside. The atmosphere of friendship, camaraderie and sheer joy that prevailed during those days is preserved in documentaries, photographs and memories of first-hand witnesses. Moscow saluted members of the encounter by firing twenty four artillery salvoes from three hundred twenty four guns. Same festivities took place on Times Square in New York.
For Russians and Americans, for the peoples of former Soviet Republics – Ukrainians, Belorussians, Azerbaijanis, Armenians, Georgians, Kazakhs, Kirghiz, Moldavians, Tajiks, Turkmens, Uzbeks – the encounter on the Elbe, without any doubt, is a reminder of a joint fight in the name of freedom and justice.
As it was noted in a joint statement by President Vladimir Putin and President George W. Bush commemorating the 60th anniversary of this event, “the two nations will always remember the handshake that made history at the Elbe, which became one of the most vivid symbols that our countries were comrades-in-arms in fighting together against Nazi tyranny, oppression and aggression”.
Traditions of partnership forged on the battlefields of the Second World War are a clear example that together we can effectively counter modern threats and challenges. The most important tasks for Russia and the U.S – the two major nuclear powers and permanent members of the UN Security Council – is to maintain peace and stability on the planet, create a durable system of international cooperation, which would save future generations from the scourge of war.
In Russia we will always pay tribute to the courage of our brothers-in-arms in the Second World War, honor the memory of those, who gave their lives in combating the greatest evil of the 20th century.
Ambassador Anatoly Antonov's remarks at the reception on the occasion of the 74th anniversary of the meeting of Soviet and American troops on the Elbe
“The encounter at the Elbe” has long become a kind of metaphor. This event is a symbol of the joint heroic struggle of our nations against Hitler’s aggression.
World War II was the largest and bloodiest military conflict in human history. So much depended on the outcome of the war for the first time ever – the free life of people. Never before the victory took such a devastating toll. The peoples of the Soviet Union – Russians, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Azerbaijanis, Armenians, Georgians, Kazakhs, Kirghiz, Moldavians, Tajiks, Turkmens, Uzbeks – had to sacrifice, according to different estimates, around 27 million lives, from which 13,5 million were civilian losses. No matter how distant the war days become, it will forever stay in the memory of nations.
Let us observe a minute of silence in memory of all those who did not come back from the war.
(minute of silence)
Reminding of the great heroic deed of the Soviet people, I would like to emphasize just one thing – Russia’s commitment to peace, for which we had to pay such an enormous price.
Our country remembers and will remember how important cooperation of the anti-Hitler coalition’s allies was for achieving victory. Countries with different social systems and interests joined forces in order to defeat Nazism. Together they founded the United Nations as an instrument of international cooperation to prevent a new war.
The most important lesson of the Second World War was that disunity of peaceful countries, the lack of a collective security system made it easier for aggressive powers to disrupt peace.
I am confident that today’s global challenges must bring our countries together for active joint work. Disagreements between Russia and the U.S. must not block the path to providing strategic stability, preventing sparks of conflicts that may ignite great flames of war.
With each passing day there are fewer and fewer of those, who belong to the heroic generations of victors. Time is merciless even to the most valiant and strong. I am genuinely happy that our veterans are here with us today. We pay tribute to the U.S. soldiers, who together with Soviet warriors fearlessly fought against the common enemy. We mourn together with the relatives of one of them – Igor Belousovich – a man of Russian origin, a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, who helped as an interpreter during the very first encounter between Soviet and U.S. troops. He passed away in February this year. He will forever stay in our memory as a true hero, a symbol of Russia-U.S. military fraternity.
Dear veterans, your heroic deed predetermined a peaceful, decent life for many generations. The duty of our generation is to preserve and protect the “Spirit of the Elbe”. Memory of brotherhood-in-arms must help build Russian-American relations that would make us allies in combating common threats.
Dear veterans, the children of my colleagues, pupils of the Russian Embassy’s school have prepared a special concert for you. They will read several poems and will sing a few songs dedicated to the Great Patriotic War. Please welcome our young artists.