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‘Cities of Military Glory’ honoured for WW2 efforts

Published time: December 08, 2008 17:10
Edited time: December 08, 2008 17:10

Three Russian towns have been presented with honourary titles for their citizens’ courage during World War Two. Dmitrov, Velikiy Novgorod and Velikiye Luki have got special diplomas from President Medvedev at a ceremony in the Kremlin.

They join a select band of cities chosen last year. The award is similar to the ‘Hero Cities’ honour given out in the Soviet era, although no city is on both lists.

The town of Dmitrov is where Soviet troops stopped Germans from reaching the capital in 1941, the year that Nazis attacked the Soviet Union.

The skyline of the town of Dmitrov is dominated by some of Russia's most beautiful cathedrals and monasteries. And there is little in its day-to-day life to remind the visitor of its bloody past.

Yet in 1941 it was the site of one of the key battles of the war. The Germans were less than 70 kilometres from their ultimate target, Moscow. The Russians would not give it up at any cost.

With heavy losses on both sides, Hitler's armies were stopped, and Moscow was never taken. And although there are few left, those who witnessed the war first hand still can be found in Dmitrov.

One of them, veteran pilot Boris Shugaev, shot down six planes during the massive battle for air supremacy that happened there back in 1941. For him memories are vivid.

“Every time you were on a mission, your whole body would feel the fear,” Shugaev recalls. “But you had to stop it, and just to think about how to outwit your opponent. Those who didn't, didn't last long.”

Now aged 90, he considers himself lucky.

“Not everybody has an easy life now. But I feel OK,” Shugaev says. “The thing with me is that I still have my health.”

Lavish public commemorations of the war are frequent in Russia, underlining the continuing importance it plays in how the country sees itself.

But veterans there fear their efforts may be forgotten. They say the message needs to be passed on.

Dmitrov War Veterans Committee chairman Evgeny Rybakov spends his time recounting his experiences at classrooms.

Although war veterans are entitled to various financial privileges, he says this isn't enough.

“I believe the country’s authorities do not pay attention to us,” Rybakov says. “The parliament needs to pass legislation to give greater and equal social provisions for all those who played their part in the war effort.”

‘City of Military Glory’ is an honorary title given to Russian cities where soldiers have displayed outstanding courage and heroism during the Second World War. The list includes:

1. Belgorod (a city in western Russia, 40 km north of the Ukrainian border)
2. Kursk (a city in the western part of central Russia, about 520 km from Moscow)
3. Oryol (a city in central Russia, about 360 km south-west of Moscow)
4. Vladikavkaz (the capital city of the Russian Republic of North Ossetia-Alania)
5. Malgobek (a town in the Russian Republic of Ingushetia)
6. Rzhev (a town situated on the Volga River, in western Russia)
7. El’nya (a town in the western part of central Russia, 360 km from Moscow)
8. Elets (a city in central Russia, about 390 km south of Moscow)
9. Voronezh (a city in southwestern Russia, not far from Ukraine)
10. Luga (a town 140 km south of St Petersburg – Russia’s ‘northern capital’)
11. Polyarny (a closed town in Kola Peninsula, in the far north of Russia. Polyarny is the first sea port awarded the ‘City of Military Glory’ title)
12. Rostov-on-Don (Russia's biggest southern city, about 1060 km from Moscow)
13. Tuapse (a resort city on the Black Sea coast, near Sochi in Russia’s southern Krasnodar Region)
14. Velikiye Luki (a city in northwestern Russia, about 530 km from Moscow)
15. Velikiy Novgorod (the foremost historic city of northwestern Russia, about 500 km from Moscow)
16. Dmitrov (a town in the Moscow Region, 65 km north of the Russian capital)

There are 13 ‘Hero Cities’, including seven in Russia: Moscow, St Petersburg (formerly Leningrad), Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad), Novorossiysk, Tula, Murmansk and Smolensk. The other six are in other parts of the former Soviet Union: Kiev, Odessa, Kerch and Sevastopol in Ukraine, and Minsk and Brest Fortress in Belarus. 

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