BY THE RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO BOTSWANA
IGOR S. LIAKIN-FROLOV
AT THE OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE EXHIBITION
“THE 60TH ANNIVERSARY
OF THE END OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR”
May 2, 2005
Honourable Minister of Labour and Home Affairs of the Republic of Botswana Major General Moeng Pheto,
Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Botswana Mr Patrick Balopi,
Honourable Ministers here present,
Your Excellencies Heads of Diplomatic Corp and International Organizations,
Your Worship Mr Nelson Ramaotwana, Mayor of Gaborone,
Esteemed Mrs Soso Lebekwe-Mweendo, Director of the National Museum of Botswana,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today the Russian Embassy together with the Botswana National Museum open the Photo-Exhibition dedicated to the 60th Anniversary of the End of the Second World War and the Victory of the Soviet Union in the Great Patriotic War.
For us, Russians, it is a very special date. During the war 27 millions of my compatriots perished away. Practically every family lost somebody. It is a day of both celebration of the Victory, to which the Soviet Union made the decisive contribution, and commemoration of those who did not return home.
On this day we pay tribute to the courage of both the Soviet soldiers and the soldiers of the Anti-Hitler coalition states – UK, USA, France, Yugoslavia and many others. It is the consolidation of political, economical and military resources of all these countries, which became one of the key factors of the fascism defeat. We do not divide this Victory into “ours” and “theirs”. We remember the Battle for Britain and the Landing operation in Normandie, the heroism of the British and Canadian sailors in Murmansk convoys and French pilots of the Normandie-Niemen squadron who fought at the Russian front. It is our common Victory. This is the celebration we all share. We were together in that horrible battle against Nazism. The meeting of the Soviet soldiers and the soldiers of the allied forces on Elba River in the victorious spring of 1945 symbolized the invincibility of fraternity forged in battle and the triumph of justice.
Special thanks to Botswana. We were allies in that war. More than ten thousand Batswana served in the Bechuanaland Protectorate Companies of the African Pioneer Corp and participated in military actions or provided logistical support to the allied forces in the Northern Africa and Italy. Given then territory’s population this figure represents nearly 20% of all able-bodied adult male of Botswana. No part of the British Empire provided a greater proportion of fighting men. King George IV, Winston Churchill, Generals Montgomery and Mark Clark noted the heroism of Batswana soldiers. Together with the Museum and the Botswana war veterans we have managed to organize a special section of the exhibition devoted particularly to the participation of Batswana in the Second World War.
On the Victory Day we also express our gratitude to our veterans, for whom that war still remains an integral reality of their lives. In our country they received special attention and social support from the Government. We know that these people are part of the older generation. They are all over 70 now and some of them are over 80. They are our fathers and mothers, our grandfathers and grandmothers, and the attention we give them is also of immense educational value since it is not for nothing that it is said that how we treat our parents is how our children will treat us. In this regard I would like to take this opportunity to greet Batswana veterans present here and wish them good health and all-round success.
World War II was indeed an epochal event. It was not only a global Battle exceeding in scale all previous armed conflicts in the world history. For the first time the stake in this struggle was the preservation of the life of all nations. The main outcome of the war was not merely the victory of one coalition of states over the other, it was the Victory of the forces of construction and civilization over the forces of destruction and barbarism, it was the Victory of life over death.
Fascism was defeated in 1945, but the roots from which it grew have not been entirely eradicated and still bear poisonous fruit here and there in our world.
The world is still not free of ideology that preaches extreme nationalism, religious fanaticism and the idea of world domination. There are still people who look for new fuhrers, who feed off others’ misfortunes and promise simple solutions to complex and tangled problems. These are people willing to do anything to achieve their aims, willing to lay aside morals and principles and pursue their aims even at the cost of blood and human lives.
Another lesson to remember is that on the war eve none of those who could decide the world’s fate were able to realize the full extent of the threat in time. The world ended up paying in millions of human lives for this political short-sightedness and inability to lay aside personal ambitions.
Big wars do not just start by themselves. They flare up out of local conflicts. This is why one of the main objectives of global politics is to unite forces against the threats that already genuinely exist today. These threats are above all, without exaggeration, international terrorism and nationalist and religious extremism. They have emerged today under new banners, but they are still the same old Nazi ideas.
Today’s exhibition can be called “faces of the war” as the main heroes on the photos are simple people – soldiers. You can find also some patriotic posters and even cartoons (political caricatures). This is an expression of the atmosphere of those difficult times. Hope that this exhibition will allow the people of this country and especially the young Batswana to get more clear perception of the events, which left their deep traces on the history of the mankind, as well as the role of the Soviet Union in our common Victory. What happened 60 years ago should not be forgotten. As they say, the people who do not know their past will not have the future.
In conclusion I would like to personally thank the Director of the Museum Mrs Soso R. Lebekwe-Mweendo and the Art Curator Mr Philip Segola for the support and assistance in organizing the exhibition.