ASTANA – Kazakhstan recently celebrated two military holidays in a row, Defender of the Fatherland Day on May 7 and Victory Day on May 9. This year, as the nation commemorates the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazism in Europe and its significant contributions to Soviet military efforts, the grand military parade was held at Astana’s Independence Square.
Thousands of guests gathered on May 7 to witness the show, which according to the Kazakh Ministry of Defence, involved a record number of participants, namely more than 5,000 servicemen, around 200 units of military machinery and 70 military jets, airplanes, and helicopters. Along with what the modern army has to demonstrate, uniforms and weaponry from the Second World War, were also on display.
In line with tradition, the hour-long event began with a ceremonial inspection of the participants by the parade’s military commander, Chief of Kazakhstan’s Land Forces, Lieutenant General Murat Maikeyev, who then reported to Minister of Defence Imangali Tasmagambetov. The minister saluted the Kazakh Armed Forces’ Commander-in-Chief, President Nursultan Nazarbayev. The head of state, in a ceremonial vehicle, then inspected the units himself, greeting the soldiers and officers; he then made his way to the rostrum, where he was accompanied by senior Kazakh officials.
In addressing participants and guests, Nazarbayev wished everyone a happy Defender of Fatherland Day and 70th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War, as the war against Nazi Germany is commonly known in the post-Soviet realm. He also pointed out the stark symbolism behind the closeness of the two dates.
“This speaks of the continuity of the military tradition between the winners of the Great Patriotic War and the current generation of defenders of the fatherland. The power delivered across the frontline and tireless work on the home front were crucial to our victory,” the President highlighted.
In speaking about the nation’s remarkable contribution to the defeat of Nazism, Nazarbayev reminded that out of 1.2 million people who left Kazakhstan for the front lines, almost half never returned. More than 500 compatriots were decorated with the Golden Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union, the highest Red Army military award. He also mentioned that nine out of ten bullets shot by Soviet guns in World War II were made out of the lead mined at Ashysai in southern Kazakhstan.
“The deeds of our fathers and labour of our mothers will forever remain in the memory of our people. The history of our victories is a genuine manifestation of patriotism and unity,” Nazarbayev said.
According to the President, the memory of common hardships during World War II is a powerful factor gluing together modern Kazakhstan.
“The first words of our Constitution, the 20th anniversary of which we are marking this year, read ‘We, the people of Kazakhstan.’ This is an unshakable formula of unity for our multiethnic people,” he stressed.
As the Commander in Chief, Nazarbayev concluded his speech with a call upon the members of the country’s Armed Forces, to fulfil with dignity the “noble mission” of defending Kazakhstan’s sovereignty and peace.
The President’s speech was followed by a march of military units representing all kinds of troops from across Kazakhstan’s Armed Forces. Among them was the Kazbrig, a special unit trained and equipped in accordance with the standards of the United Nations peacekeeping forces.
Several units on the march were dressed in World War II-era uniforms with insignias from the Red Army units that were staffed by personnel from Kazakhstan. They held weaponry from the era as well. Among the parade’s historical features was a ceremonial display of the Victory Banner, which is an exact copy of the red flag that was first erected at the entrance to Reichstag in Berlin on April 30 by Kazakh Lieutenant Rakhimzhan Koshkarbayev and Private Georgi Bulatov from the Vyatka region in northern Russia. The copy was delivered from the Museum of Great Patriotic War, located on the Poklonnaya Mountain in Moscow.
The high quality of the battle proven Soviet and Russian machinery was evident all throughout the parade. The S-300 long range surface to air missile systems and Solntsyepyok TOS-1 multiple launchers, amongst other pieces of hardware, were included. However, a few U.S. and Turkish pieces, including Humvees and Kobra infantry mobility vehicles were present.
The display opened with the historic T-34, which was the main Soviet battle tank in World War II, followed by vehicles and guns from the same era.
However, it was the air power that captured the spectators’ imagination. Sukhoi Su-25, Sukhoi Su-27, Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets, MiG-27, MiG-31 interceptors, An-26, An-27, Tu-134, Tu-154 transport aircrafts, Mi-8, Mi-17, Mi-171, Mi-26 and K-32 helicopters, as well as the Spanish-made C-295 troop carrier and EC-145 utility helicopters assembled at the Eurocopter facility in Astana were on display to not only those at the parade, but those looking into the sky from their homes. The pilots impressed spectators with their brilliant aerobatic manoeuvres in the Astana sky, individually and in groups, including a giant 70 to mark the 70th anniversary of the Victory and drawing the number with coloured traces from their turbines.