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Unknown soldiers’ deeds won’t be forgotten: Millions lost in chaos and brutality of WWII honored throughout the world

Unknown soldiers’ deeds won’t be forgotten: Millions lost in chaos and brutality of WWII honored throughout the world
Solemn ceremonies and religious services have been held across the world to commemorate the soldiers who lost their lives during WWII, and whose ultimate fate was never established.

The USSR paid by far the largest cost in human lives during WWII, both military and civilian. Amid the hardships of hostilities, vast territories involved, and the sheer number of fallen, it’s no surprise that many of those deaths were never recorded in detail. Graves of soldiers and partisans found in the aftermath often could not be linked to names in the lists of casualties.

Those unknown soldiers, and their families who never got proper closure, are remembered in Russia on December 3 with wreath-laying ceremonies. The date marks the day when remains of an unidentified Soviet trooper, who had been killed in the brutal battle of Moscow, were recovered. This particular set of remains was chosen to be buried in 1996 under a symbolic tomb near the Kremlin, which is considered one of the most sacred war monuments in Russia.

Commemorations were held not only in Russia but also in other nations, including among others Spain, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Canada. People brought flowers and lit candles at the monuments to Soviet soldiers, and to all those killed during WWII.

This year, the ceremony includes an unusual detail. Russian diplomats and history enthusiasts are collecting soil from the monuments to Soviet soldiers and mass graves left after the war.

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The samples, like the water taken from the locations of major naval battles, are to be sent to Moscow and placed near a grand cathedral, which is currently being constructed near the Russian capital. The symbolic burial may give some solace to the restless souls of the millions of unknown soldiers and will serve as a gesture of respect for their sacrifices.

More practical work is under way too, with hundreds of thousands of war victims traced and identified in Russia each year. The search has been going on for decades, but is far from finished. According to Mikhail Myagkov, a researcher at the Russian Society of Military History, a staggering 2.4 million troops are still listed as missing in action today.

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