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23 Feb, 2008 19:00

Serbs pay tribute to Soviet liberators

February 23, which is celebrated as Defender of the Fatherland Day in Russia, is also marked in Serbia. On Saturday people in Belgrade have remembered the 7,000 Soviet soldiers who died fighting the Nazi occupation in Yugoslavia. Moscow denounced Kosovo's

Laying wreaths at the tomb of the Russian soldiers and officers in Belgrade who died in 1944 fighting the Nazis is a traditional annual ceremony.

The battle for Belgrade cost around 1,000 Soviet army lives, while around 7,000 perished in the campaign for Yugoslavia in total.
This year only a few veterans took part in the ceremony. The generation of Serbs who fought shoulder to shoulder with the Russians has nearly been entirely consigned to history. Now it is their sons and daughters who come to pay tribute to their memory.

Just a hundred steps away from the tomb is the so called ‘Russian cemetery’, which lies within the biggest in Belgrade. There you can still meet those who fought in WW2.

Iverskaya Chapel in Belgrade’s central cemetery is an exact copy of the chapel that was demolished by the Bolsheviks in Moscow’s Red Square. In 1931 it was recreated in Belgrade by Orthodox Russians and Serbs not far from the memorial to the heroes of WW1.

Back then two million Russians fought for Serbia’s freedom. At the cemetery there’s a memorial engraved with the words “Rest in peace, fighting eagles!” It is devoted to them and to Nicholas II. Until recently it was the only monument in the world to Russia’s last Emperor.

The cemetery has also become a resting place for many of the Russian émigrés who moved to Belgrade after the Russian Revolution in 1917.

So with such a large presence of Russian people in Serbia’s soil, it's clear why the Serbs strongly believe in the bond between the two countries.