BELGRADE, August 02. /ITAR-TASS/. The Russian Necropolis at the New Cemetery in Belgrade reopened in the Serbian capital on Friday after massive restoration.
Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Federal Agency for the CIS, Compatriots living abroad and International Cultural Cooperation (Rossotrudnichestvo), attended the opening ceremony which opened with a memorial service at the Necropolis’s Iberian Chapel. Patriarch Irinej, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church who led the church service, said that Russians and Serbs were linked by centuries-old friendship and that the Serbs remembered how Russian soldiers came to their rescue during World War One.
“Today, Serbia is coming under great pressure to throw a shadow on the Russian people. But we will never be able to do that under no consideration,” the Serbian patriarch stressed.
Aleksandar Vulin, the Serbian Minister of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social policy, said that Russia was the only “light in darkness” for the Serbs during World War One.
“History did not know examples when such a great nation made so many sacrifices for the sake of a small people,” Vulin stressed.
For his part, Konstantin Kosachev said that the current relations between the two counties were the best compensation for what happened a hundred years ago when Russian soldiers fought on the Serbian soil.
The orchestras played the anthems of Russia and Serbia. After that, the participants in the ceremony laid wreaths to a Russian and Serbian monuments to the WWI heroes. Live flowers were also lowered on the water at the confluence of the Rivers Danube and Sava on the traverse of the Kalemegdan fortress where the Russian flotilla stood to defend Belgrade during World War I.
A WWI exhibition has opened at the Progress gallery in central Belgrade. Apart from pictures, it features authentic artifacts of that time from Serbia, Russia and France.
A concert at the Russian Center of Science and Culture culminated the festivities in Belgrade. The programme included the most famous music pieces of the early 20th century played by Russian and Serbian musicians.
Russians who fought on the WWI fronts or immigrated to Serbia after the 1917 October Revolution are buried at the Russian Necropolis in Belgrade. More than 3,000 people, including 1, 360 generals, soldiers and officers who fought in WWI, are interred at the Necropolis.
The restoration of the biggest burial place of Russian compatriots abroad had been under way since 2010. Konstantin Kosachev said the project, valued at almost 2 million dollars, was financed both from the state budget and on donations of private companies and individuals.
The end of restoration works was timed to coincide with the centenary anniversary of the start of WWI. Austria declared a war on Serbia on July 28, 1914 while Russia entered the war a few days later on August 1.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin who unveiled a WWI memorial on Moscow’s Poklonnaya Hill on Friday said that Russia had fulfilled its allied obligations during World War One.
For centuries, Russia sought to establish strong ties and build trust among nations and its role in the pre-war years was particularly important.
“On the eve of World War One Russia did everything to persuade Europe to resolve the conflict between Serbia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire peacefully without spilling blood but it had to answer the challenge and defend the fraternal Slavic nation and its own citizens from an external threat,” Putin said.