Khabarovsk: City of Military Glory

by Olivia Kroth

 Recently, Khabarovsk was bestowed the title "City of Military Glory" by President Vladimir Putin. On the President's website,, we can read in Russian and English: "Khabarovsk received this honorary title in recognition of  the courage, steadfast spirit and mass heroism its defenders showed in the fight for their Fatherland's freedom and independence."

Almost 70 years after the end of the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945), the memories are still alive of all the horrors, suffering and pain, but also of the heroism of the Russian people and, above all, the glorious remembrance of victory.  Lest we forget, there are victory squares, victory columns and eternal flames burning in every major city of the Russian Federation, last but not least, in Khabarovsk.

It is the largest city and administrative center of Khabarovsk Krai in the Russian Far East, only 30 kilometers from the Chinese border, at the confluence of the Amur and Ussuri rivers. Khabarovsk is a stop of the Trans-Siberian Railroad between Moscow and Vladivostok. 

Russian Cossacks settled in this area in the 17th century, setting up fortified camps, called ostrogs, on the Amur River. In 1858, the Russians founded the military outpost of Khabarovsk, named after the Russian explorer, Yerofey Khabarov. 

In 1916, a bridge across the Amur River was built, Khabarovsk Bridge. The Trans-Siberian trains crossed the river via this bridge. By 1941, a rail tunnel was constructed as well. Today, Khabarovsk is a modern city. Novy Airport serves East, Southeast and Central Asia, as well as European Russia. 

The city owns eight universities: Pacific National University (formerly: Khabarovsk State University of Technology), Far Eastern State University of Humanities (formerly: Khabarovsk State Teachers Training University), Eastern State Medical University, Khabarovsk State Academy of Economics and Law, Far Eastern State Transport University, Far Eastern Academy of Government Services, Far Eastern State Physical Education University and Khabarovsk State Institute of Arts and Culture.

Khabarovsk was built along the Amur, its five districts stretch for 45 kilometers along the river's bank. Amursky Boulevard in the city center is a lively place with a local market and many interesting shops and restaurants offering traditional Russian or Chinese cuisine. 

In wintertime, beautiful ice sculptures are on display in the parks. When spring arrives in May, shrubs flower around the squares. Potted plants, potatoes and fresh fish are on sale at the local market, even such exotic fruits as bananas and pineapples. 

Soviet times are remembered at Lenin Square and at Glory Square, with a monument for the fallen soldiers of the Great Patriotic War. The modern 30 meter monument towers above the square. The central structure is a wall around the Eternal Flame, storing the names of the citizens of Khabarovsk who did not return from the war, Heroes of the Soviet Union. 

Khabarovsk formed part of the Soviet Far East Front within the Far Eastern Military District. The memories are still very much alive, although the war veterans are getting old and older, many of them already gone. The city takes good care of its war veterans, allotting apartments for low rent to needy or disabled men. Governor Victor Ishayev created a regional special house for veterans in Khabarovsk, equipped with medical and social services. On the occasion of the 60th anniversary in 2005, Victor Ishayev said in a speech: 

"From the very beginning of the Great Patriotic War, the Soviet Union was compelled to hold more than 40 divisions in the Far East. They were ready to resist the ally of fascist Nazi Germany - militaristic Japan. These Soviet divisions attacked and won against the Japanese Kwantung Army, showing the highest military skill and unprecedented heroism. In August 1945, they were still fighting in Manchuria. Today, about 4.000 war veterans of the war against militaristic Japan live in our city. To you, our dear veterans, special words of gratitude for the great victory and for your valuable contribution to the termination of this war."

From the 25th to the 31st of December 1949, Khabarovsk was the scene for war crimes trials, in which 12 members of the Japanese Kwantung Army were tried for the manufacture and use of biological weapons during the Great Patriotic War. As early as 1941, members of the Japanese Unit 731 had air-dropped plague-contaminated fleas, which caused epidemic plague outbreaks. 

All 12 accused Japanese war criminals were found guilty and sentenced to terms between two and 25 years in a labor camp. Four Japanese generals received the longest term of 25 years: General Otozo Yamada, Commander-in-Chief of the Kwantung Army; Lt. General Kajitsuka Ryuji, Chief of the Medical Administration; Lt. General Takahashi Takaatsu, Chief of the Veterinary Service; Major General Kawashima Kiyoshi, Chief of Unit 731. They did not serve the full term of 25 years, though, but were repatriated to Japan in 1956.

Every year, school children in Khabarovsk visit the Military History Museum with their teachers as part of the program "Patriotic Education of the Younger Generations." They also receive lessons in courage, taught by war veterans of the Veterans' Council of Khabarovsk Krai.  Khabarovsk Police meet with students regularly to conduct preventive lessons. They speak about the adolescents' responsibilities in the prevention of crimes and offenses, abuse of alcohol and drugs. An integral part of these police lessons is the knowledge about the events of the Great Patriotic War.

Streets in Khabarovsk are named after the heroes of the war. The youth are taught about their lives. "It is very important for the younger generation to know the history of their country, their territory, and to be proud of their heroes," Valery Bolshakov, a retired Colonel, pointed out.

In 2007, President Vladimir Putin established the Day of Heroes of the Fatherland, a very special day, when all school children and students participate in the celebrations. All in all, the Soviet Union lost close to 27 million lives during the Great Patriotic War, which began when Nazi Germany launched "Operation Barbarossa" on the summer solstice day in 1941. 

The scars of this war remain, and they still hurt every year, when the special holidays come around again: 65-year-old Valery Karpov in Khabarovsk lost three uncles in the war. "I grew up at a time, when we had to build the country from nothing. In a large part, it was the women who constructed the post-war infrastructure," Valery Karpov said.

This war is also a very important topic in the history books of Russian schools, telling the new generations about the sacrifices of their ancestors, so the young ones would be able to lead a life of peace and tranquility. The glorious Red Army defeated the greatest evil known to mankind, never forgotten: fascist Nazi Germany. 

Seen in this light, one can only hope that the German delegation of politicians and businessmen travelling to Moscow for the 12th Petersburg Dialogue (November 16-20) will show some restraint. The German mainstream press is full of articles telling every detail about how German-Russian relations have chilled and are tense. 

The German media also divulged that Chancellor Angela Merkel has been pressed hard by "Übervater" from "Übersee," the dark Lord of the Bombs, to lecture the ugly Russians about their faulty human rights record. Big Brother from overseas, our supreme teacher in democracy, freedom, human rights and all the other goodies of modern times, western neo-colonial empires, wants its German satraps to function well in Moscow.  

We shall see how it goes. Chancellor Angela Merkel might not have the fine-tuned diplomatic skills of President Vladimir Putin, but she certainly has enough common sense not to aggravate him too much. The Germans need oil and gas from the Russian Federation. Furthermore, the Germans need commerce and trade with Russia, since the rest of Europe is going down the hill fast, and not much is coming from Big Brother overseas, other than bombs, drones and demands to participate in ever more wars.   

Chancellor Angela Merkel grew up in the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR), at times, when Russian was taught as first foreign language in all secondary schools. Hopefully, she will have a Russian history book in her luggage, to read up the chapter about the Great Patriotic War of her Nazi forefathers against the Soviets. This might teach her to tread softly, when on Russian terrain. 

Otherwise, a famous sentence by Friedrich von Schiller, the famous classical German dramatist, will be our last solace: "Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens." -

"Against stupidity, even the Gods lead a hopeless fight." Friedrich von Schiller, Die Jungfrau von Orléans, Prolog.  

Prepared for publication by:

Lisa Karpova


Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey