Ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow this week, East China’s Nanjing City on Tuesday held a memorial service for the Soviet air squadron that volunteered to help China drive out invading Japanese troops during World War II.
China has frequently complained about what it sees as Japan’s insufficient contrition for the suffering it inflicted on its neighbors, including China and South Korea.
More than 200 people attended Tuesday’s commemoration ceremony in a Nanjing Martyr Memorial Hall, where they bowed and laid flowers before a giant tablet inscribed with the names of the 236 Russian martyrs.
May 9 marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.
Although less known than the “Flying Tigers”, its US equivalent, the former Soviet Union air squadron was the first international force to join China’s Anti-Fascist War in 1937.
More than 2,000 Russian pilots and 1,000 aircraft joined the volunteer force, and more than 200 of the pilots sacrificed their lives.
“Russian textbooks have a part about the Soviet Union aiding China and fighting the Japanese together,” Mikhail Grab, a Russian student attending the ceremony, was quoted by Chinese agency Xinhua. “I’m so glad to know the Chinese people still remember that history.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have both, in recent months, warned against “distorting history”.
More than a dozen countries are sending their military units to take part in the victory parade at the Red Square in Moscow on May 9th, which marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war.
26 countries, including China, Greece, Vietnam, Netherlands, Egypt, have confirmed their attendance at the celebrations in Russia.
Russian and Chinese Presidents will exchange state visits to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II this year.
“As two of the main battlefields in Asia and Europe during World War Two, China and Russia will hold a series of celebrations, and state leaders will attend commemorations held in each other’s country,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying in January this year.
China’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression, led to the death of some 20 million Chinese, according to Beijing’s estimates. It ended with Tokyo’s World War II defeat in 1945.
Although most Western historians believe that 22 million Soviets died in the Great Patriotic War, Russian sources put the number higher – at 27 million people.
Russia’s Red Army lost 8.5 million troops – a figure comparable only with German losses. Another 18 million were civilians who died as a result of Hitler’s genocide.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said at a war commemoration event in December that “forgetting history means betrayal and denying the crime means committing it once again.”
TBP and Agencies