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Victory Day 2011

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Yesterday was observed throughout the former Soviet republics as Victory Day -- the 66th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany on May 9, 1945. Through festive events and solemn memorials, Russians and their neighbors celebrated the end of World War II (or the Great Patriotic War, as it is known in Russia). Twenty thousand members of Russia's military marched through Moscow's Red Square alongside over 100 pieces of mobile military hardware, while veterans dressed in their medal-festooned uniforms gathered in the streets. The parade was the centerpiece of Russia's most solemn secular holiday, commemorating the Soviet Union's enormous sacrifices in the war -- an estimated 25 million dead -- while asserting the strength of Russia's modern military. Here is a look at this year's commemorations across several countries. [35 photos]

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Fireworks explode above the Poklonnaya Gora War Memorial Park during celebrations for Victory Day in Moscow, Russia, on May 9, 2011. Russia is celebrating the 66th anniversary of the World War Two victory over Nazi Germany. (Reuters/Nikolay Korchekov)
Fireworks explode above the Poklonnaya Gora War Memorial Park during celebrations for Victory Day in Moscow, Russia, on May 9, 2011. Russia is celebrating the 66th anniversary of the World War Two victory over Nazi Germany. (Reuters/Nikolay Korchekov)
Moscow commemorates the 66th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany with fireworks near the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Monday, May 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze) #
A close column of Russian Naval Infantry march wearing their distinctive uniform during a rehearsal of the Victory Day Parade in Alabino, outside Moscow, on April 20, 2011. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images) #
Russian military vehicles make their way down a road during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade which will take place at Moscow's Red Square on May 9 in central Moscow, Russia, late Tuesday, May 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev) #
A boy dressed in a Soviet-era uniform looks up at the thousands of names on the memorial as he pays tribute at the Remembrance Wall at a War museum in Kiev, Ukraine, Monday, May 9, 2011. Victory Day, marking Nazi Germany's defeat, is celebrated in Ukraine on May 9. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky) #
War veteran Fyodor Bortsov, 85, poses for a picture as he takes part in the celebrations for the Victory Day in Moscow May 9, 2011. (Reuters/Denis Sinyakov) #
Knostantin Pronin, 86, World War II veteran from Belarus sits on a bench as he waits in a hope to find other men from his unit at Gorky park during Victory Day in Moscow, on Monday, May 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr) #
Russian World War II veteran Victor Shepelyov, 84, dances as he celebrates Victory Day of the 66th anniversary of the allied victory over Nazi Germany at Gorky park in Moscow, on Monday, May 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel) #
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin lays wreath at the Eternal Flame while visiting the Battle of Stalingrad memorial, ahead of May 9 Victory Day, in Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad, about 900 kilometers (550 miles) southeast of Moscow, Russia, on Friday, May 6, 2011. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky) #
A girl is seen at the World War II memorial as she takes part in the celebrations for the Victory Day in Kiev May 9, 2011. (Reuters/Konstantin Chernichkin) #
A young couple goes down a a hill in front of the some 100-meter Motherland monument, an open-air World War II museum, in Kiev during Victory Day celebrating on May 9, 2011. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images) #
A member of an excavation team sorts the recently-discovered remains of Soviet soldiers killed during World War II and places them in a coffin in the village of Sinyavino, 50 km (31 miles) east of St.Petersburg, Russia, on May 5, 2011. The remains of over 500 soldiers killed in heavy battles during World War II near Leningrad, now named St. Petersburg, in 1942-1944, were being buried at a ceremony in Sinyavino ahead of Victory Day. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky) #
Members of one of the search teams which looked for the remains of Soviet soldiers killed while fighting against Nazi Germany's forces, bury coffins during a funeral ceremony at a cemetery at Myasnoy Bor village, some 40 km from Velikiy Novgorod on May 7, 2011. The remains of 337 soldiers killed during World War II were buried here in a ceremony on the eve of the Victory Day. (Mikhail Mordasov/AFP/Getty Images) #
Russian soldiers stand on guard near the empty tribunes during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade which will take place at Moscow's Red Square in central Moscow, Russia, late Tuesday, May 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev) #
Kyrgyz brides and grooms lay flowers at the Eternal Flame, ahead of the Victory Day, before a mass wedding ceremony in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Saturday, May 7, 2011. Twenty young couples from impoverished families whose weddings were paid for by the government took part in a mass wedding held for the first time in the Kyrgyz capital. (AP Photo/Maxim Shubovich) #
Russian soldiers march during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade late Tuesday, May 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev) #
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev addresses during the Victory Day military parade at the Red Square in Moscow. Russia, on Monday, May 9, 2011. St. Basil Cathedral is seen at the background. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev) #
Russian military tanks move along Red Square during a military parade on Victory Day in Moscow, on May 9, 2011. (Reuters/Alexander Natruskin) #
Moldovan soldiers march in front of the Victory Memorial in Chisinau, Moldova, on Victory Day, Monday May 9, 2011. (AP Photo/John McConnico) #
Russian police cadets march during the nation's Victory Day military parade on Dvortsovaya Square in St. Petersburg, on May 9, 2011. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images) #
Russian military vehicles drive through the Red Square during the Victory Day Parade on Monday, May 9, 2011, with a display depicting the Order of the Victory in the background. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko) #
Russian marines march along Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, on Monday, May 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev) #
Russian soldiers march through Red Square after the nation's Victory Day military parade in Moscow, on May 9, 2011. (Dmitry Kostyukov/AFP/Getty Images) #
Russian Police academy cadets march during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade at Dvortsovaya Square in St.Petersburg, Russia, Monday, April 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky) #
A Russian WWII veteran walks through Red Square after the nation's Victory Day military parade in Moscow, on May 9, 2011. (Dmitry Kostyukov/AFP/Getty Images) #
People arrange flowers during Victory Day celebrations in Riga, Latvia, on Victory Day, May 9, 2011. (Reuters/Ints Kalnins) #
Nationalist and pro-Russian groups clash during ceremonies celebrating victory over Nazi Germany in Lviv, Ukraine, on Monday, May 9, 2011. Some 50 members of a nationalist organization in the western city of Lviv attacked a small group of pro-Russian activists who were headed to a Soviet-era war memorial. (AP Photo/Pavlo Palamarchuk) #
An unidentified man, 2nd right, points a weapon towards the photographer as nationalist and pro-Russian groups clash while celebrating Victory Day in Lviv, Ukraine, on Monday, May 9, 2011. Members of a nationalist organization in the western city of Lviv attacked a small group of pro-Russian activists who were headed to a Soviet-era war memorial, prompting one of the activists to fire at the attackers with a pneumatic gun. The nationalists then chased down the activists and started beating them until someone yelled that the police were coming, prompting them to flee. The nationalist group, Svoboda, said on its Web site that one of its members was wounded in the leg in the incident. (AP Photo/Pavlo Palamarchuk) #
Supporters of nationalist parties throw a lit flare into ranks of riot police during a protest in Lviv, Ukraine, during Victory Day on May 9, 2011. (Yurko Dyachyshyn/AFP/Getty Images) #
World War II veteran and mortar-man Leonard Abrarov, 85, seen during the Victory Day celebrations in downtown Moscow, Russia, on Monday, May 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev) #
A Russian WWII veteran, frontier guards Sergeant (center), follows naval cadets at a WWII memorial in Moscow, on May 6, 2011. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images) #
A Russian war veteran dances during Victory Day celebrations in the far eastern city of Vladivostok, on May 9, 2011. (Reuters/Yuri Maltsev) #
Russian WWII veterans stand side-by-side in Red Square after the Victory Day Parade, in Moscow, on Monday, May 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko) #
Russian WWII veteran Evgeny Ermolayev, 84, dances with a young girl wearing a Red army uniform celebrating Victory Day, the 66th anniversary of the allied victory over Nazi Germany at Gorky park in Moscow, on Monday, May 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr) #
WWII veteran Lyudmila Anosova, 85, a so-called daughter of the regiment, reacts as she tells war stories during the Victory Day celebrations in downtown Moscow, Russia, Monday, on May 9, 2011. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev) #

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