Russian Chapel ceremony underlines importance of peace
Kranjska Gora, 28 July - Striving for lasting peace is the most noble endeavour of humanity, President Borut Pahor said as he addressed on Saturday the annual ceremony remembering the Russian POWs who died in an avalanche while building the Vršič mountain pass during World War I.
Pahor believes that the event, held at the Russian Chapel, a landmark erected by the surviving POWs 102 years ago, can be considered the first international event marking the centenary of the end of WWI.
The events commemorating the end of the first great war will culminate with a ceremony in Paris in November, the president added as he addressed the crowd that gathered at the chapel, among them an official Russian delegation and a delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The president said that the centenary was accompanied by mixed feelings because the humanity failed to learn from WWI, which resulted in WWII.
"Have we learned enough from the tragedies that were WWI and WWII to prevent a third world war?" he wondered.
The ceremony was also addressed by the Russian Minister of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media Konstantin Noskov. He said that the Russian Chapel was unique place that has a profound effect on any Russian.
The chapel in itself is a call to preserve the historic memory and ties between the nations. It is reminder that historic lessons must not be neglected.
Noskov also welcomed the fact that the chapel had become the venue of very productive regular formal and informal meeting at all levels.
Two years ago, the ceremony was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, while the year before that, Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev.
Noskov thanked the people of the nearby town of Kranjska Gora and Slovenians in general for preserving the "memory of this historic event".
Tatjana Komarova of the Slovenia-Russia Association, which organised the event, pointed to historians who believe that WWI could have been avoided, and with that WWII could have been avoided as well. "Imagine how different the world would be if these wars had not taken place," she said.
Russian Orthodox Church dignitaries also took part in the ceremony. Before the event, Bishop Nazariy of Kronstadt attended a meeting with the representatives of the Slovenian Catholic Church, the Russian and Serbian Orthodox Churches in Slovenia and the Lutheran Church in Bled.
The church representatives signed a statement entitle The Mission of Peace of Christian Churches, the Slovenia-Russia Association said in a press release.
More than 1,000 people were expected to gather at the chapel, positioned just off the road linking Kranjska Gora with the Soča Valley.
The Vršič mountain pass was built during World War I to provide a support link for Austrian troops fighting in the Soča valley theatre.
Hundreds of POWs were buried by several massive avalanches in the spring of 1916 close to the top of the pass, nearly 2,000 metres above Kranjska Gora. Several guards were also killed.
It is unclear how many people died during the construction of some 20kms of road, as the Austrian monarchy kept the numbers confidential. It is however estimated that at least ten thousand Russian POWs lost their lives.