Official website of the Spasskaya Tower International Military Music Festival
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Official website of the Spasskaya Tower International Military Music Festival
15 May 2020

Military Parade of November 7, 1941

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In Autumn of 1941 when the frontline laid just in several tens of kilometers from Moscow the Central Committee of the Communist Party decided to hold a military parade on Red Square, that went down in history as November 7 Military Parade. Units taking part in that historic event would go to battle immediately after marching down the cobblestones of Red Square.

The mere fact of holding a military parade in the midst of a war was overwhelming. All eyes were set on Moscow, all the faith and hopes of the people were concentrated on it. That march along Red Square was suggesting confidence in the army might and a victory at hand. Hence, on November 7, 1941 to the sounds of Alexandrov’s The Sacred War masterpiece and renowned Farewell of Slavianka march, composed by bandmaster Vasily Agapkin right before the World War I, soldiers and officers were leaving straight to the war battlefields. And it was the very same bandmaster Vasily Agapkin who was leading the combined band.

Several days earlier, on November 2, Lieutenant General Kuzma Sinilov, the military commandant of Moscow, set the following task to the conductor. “On November 7 there will be a parade on Red Square. The government entrusted you to direct the combined band of the military garrison that you have to form out the bands stationed in Moscow. But I warn you that not a single musician must know what is the purpose of the rehearsals, as it’s top secret”.

Vasily Agapkin immediately got down to work, laying down a rehearsal plan, and carefully filling the repertoire with the best-suiting marches. November 6 the third and last rehearsal took place.

The parade was carried out in extreme weather conditions with severe frosts setting up in Moscow. However, military musicians led by their experienced bandmaster successfully performed the duty. Vasily Agapkin’s reminiscences of the day are the following.

“I directed the band standing on a special block. Discreetly mainly with my eyes I reminded my musicians to watch the instruments, owing the frost they were freezing up. When the last artillery unit left the square, I was to step down and lead the band closer to GUM. It was then that I realized that couldn’t move my legs while boots were frozen stiff to the stand”.

War ended bringing along peace, but hard military service has continued, and as same as before military musicians are serving along with their fellows in all the regiments, military bases and most distant garrisons.