The vast spaces of Red Square resounded to the heavy rumble of armored cars and tanks and the eerie echoes of thousands of young voices raised in martial exaltation today as the Soviet Union marked its 60th anniversary, in the 32nd year of continuous peace for a nation much scarred by past wars.
The Kremlin leadership, led by President Leonid Brezhnev, climbed slowly to the black marble parapet of the Lenin mausoleum a few minutes before 10 a.m. to receive the shouted adulation and military honors from a sea of young soldiers and their grizzed superiors spread in precise ranks across the cobbled square.
In heavy overcoats and traditional for hats to stave off the penetrating cold of a overcast, chill day, the members of the Politburo stood throughout the parade of more than two hours. Apparently enjoying the spectacle of sound, color and movement. Only aging Mikhail Suslov, the long-time party theoretician who is in his mid 70s, left early, apparently staying only a few minutes at the beginning of the ceremonies.
The parade, the culmination of months of preparation and effort in the capital and elsewhere in the country, began with a speech by Defense Minister Dimitri Ustiney, who said the Soviet Union and its Communist allies "are giving a resolute rebuff" to "bellicose imperialist forces."
Ustinov told the troops before him and a national television audience that "the armed forces of the Soviet Union consider it their sacred duty to defend reliably their socialist homeland and to be in constant combat readiness that guarantees an immediate rebuff to any aggressor."
The speech emphasized this concept of self-defense, and made no threats. In recent weeks, Soviet-American relations have warmed and Soviet Ambassador to the U.S. Dobrynin predicted in an interview on NBC-TV today that a major new strategic arms limitation agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union would be reached by the end of the year.
As an announcer shouted more than 70 official slogans of praise for the party, the state and its leaders, the square filled with rows of marching soldiers, marines, naval units, para-troops and rangers, each with its own colorful uniform and battalion insignia. Goose-stepping briskly before thousands of foreign diplomats, journalists and favored Soviet citizens, the troops saluted Breshnev and the Politburo and then retired to make way for the merchanized show.
Within moments of the troops' departure, Red Square filled with military vehicles from jeeps to missile launchers to the country's new main battle tank, the T-72.
The T-72, the highlight of today's show, is considered a big improvement over its predecessors, primarily because of its greater accuracy with the 115-mm. gun. The T-72, unlike the T-62, carries a laser range finder. Shorter and broader the T-62, It is also thought to have a new engine and has a loader that puts shells in the gun automatically rather than by hand. The tank carries a crew of three rather than four as in the T-62.
Soviet tank design has long stressed protection for crews against gas and radiation. The T-72 is expected to be better in this regard. The T-72 is regarded by some specialists as being able to outfight any Western tank except the British Chieftain. The U.S. Army is currently building a new tank, the XM-1, which would be a match for the T-72, however.
The Soviets also displayed new 122-mm. and 152-mm. self propelled cannons, light tanks capable of being parachuted from planes, armored personnel carriers, rocket launchers, broad range of surface-to-air [WORD ILLEGIBLE] missiles and mobile battlefield ballisties missiles, known as the SS-12 Scaleboard and Sead B.
In all, to Western diplomatic sources, about 336 military vehicles roared through Red Square, more than double the number in the 1975 and 1976 parades.
When the armor had cleared the square, thousands of brightly dressed teenagers carrying red banners and proclaiming "Glory to the Soviet peoples" filled the wide area, a sea of movement from the Kremlin across to the rocoeco facade of the famous G.U.M. department store that takes up almost the entire length of the opposite side of Red Square.
Following the teenagers came thousands of factory workers and farmers, bureaucrats and peasants, carrying red flags and pulling huge portraits of Breshnev and the other members of the Politbaro, as well as dozens of floats proclaiming in flashing signs the triump of remmunism and the greatness of Brezhnev and the Soviet state. Mixed in among them were thousands of World War II veterans, most now in their middle age and some quite elderly, their chests proudly bearing battlefield decorations and campaign ribbons from a war that cost an estimated 20 million dead and which the regime shares no effort in glorifying and memoralizing.
Later in the day, as the parade waned, a Westerner walking back through Moscow encountered a cheerful sight at an Intersection about a half-mile from the Kremlin; as police held back civilian traffic, the rocket carriers, troop transports, self-propelled cannons and other machines of war thundered by returning to their original units. Their youthful drivers grimming broadly, each vehicle was festooned with balloons and paper flowers that reduced their martial appearance to pleasant proportions.