"Peter the Great made the military orchestras official," said Khalilov, the chief conductor. "He understood the importance of the rituals of military units."
Not only to the troops that march to battle, but to those who send them.
On Sunday, the bands gathered at the end of their parade at the Belorusky train station, greeting a steam locomotive that was a replica of the one that brought victorious troops home at the end of the war in 1945. A large picture of former Soviet leader Josef Stalin stood at the front of the train, just as it did all those years before. Girls in pretty pastel dresses handed out flowers to the arriving veterans.
And the band played "Farewell to Slavianka."
"The Americans were here, but our orchestra was considerably more loud and spectacular," said Sergei Dmitriyev, a 26-year-old security guard who watched the scene unfold.
"When you hear the Slavianka march, it fills you with a lot of emotion, and there's a bit of mourning to it," he said.
"Having the Americans there at the same time, I felt kind of sad and betrayed," he said. "But I guess it's OK. They were our allies, after all."