Volgograd is a city on the Volga River in the south-eastern part of Russia that was founded in the 16th century. It initially bore the name Tsaritsyn, but was then renamed Stalingrad when the political system changed, and it acquired its modern name of Volgograd in 1961. The city is located 964 kilometers from Moscow in a favorable climate zone with mild winters and hot summers. Volgograd was a host city to matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Volgograd is a «Hero City». It was awarded with this highest degree of distinction for the steadfastness and courage of its residents during World War II. While climbing up Mamayev Kurgan, towering over the right bank of the Volga, it’s hard to imagine the fierce battles that took place here, and it’s only the multiple historical monuments that recall this heroic chapter in the life of the city.
The name of the hill, Mamayev, remains from the era of the Golden Horde, when its peak served as a viewing platform for nomads’ guard posts. According to a legend, Mamai, the warlord of the Tatar-Mongols, and his golden suit of armor are buried in this hill but this has not been officially proven by documents.
Today, Mamayev Kurgan is recognized as one of the seven Russian wonders of the world for the memorial complex To the Heroes of the Battle of Stalingrad, the main monument that can be seen from afar. The Motherland Calls is an 85-meter sculpture of a woman with a sword in her hand calling everyone to battle with the enemy, and, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, is one of the tallest sculptures in the world. You can even admire it at night because the monument is illuminated by floodlights; when you visit the Hall of Military Glory and the wall-ruins you will hear the sounds of music and the voice of Yuri Levitan, the legendary Soviet radio announcer.
You will need quite a lot of time to visit the memorial complex because it also includes the high-relief Memory of Generations, an avenue of Lombardy poplars, the Square of ‘Those who Fought to the Bitter End’, Square of Heroes, the Square of Grief, the military memorial cemetery, and the memorial park.
This ensemble is part of the Battle of Stalingrad Museum Memorial Preserve, where the panorama museum of the same name is also located. This is the location of the famous circular panorama, the largest pictorial canvas in Russia, on which the last stage of the battle on the Volga is shown.
Not far from the cylindrical building of the museum is Gerhardt’s Mill, or rather, what’s left of it since this building was intentionally not restored in memory of the war. You won’t be able to enter it, but its broken roof and shot-through walls visually demonstrate the brutality of the block-to-block fighting that took place during the war. Gerhardt’s Mill is sometimes called Grudinin’s Mill and there’s no mistake in this because the former was the founder and the latter ran it during Soviet times. By the way, the name GERHARDT was spelled out in bricks when the building was built and can still be seen at the top of one of its walls.
Not far from Gerhardt’s Mill is another monument to the war years, Pavlov’s House, and its close proximity often causes tourists to mistake one for the other. This building was relentlessly defended for 58 days by a platoon of Red Army soldiers led by Senior Sergeant Yakov Pavlov, who later went on to become an honorary citizen of Volgograd. Unlike the mill, this building is now a restored residential building with two memorial walls.