Mamayev Kurgan, Volgograd
Visiting the WWII memorial complex is a must in Volgograd.
The complex is called To the Heroes of the Stalingrad Battle and it is well-known all over FSU countries as Mamayev Kurgan.
It attracts lots of Russian and foreign visitors.
As Hedrick Smith wrote in his book "The Russians" in 1976, it's "the towering World War II monument, a 160-foot tall Mother Russia on a hillcrest, sword raised against the foe, her dead prayerfully buried around her feet".
Mamaev kurgan is the highest point of the city and very fierce fights happened for this hill during the Battle of Stalingrad. It is actually a Tatar burial site. Kurgan (todays Turkish: Korugan) means; a sheltered place. For its strategic importance dozens of times the hill changed hands. The hill is now an open air museum, and my guide told me 35 thousand Russian soldiers are burried under this relatively small land. Maybe it is place where highest number of people died for. Also the graves of some famous figures of this war are located in this hill. Like famous Russian sniper Zaitsev (He was portrayed in the movie “Enemy at the Gates”) and the commander of the Russian army marchal Chuikov. Chuikov is the only Russian marchal who is not burried at the walls of Kremlin. By his will, he was burried to the hill next to the men he commanded.
Many things in Mamaev Kurgan are symbolic. There are 200 stairs which go to the statue, each representing a day in the battle. And the alley of poplars is also 200 m’s long, again every meter represents a day in the battle. After the poplars alley, we ran into a statue having a granade and an automatic rifle in his hand. The upper body of the statue is naked which means it is for every Soviet soldier regardles of rank and the facial features are made like Marchal Chuikovs. Besides this statue you may see “Motherland is calling” statue. (In russian 'Rodina Mat' zovyot' ) So it is meant the soldier is protecting his country.
Then we reached to ruined walls where oaths, phrases from the soldiers who fought during the war were written over the walls. The most famous one is probably “Kajdiy dom -eto krepost” (Every building is a fortress). Also you hear recordings of gun fires, war songs of the time as you pass along these walls.
Next we came to the square of heroes, actually 6 sculptures erected for nurses, sailors and soldiers who took action in the war. One of the sculptures was about General Glazkov who did not want to leave the front even he was shot. After he died, someting about 160 bullets were taken out of his body.
Our next stop was the hall of the warrior glory. It is actually a conical building where an eternal fire lits and in the walls you see the name of the soldiers who perished in the war.
And after getting out of the hall finally you reach to Mother Russia and Sorrowfull Mother sculptures. At this point Volgograd can be seen more clearly.
To be prepared to the atmosphere of the Hall of Glory, everyone must pass "Singing Walls". Voices of war, songs of that years, sound of explosions and news summary from radio information center SovInformBuro.
You can listen a short sount-file (300kB) at my external page: Singing Walls.
This is the Glory Hall at the top of Mamaev Hill. Thousands names of dead on 32 banners and eternal flame. Honour guards and low funeral music help you to fit an atmosphere. You can see here names of all nationalities and ethnicities of the Soviet Union. They've struggled shoulder to shoulder and they are burried in a common grave.
"We have fulfilled our patriotic duty..." is written across the walls. Keep a minute of silence.
From a Hall of Glory one can climb up to the basement of the statue "Motherland calls you!".
The way to the top goes beside graves of Heros of the Soviet Union, who have got their golden star for Stalingrad Battle. There you can see names of generals, colonels and common soldiers and marines as well.
From the picture you can imagine of how big is the statue.
Decades have passed. Recent public opinion polls have shown that even in the countries that took part in the war younger generations know little about it and their knowledge is often distorted. Even disregarding some statements of the polled that the Soviet Union is described as Nazi Germany's ally, one can draw a conclusion that much has been done to diminish the role of the Soviet Union in the Second World War. Proof of this is, say, textbooks for school students.
The Great Victory of the Soviet Union is not something that belongs only to Russian war veterans, it is the heritage of all our compatriots and all people of the globe. The victory is also Russia's national achievement and pride, the enduring wealth to be inherited by the generations to come.
The Soviet army's convincing victory on the River Volga raised its prestige. Stalingrad was the first major battle won by the Soviet Union. The enemy's casualties were heavy. None of the countries of the anti-Hitler coalition can boast such victory.
In the years of the Second World War leaders of the countries of the anti-Hitler coalition and British and US historians spoke highly of the Stalingrad Battle and its world-wide significance. Unfortunately, during the "cold war" there was a trend in Western literature to diminish the role of the Stalingrad Battle. There was no mentioning of the battle in some memoirs at all, or it was seen as a minor local battle and placed in one row with other less significant military operations, say the landing of US troops at the Midway atoll, the British offensive near El Alamein in North Africa or the seizure of the Japanese islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
Such policy persisted though General Eisenhower, chief commander of the allied troops which landed on the coast in the north of Africa in November 1942, emphasised that stubborn resistance of the Russians gave the allies an opportunity to choose on the site, time and the amount of troops for their decisive offensive. Much similar statement was made by the US chief of the army staff General Marshall; he says the staff assumed that Nazi troops got stuck in Russia, therefore Hitler could not cope with the situation in the north of Africa. Many German officers and historians also recognise great significance of the Stalingrad Battle. Say, General Kurt von Tippelskirch wrote in his book entitled "Geschichte des Weltkrieges" that though events in the north of Africa were considered as more significant than the Stalingrad Battle in the framework of the war as a whole the defeat near Stalingrad shocked the Nazi army and the German nation more since it came as something entirely unexpected and incomprehensible.
The Stalingrad Battle is the most dramatic event of the Second World War. The Nazi block had scored its major victories by the summer of 1942 and the world doubted a possibility of conquering Nazism. The Stalingrad Battle was a turning point in the war, it laid the cornerstone in the foundation of the would-be victory. The summer of 1942 saw first victories of the allies in the anti-Hitler coalition at other fronts of the Second World War and the emergence of the Resistance Movement in Europe. According to the then US president Franklin Roosevelt, the victory on the River Volga stopped the wave of the Nazi aggression and became a turning point in the war of the united nations against the Nazi invasion.
The blood shed at the war, common hardship and common victory over the enemy united people of various nationalities. The whole world was closely watching the developments in Stalingrad. The Lebanese newspaper Sawt-ash-Chaab said at the time that heavy guns near Stalingrad did not only crush Nazi divisions, they shook the walls of Berlin. The response to the Stalingrad Battle came from Paris, Beijing, New York and London.
The city on the River Volga became the grave for grim forces of Nazism. The London radio reported on the 11th of October, 1942 that Russian troops near Stalingrad crushed Hitler's 6th army. The Nazis defeated Poland in 28 days. In Stalingrad they could seize only several houses within 28 days. France fell in 28 days. In Stalingrad Nazis battled their way from one street to another in 28 days.
The outcome of the Stalingrad Battle was crucial for Russia's future, it greatly contributed to the final victory. Here is an attempt to convey the atmosphere of that fierce battle through reminiscences of the participants, both ordinary soldiers and marshals. The authors portray it so vividly that you feel the heat and frosts of the steppe in the approaches to the River Volga, pain of the people who lost their relatives and friends, their zeal for a revenge, fear and heroism, despair and determination not to yield any stretch of native land to the enemy and their constant nervous strain which is almost beyond man's ability.
Stalingrad is the symbol of unity of all ethnic groups and nationalities inhabiting the former Soviet Union. In his memoirs the renowned Soviet military leader Marshal Zhukov wrote: "That was a long-awaited-for victory not only for the army but also for the whole of the Soviet people. Loyal sons of Russia, Ukraine, Belorussia, the Baltic states, the Caucasus, Kazakhstan and Central Asia displayed staunchness and heroism, they are worthy of their undying glory."
Mamaev Kurgan is a memorial of WWII and Stalingrad Battle. Who of you abroad of Russia knows about it? May be only people of elder generation.
Stalingrad was the first major battle won by the Soviet Union. The enemy's casualties were heavy. None of the countries of the anti-Hitler coalition can boast such victory.
In some tips below I will quote some reliable sources to tell you more about it.
Mamaev Kurgan is open for visitors 24 h a day. At night there is a special lightning in the park and near statues and memorials.
note: Mamaev Hill is a little bit wrong translation of the Russian name Mamaev Kurgan. Kurgan is a tumulus or a barrow. This means that in encient past this could be a grave of one of the nomades leader. Name Mamaev shows it could have some connection to Mamai - leader of Golden Hordes, but there is no any reliable historical evidence of that.
Mamayov Kurgan is a huge War memorial complex dedicated to those that lost their lives in the battle of Stalingrad. The picture is of "Motherland" or, as is usually translated into English, "Mother Russia". It is a massive statue commemorating the loss of life and the victory. It stands about 4 meters higher than the statue of liberty.
the battle of (than) stalingrad, was maybe one of the most fierce ones in the whole war (though every single has its own tragic).
the momument can be seen from all over volgograd and is nothing but impressive. i was there and a beautiful sunny day, but had a hard time thinking of tenthousands dying there in some distant winters in the 1940's.
go there in the memory of all the dead.
This is one more general view of the complex. On the right-hand side there are 6 fragments, representing courage of the Russian fighters in that battle. On the left-hand side there is a large fountain, where water is always still and clear. On the back there's a main sculpture of the complex -- Mother Russia. Actually, Mamayev Hill is a very old hill. I don't think anbody knows exactly why it was called so, but it is very old name. During the Stalingrad battle Mamayev Hill was the major aim, because it is the highest point in the city. But to biuld the memorial builders had to increase the height of the hill. Now it is about twice as high as it used to be before.
the Memorial on Mamayev Hill. That is the main sightseen in Volgograd. On this picture is the general view on the Memorial. It was built in 1970. I mean it was finished in 1970, on 25-th aniversary of finishing the World War II. It is one of the largest memorials in the World, dedicated to the WW II. It is still visited by many tourists from Russia. The first sculpture you see is called 'Fight to the Last'. It is seen as a soldier standing with the last granade ready to face death. He's like a rock -- that's why the bottom part of the sculpture is just the rock. Around this sculpture there's a fountain, where people drop their donations to the memorial.