Fascist and Soviet soldiers were fighting tough from July 17, 1942 until February 2, 1943. They fought at the height of 102 meters (334.7 feet) at the place where the Don River flew very close to the Volga River. This is where the soldiers received the order №227 from Stalin. The main idea of it was “Not a single step back!” This is the hero-town Stalingrad, which now has the name of Volgograd. The fight for the town became the crucial one for the whole Great Patriotic War (World War II). That battle became a part of history as the greatest victory of the Soviet Army over the Fascist Germany. And the victory cost a giant sacrifice. This place is Mamaev Kurgan. Memorial complex “To Heroes of Stalingrad Battle” commemorates the great heroic deed and the numerous lives lost here.
More than one and a half million of people visit Mamaev Kurgan annually. And the place is especially crowded during the Victory Day celebrations. It is hard not to appreciate the moment and pay last respect to those who sacrificed their future for our troubles live in the present.
We only had one day to see Volgograd. That is why we went to see Mamaev Kurgan in the first place. This is where we begin our excursion. The rest of Volgograd attractions are described in the second part of the article: Attractions of Volgograd.
How to Get to Mamaev Kurgan
Lenin Avenue is the main street in Volgograd. Light rail circulates along it. The name of the rout is simple LR (or ST that corresponds to the Russian term “skorostnoy tramvay” – light rail). This rout is one of attractions in Volgograd. Its special feature is that some of the stations are situated underground – just like in subway. This very tram will take us to Mamaev Kurgan. As guidance we should mention that there are only two quarters on foot from Volgograd rail terminal to the tram station “Lenin Square”.
We got off at Mamaev Kurgan station and found ourselves at the bottom of kurgan. There we began our rise towards the main memorial of the complex. High relief “Memory of Generations” is at the bottom in the entrance square. Its length is 17 meters (55.7 feet). Socles filled with ground from all the twelve hero-towns of the Soviet Union surround the high relief.
Mamaev Kurgan – Memorial Complex
We went upstairs to the walkway of Lombardy poplars. They guard both sides of the 223 meters (731.6 feet) long walkway. This is the place where we first saw the prospect of the memorial complex with its main sculptures “Fight to the Bitter End!” and “The Motherland Calls”. The sculptures amaze with their scale even at the noticeable distance.
There is a pool with a monument to a warrior in the middle at the “Fight to the Bitter End!” Square. The pool symbolizes the Volga River with a hero warrior grew into its bank. Inscriptions on the memorial: “Not a single step back!”, “Fight to the bitter end!” are extracts from the order #227. The defenders of Stalingrad received such a simple order. This is the plain symbolism of the sculpture and it makes one feel heart inside.
And the steps with ruins of walls on both sides take us higher and higher. These ruins are a kind of symbol of the destroyed, but unconquered Stalingrad. The left wall symbolizes swear of Stalingrad citizens: “Not a single step back!” The right wall elaborates on the attack. The ruins of walls are 46 meters (151 feet) long. They are not silent. This architectural composition is accompanied with sound. Status reports from the battlefield read by the legendary speaker Yuri Levitan, battlefield songs and bursts of machine-gun fair all together create the atmosphere of immersion into the events of the autumn in 1942 and the cold winter in 1943.
The Heroes Square on Mamaev Kurgan
The next sculptural and architectural composition is the Heroes Square. Mirrow-like surface of water symbolizes the Volga. There are six sculptures on one side of the pool which demonstrate Stalingrad defenders’ bravery. There is a wall on the other side of the poll. The wall has Vasiliy Grossmsn’s words engraved on it. The man was a writer and a military correspondent who stayed in Stalingrad from the first till the last day of Stalingrad urban battle. The words run as follows: “Iron wind was blowing into their faces and they kept on going ahead, and superstitious fear was spreading among the enemy: who were those people attacking them, were they mortal?” It was almost 30C (86F) hot outside that day, but my skin crawled with cold as soon as I had read those words.
The Hall of Military Glory on Mamaev Kurgan
Further we saw a relief of Stalingrad battle, the advance of troops, subsequent gaining of the west and the victory meeting. Here is also the lower entrance to the Hall of Military Glory. This is the place where the hourly relief of honor guards begins.
The Hall of Military Glory is a cylindrical room with a sculpture in the middle of it. The sculpture is a hand of a killed soldier who passes the eternal flame to the forthcoming generation. Honor guard outpost the eternal flame. There are twenty-four mosaic flags on the walls of the room. The flags have the names of killed soldiers engraved on them. An even rise against the wall leads to the second exit from the Hall of Glory. An oval open space is left in the middle of the dome. Thus, moving along the wall over the eternal flame one can see the main sculpture of the whole memorial – “The Motherland Calls!” Another perspective shows the sculpture “Grieving Mother” through the second exit. Composition called “Daydreams” by German composer Robert Schumann sounds endlessly in the Hall of Military Glory.
We left the Hall of Military Glory and appeared at the Grief Square. The central composition there is the “Grieving Mother” – a mother bending over body of her killed son. A little pool at the bottom of the sculpture symbolizes tears of all mothers who weep for their lost sons.
The Motherland Calls!
We rose higher towards the main sculpture of Mamaev Kurgan – “The Motherland Calls!” Its height is 85 meters (278.9 feet) its weight is 8,000 tons (17,636,980 pounds). It is only a 16 meters long basement that can hold such a weight. The author of the sculpture as well as of the whole memorial is Yevgeny Vuchetich. The sculpture “The Motherland Calls!” is the central element of the triptych. The first sculpture is in Magnitogorsk and its name is “Home Front to the Front”. In this sculpture a worker passes a sword to a soldier. Mamaev Kurgan is the place where the sword was unsheathed. The third sculpture to soldier-releasers is in Berlin and the sword is put down there.
We went downstairs on the left from the sculpture and approached Church of All Saints. It was completed in 2005. There is a bed of honor next to it with a sculpture of a woman soldier holding a wreath.
The black marble memorizes the names of 6,480 soldiers who were buried or reburied on Mamaev Kurgan. There are many beds of honor and individual graves with the total of 35,000 people on Mamaev Kurgan.
The results of the trip to Volgograd
A visit to Mamaev Kurgan allows learning things that are impossible to learn without coming there. It arises sorrowful pride for our grandfathers and grand-grandfathers who fought for our motherland. This feeling may not even appear from a mere watching of photos, but will certainly take you in once you come here to these graves and under these poplars and birches. Walk along those ruined walls and lay flowers to the eternal flame. One shudders unconsciously when reading the names and years of life. Very young boys, somebodies husbands and sons gave their lives. So let’s appreciate what they presented to us. And there is no doubt that everyone should visit this sacred place.