Souvenir shop in Volgograd, Russia, selling items  to commemorate one of the bloodiest battle in history. 


how you



a won battle

Volgograd, better known as Stalingrad until 1961, was attacked by the German Army and its allies in late 1942.

After several months of grim fighting in the cold, the Germans and their allies surrendered in early February 1943. Around one million people died in the Battle of Stalingrad. One  of them was Spiridon Fyodorovich Shirokov, whose remains were discovered  decades after the battle and laid to rest in Rossoshka, a small village to the west of Volgograd.

In today's Volgograd, the giant "The motherland calls" statue, unveiled in 1967, dominates the landscape.

The statue (picture shows her toe) stands on top of Mamayev Kurgan, a small hill on which flanks probably more than 30,000 soldiers died during the battle.

Russia celebrates victory over Nazi Germany every May 9. In Volgograd, tens of thousands gather at the city's memorials on Victory Day.

Original tanks from the Second World War era still ride in carefully orchestrated parades.

The message is clear, it's rather celebrating than mourning, pobeda - victory. 

Some spectators proudly wear their Soviet-era medals (and in this case also a badge of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation).

The commemoration of the Second World War is an essential part of the raison d'être in Russia. Individual fates therefore do not play a major role in official remembrance. 

Just a few steps from the banks of the Volga, on the Square of the Fallen Fighters, a small women's choir sings songs from the war.

Although the defenders of Stalingrad were not exclusively ethnic Russians, the white-blue-red flags of the Federation prevail.

Further up on Mamayev hill, however, a few Soviet flags mingle in as a reminder of the vast and gone state for which the soldiers went to war at the time.

The celebrations also include the "Immortal Regiment" - relatives present pictures with their relatives, both immediate victims of the battle and veterans who were most likely shaped by their experiences for life.

Only one fate among millions - a relative shows the photograph of Private Ivan Michailovich Popov.

Also on Mamayev Hill is the "Hall of Millitary Glory", in which an eternal flame commemorates the fallen.

A former artillery colonel visits the memorial. His medals identify him as a veteran of the Great Patriotic War, as the Second World War is commonly referred to in Russia.

The grave of the former sniper Vasili Grigorevich Saizev, whose bones were transferred here a few years ago according to his wishes. Saizev killed 225 enemy soldiers during the battle and was later  awarded the title "Hero of the Soviet Union".

Three Russian officers. In the background  the Volga  and the former   steel plant "Red October", where Germans and Russians fought each other in close combat in 1942.

Main entrance to the  museum of the battle of Stalingrad.

This flag shown in the museum once belonged to the 284th rifle division, which played a crucial role in defending the northern part of the city. Next to hammer and sickle it reads "Death to the German invaders".


The Red Army rained flyers on the Germans, urging them to surrender. It reads: "You are surrounded. Further resistance is pointless. (...) Those who continue to resist will be ruthlessly destroyed."

Today's Volgograd is a vibrant city with roughly one million inhabitants. The traces of what happened here are ubiquitous, though, even when  Victory Day is over. 

The Rossoshka War Cemetery and memorial is located 37 kilometers northwest to the city centre. The area saw heavy fighting in August 1942 and again in January 1943, when the surrounded Germans tried to defend the near-by Gumrak airfield, their last link out of the pocket.  

Approximately 20,000 Soviet soldiers have found their final resting place in Rossoshka, most of them in mass graves (despite the picture suggesting otherwise).

Separated from the Soviet memorial only by a small road, more than 62,000 German soldiers are buried in several mass graves. Additionally, 126 large granite cubes are scattered across the complex, engraved with the names of nearly 120,000 German soldiers still listed as missing after Stalingrad.

In many areas of the former battleground you only have to dig a bit in the ground to find some war junk - such as these German cartridges.

There is no village or town between the rivers Volga and Don where you  wouldn't find a war memorial.

Many souvenir shops also sell merchandise featuring the man after whom the city was once named.  

How will the battle be remembered when the last veteran has died, when a whole new generation has grown up? Historians have long since proven that the battle was militarily less important than many assume - the geographical and temporal density of what happened here, at the banks of the Volga, however, will probably remain a symbol of the terrible slaughter for a long time to come.