• Michael Laxer

Mamayev Kurgan: The Stalingrad memorial complex at Soviet Volgograd - Part I



On January 26, 1943 Soviet forces captured the heights of Mamayev Kurgan in the city of Stalingrad from the Nazis ending 135 days of brutal fighting there. Several days later, on February 2, the Nazis capitulated and one of the most pivotal battles in the war and in the history of the modern world was over. The Battle of Stalingrad, along with the later Battle of Kursk, was the turning point that led to the defeat of the Nazis in the ruins of Berlin.


Mamayev Kurgan, as a key strategic point, was exceptionally important to the defense of the city and many of thousands of Red Army soldiers sacrificed their lives there fighting the fascist invaders.


After the war it was made into a huge memorial complex to the fallen which was finished in 1967. This complex includes the famous and magnificent statue The Motherland Calls.


Here is the first part of a look at a Soviet collection of photos and text (edited and translated from the Russian) published in 1984 related to the battle, the memorial complex, the rebuilding of the city and the new Soviet Volgograd as Stalingrad was renamed. This first part focuses on the memorial complex.


TEXT:


In 1942-1943, on this low hill, then called the Main Height of Russia, a battle unfolded, which made a huge contribution to achieving a radical turning point in the war, the defeat of fascism that conquered Europe.


Thousands and thousands of our compatriots - simple, dear, loving and beloved - did not spare themselves, with their blood, with their lives they defended this mound, this city on the Volga, our future Victory, our World.


Years have passed.


White snows fall on Mamayev Hill. Every spring it is covered with the blue smoke of wormwood and the white color of young apple trees. Every autumn, like thick blood, bright rose hips blaze on its slopes. For many years, rains, winds and herbs have healed, smoothed out the wounds of the earth. Feather grass and sweet clover braided old dugouts and trenches. Every year, fragments of rust red from rust are less and less common on the loose and stony paths of the mound.


But the memory that thousands and thousands of our compatriots - simple, dear, loving and beloved - remained in this land will not fade away. Every year he thinks more and more about them and weeps more bitterly. Every year their mass graves become more dear. And every blade of grass that grows green on them, every tree that has risen above them, is getting more expensive every year.


This is not a story about the feat of the heroic defenders of Stalingrad, not a description of the majestic memorial erected by the Motherland on the the sacred place of their death, their victory, their immortality.


This is a small word about our great and eternal memory. A word that we are forever grateful to them with all our hearts; about how we teach this memory and this gratitude to our children.


A birch grows at the foot of Mamayev Kurgan, in the left wing of the park, which is spread out on both sides of the main staircase of the memorial. She, this birch, has many expensive twigs, and each one is like the fate of a person.


The first "twig" of this birch was Lydia Stepanovna Plastikova - a woman of great Stalingrad destiny. She came to our city in the late twenties. She came on a Komsomol voucher to build a tractor. She went through this construction site - the pride and joy of the first five-year plan - everything: from a tent camp on the Volga coast to the first tractor, she went from a laborer to an engineer, and all on her expensive tractor.


In the first days of the war, she accompanied her husband to the front. And then - the guys, comrades in the shop, who went into the militia. At that time she was the secretary of the Traktorozavodsk district committee of the Komsomol. All the days and all the nights of the battle she was in the city. She did reconnaissance. Bandaged the wounded. From burning apartments, from broken basements, from ruins, she carried orphaned children; together with her friends, under fire, she transported them across the Volga.


In 1943 the Battle of Stalingrad had barely died down, Lidia Plastikova was elected secretary of the Stalingrad city committee of the Komsomol. And again, as in her youth, she lived in a tent city on the outskirts of the tractor factory destroyed by the enemies, together with the guys and girls who came from the Kostroma, Yaroslavl, Vologda villages to restore the city.


In these difficult, harsh days, full of work, anxieties, worries and dangers, she received a notice of the death of her husband. In April 1965, when the whole country was getting ready to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Victory, Lidia Stepanovna Plastikova spoke on Volgograd television and suggested planting trees at the foot of Mamayev Kurgan in memory of relatives who died during the war years.


On the very first Sunday - April 13, thousands of Volgograd residents arrived at the mound. Indeed, in almost every family, someone did not return from the front, someone died in street battles, at the Stalingrad barricades, someone went missing during the days of terrible bombing.


People came with families with kids. There were barely enough seedlings prepared. And thin trees rose above the ground, above last year's dry wormwood, planted with love, as over a native grave, watered with pure Volga water and bitter mother's tears.


At the top of the mound, the construction of the monument was still going on at that time. And these young trees have already become a living nation and a monument to those who did not return. Old fathers and mothers, orphaned children, widows, fighting friends seemed to believe that in the sacred land of Mamayev Kurgan lies their son, husband, father - a soldier who died a heroic death in battles for the Motherland, and they wrote on the tablets: "To the son of Nikolai from the father." “This poplar was planted on 04/13/65 in memory of the deceased tank commander, Lieutenant Kalinin Vladimir Ivanovich. 1922-1942 "Vedenin Ivan Grigorievich from his wife and children." "To the blessed memory of the communications officer of the 308th Siberian Rifle Division Izot Davydovich Demidov, who died a heroic death in the Battle of Stalingrad. Companions." "Ranbolny Volkov, who died in Stalingrad, in the hospital, from wounds."


A nurse planted an apple tree on Mamayev Kurgan. Not far from this apple tree, two poplars rose up, stretched out to the sun, identical, like two brothers, about whom they say "voice to voice, hair to hair." These poplars were also - twig to twig, leaf to leaf.


On one is a sign: "To my son." On the other - "To the Son of Dolores Ibarruri". The signature was the same: "Stalingrad mother." Almost every year at the beginning of September, on the day of the death of Ruben Ibarruri - the Hero of the Soviet Union who fell in the battle for Stalingrad - his mother, the heroine of the Spanish people, the famous Pasionaria - came to our city.


Early at dawn, while the city was still sleeping, she came to the mass grave, in which, together with the Russian pilot Kamenshchikov and the Tatar artilleryman Fattyakhutdinov, her Ruben was buried, and silently, slowly, kneeling them, took apart the brought flowers and divided them into three equal parts.


The birch also grows on the barrow, among these trees, among these last farewell greetings living to those who did not return. It was also planted in those April days of 1965.


Volgograd schoolchildren found the second "twig" of this birch, the old worker of the Krasny October factory Fedor Ivanovich Rykunov, and learned from him a simple, short truth. They were five brothers, the Rykunovs: Stepan, Ivan, Fedor, Sergey and Vasily. Before the war, they lived in Stalingrad. All five went to the front. And only Fedor returned from the war.


He planted this birch on Mamayev Hill in memory of the brothers. Now it is tall and white-trunked, and there are many more twigs. After all, people live all over the country for whom the land of Stalingrad is sacred, who, together with Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov, can say: “There is a city in vast Russia to which my heart is given.”


Every year on May 9, Fedor Ivanovich Rykunov comes to his birch. At the white trunk, among the flowers and greeting cards left by strangers, he finds a note written by the granddaughter of one of the deceased brothers: “Grandfather! We were here. We were at Mamyaev Kurgan."



Alley of poplars leading to Mamayev Kurgan


Introductory composition


Tank T-34 on a pedestal near the tractor plant


1942 ... Under continuous bombing and artillery shelling, repelling the attacks of the Nazis, the Stalingraders continued to production to defend the city: guns, mortars, machine guns. The famous T-34s, assembled by the hands of tractor builders, went straight out of the factory gates into battle.

Decorative panel on the plinth of the House of Soldiers' Glory


The Motherland Calls


Sculpture "Stand to the Death!"


Monument to the sailors of the 92nd brigade near the city elevator


Volgograd. Up to three and a half million tourists visit it annually. And everyone comes to visit Mamayev Kurgan, to bow to the valiant defenders of Stalingrad.



The walls are ruins. They are inscribed with appeals, oaths of the defenders of Stalingrad.


Hitler sent selected troops to Stalingrad. In the steppes near the city, an immense battle unfolded, in which more than 2 million people, 2 thousand tanks, 26 thousand guns and 2 thousand aircraft took part on both sides at the same time.



Fragments of Wall Ruins


The Soviet troops, stubbornly fighting against the superior forces of the enemy, did not allow them to capture the city. The battle lasted from July 17, 1942 to February 2, 1943.



The fiery daughter of the Spanish people Dolores Ibarruri and the monument-ensemble sculptor, laureate of the Lenin Prize E. V. Vuchetich on Mamayev Kurgan.


Read more about Spanish Civil War Communist and anti-fascist leader Dolores Ibárruri at: "It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees. No Pasaran!" (theleftchapter.com).


Her son Rubén died heroically fighting at Stalingrad at the age of 22.



Veterans of the Battle of Stalingrad on Mamayev Kurgan Fragment of Wall Ruins


The battle motto of the defenders of Stalingrad was the call: "There is no land for us beyond the Volga!" On the narrow edge of the Volga coast, soldiers and commanders of the 62nd Army of General V.I. Chuikov stood to the death.


Soviet soldiers showed mass heroism. Eleven of the bravest of them covered the embrasures of enemy pillboxes with their bodies. Fourteen pilots rammed enemy aircraft in the air or military equipment on the ground.



33 soldiers of the 87th rifle division in the battles for the height 76.3 near the village of Malaya Rossoshka knocked out 27 fascist tanks and did not retreat a single step from their positions.


Is it possible to forget the feat of the tankers of the 91st tank brigade: lieutenant A. Naumov, foreman P. Smirnov, junior sergeants P. Noritsyn and N. Vyalykh. The crew, which destroyed a lot of equipment and manpower of the enemy, died in a tank that was hit and set on fire by the Nazis, but did not surrender.


For the courage shown in the battles near Stalingrad, our countryman squadron commander V.S. Efremov was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. V.S. Efremov ended the war twice a Hero of the Soviet Union.



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