Mamayev Kurgan - Remembering the Battle of Stalingrad

If you decide to visit Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad) in southern Russia, you should definitely go to Mamayev Kurgan and see the memorial complex situated here. The complex is dedicated to the Battle of Stalingrad which took place between August 1942 and February 1943. This battle is considered to be one of the major decisive battles between the Soviet and the Axis forces that occurred during World War II. Thus it has immense historical value to the people of Russia.

Many find it interesting that the name Mamayev Kurgan is Russian for ‘tumulus of Mamai’. A tumulus is a burial mound while Mamai was a commander of the Tatar Golden Horde in the 1370s. Though there is no historical evidence of this man ever being buried here, it did become a battlefield where many people lost their lives during the Second World War. It all happened when the 6th forces of the German army decided to launch an attack against Stalingrad on 13 September 1942. While fighting occurred in a number of areas around the city, it was particularly fierce at Mamayev Kurgan where the German forces met with the Soviet’s 62nd Army in a brutal conflict for control of the hill.

Mamayev Kurgan was seen as being a strategically important area as it offered control over the city. In order to protect it, Soviet forces built strong defences on its slopes. They employed trenches, barbed-wire and minefields in an effort to keep the Germans out. Despite these efforts, the Germans pushed on. They captured the hill and a number of bloody battles ensued. The hill was lost and won on several occasions until at last the Soviet winter offensive relieved the defenders who had fought so courageously to protect the hill. They trapped the remaining German forces and destroyed them. This marked the end of the bloody Battle of Stalingrad. The fighting had been so fierce that even the hill suffered the consequences. The blood-soaked soil on the hill was ploughed and it was filled with shrapnel and bone. Even today you can find these morbid reminders of this gory event hidden deep below the soil’s surface. The earth was also scorched and remained black for many years.

After the war, the Soviet authorities decided to honor the valiant efforts of those who lost their lives in the Battle of Stalingrad by building a memorial complex on the hill. This was eventually done between 1959 and 1967. Among other things, the complex features a massive statue called “The Motherland Calls!” It features a concrete sculpture of a woman holding a sword. It measures 85 meters from the feet to the tip of the sword and even today this massive sculpture dominates the skyline. So take a visit to the Mamayev Kurgan memorial complex and spare a thought for all those who fought bravely during this terrible war.

 



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