Thursday, May 11, 2006

Mamayev Kurgan, Volgograd

Above you'll see the entrance to the Mamayev Kurgan, the giant statue in Volgograd commemorating the sacrifices made during the Battle of Stalingrad. On the steps you'll see the words, "For our Soviet Homeland, USSR." The paint is a fresh coat, and the look on my face decidedly disturbed.

Once you get to the top of the steps, you see the statue in the distance.

The next thing you reach is this massive soldier, who rises up to block the view of the statue, which represents Mother Russia. Hence, he's rising up in her defense, keeping you from her. In the second photo, you can see he's just a tiny figure at the end of the column of red flags.

Pass the above and you enter a corridor that depicts the defense of Stalingrad and then the move to drive the Nazis out. The walls -- one static, one active -- are covered with Russian sayings made famous during the war. Here, some rather ghostly music begins to play.

After that, you move out onto a reflecting pool like at the Washington Mall.

Then, inside a cavern of sorts and up some stairs, an eternal flame, with the names of fallen soldiers on the walls around it (only one percent of those who died at Stalingrad; many weren't known, owing to a lack of the equivalent of a "dog tag"). In the below photo, you'll see the hourly changing of the honor guard.

And then you reemerge onto a hill that leads up to the statue, passing, along the way, a memorial to Vasily Zaitsev, the sniper made famous by the movie Enemy at the Gates.


Richard said...

Fascinating. On such a large scale!

Rudy said...

Great description. Mamayev Kurgan is a tremedously impressive site, and in my opinion worth a trip to Volgograd to anyone with any awareness of the triumph and tragedy of WW II to the Russian people.

It should be noted that the complex is open 24 hours a day, and there's no admission. It's particularly interesting at dawn, when almost no other people are around, the outline Mother Russia statue begins to become visible against the sky, and you're left alone with your thoughts and impressions.

From the center of Volgograd, take the tram/subway roughly six stops north/east out of town, and look for the steps in the first photo (above) out the left side of the tram. There's a tram stop right across the street from the 200 steps.

Plan to spend a bit of time here. There's a lot to see, and to do it justice will take several hours.