Volgograd (on the Volga, 400 kilometers south of Saratov) is an important industrial city and historic center with about one million people. Stretching along the Volga River and formerly known as Stalingrad, it is surprising attractive for an industrial center and a city that was nearly wiped off the map in World War II. Volgograd has traditionally been a big tourist sight for Russians. It was rebuilt almost entirely from scratch after World War II and the planners made sure to include wide boulevards, parkland, rows of tall poplar trees and large plazas with a number of war memorials. Today, Volgograd has a reputation for heavy drug use. Official travel of the Volgograd Region / http://welcomevolgograd.com
Volgograd was the site of fierce fighting in 1918 between White Russian and Red Army troops lead by Stalin. But is better known for the horrific battle that took place in 1942 and 1943 when the city was known as Stalingrad. In the city you can find a few reminders of its tsarist era such as merchants’ houses but are more likely to find memorials dedicated to Soviet soldiers fought to their death in defense of the Motherland.
Volgograd was known as Tsaritsyn before it was called Stalingrad. In 1961, it was given the name Volgograd as part of the Khrushchev-era effort to minimize Stalin. The city originated in 1589 as a Russian fort against raiders to the south and east and became an important city with the introduction of railroads to the region. Today, it is a major river port and railroad junction. A large hydroelectric power station is located in the city, which is situated at the terminus of the Volga-Don Canal.
History of Volgograd
Volgograd was mentioned for the first time in 1589, when the Russian state faced an urgent need to protect its new transport route — the Volga River. At that time Tsaritsyn (the first name of Volgograd) was founded. The location was selected because it lay at the intersection of a number of trade routes, including the Silk Road from China to Europe. The rapid development of the city began in the 19th century, when the Volga-Don Railway was built through the city in the mid 19th century. New factories and manufacturing facilities appeared, several churches were built, and the infrastructure was improved.
During the Red-Versus-White Civil War, Tsaritsyn became the revolutionary headquarters of the Bolsheviks on the Volga. The city bravely resisted attacks of the White Guard units until it fell to the army of General Wrangel in the summer of 1919. The Communist Reds retook the six months later. In 1925, the city was renamed Stalingrad.
The Battle of Stalingrad was one of the fiercest, most destructive and most decisive battles in World War II. The city's heroic defense began in 1942 and ended a year later with the defeat of fascist forces and the almost complete destruction of the city, which was transformed to rubble. More than 1 million Russians and 200,000 Germans died. But the loss of life was not in vein for the Russians. They held off the Nazis, stopped their advance and turned the tide of the war.
After the war, Stalingrad took a long time to recover and it wasn’t until the late 1950s that the city completely renovated and resemble its pre-war self. Over the course of several five-year plans, new houses and educational institutions were built, factories and production sites were restored. The city was revived and monuments of to the wartime heroics were raised.
In On November 1961, the city was renamed Volgograd, and a few years later it was awarded the title of Hero City. Today it is a major industrial, commercial, recreational, cultural, educational, and historical center of the southern Volga region. Volgograd is proud of its history and heroic past, the residents appreciate and cherish their historical landmarks and memorials.
Battle of Stalingrad
The defeat of the Germans at Stalingrad is regarded by many historians as the turning point of World War II. In June 1942, Nazi Germany began advancing eastward towards Stalingrad from the Donets River basin. The objective was to gain control of the lower Volga River region and advance to the Caucasus oil fields. Stalingrad was on the west bank of the river. After losing this battle, the Germans lacked the strength to sustain their offensive operations against the Soviet Union.
On August 24, the Germans reached the outskirts of Stalingrad. They hoped to capture the city in a few weeks after pummeling it with artillery and air strikes. But things did work out like they planned. It took a months of fierce house-to-house fighting just to reach the center of the city. Soviet civilians and soldiers fought back ferociously even though they suffered terrible casualties.
During the six month battle and four months of intensive fighting, Stalingrad was reduced from a large metropolis of 445,000 people to a smoldering ruin with only 43,000 people. More than 6,000 Russians were killed each day and perhaps a million people on both sides were killed in the entire battle. Because of heavy snow in the winter of fighting a lot of the bodies weren't even found until spring. In contrast the savage slaughter at Stalingrad, the Normandy landing on D-Day resulted in only 10,000 deaths. The Soviet general Vasily Chuikov liked to point out that the 42nd Russian Guards Regiment killed more enemy soldiers than the Germans lost in the capture of Paris.
Soviet forces put up fierce resistance even after the Germans had reduced the city to rubble. Both Hitler and Stalin ordered that there be no retreat. Finally, Soviet forces led by General Georgiy Zhukov surrounded the German attackers and forced their surrender in February 1943.
Stalingrad losses from August 1942 to February 1943: 1) Russians and Soviets: 479,000 dead and 651,000 wounded; 2) Germans: 147,000 dead and 90,000 captured (most of whom died) By another reckoning there were 1,109,000 dead. German suffered 200,000 loses and 650,800 Soviet soldiers were injured but survived. Only 1,515 civilians of 500,000 the pre-war population were found alive.
Decay in Modern Volgograd?
Volgograd has druge abuse issues and other problems but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. David Holley wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “ Perhaps no place better reveals both the decaying ruins of Soviet collapse and the breath of new hope than the Volgograd Shipbuilding and Ship Repair Plant, directly across the river from the former Stalingrad. At first glance, broken windows and rusting pipes of unused workshops speak of industrial disaster. An old wooden plank bearing the painted visages of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin has been used to board up one shattered window. Weeds and wild saplings are taking over the 50-acre grounds. [Source: David Holley, Los Angeles Times,, December 5, 2005]
“But the shipyard, working at about half its old capacity, has turned the corner, its new owners say. With about 350 permanent and 400 seasonal workers, it is helping build a new Russia, turning out tourist boats. And there are plans for a yacht club on its valuable waterfront. “If you come back in 10 years, you won’t be able to recognize this plant. I can say this with complete confidence. The land alone is worth its weight in gold,” said Deputy General Director Alexander Alifanov, 55, who has worked at the once state-owned shipyard for 25 years and is now one of its owners.
“On the river’s western bank, where the Red Army stopped the Nazi onslaught in the Battle of Stalingrad, Yulya Yermolina, 13, roller-bladed with two friends near the ruins of an old brick building left standing as a war memorial. At least 600,000 soldiers on each side died in the six months of fighting during the autumn and winter of 1942-43. The teenagers had no doubt that the sacrifices made in the war were worth it. “As a result, this city survived,” Yulya said. “It’s become beautiful and famous.” The girls expressed certainty that thanks to their city’s growth and new technology such as cellphones and DVDs, their lives will be more comfortable, interesting and happy than those of their parents.
“The epic battle on the Volga is memorialized with a 279-foot steel-reinforced concrete statue of Mother Russia — a woman raising a sword and calling out for the defense of the homeland. “It’s a sacred place,” Valentina Minakova, 68, said as she rode a ferry on the Volga, the statue visible from the boat. “We watched Stalingrad burn,” she said. “Now we see the city in its new face. The new mayor is young and very good. In just two years he’s cleaned up the city a bit. He’s planted flowers. The city was neglected for so long that it’s impossible to fix it up overnight.” Minakova said she had been to Moscow but preferred her hometown and its beautiful river. “As soon as I’m away from it, I feel something missing,” she said. “This is home.”“
Battle of Stalingrad Sights in Volgograd
The heaviest fighting in the Battle of Stalingrad took place around Hill 102, now known as Mamaev Kurgan (Mamai Mound). A circular pantheon has been placed near the hill. It has an eternal flame, a central alter and bronze tablets inscribed with names of 7,200 randomly-chosen Russians who fell in the battle. Blasting from loudspeakers is Schumann's Traümerei.
On the top of the hill is a 85-meter-high (279-foot-high) statue of Mother Russia. Standing with a sword raised in one hand and a beckoning look in her eye. she seems to be saying follow me. It used to be the tallest statue in the world (it is 125 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty) but is now ninth (there are bunch of really tall Buddhist statues).
Alongside the roads and wide steps are a series of monumental sculptures including one of a musclebound worker grasping a hammer and a tommy-gun and another of the city's ruined walls, complete with sound effects. A quote from a journalist on the wall reads "A steel wind hit them in the face, but they all went forward, and against an the enemy that was gripped with superstitious terror: were these living people that were attacking, or the dead?"
The Panorama is a 360 degree painting of the battle of Stalingrad as viewed from the top of Mamaeve Kurgan. It is an awesome sight. Also check out the Museum of Defense, which dioramas, models, weapons, old photographs and uniforms from the battle. Near the museum is burned out Flour Mill N. 17, which has been left as an undisturbed reminder and Pavlov's Houses, named after an officer who held into the house with a small group of men for two months. Tank turrets on stone pillars in the middle of downtown mark the limit of German advance.
Mamaev Kurgan is a mound in the center of the city of Volgograd. This place is famous for its role as a strategically important high point during the Battle of Stalingrad and was the scene of some of the fiercest military action of battle. In the 1960s the highest point of the mount was converted into a memorial commemorating the Soviet soldiers who heroically protected Stalingrad.
The title “Mamaev” was given to the mound (“Kurgan”) in the ancient times of the Golden Horde. The Tatar Khan Mamay settled on what is now the modern city of Volgograd city, making the ancient settlement his residency, which he called “Sarai-Berke”. The Khan ordered the construction of an outpost on the highest spot in the area. The surrounding countryside was clearly visible from this mound for tens of kilometers. Every night, the Khan's best warriors were sent to the outpost with the task of alerting the army in case of an enemy attack. But in the time of the Golden Horde, nothing of historical significance happened on the mound or in its vicinity.
Mamaev Kurgan made history much later, during World War II. The top of the mound gives a clear view of the whole of Volgograd (Stalingrad, as it was called in the years of the war), the Volga river, and the area between branches of the river. For this reason the mound had great tactical importance. The ownership of that high spot might well have been the pivoting point of the whole battle. In the course of the Stalingrad battle, the mound changed hands several times. Many Russian soldiers died defending the foot of the Mamaev Kurgan.
Russian military leaders called Mamaeev Kurgan “Height 102", because the top of the mound is exactly 102 meters above sea level. This name can still be found in historical documents. The defense of Stalingrad and its main strategic site was entrusted to the 62nd Army under the command of General Chuikov. The records in war diaries confirm that a ferocious fight for the control over Height 102 lasted exactly 135 days. During that time, the Kurgan was taken over by the Germans more than once, only to be recovered by the Russians later. In the end, the Russian troops took decisive control over the mound in January 1943.
Memorial Sculpture on Mamaev Kurgan: "The Motherland Calls!"
The 85-meter-high (275-foot-high) sculpture on Mamaev Kurgan —"The Motherland Calls!"— os a generalized image of the Motherland at the compositional center of the memorial. She rules not only over the Mamayev Hill, but the entire. Waving a sword in her hand, she calls he son and urges them to advance for the final defeat of the enemy. "The Motherland Calls!" is patriotic symbol for both the Soviet Union and Russia, expressing nationalist idea: love for the motherland and protect and defend it with self-sacrifice to achieve of victory.
The reinforced concrete figure is 52 meters tall. The stainless steel sword is 33 meters in length and weighs 14 tons. The total weight of the statue is 8000 tonnes. Nothing holds the sculpture in its place on its base. It stands under its own weight. The main monument and landscape form an integral whole. The sculptor Eugene Vucetic was able to find such proportions and technique that gives the impression that the hill is the pedestal of the sculpture.
Immediately after the end of the Battle of Stalingrad, a decision was made to erect a monument in the memory of all the fallen warriors and defenders of Stalingrad. The official inauguration of the memorial took place in October 1967, in the presence of Leonid Brezhnev. The female figure is composed of concrete blocks. with a mass of approximately 7,900 tonnes. The 33-meter sword and the 52-meter woman's figure together comprise the 85-meter statue.
Mamayev Kurgan Memorial Complex
The Mamayev Kurgan Memorial Complex — Mamayev Kurgan, "The Motherland Calls!" and everything else on the hill was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Mamayev Kurgan Memorial complex "To the heroes of the Battle of Stalingrad" in Volgograd is a symbol of heroism and patriotism of the Soviet nation and a tribute to the memory of those who died in the great battle of the Volga river, the most significant land battle in the human history which became a turning point in World War II. Due to its convenient location in the very center of the city, Mamayev Kurgan held the key position in the defence of Stalingrad, and it is here where the construction of an enormous memorial complex started in the May of 1959, it being first presented on 15th October, 1967. [Source: Permanent Delegation of the Russian Federation to UNESCO]
“The Memorial complex "To the heroes of the Battle of Stalingrad" represents a unique formation with a total height of 820 meters from its foot to the top. At the foot of the Mamaev Kurgan lies Ploschad Skorbi (the Square of Sorrow), which is connected with the monument itself by a winding ramp of 200 steps, one for each day of the Battle of Stalingrad. On both sides of the path, remains of fallen soldiers were buried. The total number of those buried at the memorial is currently 34,540.
Mamayev Kurgan Memorial complex "To the heroes of the Battle of Stalingrad” represents a unique composition, a harmonious and well-laid-out work of art, a symbol of World War II made of stone. As a separate piece of work each sculptural group of the Ensemble (designed by Yevgeny Vuchetich) is thoroughly planned, deeply felt and has a constructed ideological and artistic concept, all together telling a vivid and exciting story about the glory of the victorious nation. The monumental memorial is crowned by a colossal allegorical statue named "The Motherland Calls!”. She rushed forward fiercely with her full might and power, a punishing sward above her head ready to collapse the enemy.
Designed by Ye. V. Vuchetich and constructed by N. V. Nikitin “The Motherland Calls!” is the highest statue in Europe and one of the highest in the world Thanks to the balanced proportions and constructive technique of the statue, Mamyev Kurgan seems to be a sculpture itself, with a statue floating above the city making deep impression as a masterpiece of creative genius of the Soviet architects.
The site is important because: 1) it is an outstanding example of monumental art dedicated to the war events and to the memory of the fallen in the devastating wars of the 20th century.” 2) “It spread over on a huge area of about 100,000 square kilometers, with participation of more than 2 million people on its different stages. The battle, giant in scale and significant by its impact on the further course of the war, became a kind of prologue of the Great Victory. On Volga banks the fascist Germany and its satellite states suffered the most powerfully attack which they could not withstand. The international importance and the results of the Battle of Stalingrad determined the post-war balance of military and political power in the world. Mamayev Kurgan Memorial Complex ”To the heroes of the Battle of Stalingrad” is the source of pride and patriotism for generations of Russian people visiting this place in order to cherish the memory of the victims who struggled for freedom and independence of their country.
Components of the Mamayev Kurgan Memorial Complex
According to a report submitted to UNESCO: ““There is a flight of steps, ramps and squares with sculptural compositions leading to the top of the ensemble which tell us about the Battle of Stalingrad, ending with the Military Honour Hall, the Square of Sorrow and the war cemetery dedicated to the fallen. The key element of the ensemble is a world famous sculpture "The Motherland Calls!", one of the most recognizable and artistic war monuments. It is an allegorical statue of Motherland. It is the heart of the whole memorial. [Source: Permanent Delegation of the Russian Federation to UNESCO]
Other components of the memorial complex are: 1) Entry Square with an introductory composition "Memory of Generations" The composition represents a huge high relief (17 meters x 3 meters x 0,75 meters) consisting of 11 figures. A funeral procession goes towards Mamyev Kurgan to pay tribute to those who died. 2) Avenue of Lombardy Poplars: "Fight to the bitter!” Square with "Fight to the bitter!" Sculpture: the sculptural image of a soldier looks as if he’s growing out of the land and the great Russian river Volga personifying heroic defenders of the Volgian strength. 3) Symbolic Walls: the ruins of Stalingrad: The ruins of a huge building destroyed by long term shooting attacks, endless bombings, direct hits and bursts of fire.
4) Square of Heroes which comprises the wall acting as a banner with the statement: "With an iron wind blowing straight into their faces, they were still marching forward, and fear seized the enemy: were they people who were attacking? were they mortal at all?!'' and six sculptural groups as if answering this question: The all of us were ordinary mortals". The first of the groups is inscribed: "We’ve stood out and defeated death!" The second one is dedicated to nurses. The third group is devoted to sea soldiers. The fourth of the groups commemorates the commanders of the Battle of Stalingrad. The fifth tells the story of saving the banner. The sixth group represents the victory at Stalingrad and the end of the great battle.
5) A Monumental Relief exhibiting main episodes of the great battle: the attack of Soviet troops at Stalingrad, blockading of the fascists and their destruction, the victorious movement of Russian forces to the west, the selfless labour of workers of the fronts. Big Breast Wall which bears the monumental relief 6) Military Honour Hall consists of A) the Square of Sorrow with the composition "Mother's sorrow" and B). Other symbolic stones, the first of which honors of an Unknown soldier with the inscription on it: "Your name is unknown. Your deed is immortal. Eternal glory".
6) Little collective grave: Those who had died defending Mamayev Kurgan are buried here.. 7) Tank Turret on the plinth defines the place of the most violent fights during the Battle of Stalingrad. 8) The Church of alt the Saints 9) Military Memorial Cemetery of the Soviet soldiers fallen during the Battle of Stalingrad between 1942 and 1943 (west slope of Mamayev Kurgan). consists of the Memorial Walls bearing 6480 surnames of warriors died in the Battle of Stalingrad. 1) Individual Reburials; gravestones bearing full names, dates of birth and death. 11) Collective Graves: unknown soldiers have been reburied.
Gerhardt Mill Ruins Historical Reserve
Gerhardt Mill is a ruined brick steam mill that was destroyed in the Battle of Stalingrad. Built in the early twentieth century and owned by the Volga German Alexander Gerhardt, the mill had its own generator and boiler room and had access to the quay railway track (dismantled after World War II). Between the mill and the quay were wooden buildings belonging to Gerhardt mill. On the front wall is the inscription "Gergardt", In 1930 the mill was named Grudinina Mill in honor of Constantine Grudinina, a Communist cell secretary who worked at the company as a turner and was killed May 26, 1922.
The area of the mill is 989.3 square meters. During the Battle of Stalingrad there was an observation post in the mill used by commander of the 42nd Regiment of the 13th Guards Rifle Division, IP Yellin. The mill was one of the strongholds of the defense of the city center along with the house of Pavlova Zabolotnogo.
The ruined mill now a historical reserve and one of the few buildings that was not restored or torn down after World War II was over. It was left as it was as evidence of fierce fighting that took place during the battle and of the prowess and selflessness of the soldiers that defended Stalingrad. The ruins of Pavlov's House have also been preserved.
Museum-Panorama "Battle of Stalingrad"
Museum-Panorama "Battle of Stalingrad" (in the historic center of Volgograd) is a 360 degree painting of the battle of Stalingrad as viewed from the top of Mamaeve Kurgan. It was built where the landing of the 13th Guards Rifle Division under Major-General AI Rodimtsev took place in September 1942. The building housing the panorama has two levels. The first level contains a museum, storage facilities and administrative offices. On the second level the panorama "The defeat of Nazi troops at Stalingrad" — the largest Russian a painting.
The panorama complex includes a building with museum-panorama "Battle of Stalingrad", a monument with important stories and "Historic Reserve” described above a monument to the sailors of the Volga Flotilla, the exhibition samples of military equipment. In December 2011, by Decree of the President, the "Stalingrad Battle" was named a valuable objects of the cultural heritage of the peoples of Russia.
The Panorama Museum includes eight exhibition halls, four diorama, the panorama, a cinema and a military history library. The has a collection of weapons, firearms, military equipment, documents, photographs, banners, posters and fine art. The most famous items in the collection are the sword of King George VI, given to the citizens of Stalingrad, and handed to Stalin at the Tehran Conference in 1943, the overcoat of General VA Glazkov with 168 bullet and shrapnel holes in it; a tunic belonging to Marshal Zhukov; the table of Staff Gen. Shumilov, where he questioned the German Field Marshal F. Paulus; and a 76 mm"VMS-3"cannon hauled to Stalingrad from Berlin.
Mass Grave from the Battle of Stalingrad
In the summer of 1942, rushing towards Stalingrad, the 6th Army of Nazi General von Paulus broke into the Don River area. The shortest route to Stalingrad was through the village Kletskaya. From July 23 to November 23 ther entire Kletsky District become a place of fierce fighting and blood battles. The 21st Army of Soviet General Chistyakov was at first on the defensive, then on the offensive. In August 1942, during fighting in Kletskaya village itself, Soviet soldiers showed extraordinary heroism: often quickly replacing soldiers that fell in the field to keep the momentum going to break through enemy lines and fighting no matter what. Particularly remarkable was the heroism and selfless actions of the anti-tank riflemen 33rd Infantry Division that consisted of only four four men who destroyed 15 enemy tanks and lived to tell about it.
Many Soviet soldiers died as they rushed enemy pillboxes and machine guns nests. Those that died, were replaced by others, who also were killed but ultimately they shut down the enemy's weapons. Soviet Union soldiers also fought hand to hand, to keep even the smallest height or fortified place. Many of the dead ended up in mass graves here. It is also no surprise that the area around Kletskaya villages was the location for the 1974 film "They Fought for Their Motherland". A sculptural monument on the common grave of Soviet soldiers who died in Kletskaya was built in 1976 and is located in the center of the village.
The Battle of Stalingrad was won through the bravery and exploits of soldiers from a number of different nationalities. Next to the defenders of the city obelisk and eternal flame in the center of Volgograd is a monument erected in 1958 on a mass grave with the names of three soldiers: Ibarruri Ruben Ruiz, the Spanish commander of the machine-gun company, Maj Vladimir G. Kamenschikov, a U.S. pilot and Hafiz Fattyahutdinov, a Tatar commander of an artillery battery. These soldiers passionately hotly loved their countries and selflessly gave their lives for them. This grave is referred to as Mass Grave of Hf Fattyahutdinova, Rr Ibarruri and Vg Kamenschikova
Volga River Sights in Volgograd
On the banks of the Volga River in Volgograd is a modern embankment and river port where people enjoy taking a stroll. Other sights include a fine arts museum, memorial history museum, a planetarium, gardens and parks. River trips are offered along the Volga to the first lock of the Volga-Don Canal and X12th Party Congress Hydroelectric Project.
The embankment which was destroyed in the Battle of Stalingrad. In 1952, it was rebuilt in the style of Soviet classicism as part a project overseen by the architects Simbirtsev, Fialko and Makarenko. Perhaps the embankment’s most impressive sight is its staircase. Snow-white propylae on every sides of the staircase symbolize the river gate to the city on the Volga. A stately staircase of 100 steps rises from the very edge of the water.
The embankment is conventionally divided into two levels: the upper and lower terraces. Upper part: Victory Park goes from Mayak restaurant to the panorama museum “Battle of Stalingrad”. Along the lower terrace are marinas, clubs, cafes and the Central Concert Hall. The center of the embankment is a meeting place with fountain “Art” and a bronze statue of three girls performing a folk dance. A path leads to a wide shady alley before reaching the Alley of Heroes and the Square of the Fallen Fighters.
Central Embankment of Volgograd
Central embankment of Volgograd is one of the most popular places to hang out in Volgograd. It’s history is closely associated with the history of the city, beginning when the fortress was moved from an island to the right bank of the Volga. In Tsaritsyn the port promenade was a dirty street next to where ships moored and products where loaded and unloaded. At the end of the 19th century Tsaritsynskaya marina was a major cargo port and the volume of cargo arriving ranked second in the Volga Basin.
Until the 1930s, a cliff towered over the Tsaritsyn pier ensemble of three churches and the church of St. Nicholas, but after the revolution, the cliff was leveled and the river front was completely reconstructed. Only a few historic buildings, including the first female grammar school and town water tower, survive from this time. During World War II bloody battles occurred on the waterfront. Soldiers in the 62nd Army tried to break the enemy's advance and prevent the Nazi’s from reaching the Volga. The water front promenade was used for the evacuation of civilians and to bring in supplies of food and ammunition. After the war, the city's waterfront was named in honor of the 62nd Army.
The embankment acquired its present form in 1952 and now serves as the main entrance to the city. White propylaea graces the upper and lower terraces of the waterfront. A granite staircase leads from the Volga to the most popular place of meetings and hanging out place: the fountain "Art" and it bronze statue depicting three dancing girls. The fountain was installed in 1957 and was originally called "Friendship". In the mid-1980s, the architectural composition was renamed "Art", but many people continue to call it "Friendship". In 2012, a fountain of light and music was installed in which the fountain water changes color and height in accordance with the music. It was one of the big gathering places during the 2018 World Cup. There were live broadcasts of matches on a big screen set up here and performances by famous artists.
River Station in Volgograd
The largest river station in Russia and Europe was built in the second half of the 20th century in present-day Volgograd. In the 19th century Tsaritsyn (Volgograd) was home to many Volga shipping companies — Caucasus and Mercury, Aircraft, Ocean, Br. Nobel, and On the Volga — as well as the large steamship company Rus, founded by the merchant VF. Lapshin, an honorary citizen of the city.
At the beginning of the 19th century, there were two piers on the Volga-Don in Tsaritsyn: for cargo operations and urban for passengers. At that time there was no full-fledged railway-station-like passenger stations on the Vloga. With the commissioning of the Volga-Don Railway on May 5, 1862, the transshipment freight turnover from the Volga to the Don increased almost 100 times. After that the quay of Tsaritsyna acquired the status of a river port.
The mechanization of loading and unloading operations was virtually absent, so during loading and unloading, human loaders was used. Metal, fish, timber, bread and kerosene were transported to the Don on the Volga. In the opposite direction, coal was transported from Donetsk. Navigation in Tsaritsyn was carried out about 215 days a year, when ice was not an issue (the only major port with more ice-free days was Astrakhan to the south).
Before the revolution in 1917-1918, the port of Tsaritsyno-Volgograd was one of the first to transport timber, coal, fish, metal, and melons. Only the port of Nizhny Novgorod truned over more goods as many products were delivered there to the fair. Since the main emphasis was on the transportation of goods, rather than passengers, no station was planned.
After the revolution, the river fleet was nationalized and new structures were created in Volgograd to facilitate water transport. From 1918 to 1923, the port belonged to the district water transport management. In 1934, three Volga shipping companies were formed: the SVRP, the VVRP and the NWRP. Until 1938 the management of the Nizhnevolzhsky River Shipping Company was in Astrakhan. After 1938 it was transferred to Stalingrad (Volgograd). In the 1930s the first projects of the river passenger station began to appear, but these plans were scuttled because of World War II.
Finally a passenger station opened in Volgograd. The river station can simultaneously moor six ships (motor ships) and has a central concert hall with 1000 seats and features a Rieger-Kloss organ built in 1983. At present, the river station is as much as recreation center as a transport one. There are restaurants, cafes, a fitness room and nightclubs in the station.
Volga-Don Canal (32 kilometers south of Volgograd) was constructed and opened in only three and half years. It connects the Volga River — and with it the Caspian Sea — to the Don River — and with it the Sea of Azov and Black Sea Its completion in 1952 was an important milestone in the creation of Russia's inland waterway from the Black Sea to the Baltic.
The Volga flows from north of Moscow into the Caspian Sea while the Don empties into the Black Sea near the city of Rostov. The 64-kilometer (40-mile) canal links these two great rivers. The Soviet Union and Russia for a long time invested more in barges and canals than they did in trucks and highways which is one reason their transportation system has such a difficult time delivering fresh vegetables to the north before they spoil. Barges and ships are often held up by bottlenecks that form at the canal locks.
Navigation on the Volga-Don canal begins in late March and ends in early December. It is closed in the winter because of ice. Ships can pass through the canal from several hours to several days, depending on the amount of traffic. In 1997, a museum was opened up close to the 1st lock that covered the history and construction of the canal and exhibits documents and things from that time. In 2010, the reconstruction of the canal’s hydraulic structures, sluice gates, pumping systems, electrical equipment and machinery began. Complex reconstruction of the Volga-Don Canal with updated of navigation systems, pumping stations and upgrading of all of the gateways was scheduled for completion in 2019.
Lake Elton: the Golden-Pink Lake (120 kilometers east of Volgograd) gets its name from the golden-pink color of its salt its water. Elton comes from “Altyn-Nur”, a Turkic phrase meaning “golden bottom.” The red color of the salt brine and the streams that flowed into the lake was described by the famous 18th century naturalist Peter Simon Pallas. He wrote that the salt was red in color and emitted a raspberry or violet smell. This salt was highly valued and about 1,600 kilograms a year was of sent to the royal household of Catherine the Great. The Cuman khans considered the lake a holy site. The Kazakhs have a pre-Islamic legend about their divine lord Tengri-Khan seeking the lake to achieve everlasting youth. Today people use the lake’s mud and water as a health treatment.
Kamennobrodsky Monastery (90 kilometers north of Volgograd) is famous for its caves. The caves were dug by monks in the chalk hill back in the 11th-12th centuries. They are arranged in three tiers, of which only one has been explored. Once there were huge halls, underground, shrines with the relics, and even underground churches. Unfortunately, only the cells dug in the walls for the monks have survived to the present day. After the revolution of 1917, the property of the monastery was nationalized. After the 1930s, the monastery was abandoned and left to decay.
In the tsarist era, the monastery was so vast and rich that it owned a brick factory, a coach workshop, and a gold embroidery workshop. Its territory had beautiful orchards and ponds full of fish. The nine healing holy sources (silver, radon, hydrogen sulfide, sodium, calcium, and potassium) had such a pronounced healing effect that members of the most influential Russian families came here to improve their health, even including members of the royal family. The monastery was visited by Peter the Great. A special road was laid for Empress Elizabeth here, and visitors can still see its remains.
The revival of the monastery began in 1991. The surviving six buildings have been restored, and a church functions in one of them. It has a miracle-working icon of Our Lady of Joy of All Who Sorrow. The pride of the monastery is the miraculous Icon of the Three Holy Hierarchs, which exudes fragrance. Another remarkable thing about the icon is that it gets gradually clearer over time, and some details that have not been seen before have now emerged.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Federal Agency for Tourism of the Russian Federation (official Russia tourism website russiatourism.ru ), Russian government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.
Updated in September 2020