Volga Boatman Episode 6: Volgograd

Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad, the site of the bloodiest battle of all time, was a sombre note on which to end my excursion down the Volga.  In the Soviet memorial on Mamayev Kurgan hill, I watched the changing of the guard, the most awe-inspiring military ceremony I’ve ever seen.  The hall was silent for minutes as the soldiers slowly marched the circular route:

The procession left one of its members in the upper guardpost, where the young soldier stood Buckhingham-palace guard still even as rivers of sweat ran down his face, a testament to the physical demands and utter solemnity of the “smena karaula.”

I later learned the ceremony is designed this way to recall the suffering of those who fought on this ground.  Upwards of 2 million soldiers died in Stalingrad, according to estimates, and the city was almost completely leveled in the half-year of fighting.  The conflict deposited so much metal and debris in the ground, to this day nothing will grow on patches of bare earth in the city.

It wouldn’t be a Russian monument without a gratuitously large eternal flame, but in this instance it seems only appropriate, given the magnitude of the events that proceeded where today tourists snap photos …


"Мать-Родина зовёт!" ("The Motherland calls!") crowns the crest of Mamayev Kurgan. At 279 feet, it was at one time the tallest statue in the world. The Statue of Liberty, by comparison, is 151 feet.

Наш экскурсовод.

Наш экскурсовод.

An "hip-hop" action figure on sale outside the train station.

A "hip-hop" action figure on sale outside the train station. Russians are always dropping the n-word.


One Response to “Volga Boatman Episode 6: Volgograd”

  1. Regarding Russians and the “n-word”…it doesn’t have the same pejorative meaning to them. They get it from the French for “black.”

    Btw…this is Inna from the Florence trip. 🙂 Thanks for keeping your blog…it’s fascinating. I especially enjoy the stories of kids being locked in with tear gas. Of course…I keep hoping you’re making stuff like that up, but I have to remind myself that you’re probably not…

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