Volgograd Travel Guide
Say the name Volgograd, and it won’t even register in the minds of most Westerners. Say the name Stalingrad, though, and mental images of the bloodiest battle of all time emerge. In 1961, Nikita Khrushchev changed Stalingrad’s name to Volgograd, to “de-Stalinize” Soviet society.
As you might expect, the majority of sights in Volgograd centre around the massive World War II battle. However, it has a few other non-war related attractions that are also worth your time.
Come check out our Volgograd travel guide as we cover the best things to do in Volgograd, Russia.
Shortly after arriving in Volgograd, your first destination will be an obvious one. Set on the highest hill in the area, nobody can miss ‘The Motherland Calls’ Sculpture. It was the tallest statue in the world upon completion in 1967, standing 279 feet above the surrounding landscape. While taller statues exist today, it remains the highest statue depicting a woman in the world.
The Soviet government commissioned the building of this massive monument to honour those killed in the Battle of Stalingrad. Stalingrad was the name of Volgograd in 1943 when the German 6th Army laid siege to it for five long months.
Both sides committed considerable resources to this fight. However, the tenaciousness of the Red Army won out in the end. By targeting weaker Romanian and Hungarian forces, they were able to flank the 6th Army, which all but guaranteed victory.
Despite the Soviet victory, it came at an unfathomable cost. Losses on the German side were staggering – a quarter-million Axis soldiers perished. However, Soviet casualty figures were mindbogglingly high. More than 471,000 Red Army soldiers died or went missing in this conflict alone. Indeed, no other documented battle in history had seen so much bloodshed.
After admiring the haunting beauty of the Motherland statue from its exterior, proceed inside. There, you’ll find an Eternal Flame that commands attention. It consists of a huge arm and hand, holding a torch aloft. True to its name, the flame always remains lit to honour the unprecedented sacrifice that kept Russia free.
After visiting the Motherland statue, proceed to the Panorama Museum of the Battle of Stalingrad. Its galleries and exhibits will bring this gruesome period in Russia’s history to life. Here, you’ll learn about World War II from Russia’s perspective, as well as the Battle of Stalingrad.
Note that English signage is scarce. However, audio guides are available from museum staff for a nominal fee. Also, while the translations are rough, Google Translate will give you an idea what the Russian captions say.
Outside, you’ll notice the hulk of a ruined brick building. This structure was formerly Gerhardt’s Mill. During the five-month siege on Stalingrad, the Luftwaffe and German artillery bombarded the entire city. Most destroyed structures were cleared away and rebuilt after the war. However, authorities left this building in its ruined state to remind people of the ravages of armed conflict.
Before moving on to your next destination in Russia, be sure to check out Museum Pamyat. Situated in the basement of a former department store, this institution tells the story of the Battle of Stalingrad from the German perspective.
It was here where the Germans had their command centre, along with a field hospital. Exhibits depict a celebration of Christmas mid-siege, letters from soldiers, and the capture of the command centre. Those wanting to get a complete picture of the Battle of Stalingrad should not miss this dark attraction.
Still looking for war sights to check out while in Volgograd? Drop by Pavlov’s House. The name is deceiving – this “house” is actually an apartment block. During the Battle of Stalingrad, a battalion of Red Army soldiers set up a perimeter around the place. Encircled with barbed wire & land mines, and boasting many machine gun batteries, the site was a veritable fortress.
For 58 days, these soldiers used this defensive point to hold Stalingrad. Every day, the 6th Army would attempt to advance, only to be repelled by a hail of bullets. Today, Pavlov’s House continues to function as an apartment building. Here, you’ll find a plaque on its side commemorates its role in the Battle of Stalingrad. Take pictures if you like, but do respect the privacy of building residents.
Pay your respects to those who died in the Battle of Stalingrad by visiting the Rossoshka Memorial Cemetery. Located 35 kilometres outside the city, it is the final resting place for 20,000 Russians, 60,000 Germans, and 2,000 Romanians. You’ll also find a small museum on-site, which host artifacts from the battle.
Ironically, the Volgograd area was once home to a community of German migrants. In the late 18th century, German Catholic missionaries from what is now the Czech Republic founded Old Sarepta. As you wander this village, you’ll find a preserved pharmacy and church, in addition to the main museum.