Volgograd (Russian: Волгогра́д), formerly Tsaritsyn (Russian: Цари́цын), 1589–1925, and Stalingrad (Russian: Сталингра́д), 1925–1961, is an important industrial city and the administrative center of Volgograd Oblast, Russia. It is 80 kilometers (50 mi) long, north to south. It is situated on the western bank of the Volga River. The population is 1,021,215 (2010 Census) 1,011,417 (2002 Census); 1,022,578 (1989 Census).
The city became famous for its resistance, and the extensive physical damage and death toll it suffered, during the Battle of Stalingrad against the German Army in World War II. From February 2013, the city’s name has been changed back to “Stalingrad” in commemoration for six days every year.
The city was renamed Stalingrad after Joseph Stalin on April 10, 1925. This was officially to recognize the city’s and Stalin’s role in its defense against the Whites between 1918 and 1920.
In 1931, the German settlement-colony Old Sarepta (founded in 1765) subsequently became the largest area of the city — Krasnoarmeysky. The first institute was opened in 1930; a year later the Pedagogical Institute was opened.
Under Stalin, the city became a center of heavy industry and transshipment by rail and river. It was attacked by Germany and Axis forces during World War II. In 1942, the city became the site of one of the pivotal battles of the war. The Battle of Stalingrad had perhaps the greatest casualty figures of any single battle in the history of warfare (estimates are between 1,250,000 and 1,798,619).
The battle began on August 23, 1942, and on the same day, the city suffered heavy aerial bombardment that reduced most of it to rubble. By September, the fighting reached the city center. The fighting was of unprecedented intensity; the central railway station of the city changed hands thirteen times, and the Mamayev Kurgan (one of the highest points of the city) was captured and recaptured eight times. By early November, the German forces controlled 90 percent of the city and had cornered the Soviets into two narrow pockets, but they were unable to eliminate the last pockets of Soviet resistance in time. On November 19, Soviet forces launched a huge counterattack. This led to the encirclement of the German Sixth Army and other Axis units. On January 31, 1943 the Sixth Army’s commander, Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus surrendered, and by February 2, with the elimination of straggling German troops, the Battle of Stalingrad was over.
In 1945 the Soviet Union awarded Stalingrad the title Hero City for its resistance. Great Britain’s King George VI awarded the citizens of Stalingrad the jeweled “Sword of Stalingrad” in recognition of their bravery. As Stalingrad was destroyed during the war, in 1946, the construction of the modern city started. It included the memorial complex on the Mamayev Kurgan.
A number of cities around the world (especially those that had suffered similar wartime devastation) established sister/friendship/twinning links (see list below) in the spirit of solidarity or reconciliation. One of the first “sister city” projects was that established between Stalingrad and England’s Coventry during World War II (both suffered extensive devastation from aerial bombardment).
In 1961, Nikita Khrushchev’s administration changed the name of the city to Volgograd (“Volga City”) as part of his programme of de-Stalinization following Stalin’s death, as he was trying to reduce the “cult of personality”. This action was and remains somewhat controversial, given Stalingrad’s importance as a symbol of resistance during the war. During Konstantin Chernenko’s brief administration in 1985, proposals were floated to revive its historic name. There remains a strong degree of local support for a reversion but intermittent proposals have yet to be accepted by the Russian government.
On May 21, 2007, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation obtained an important success in the Volgograd mayoral election. Communist candidate Roman Grebennikov was elected as mayor with 32.47% of the vote. Grebennikov is Russia’s youngest mayor of a federal subject administrative center.
On January 31, 2013, the Volgograd City Council passed a measure to use the name “Stalingrad” in city statements on six specific dates annually. On the following dates Volgograd’s name officially reverts to Stalingrad: February 2 (end of the Battle of Stalingrad), May 9 (Victory Day (9 May)), June 22 (start of Operation Barbarossa), August 23 (start of the Battle of Stalingrad), September 2 (Victory over Japan Day), and November 19 (start of Operation Uranus). In addition, 50,000 people signed a petition to Vladimir Putin, asking that the city’s name be permanently changed to Stalingrad.