Mamayev Kurgan, a hill overlooking the city of Volgograd (once known as Stalingrad), is the site of the Motherland Statue, which at 82 meters was the tallest in the world when it was finished in 1967. A commemoration of one of the worst battles in human history, the Stalingrad memorial serves as a reminder of all who lost their lives in the Battle of Stalingrad, from 1942-43. This World War II battle was one of the bloodiest in history, with total casualties estimated at 2 million, and it ultimately saw the Soviets triumphing over Axis forces.
This area of southern Russia and the precise location of Mamayev Kurgan saw especially fierce fighting when the Germans attacked Stalingrad in the autumn of 1942. Both sides recognized the importance of ownership over Mamayev Kurgan, as it offered sweeping views down on the city. An important strategic point, the Germans desperately wanted to control it, while the Soviets fiercely defended it. Barbed wire, minefields, and trenches weren’t enough to fight off the Germans, who eventually did take the hill. However, over the course of the battle, ownership of this strategic location changed hands between the Germans and the Soviets several times.
After the war, the Soviet government recognized the symbolism of the hill and plans for the Stalingrad Memorial were made. One of the men in charge of the Soviets during the battle, Vasily Chuikov, is buried at the memorial site. The dominating feature of this attraction is the Motherland Statue, officially called "The Motherland Calls!" and designed by Yevgeny Vuchetich. It took almost a decade to complete the Stalingrad memorial. Started in 1959 and concluded in 1967, this memorial complex is one of the largest tourist attractions of southern Russia and certainly one of the most popular attractions in the city.
Visitors who are particularly interested in the history of Russia should certainly consider adding this attraction to their itinerary. While many visitors stay in the major cities of St Petersburg and Moscow, which are home to numerous historic attractions in their own right, there are plenty of things to see when you venture farther east. The Mother Russia Statue, with its dominating height and long sword, is an unforgettable feature of the skyline of Volgograd. The stainless steel of the sword is impressive against the concrete of the rest of the Motherland Statue. Located near the Volga River, the whole complex is striking for both its beauty and its historical significance. The hill was a location of such intense fighting that it is said visitors today could still find remnants of bone and metal buried inside the ground.
During the first spring after the battle of Stalingrad, the hill was so thoroughly destroyed that no grass grew. The strategic importance of the hill cost both sides many lives, as they fought mercilessly for its control. Today, the memorial reminds visitors not only of the ultimate Soviet victory, but of the bravery of the men on both sides who fought and died during the terrible battle.