Mamayev Kurgan Memorial Complex


Mamayev Kurgan Memorial Complex "To the Heroes of the Battle of Stalingrad" is part of the Tentative list of Russia in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

"To the heroes of the Battle of Stalingrad” is a Soviet WWII memorial on Mamayev Kurgan hill in Volgograd. It consist of an ensemble of stone sculptures, culminating in the colossal statue "The Motherland Calls!” It commemorates the Battle of Stalingrad from 1942-1943, in which 2 million soldiers participated. The memorial was constructed between 1959 and 1967, and its main statue of a woman stepping forward with a raised sword was the tallest in the world at the time.

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UK - 16-Sep-14 -

Mamayev Kurgan Memorial Complex  (T) by Solivagant

The hill of Mamayev Kurgan is situated about 4kms north east of downtown Volgograd . In 2007 we reached it by the then rather rickety metro-tram system through stations named “Ploschad Lenina” and “Komsomolskaya” – but didn’t go as far as “Tridtsat' Devyataya Gvardeyskaya” (39th Guards Rifle Division Street) and “Zavod Krasnyy Oktyabr’" (Red October Steel Factory)! Volgograd is a city of around 1 million people and, no doubt, provides a “normal” city existence to those inhabitants but to an outsider it seems impossible to avoid that Battle. Along the river front, bullet and shell-pocked buildings have been left in situ, one passes tanks and other military hardware and there are memorials commemorating the heroic actions of this or that individual or small group of people. There is also an enormous museum with a fine cyclorama of the battle. But capping them all, situated on a small hill and visible across the city is the towering statue of Mother Russia ( actually - “The Motherland Calls”) brandishing a sword and standing 82m high from feet to sword tip.

The tram drops visitors at the foot of the hill and the climb (200 steps to represent the 200 days of the Battle we were told!!) is made along a ceremonial avenue with flags, fountains and “social realist” memorials. Just below the top is the main memorial – a circular building at the centre of which is an everlasting flame with a permanent rotating guard of soldiers. The structure has an oculus in the roof through which (rather impressively) can be glimpsed the sword of Mother Russia high above . The exterior has murals depicting happy Soviet soldiers carrying banners stating “To Berlin” as well as depictions of Lenin!!!”. A further short climb leads to the flat top of the “Kurgan” (“Mamay” by the way is thought to refer to a military leader of the Blue Horde 1335-80) from where one can walk round the statue. Unfortunately some of the views are partly interfered with by unsightly structures but there are also fine views of the Volga and of onion domed churches among the trees of parkland which surrounds the immediate environs of the hill.

We visited twice – once with a guide as part of a full “battlefield tour” and once on our own. It is worth having the former I feel to help understand the complex chronology and geography of the battle and also to explain the memorials and events which they commemorate.

The memorial was constructed between 1959-67 and as well as being a Russian national statement is, as would be expected, also very much a Soviet structure in its style. Whether it possesses OUV is another matter. US citizens might bristle at the comparison with the Statue of Liberty made by Russia in the T List entry and claim that, whilst it represents universal values of freedom and democracy, Mamayev Kurgan represents the defeat of one dictatorship by another! But Russians of course see it differently – during this 1 battle they had over 1 million casualties with around 480000 killed (As a comparison USA lost 417000 men in the entirety of WWII). And these losses were, in Russian eyes, incurred in defeating Fascism for the benefit of all humanity as well as for Russia! A “hard sell” I feel and certainly not helped by the rather bombastic and nationalistic tone of the current T List entry. I personally regard the Statue of Liberty as sitting slightly “uncomfortably” within the list – but it did at least succeed in claiming criterion i for its technological merit as well as the rather more dubious and symbolic criterion vi. Mother Russia had its engineering problems to overcome but can’t really claim primacy in that respect… which just leaves 2 “symbolic” views of World history and of their “Universal Significance”!!

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Full Name
Mamayev Kurgan Memorial Complex "To the Heroes of the Battle of Stalingrad"
Structure - Memorials and Monuments
2014 Added to Tentative List

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Mamayev Kurgan Memorial Complex (T)
WHS 1997-2024