Mamayev Kurgan is a dominant height overlooking the city of Volgograd
The best documentaries about the war are being shot by the Germans, do not even argue. But the best war memorials were created by Soviet sculptors, and this is also indisputable. Monumental compositions “work”, regularly transmitting the pledged message through time, producing an indelible impression on the audience, although times have changed, as well as the audience. For clarity, compare the motherland of Vuchetich's work on Mamayev Kurgan and, say, the goddess of victory Nike of Tsereteli’s authorship on Poklonnaya Hill. In order for the monument to become a symbol, something else is needed besides bronze or concrete.
The customers and authors of the historical memorial complex on Mamayev Kurgan pursued a definite goal: to perpetuate. The message to the descendants should have stood the test of time - even in the 1960s, no one could imagine the collapse of the USSR, the Internet and Wikipedia, and even more so the former allies who consider El Alamein and the battle for Midway to be the main turning battles of World War II, or Russian military history textbook written in collaboration with the Germans. These are all trivialities compared to eternity - even an alien, who unknown how he landed on Mamayev Kurgan and who knows nothing about earthly history, sees at the sight of a memorial: something very terrible and very important happened here, many died, but won a great victory. The message is delivered.
It was this monumental task that determined the location of the main memorial of the Battle of Stalingrad. After all, the “height of 102” (the name “Mamayev Kurgan” is an invention of one war correspondent, ingrained but incorrect) was only one of the key positions of the Stalingrad battle. Who, besides military historians and residents of Volgograd, today knows about Bald Mountain, Lyudnikova Island, Rodimtsev Coast, the Tractor Factory and the Red October? Monuments marked all places terrible Stalingrad battles, but the main monument can be only one.
Initially, the sculptor Yevgeny Vuchetich planned to install it on Lysaya Gora, the site of the fighting feat of the 64th Army. Bald Mountain is 40 meters higher than Mamayev Kurgan, continuous battles were fought for it for 147 days, but ... location prevented it: this is the southern tip of one of the longest cities in Russia, it would be difficult to get here from the center.
And “height 102” was ideally suited - exactly for the same reasons, for which for 135 days there were fights for mutual extermination: a hill in the central part of the city, near the Volga.
“From this height we can see everything,” wrote German officer Helmut Welz. - A volley after volley falls on Russian defensive positions. Whole garlands of shells take off. There should already be nothing alive. It seems the way it is. Some twenty meters more - and ours will already occupy advanced Russian positions. And suddenly in the funnels and at the firing points Russian infantry appears, which we have already considered destroyed. I do not believe my eyes. Is defense really still alive after the hurricane fire? ”
“The enemy also understood that, having taken possession of Mamayev Kurgan, he would dominate the city, the factory villages and the Volga. To achieve this goal, he spared neither the strength nor the means. We, in turn, decided to keep the Mamayev Kurgan at any cost. Many tank and infantry regiments and divisions of the enemy were defeated here and not only our division withstood the fiercest battles, battles of extermination, unprecedented in history in their stubbornness and cruelty. Aerial bombs up to a ton in weight, artillery shells with a caliber of up to 203 millimeters turned the earth over, but melee fights, when the bayonet and grenade were used, were in those conditions the main, most effective and real means of struggle. Mamaev Kurgan remained black even at the snowiest times: the snow here quickly melted and mixed with the ground from artillery fire ”- from the memoirs of Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov, commander of the legendary 62nd army.
When creating the memorial, historical accuracy was violated: during the war years, the top of the hill was located where the All Saints Church now stands, that is, 200 meters from the top of the present one. Changes in the "construction" of the hill were necessary for the installation of a giant main monument.
The creation of a model of the monument was entrusted to Evgeny Vuchetich, the main monumentalist of the USSR (although there is a version that the author of the first rejected model was Ernst Unknown). The most famous works of Vuchetich are not known only by lazy or blind people: this is the “Warrior-Liberator” in Treptower Park in Berlin, the “Motherland” in Kiev, the monument to Dzerzhinsky, which until 1991 was located on Lubyanka Square in Moscow and, of course, “Motherland" in Volgograd.
The project of the main monument was changed several times by the sculptor himself - Vuchetich was not Tsereteli, he knew that the monumental genre must first of all accurately convey the idea. The sculpture of the Motherland is tragic, it “calls” - whom? After all, we won! But after Stalingrad, until the end of the war, there were still more than two years, thousands of battles and millions of deaths. And Vuchetich laid this idea into the lonely figure of a woman with a sword, as he laid the image of the future Great Victory: it is not known for certain where Evgeny Viktorovich drew inspiration for his masterpiece, but the analogy with the ancient statue of Nika of Samothrace, the goddess of victory, is evident.
Evgeny Vuchetich could not work alone on such a large-scale project as a memorial complex with a multitude of iconic monuments. Sculptors took part in the creation of the historical ensemble M.S. Aleshenko, V.E. Matrosov, L.M. Maistrenko, A.N. Melnik, V.A. Marunov, V.S. Novikov, A.A. Tyurenkov and architects Ya.B. Belopolsky, V.A. Demin, F.M. Lysov. The engineering team was headed by Nikolai Vasilyevich Nikitin - it was he who developed the design of the foundation and the carcass of a giant statue, we owe him the stability of the entire structure (as well as the Ostankino television tower, the Main Building of Moscow State University and the Luzhniki Stadium). In general, the best forces of the country were involved in the construction of the memorial.
The project was monitored personally by Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev - the first secretary of the CPSU Central Committee, chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers and a participant in the Battle of Stalingrad. In 1942, Khrushchev was a member of the Military Council of the Stalingrad and Southeastern Fronts, was in the command echelon of Mamayev Kurgan, then at the Tractor Factory. For Stalingrad he was awarded the Order of Suvorov, 1st degree. So the attention of Nikita Sergeevich to the project was also personal. But the main change he made was more political: the height of the statue of the Motherland according to Vuchetich was 36 meters, and according to Khrushchev - 52 meters. Defeated Khrushchev. As a result, the total height of the monument was 85 meters, 40 meters taller than the American Statue of Liberty, which, for political reasons, had to be surpassed. This decision caused, in turn, those changes in the “construction of the hill” and the displacement of the vertex: to strengthen the embankment, an additional 150 thousand tons of land were needed.
And here for the third time Tsereteli will have to be mentioned: his Peter the Great and the Victory Monument on Poklonnaya Hill are 13 and 56.8 meters higher than the Motherland, respectively. There is something deeply wrong about it.
The construction of the memorial on Mamayev Kurgan began in 1959 and ended in 1967. According to the authors, the complex is revealed to the viewer gradually. From the foot of the kurgan to its top leads a staircase of 200 steps - according to the number of days and nights of the Battle of Stalingrad. Along the avenue of pyramidal poplars, the viewer enters the Square of Those Standing to Death. Monument "Stand to dead", perhaps the second most famous after the Motherland. The soldier with a strong naked torso (there were few such fighters who defended the city, but that's the power of monumental art) and the face of the commander Chuikov looks from the Volga towards the advancing enemy. The Lake of Tears, poured into granite, Walls-ruins, Heroes Square with six sculptures - Nurse, Commander, Sailor, Standard-bearer, “Having survived, we conquered death” and “Fascism collapse”, further - a monumental relief with images of winners and losers ... It is still Overture, setting the desired tone of the central part of the work.
For many, this is the Hall of Military Glory with a huge torch of the Eternal Flame. On the walls - endless lists with the names of the dead defenders of Stalingrad. In this round hall, the guard of honor always keeps watch, there are always flowers here, it is always quiet here - and the mixture of very strong feelings covers with the head, to tears. Incredible grief, indescribable pride. It is worth coming here at night, when the reflections of the Eternal Flame dance on the glass-tiled walls - either the flame of the fires of 1942, or the cozy warmth of the hearth to which all these people could not return.
On one tier with the Hall of Military Glory is the Square of Sorrow with the grave of Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov, appointed commander of the 62nd Army a couple of days before the beginning of the hardest September battles for the city and for Mamayev Kurgan. The resilience and courage of the fighters of the 62nd Army became a legend.
A circular ramp leads above to the main monument “The Motherland Calls!”.
The military memorial cemetery on the territory of the complex does not reflect the real number of soldiers buried here. According to rough estimates, the remains of 34,500 people lie under the feet of the Motherland. "Height 102" really turned into a mound.
In 2005, the Church of All Saints was built on the territory of the complex, in the place where the peak of Mamayev Kurgan was located during the war. Residents of the city treat the new temple ambiguously. The church is now decided to build everywhere, even where they have never been. But to the atmosphere of the war memorial, which in Soviet times began to be called a holy, sacred place, the new temple did not add anything, quite the contrary - it seems completely unnecessary here. Unlike other monuments, the temple is not illuminated at night.
Memorial complex "Mamaev Kurgan" is part of the museum-reserve "Battle of Stalingrad." Its official name is the historical-memorial monument-ensemble “To the Heroes of the Battle of Stalingrad”.
On the site with the sculpture "Not one step back" there is a small kiosk with souvenirs.
Events and holidays
October 15 - the anniversary of the opening of the monument in 1967.
February 2 - the day of victory of the Soviet troops at Stalingrad.
May 9 - Victory Day.
November 19 - the beginning of the Soviet counteroffensive at Stalingrad.
Khan Mamai has nothing to do with the mound, just like the word “mound” itself - there were no burial places before the Battle of Stalingrad. Contrary to the common (and even distributed by the guides) version, before the war, the locals called this area just “hill”, and in the tongue of the Volga Tatars, the same word sounded like “mamai”. During the war, the "hill" was marked on the military maps as "height 102". The name Mamayev Kurgan was invented by one of the war correspondents, and it stuck in a strange way. But residents of Volgograd still use this area as Mamayka.
The fighting in the area of strategic "height 102" began on September 13, 1942. Already on September 15, the Mamayev Kurgan was captured by the Germans. On September 16, units of the 13th Guard and the 112th Infantry Division recaptured the height. Heavy fighting continued until September 27, when the fascists entrenched on the western slope of the hill. By mid-October, the Germans occupied the northern and southern slopes and seized the summit. It seemed that the height was lost, but from September 28, 1942 until January 26, 1943, units of the 284th rifle division were holding the eastern slope (commander - Colonel NF Batyuk). In October-November 1942, the Batyuk fighters daily fought off several attacks.
“How many times the peak of Mamayev Kurgan passed from hand to hand, no one can say. The warriors of Rodimtsev's division fought for Mamaev Kurgan, the entire division of V.A. Gorishnogo, 112th Infantry Division I.E. Yermolkina, and the glorious 284th Division of Batyuk fought for him the most. The regiments of this division arrived on the right bank on September 21 and September 22, already engaged in battle at the turn of the Dolgiy ravine. The division, as it were, grew into the Mamayev Kurgan, into its spurs, and fought on it to the end, until the formation of General Chistyakov’s divisions on January 26, 1943 ”- from the memoirs of the commander of the 62nd Army VI Chuikova.
In January 1943, the assault groups of the 284th rifle division dislodged the enemy from the summit of Mamayev Kurgan. On January 26, the 62nd Army troops advancing from the east and the 21st Army troops advancing from the northwest united on the northwestern slope. As a result of this operation, the surrounded fascist German group was divided into two parts. At this point, the T-34 tank was installed, the first to break through to join the defenders of the city.
During the battle for Mamayev Kurgan, the sniper movement on the Stalingrad front, which has become legendary, was born.
After the Battle of Stalingrad on the mound, for several years nothing grew, not even the weeds. There were many such places in and around the city, the most famous being the Soldier (or Dead) field near the Volgograd-Moscow road. But also Mamaev Kurgan was stuffed with fragments and mines. “You can play anywhere, just don’t go to the mound,” is the usual maternal farewell to the little inhabitants of post-war Stalingrad. On unexploded mines and shells, people were undermined in peacetime, until a memorial complex was built here.
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