Volgograd - Russia, West

Volgograd was was known as Tsaritsyn until 1925 and then renamed Stalingrad after the Soviet leader. It was established as the fortress of Tsaritsyn in 1589 to defend the strategic point where the Volga River and Don River meet and protect newly acquired Russian territory along the Volga. During the Russian Civil War (1918-20), Joseph Stalin organized the defence of the city in a major battle against the White Russian armies, and the city was later renamed in his honour. During WW2 the battle for Stalingrad was the turning point in the Russian resistance to Hitler and to the war as a whole. The city was reduced to rubble but a German army of 300,000 men was annihilated. Mamai Hill, site of the battle's fiercest fighting, is now a memorial dominated by a 170-foot statue of Mother Russia wielding a sword. Visiting the memorial and seeing the 360-degree diorama of the battle is a very moving experience. The city was totally rebuilt after the war, and new apartment buildings and factories extend for more than 40 miles (65 km) along the river.