Russia commemorates pivotal Battle of Stalingrad

Sat Feb 2, 2013 1:34pm EST
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By Denis Dyomkin

VOLGOGRAD, Russia (Reuters) - The city of Volgograd re-adopted its old name of Stalingrad for a few hours on Saturday as Russia commemorated the 70th anniversary of the epic battle that turned the tide of World War Two.

The victory in the six-month Battle of Stalingrad, which killed about 2 million people, is a symbol of national pride that has produced an outburst of patriotic fervor and, for some, nostalgia for the Soviet era and dictator Josef Stalin.

President Vladimir Putin flew to Volgograd, which was known as Stalingrad from 1925 until 1961. He laid a wreath and met veterans after a military parade led by soldiers in World War Two uniforms and featuring a wartime T-34 tank.

"I saw cities in Europe that were practically untouched by the war, countries that capitulated to the more powerful enemies even before war was declared," First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said in a speech at the parade.

"But we are not like that. Our grandfathers, our fathers, our older generation, our great leaders, fought here for each building, for each street."

Hundreds of war veterans turned up for the parade on Volgograd's central Square of the Fallen Fighters, their coats weighed down by medals, the youngest of them now 89.

After Stalingrad, Soviet troops fought their way westward to Berlin, sweeping into the German capital 27 months later.

For many of the veterans, the ceremony was bittersweet as they had lost so many comrades-in-arms and loved ones.   Continued...

Russian soldiers march at the Mamayev Kurgan (Mamayev Hill) World War Two memorial complex, with the statue of Mother Homeland in the background during celebrations in the city of Volgograd February 2, 2013. REUTERS/Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool