On January 31, 1943, the German Sixth Army and other Axis forces under the command of Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus officially surrendered to Soviet Red Army forces, officially ending the pivotal battle two days later. The German objective was to capture the city, which was located in southern Russia. A German victory would have come as a humiliating blow to the Soviet Union and the city’s namesake Joseph Stalin.
The battle was that of Stalingrad, regarded as one the deadliest in the history of warfare, with roughly 1.5 million casualties.
Seventy years later, on January 31, 2013, the city, renamed Volgograd in 1961, passed a measure by its city council to rename the city Stalingrad, in commemoration of the battle.
The city's renaming will be temporary but on a permanent basis. That is, all city measures or mayoral proclamations will officially bear the name Stalingrad on May 9 and on four other days. May 9 is celebrated as Victory Day, in commemoration of the USSR’s victory over Nazi Germany.
While the city’s name change will apply only on dates related to the commemoration of significant World War II events, it does, however, correspond to the recent trend of glorifying the former Soviet dictator.
Though Stalin killed millions of Russians and Ukrainians, in 2008, an online nationwide poll — which included over 50 million votes — named Stalin as the third most popular Russian who ever lived. Another poll commissioned by VTsIOM in 2011 revealed that 45 percent of Russians were opposed to the destalinization programs. “Stalin … is a symbol of authority: harsh and brutal, but patriotic and non-corrupt,” said Alexei Makarkin, deputy director of the Center of Political Technologies, one of Russia’s oldest political think-tanks.
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Photo of Josef Stalin (in uniform), with China's Mao Tse-tung