My glossary is now online, check out the sidebar menu. I will try and keep updating it. Thank you for all the feedback, please do keep letting me know what you think, it is nice to hear voices from out there in the wider world and if you want me to do a piece on certain aspects of the city or the job that you are curious about I will try to accommodate.
I have more photos of the Mamayev Kurgan, the ones from my camera are harder to upload than my tablet, but they give me more options with regards to zoom, sizing and settings. The grand lady looks a little different from up close!
It seems I was lucky to arrive at the time I did as there was some kind of changing of the guard routine. I was walking towards the end of the second or third level when I heard the rat-at-at of half a dozen boots trying to hit the ground simultaneously. As I got closer I saw a troop of 5 or 6 soldiers marching in a very exaggerated way – think John Cleese silly walks. They headed down a tunnel, so I shrugged my shoulders and followed them.
The tunnel led into the chamber where the Eternal Flame burns, held in place by a giant sculpted hand. Rather than just change places, the soldiers of course had a formal routine, there was lots of marching, spinning, rifles being raised and dropped to the ground. Then they did a very strange, slow march. Every step, they stretched out their arms to one side as if trying to reach for something lost, and then balletically pulled their arms back for the next step. It was a slow way to get anywhere, and they had a full spiral walkway to traverse. I was not the only spectator but we were all hugging the walls, trying to keep out of the way. At the top there was another crowd of spectators, and at one point the drill sergeant said something, presumably “Clear” or “Get out of the way” because the crowd just moved.
The hall was decorated by long, red tapestries, which on closer inspection were full of names. One tapestry might have had 1000 names or more on it, and there were dozens of them all along the spiral walkway. There can be few more effective ways to bring home the sheer volume of lives lost in just one battle, in one war, in a country with a history of numerous wars.
There were other memorials to the fallen around the park, but most of the sculptures were inspiring, patriotic and celebratory, The Motherland Calls most of all. One stone soldier casually holds aloft what appears to be a dead giant snake. Others carry both fallen comrades and weights. As you walk through the stone relief walls, the sounds of war echo off them, military music, Russian voices, but mostly the terrifying crackle of gunfire and whistle of ordnance, with boom after boom of explosive destruction.
One small boy carries a replica rifle, proudly. Here it is not an aberration, or a breach of protocol, to wield the sort of weapons that killed so many who are remembered here. This is not a call for peace, this is a proud demonstration that when Russia asks her citizens to defend their homes with their lives, they will answer the call.
If you can pull your gaze away from Mother Russia’s grandiose embodiment, and look in the opposite direction, you can see a stadium being constructed. This is for the World Cup, no less, in 2018, where Volgograd is one of the host cities. Volgograd does not have a top class football team, they are second or third tier, but this is an important city in the psyche of Russians and they will take every opportunity to remind the world what happened here.