On Saturday 5th November, I had a friend visiting so this was my first chance to show someone else around my new city. Obviously our first destination was Mamayev Kurgan, and the giant statue “The Motherland Calls” and the various monuments and memorials around it. It was a very cold day, especially up on the hill with the wind blowing.
We then went to Lenin Square and I remembered the Panorama Museum was just behind it – this is the museum to commemorate the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942-3. We wandered down and the first thing you immediately notice is a huge old red brick building full of holes – this is an old flour mill, one of the few buildings from before the war which has been left standing in this part of town, to show the scars and bruises that war can leave on a city.
Opposite it is Pavlov’s House – I thought this might be something to do with the famous scientist, but no, it is named after the sergeant who commanded the troops who occupied the besieged building for 2 months during the Battle of Stalingrad before being relieved by fellow Russian troops. The original house was rebuilt after the war but a memorial façade made from the original bricks in the rubble has been constructed on one wall of the house, facing the old flour mill and Panorama museum.
In the grounds outside the flower mill there is a replica of a famous old fountain that was removed in the 50’s, called Barmaley Fountain – it is a sculpture of 6 children dancing in a circle around a crocodile.
After walking right round the flour mill, we eventually went into the museum. It is a very traditional museum with a series of galleries each dealing with a different stage or aspect of the conflict. I did not get a photography pass or an audio guide, but the exhibits were pretty standard – weapons, equipment, clothes, displays, photographs of people involved, some old film clips. One exhibit was a telegram in English from the people of Coventry – “the most bombed city in England salutes the bravery of the people of Stalingrad.” The museum was very popular and full of people – of course it was a holiday weekend.
I may return and get an audio guide and spend a couple of hours learning in detail about the battle of Stalingrad. So far my understanding is that the German tanks attacked, met with fierce resistance in the city and had to advance very slowly, street by street, as they did so the Red Army gradually encircled their positions and trapped them. The German advance was halted, but the Germans had disrupted the city’s industry.