Volgograd formerly called Tsaritsyn (1598–1925) and later, Stalingrad (1925–1961) is a city and the administrative center of Volgograd Oblast, Russia. It is 80 kilometers long, and situated on the west bank of the Volga River.
Volgograd originated with the foundation in 1589 of the fortress of Tsaritsyn at the confluence of the Tsaritsa and Volga Rivers. The fortress, which took its name from the local name Sary Su (Yellow Water/River in the Tatar language), was established to defend the unstable southern border of Tsarist Russia and became the nucleus of a trading settlement. It was captured twice by Cossack rebels, under Stepka Razin in the rebellion of 1670 and Yemelyan Pugachev in 1774. Tsaritsyn became an important river port and commercial centre in the 19th century.
The city was the scene of heavy fighting during the Russian Civil War. Bolshevik forces occupied it during 1918, but were attacked by White forces under Anton Ivanovich Denikin. During the battle for Tsaritsyn the Bolsheviks were pushed back and surrounded at first, and only the actions of Josef Dzhugashvili (nicknamed 'Stalin'), then local chairman of the military committee, saved the city for the Bolsheviks. Stalin did so by recalling Zhloba's 'Steel Division' from the Caucasus which attacked the White Forces in the rear. In honor of Stalin's efforts in defending the city, it was renamed Stalingrad (literally: "Stalin city") in 1925. The name change is typical of the way towns and cities were re-named after Bolshevik leaders and heroes during Soviet times.
Under Stalin, the city became heavily industrialized and was developed as a centre of heavy industry and trans-shipment by rail and river. During World War II (Great Patriotic War), the city of Stalingrad became the center of the Battle of Stalingrad as well as the pivotal turning point in the war against Germany. The battle lasted from August 19, 1942 to February 2, 1943. In terms of loss of human life, 1.7 million to 2 million Soviet soldiers were either killed, wounded or captured, as well as over 50,000 civilians killed. The city was reduced to rubble during the fierce fighting, but reconstruction began soon after the Germans were expelled from the city. For the heroism shown during the battle, Stalingrad was awarded the title Hero City in 1945, and King George VI of the United Kingdom awarded the citizens of Stalingrad a bejeweled sword in appreciation of the bravery that they had shown. A memorial complex commemorating the battle, dominated by an immense allegorical sculpture of Mother Russia, was erected on the Mamayev Kurgan, a hill that saw some of the most intense fighting during the battle.
The Panorama museum, which is located alongside the Volga river, contains artifacts from World War II. These include a panoramic painting of the battlefield from the location of the monument "Mamayev Kurgan." There is an original rifle of the famous sniper Vasily Zaytsev, who was featured in the film Enemy at the Gates.
In 1961, the city's name was changed to Volgograd ("Volga City") as part of Nikita Khrushchev's program of de-Stalinization. This was and remains somewhat contentious, given the fame of the name Stalingrad, and there were once serious proposals to change the name back during Konstantin Chernenko's brief administration in 1985. There is still a strong degree of local support for a reversion and proposals have been made from time to time, though as yet none have been accepted by the Russian government.