Russia celebrates 70th anniversary of Stalingrad battle

Saturday 02 February 2013 23.03
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December 1943: British prime minister Winston Churchill presenting premier Joseph Stalin of Russia with the Sword of Stalingrad in acknowledgement of the Russian people's heroic stand
December 1943: British prime minister Winston Churchill presenting premier Joseph Stalin of Russia with the Sword of Stalingrad in acknowledgement of the Russian people's heroic stand
Circa 1943: A lone German soldier hobbles round a waterlogged crater in which are reflected the devastated buildings of Stalingrad
Circa 1943: A lone German soldier hobbles round a waterlogged crater in which are reflected the devastated buildings of Stalingrad
Picture taken in December 1942 in Khutor Orehovo, northwest of Stalingrad, of the cemetery of German soldiers killed during the WWII.
Picture taken in December 1942 in Khutor Orehovo, northwest of Stalingrad, of the cemetery of German soldiers killed during the WWII.
December 1942: Red Army men break into a populated area north-west of Stalingrad
December 1942: Red Army men break into a populated area north-west of Stalingrad
January 1943: German soldiers surrendering to the Russians in Stalingrad, the soldier holding the white flag of surrender is dressed in white so that there could be no doubt of his intentions
January 1943: German soldiers surrendering to the Russians in Stalingrad, the soldier holding the white flag of surrender is dressed in white so that there could be no doubt of his intentions
Circa 1943: A serpentine line stretches to the far horizon as German soldiers routed from their last forts in the vicinity of Stalingrad, are marched to prison camps.
Circa 1943: A serpentine line stretches to the far horizon as German soldiers routed from their last forts in the vicinity of Stalingrad, are marched to prison camps.

The Russian city of Volgograd re-adopted its old name of Stalingrad for a few hours today 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, killed about 2m people.

It is a symbol of national pride that has produced an outburst of patriotic fervour 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.

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.

Mr Putin hopes to tap a vein of sentiment that harks back not only to before the 1991 collapse of Moscow's Soviet empire but to a dictator disowned as a genocidal tyrant even by his Communist heirs.

For all Stalin's crimes, defeating Adolf Hitler is a source of immense pride in a country seeking a new identity.

Keywords: stalingrad, russia

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