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Russia revives Stalingrad city name, six days a year

  • A file picture taken on February 1, 1943, shows columns of Nazi German Wehrmacht soldiers passing through the streets of Stalingrad, after their surrender to the Red Army. AFP PHOTO

MOSCOW: Lawmakers in the Russian city of Volgograd on Thursday voted to revive its wartime name of Stalingrad for ceremonial purposes six days a year, just ahead the 70th anniversary of Red Army's defeat of Nazi forces there in World War II.

The lawmakers voted to use the name Stalingrad at city events on six commemorative days including February 2, the day Nazi forces fully surrendered to Soviet troops and May 9, Victory Day, Russian news agencies reported.

The decision was made "based on the many requests of World War II participants," said lawmaker Sergei Zabednov, quoted by the city parliament's press service.

"Deputies have taken a decision to establish the name 'hero-city Stalingrad' as a symbol of Volgograd. We will be able to use this symbol officially in our speeches and reports and at mass events," Zabednov said.

Activists in Russia, such as the group Memorial which battles for historical memory, lament that Russian society has yet to fully come to terms with the murderous crimes of Stalin, in particular during the 1930s purges.

Volgograd will host large-scale celebrations this Saturday, the 70th anniversary of the day when Nazi troops led by Friedrich von Paulus finally fully surrendered to the Soviets.

The battle of Stalingrad is still a proud memory for Russians and the city name carries positive associations despite the name of Stalin.

In a much more controversial move, some have gone further and demanded the city, dotted with war memorials, be permanently renamed Stalingrad.

Fifty thousand people signed a petition to this effect handed to President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, with instigators including the Russian Communist Party, Noviye Izvestiya daily reported.

The industrial city was renamed Volgograd, or Volga city, in 1961 after Khrushchev exposed Stalin-era abuses including purges and forced collectivisation. It had been called Stalingrad since 1925.

In recent steps to revive the Stalingrad name, a plaque outside the Kremlin walls commemorating the "hero city" was recarved to read Stalingrad in 2004 on Putin's order.

 
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