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RUSSIANS marked the 75th anniversary of the Red Army’s victory at the Battle of Stalingrad yesterday, attending a military parade and laying wreaths to honour the soldiers who died defending the city.
Seventy-five tanks, one for each year that has passed since the nazi surrender on February 2 1943, rolled through Volgograd, as Stalingrad was renamed in 1961, while 50 aircraft and 1,500 soldiers also took part in the commemoration.
Stalingrad has been called the bloodiest battle in history, with more than a million deaths in over five months of brutal close-quarters fighting.
The German defeat foiled Hitler’s plan to cut off Soviet access to the oilfields of the Caucasus, cost the Wehrmacht hundreds of thousands of troops and is seen as the second world war’s key turning point, marking the beginning of the end for the nazis.
Russian President Vladimir Putin inspected wreaths in Volgograd yesterday and the Defence Ministry released a number of formerly classified military documents.
They included a handwritten note from General Konstantin Rokossovsky reporting the capture of the German commander Friedrich Paulus on January 31 1943 and the order granting Hero of the Soviet Union status to Yakov Pavlov, whose platoon’s defence of a single building since known as “Pavlov’s house” for over two months became legendary. Soviet general Vasily Chuikov later remarked that the assault on Pavlov’s house had cost the German army more soldiers than the conquest of France.
In an address to mark the anniversary, Russian Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov praised the “unparalleled” sacrifices of the city’s residents.
As the greatest-ever victory for Soviet arms and proof of the “effectiveness of a planned socialist system,” the truth about Stalingrad had always caused “tooth-grinding” among anti-communists, he pointed out, with false accounts seeking to portray the Soviet and German forces as equally savage. He pointed to testimony from Field Marshal Paulus on the efforts of Red Army doctors to save the lives of German prisoners after the battle.
And he demanded that Volgograd be renamed Stalingrad permanently. As with Leningrad, the name is already officially adopted by the city on certain important anniversaries.
“We cannot allow the winning country to cover up the sacred feats of its people, while other countries demonstrate much better memory,” he said, pointing out that even Paris has a Metro station called Stalingrad.
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