Russia celebrates 70th anniversary of Stalingrad

Updated: Saturday, 02 Feb 2013 23:11

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.