Battle of Stalingrad


Volgograd (vôlgəgrät´), formerly Stalingrad, city (1989 pop. 999,000), capital of Volgograd region, SE European Russia, a port on the Volga River and the eastern terminus of the Volga-Don Canal. As a transshipment point, the port handles oil, coal, ore, lumber, and fish. Volgograd is also a major rail center, with connections to Moscow, the Donets Basin, the Caucasus, and SW Siberia. A large hydroelectric dam stands on the Volga just above the city. A center of heavy industry, Volgograd has shipyards, oil refineries, steel and aluminum mills, and tank, tractor, cable, machinery, and chemical factories. Other industries include food processing, flour milling, distilling, sawmilling, tanning, and the manufacture of farm and oil-field equipment.

Founded in 1589 as a stronghold to defend Russia's newly acquired land along the Volga, the city was originally called Tsaritsyn. It fell to the Cossack rebels under Stenka Razin in 1670 and Yemelyan Pugachev in 1774. In the 19th cent. it became an important commercial center. During the Russian civil war the city was defended (1918) by Soviet forces under Stalin, Voroshilov, and Budenny, but White troops under Denikin took it in 1919–20. The city was renamed Stalingrad in 1925, then Volgograd in 1961, following Nikita Khrushchev's denunciations of Stalin's dictatorship.

During World War II, the city was nearly destroyed in a battle that marked a major turning point in the war and a landmark in military history. In Sept., 1942, a German army exceeding 500,000 men (including Italians, Hungarians, and Romanians) and commanded by Gen. Friedrich von Paulus began an all-out attack on Stalingrad, which was defended by 16 Soviet divisions under Gen. Vasily I. Chuikov. Stalin ordered that the city be held at all costs. After two months of house-to-house fighting, the Germans had taken most of the city, but the Soviet garrison, receiving supplies across the Volga, held out, thus giving Gen. Georgi Zhukov time to prepare a counteroffensive.

Hitler reaffirmed his intention to take Stalingrad, despite great losses and lack of reserves. He refused, against his general staff's advice, to allow Paulus to withdraw. In Nov., 1942, two Soviet forces, advancing from the north and south in a pincers movement, encircled the Germans. In December a German relief force was routed. Paulus surrendered the remnants of his army on Feb. 2, 1943. The combined German and Soviet losses during the battle were staggering—the Germans alone suffered approximately 300,000 casualties. The Soviets followed up with a westward drive and generally remained on the offensive for the remainder of the war. Rebuilding began immediately after the city's liberation.

See A. Beevor, Stalingrad (1998).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Battle of Stalingrad: Selected full-text books and articles

When Titans Clashed: How the Red Army Stopped Hitler By Jonathan M. House; David M. Glantz Birlinn, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "Operation Blau: The German Drive on Stalingrad"
Moscow Dateline, 1941-1943 By Henry C. Cassidy Houghton Mifflin, 1943
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 19 "The Battle of Stalingrad"
Lost Victories By Erich Von Manstein; Anthony G. Powell; Anthony G. Powell Henry Regnery, 1958
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 12 "The Tragedy of Stalingrad" and Chap 13 "The 1942-43 Winter Campaign in South Russia"
The Russo-German War, 1941-45 By Albert Seaton Presidio Press, 1990
Aid to Russia, 1941-1946: Strategy, Diplomacy, the Origins of the Cold War By George C. Herring Jr Columbia University Press, 1973
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Pearl Harbor to Stalingrad: 'Nothing Would Be Worse Than to Have the Russians Collapse'"
The Second World War: Ambitions to Nemesis By Bradley Lightbody Routledge, 2004
Librarian’s tip: "Stalingrad" begins on p. 145
History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union By Boris Nikolaevich Ponomarev; Andrew Rothstein Foreign Languages Pub. House, 1960
Librarian’s tip: "The Heavy Fighting in the Summer of 1942. The Heroic Defence of Stalingrad" begins on p. 566
Inside Hitler's Headquarters, 1939-45 By Walter Warlimont Presidio Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: "Stalingrad to Tunis" begins on p. 282
The Soviet Air and Rocket Forces By Asher Lee Praeger, 1959
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "From Barbarossa to Stalingrad" and Chap. 3 "From Stalingrad to Berlin"
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