In Volgograd, It’s Stalin Who Lurks on the Sideline

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tags: Russia, Stalin, World Cup, Volgograd

The woman with the sword rises like an avenging angel over the skyline, so tall you can see her even from far below in Volgograd Arena. This is Mother Russia, and buried at her feet lie the remains of tens of thousands of casualties of the Battle of Stalingrad, the conflict that will forever define this city.

Joseph Stalin himself vanished from the city in 1961, when his name was erased from Soviet history books and, with the stroke of a pen, Stalingrad became Volgograd. But he lives in its soul.

He also lives in the visitors’ center just down the hill, next to the parking lot.

Here he is in the Stalingrad Hotel, his portrait in the cafe, beside a TV on which Portugal is playing Morocco in the World Cup. Here he is in the gift shop, his face plastered on the souvenirs: Stalin flasks, Stalin playing cards, Stalin wall clocks, Stalin key chains, Stalin lighters, Stalin T-shirts, Stalin mugs and Stalin commemorative plates. (Vladimir V. Putin, the current Russian president, is available, too; his plate is next to Stalin’s.)

Read entire article at NYT

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