On the First Line of Defense: 17 T-34 Tank Turrets

There is a memorial in Volgograd unlike anything that can be found in the anywhere in the world. It's the 30-kilometer-long defense line of the 62nd Army that passes through several parts of the city and is comprised of 17 turrets removed from T-34 tanks that have been secured onto pedestals. They stand on the front line as they did on 19 November 1942, when the advancement of German fascist troops on the Volga River reached its peak. The idea to immortalize the Stalingrad line of the front came about in the second half of the 1940s. The memorial was designed by architect Fyodor Lysov and construction was completed in 1954.


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During the most difficult days of the Battle of Stalingrad the Germans were able to reach the Volga at several points, including the territory of the present-day central embankment and river terminal. The first turret stands in a square on the embankment on the spot where the front didn't reach the Volga for a few dozen meters. It was here in the autumn of 1942 that the post was held by the 13th Guards Rifle Division. A street nearby is named after the division. Under the command of General Aleksandr Rodimtsev, a Hero of the Soviet Union, the division held down many significant locations. Soldiers defended the legendary Pavlov House and many other sites.

Near the turret is a statue of Marshal Vasily Chuikov. It is the work of his son, Aleksandr Chuikov.

Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov was an extraordinary man. When WWII (known as the Great Patriotic War in Russia and other former Soviet states) began he was in China serving in a military attaché and as chief military advisor, but he did everything he could to get to the front. In 1942 the commander was sent directly from China to Tula, where troops were being formed to be deployed in Stalingrad. In the spring of 1942 he led a task force of the 64th Army in Stalingrad, and in September he was given command of the 62nd Army. The task of defending Stalingrad at all costs was assigned to the marshal.

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The second turret stands on Ulica Sovetskatya among the buildings of Volgograd State Technical University. The entire area between Gerhardt Mill and Pavlov House can easily be seen from here. Comparing the position of this turret to the previous one, it's possible to understand how sharp the front edged off from the Volga here, extending into residential neighborhoods on what used to be called Penza Ulica. The distance was small between the two armies on the bank of the Volga, the main water transport artillery of the European part of the USSR that the Wehrmacht tried so hard to seize.

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The third turret is next to Pavlov House in the square on Ulica Naumova. Standing beside it and looking in the direction of this legendary house and the ruins of the Gerhardt Mill, destroyed by shelling, it is possible to see how close the German troops were to the Volga. The intensity of the Battle of Stalingrad was so great that this station did not fall even though it was under continuous attack for nearly two months. Pavlov House is a unique place even by Stalingrad battle standards. For 58 days this building was on the front line of defense, withstanding several attacks a day.

The fourth turret is located on Sovetskaya Ulica not far from house number 38. On this spot, the front came even closer to the Volga than it did on Lenin Square.


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The fifth turret was installed at the halfway point to Mamaev Kurgan on Stalingrad Victory Square. Here the line of the front practically passed through the route of Prospekt Lenina, the main thoroughfare of Volgograd today.

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This, perhaps, is the most symbolic turret, mounted at the historical peak of Mamaev Kurgan, elevation 102.0, next to All Saints Church. It's possible to reach by bike, riding from the television tower where there is an automobile road to the monument. But it's best to leave bikes on Prospekt Lenina at the bottom of Mamaev Kurgan and to climb 200 steps to the top, the same number as the days of the Battle of Stalingrad. The top of Mamaev Kurgan, on which The Motherland Calls statue is situated, was made during the construction of the Heroes of the Battle of Stanlingrad memorials in the 1960s.

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Construction of the Orthodox All Saints Church on Mamaev Kurgan is tied with the visit of Patriarch Aleksey II of Moscow and All Rus to Volgograd in 1993. The land below the church was consecrated by the patriarch on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Victory in the Battle of Stalingrad. In May 2005, the five-domed church, constructed at the mass grave of defenders of the Fatherland, began holding liturgical services. All Saints Church is situated in the immediate vicinity of the tank turret commemorated as "Elevation 102".


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The seventh turret stands on Prospekt Lenina not far from Revival Square. The Banny Ravine once passed through here, and today the Red October metallurgical plant is situated on top of it. The legendary 284th Infantry Division commanded by Colonel Nikolay Batyuk defended the territory where the turret is located.


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The Red October metallurgical factory was an arena of fierce battles in autumn 1942. Its defense is among the heroic chapters of the Battle of Stalingrad. Red October, founded at the end of the 19th century, is one of the oldest operating industrial sites in the city. Its first owner, French enterprise Ural-Volga Metallurgical Company, began construction on 30 April 1897. In November 1898 the first open-hearth furnace commenced operation. During those years the factory was the largest in the city and surrounding territory. In 1902 the factory employed 1,120 people, and by the beginning of WWI it had 5,000 workers.

By the beginning of WWII, Red October produced 9% of steel in the country. In 1941 the factory increased production of armored steel, utilized new models, and began to make military equipment and ammunition. In 1942 more than a third of workers were woman who not only labored as steelmakers but also served in the militia alongside male workers from the beginning of the defense of Stalingrad.


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The eighth turret is located inside the green area around the Red October factory on Prospekt Lenina and is opposite the seventh turret on the other side of the street. This is where the 39th Guards Rifle Division defended, and the name of the unit has been given to a nearby street. General Stepan Guriev commanded this division. On 3 February 1943, during the metallurgical factory’s official return ceremony, Guriev told Red October director Paruyr Matevosyan, who led the company until 1972, "Forgive me, but this is all that is left of your factory." To that, Matevosyan replied, "A sick child is more valuable to his mother."


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The eleventh tower is situated on the defense line of the 138th Infantry Division of Ivan Ilyich Lyudnikov. In October 1942, the division was repositioned to Stalingrad as part of the 64th Army and immediately began to defend the Barricady factory and the settlement below it. In November the division fell into the enemy's half-ring formation with an area spanning 700 meters by 400 meters. This was later called Lyudnikov Island. For 40 days Lyudnikov's men held their position, but with significant losses. In December 1942, a counter offensive resulted in the dismantling of the blockade from the south.


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The twelfth turret is located on the same spot where the people's militia held the Barrikadny region in 1942. Today it is part of the Lyudnikov Island memorial complex.

The thirteenth turret is located on the territory of the Barrikady factory and is not accessible. The spot where it's installed is where the front line of the 308th Rifle Division led by Colonel Leonti Gurtiev passed.

The factory was the last major industrial enterprise built in Tsaritsyn, the original name of the city, before the Russian Revolution. It served a military purpose from the very beginning and was known as Artillery Factory. It was suggested that large-scale artillery systems, including those for the Navy, would be produced here. The first owner of the company was the British firm Vickers. The grand opening of the factory was held on 27 June 1914. The factory has gone through intense modernization several times during its history. The first upgrade took place in 1930. Another took place after WWII, and significant changes were again made in the 1990s. The Barrikady factory retains its military designation today and carries out orders made by the Russian Ministry of Defense.


The fourteenth turret is located in the Traktorozavodsky region. This is where defensive battles were fought by the 124th and 149th Infantry Brigades of the 62nd Army.
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The tractor factory has become a symbol of the period several times. At the end of the 1920s and beginning of the 1930s it was a symbol of large-scale industrial construction that was being developed in the country. Its launch was considered the starting point of the industrial era. Leaders of the Soviet state repeatedly visited the factory, as did other prominent figures from the Soviet Union and other countries.


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The fifteenth turret is located on the territory of the Spartanovka microregion on Ulica Nikolaya Otrady. From September to November 1942 defenses were mounted under the control of Colonel Sergey Fyodorovich Gorokhov.

The sixteenth turret is the northernmost of them all. Officially, it is located within the city. But, in fact, it is situated in one of the city's suburbs. The turret is located in the GES settlement inside the fenced territory of School 87. The city was defended by the 124th Infantry Brigade, which was part of the 62nd Army, from this point.
The seventeenth turret is the final one and located in the southern part of the city in the Sovetsky region on Universitetsky Prospekt. The place where it is installed is called the Green Ring today. However, during the Battle of Stalingrad it was known as the Vitriolic Beam. In autumn 1942 there was heavy fighting here that was led by soldiers of the 64th Army.