Formerly known as Stalingrad, Volgograd extends alongside the Volga River and has 1 million residents. The city, some 940 kilometers to the south of Moscow, was founded in 1589 and was initially called Tsaritsyn; for centuries it stood as an important trading and military post near the southern border. Volgograd and the surrounding area saw some of the heaviest battles during World War II, earning the city the status of “Hero City”, a Soviet honorary title awarded for outstanding heroism during the war. The Battle of Stalingrad was a turning point in the war. The 85-meter “Motherland calling” statue is Volgograd’s landmark and can be seen from any point of the city. The Panorama Museum has a 360-degree painting of the battle, as well as weapons and artifacts.
Nowadays, Volgograd is a center for ecotourism in Russia. The city is close to the unique Volga-Akhtubin floodplains, the last pristine stretch of the Volga river valleys. Lakes make up 30% of the park’s territory and count over 200 species of birds. The city stands at the east end of the Volga-Don Canal, opened in 1952 to link the two great rivers of Southern Russia. If you’ve got some extra time between football matches, go on one of the river cruises down the Volga. Dozens of boats operated by different companies run from Moscow to Astrakhan passing by Volgograd. One way or return cruises may be reserved to/from practically any city along the Volga.
Volgograd is a true sporting city. Yelena Isenbayeva, a multiple world pole-vaulting champion and ambassador for Russia’s bid to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup, began her sporting career in Volgograd. Modern Volgograd is also an important manufacturing center, with industries that include shipbuilding, oil refining and steel and aluminium production.