MOSCOW — It was the scene of the greatest battle between the Nazis and the Soviets, perhaps the greatest battle of World War II. It was the beginning of the end for Hitler. It carried the name of Stalin.
Now, on the eve of the battle’s 70th anniversary, the leader of Russia’s Communist Party has endorsed an effort to change the name of modern-day Volgograd back to Stalingrad. Gennady Zyuganov said Friday that renaming the city would be “absolutely fair.”
Josef Stalin, the city’s namesake, is not as reviled here as he once was. In 2008, he was voted the third-greatest Russian. Plenty of people, though, remember the millions who died under his rule — most recently at a somber gathering last week.
Last month, the Trade Union of Russian Citizens began pushing for the change to commemorate the battle, if not the man. “The Battle of Stalingrad was a symbol of liberation for all the sound forces of humanity,” organizers said.
They, and Zyuganov, said the city should go back to its “original” name. In fact, from its founding in the 16th century until 1925, it was called Tsaritsyn — a bit less euphonious to Communist ears. It became Volgograd in 1961.
A poll by the Levada Center, made public Friday night, found that 60 percent of Russians oppose the renaming.