VOLGOGRAD, Russia (Reuters) - The Russian city of Volgograd will bear Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s name again on Saturday when it marks the 70th anniversary of the epic battle that turned the tide in World War Two.
Local lawmakers adopted a decision to use the name Hero City Stalingrad at events commemorating the 1942-1943 battle on Saturday and on four other days every year including May 9, when Russia marks the Allied victory over Nazi Germany.
The name can officially be used at public events such as parades and in speeches and reports on those days, a statement on the city government website said. It said the decision was made “at the request of many veterans” of the war.
President Vladimir Putin, who has often appealed to Russian pride in the victory in a war in which some 27 million Soviet citizens died, is expected in the Volga River city on Saturday.
Critics call Stalin a murderer for the millions of deaths in his forced collectivization campaign and Gulag prison camps during his rule. Supporters credit him with transforming the Soviet Union into a great power and winning the war.
Soviet forces drove the Nazis westward to defeat after winning the horrific months-long battle of Stalingrad. Named after Stalin in 1925, the city was renamed Volgograd in 1961, during Nikita Khrushchev’s “de-Stalinisation” campaign.
Reporting by Timothy Heritage; Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Mark Heinrich