- By Alexander Winning
- Oct. 09 2011 21:06
VOLGOGRAD — Volgograd is a proud city, and justifiably so. Famed for its dogged resistance against Hitler's invading forces under its former name, Stalingrad, it bore the brunt of the German onslaught between August 1942 and February 1943 and was awarded the title "Hero City" accordingly.
Aside from its military significance, Volgograd has also served as an important industrial center and transport hub for more than a century. Shipyards, a tractor plant and a steel factory were all built here during the first Five-Year Plan. Since the completion of the Volga-Don canal in 1952, millions of tons of cargo have passed through the city every year.
Acting mayor: Sergei Sokolov
Main industries: shipbuilding, oil refining, chemicals and petrochemicals, machinery and vehicle manufacture, electrical and thermal energy, food processing, and steel, iron and aluminum production.
Interesting fact: Anna Chapman, a former sleeper agent returned to Russia in a 2010 spy swap with the United States, was born and grew up in Volgograd.
Sister cities: Yerevan, Armenia; Liege, Belgium; Coventry, Britain; Toronto, Canada; Chendu, China; Dijon, France; Köln, Germany; Chennai, India; Turin, Italy; Hiroshima, Japan; Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., and 10 others.
Helpful contacts: Alexander Belitsky, president of the Volgograd Chamber of Commerce (7 Gvardeiskaya Ulitsa; +7 8442-24-22-26, 56-36-11; [email protected];
Yevgeny Golovko, head of Volgograd administration’s economy department (25 Ulitsa Lenina; +7 8442-30-13-45; [email protected]).
Today, Volgograd remains a bustling urban center and an industrial powerhouse of the Southern Federal District. The city stretches 80 kilometers along the western bank of the Volga River, its historic heart flanked by sprawling suburbs, malls, cinema complexes and industrial sites to the north and south. The Volga Hydroelectric Station, the largest of its kind in Europe, lies just a short distance away.
But, despite its forward-looking ambitions and dynamic industrial sector, Volgograd is a city in which memories of former glories still loom large. This is a place that consciously strives to remember its past and celebrate its privileged position in the drive to industrialize and defend the motherland.
Wandering through the center, you are first struck by the abundance of street names and monuments recalling Soviet times. The city's main thoroughfare is called Prospekt Lenina, and streets named after Red Army generals, the divisions they commanded and the Soviet-era youth movement, the Komsomol, line the surrounding area. "The Motherland Is Calling," an 85-meter-tall sculpture that commemorates the Battle of Stalingrad, towers over the city and features prominently on the Volgograd region coat of arms.
For this reason, it is perhaps unsurprising that Volgograd was designated Russia's most Soviet city in a 2011 Communist Party poll. Even local election outcomes hark back to Soviet days: Roman Grebennikov, Volgograd's last elected mayor who was ousted in early 2011 after a well-publicized feud with the governor, ran on the Communist Party ticket.
Volgogradneftemash (45 Elektrolesovskaya Ulitsa; +7 8442-40-72-09;
Khimprom (23 Promyslovnaya Ulitsa; +7 8442-45-19-39;
The Volgograd Red October Metallurgical Factory (110 Prospekt Lenina; +7 8442-74-87-77;
While seeking to preserve the city's Soviet heritage, Volgograd's post-Soviet administration has attempted to provide a blueprint for future development by overseeing a number of ambitious construction projects. One example is the recently completed Volgograd Bridge, which took 13 years to build. Spanning over seven kilometers, it is among the longest in Russia and has had an eventful history. In 2010, it achieved fame as "the dancing bridge" after a video posted on YouTube showed the bridge swaying violently due to powerful gusts of wind.
More impressive, construction began in 2005 on Volgograd City, a business complex that will include a state-of-the-art business center, five modern apartment blocks and a hotel, as well as provide a range of public services. It is estimated that the project will be finished in eight to 10 years and will cost at least 1.5 billion euros ($2.2 billion). Once completed, it will constitute the largest business complex in the south of the country.
Volgograd has also started to flex its muscles as an up-and-coming tourist destination for international and Russian travelers. Alongside its historic attractions, the city boasts a burgeoning ecotourism industry. Visitors can savor the Volga-Akhtuba floodplains, the Elton salt lake and the Don River, all within a few hours of the city. Now that Volgograd has been officially chosen to host the 2018 football World Cup, visitors will soon be able to enjoy sporting spectacles of the highest order in a 45,000-seat stadium due to be built in the shadow of "The Motherland Is Calling."
The city's name has been changed thrice over 3 1/2 centuries. Founded in 1589 under the regency of Boris Godunov, the fortress town of Tsaritsyn acted as the first line of defense on Russia's southeastern border. In 1925, the city was renamed Stalingrad to honor its role in the struggle against the Whites during the Russian civil war. Nikita Khrushchev's de-Stalinization program inspired its rechristening as Volgograd in 1961.
What to see if you have two hours
Q: Why should investors choose to invest in Volgograd’s businesses?
A: Volgograd is an important junction for the international north-south transportation corridor. Through our city run river, rail and road routes to Kazakhstan and the countries of Central Asia and beyond — to Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and China. This opens up broad opportunities for the creation of logistical centers and other organizations serving Russian and EU retail companies here.
The city’s powerful industrial complex is made up of leading machine-building, metallurgical, chemical and petrochemical enterprises. Compared with other cities in southern Russia, Volgograd certainly wins in terms of its investment potential, including the educational level of its population, the efficiency of its scientific-technical activity and labor resources.
Q: Which sectors of the city’s economy are most attractive to Russian and foreign investors?
A: Of course, the most attractive sectors for investors are the machine-
building, metallurgical, chemical, petrochemical and energy-producing industries, as well as the light industry and food processing.
Q: What steps has the city’s administration taken in recent years to improve the investment climate?
A: The main goal of the Volgograd administration’s municipal policies has been providing the conditions for an economic uplift in the city, including attracting investment in efficient, competitive, ecologically safe methods of production. For this, the city has created a whole range of normative acts regulating investment activity. Volgograd’s investment council carries out a coordinating role in supervising investment projects locally.
Q: What do you see as Volgograd’s biggest asset?
A: I believe that the main asset of our city is the people themselves, representatives of diverse nationalities and faiths who have lived in peace and harmony and worked productively on this God-given land for several centuries. Sources of social tension are absent here.
It is also worth mentioning the city’s favorable geographical location. Volgograd is “the city of the five seas,” located on a picturesque bank of one of Europe’s largest rivers and within touching distance of major raw materials deposits.
— Alex Winning
Although the suburbs of Volgograd stretch out for dozens of kilometers, the center is relatively compact. For the time-pressed visitor, the city's main historic attractions can be navigated easily using the high-speed tram system that runs parallel to the Volga.
Start by ascending Mamayev Kurgan, Volgograd's main vantage point and the site of the fiercest fighting at the time of the Nazi onslaught. Today, this high ground is the home of the Heroes of the Battle of Stalingrad memorial complex, "The Motherland Is Calling" statue and the All Saints' Church. There are few more moving experiences than to wander the cavernous hall of the memorial building warmed by the eternal flame that rises from the ground beneath you and surrounded by plaque after plaque listing the names of the fallen. Marshal Vasily Chuikov and sniper Vasily Zaitsev are among those buried on Mamayev Kurgan.
Next, after wending your way back to the center on the tram, stop off at Pavlov's House, the four-story apartment building by the banks of the Volga for which Yakov Pavlov, the commander of a machine gun unit, fought tooth-and-nail. While only fragments of the outer shell still remain, these serve as a powerful reminder of the Red Army's stubborn resistance.
From here, you can stroll along the embankment and take in the mighty river flowing past you. Continue as far as the river port, where you will see a set of grand steps leading to the tree-lined Alley of Heroes. A welcome strip of green in the heart of the city, this is a perfect spot to sit, contemplate and end your fleeting tour.
What to do if you have two days
After visiting Mamayev Kurgan, you can spend a few hours in Volgograd's Panoramic Museum (47 Ulitsa Chuikova; +7 8442-23-67-23;
Should you tire of military exhibits, the city's other museums can cater to a range of tastes. The Volgograd Regional Studies Museum (7 Prospekt Lenina; +7 8442-38-84-39;
For those wishing to travel further afield, Volgograd can serve admirably as a base for exploring the surrounding area. Tour operator Volgograd Compass (75A Ulitsa Mira, Volzhsky; +7 8443-58-18-00;
If you are looking for an unusual way to spend an evening, then there is nowhere better than Volgograd's New Experimental Theater (5 Ulitsa Mira; +7 8442-38-08-45;
Q: What’s it like doing business in Volgograd?
A: Running a business in Volgograd is not simple, and the economic crisis has played its role, but, as they say, “the road will rise to meet you.” Local authorities also contribute to this. Our project will raise the town to a new level, the level of a modern metropolis.
Q: How does Volgograd City aim to contribute to Volgograd’s development?
A: The Volgograd City business center has already become a local tourist attraction. Volgograd City is the tallest building in Volgograd and the only Class-A business center in the city. It is capable of holding more than 2,000 people and boasts restaurants, an entertainment center and fitness club with a therapeutic pool.
We believe that we represent a success story on how to run a business in our “hero city.” The project is truly unique and ambitious. We are building a city of the future.
Q: How can investors help your project?
A: In order to realize the whole project, we would be glad to welcome partners in the restaurant business, large fitness club operators, experienced hotel firms and representatives from modern, Western-looking medical centers.
— Alex Winning
Keen to show off your dance moves to Volgograd's hippest? Then nightclub Piranya (6 Naberezhnaya 62nd Army; +7 8442-90-05-33;
Where to eat
Cafe Bellagio (13 Ulitsa Mira; +7 8442-38-48-86;
Another option nearby is restaurant Moliere (12 Ulitsa Mira; +7 8442-55-14-55). Here you can sample a mix of Russian and European dishes, with everything from fish to fowl on the menu. Located right in the heart of the city on the Fallen Fighters' Square, this restaurant is popular with all comers and especially convenient if you are planning to spend the evening at the New Experimental Theater, which is a stone's throw away. Expect to pay upward of 4,000 rubles for a three-course meal for two, wine included.
If you are looking for a hearty, informal meal, then German-themed Bochka (16 Sovietskaya Ulitsa; +7 8442-91-93-19) will do the trick. Satisfying and inexpensive stews and draft beers from Europe are what this restaurant does best. A meal here should cost less than 1,000 rubles.
Where to stay
Volgograd Intourist (14 Ulitsa Mira; +7 8442-30-23-01;
Q: What is the business climate like in Volgograd?
A: Like in all regions, there are difficulties in running a business. There are regions with a more favorable investment climate, and others where it is less favorable. For some reason, it turns out that the Volgograd region, alas, is not yet the most attractive for investors.
Volgograd and its businesses have been somewhat deprived of investment proposals. This is strange because the city occupies an extremely propitious geographical location, has huge industrial experience and has more than 1 million inhabitants.
Q: Does the city administration help big producers like Khimprom?
A: Fortunately, not only the city and regional administration but also Volgograd’s legislature has shown us understanding. We are in constant dialogue with all local branches of government, trying to find a way out of the recession, as well as new decisions on how to sell our products in regional and national markets.
Q: What are the future goals of your company?
A: The most important is to bring the factory out of the recession. And the most far-sighted, which not only affects our factory but Russia’s whole chemical industry, is the creation of a chemicals cluster. The value of creating a so-called “chemicals cluster” in the Volgograd region is that the area has the human resources necessary to carry the project through to completion. I am talking about the strong scientific and industrial base that has formed here over history. Volgograd’s chemists occupy a leading position in Russia.
— Alex Winning
Next best is Hotel Volgograd (12 Ulitsa Mira; +7 8442-55-19-55;
A more affordable alternative is Hotel Astoria (276 Ulitsa Parkhomenko; +7 8442-37-76-25;
History is everywhere in Volgograd. So mention the city's glorious past or pay tribute to its war heroes, and you are sure to get the locals talking. In particular, Alexander "Sasha" Filippov and Mikhail Panikakha are dear to Volgograd hearts. The first worked as a Red Army spy, reporting on German troop movements at the age of 17; the second threw himself on an advancing enemy tank, destroying it with the two Molotov cocktails he clutched in his hands, while defending the Red October factory.
If military reminiscences fail, you might have more luck mentioning the achievements of some of the city's sporting greats. Yelena Isynbayeva, five-time world champion in the pole vault, and tennis player Nikolai Davydenko, formerly ranked third in the world, were both born locally. Also, Volgograd's LUKoil-sponsored water polo team is among the best in Russia.
How to get there
Volgograd is easily accessible by plane, train and boat. From Moscow, the 900-kilometer journey is most comfortable by air. Aeroflot, S7 Airlines and UTair all offer daily scheduled flights, which take just under two hours to reach Volgograd International Airport (
For those with time to spare and tales to share, several trains make the journey south daily. These leave from Moscow's Paveletsky Station and take 19 to 25 hours. One-way economy class tickets start at 1,500 rubles.
Although impractical if you are planning a quick visit, there is no more beautiful way to arrive in Volgograd than by riverboat. Between the months of May and September, Volga cruises depart from Moscow and St. Petersburg, passing through the city on their way to Astrakhan. Prices vary considerably depending on the itinerary and level of comfort you choose, but expect to pay more than 35,000 rubles for a three-week round trip from the capital.