Russian leadership backs restoration of Stalingrad name

"Russia`s deputy prime minister called on Saturday for the name Stalingrad to be restored to the city that was the site of a key World War II battle against the Nazis.

AFP| Last Updated: Jun 07, 2014, 14:45 PM IST

Moscow: "Russia`s deputy prime minister called on Saturday for the name Stalingrad to be restored to the city that was the site of a key World War II battle against the Nazis.

"I never doubted the need to give back great Stalingrad its name. Not for the sake of Stalin, but for the sake of the Stalingraders," Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin wrote on Twitter.

On Friday, President Vladimir Putin responded positively to a request by a Soviet veteran at the D-Day commemorations in France for the city -- now called Volgograd -- to return to its wartime name.

"According to our law, this is up to the region and the municipality. In this case the residents must hold a referendum and decide," Putin was quoted as saying by the ITAR-TASS news agency.

"We will do whatever the residents say."

The 1942-1943 Battle of Stalingrad saw the city besieged and occupied by Nazi forces who were eventually forced to surrender by the Red Army. It was the first major defeat for the Nazis and a turning point in the war.

The devastated city was almost entirely rebuilt after the war and contains a vast memorial complex. It was renamed Volgograd in 1961 after Nikita Khrushchev denounced the excesses of Stalin`s rule. Prior to the Soviet revolution, it was called Tsaritsyn.

Local lawmakers last year voted to revive its wartime name of Stalingrad for ceremonial purposes six days a year.

Some believe the city should return permanently to the name in memory of the heroic victory.

Others remain deeply opposed to reinstating a name that evokes Stalin`s regime, which saw millions die through famines, executions and political repression.

Volgograd, a sprawling city of more than one million, was hit by two deadly suicide bombings in December last year linked to Islamist insurgents in the North Caucasus.