It took 10 years to restore the destroyed city
Izvestia.Ru | May 09, 2022
Stalingrad was almost completely destroyed during the Second World War, and then completely rebuilt. What does it cost to rebuild the city, how much time does it take and by whose hands is it done – in the material of Izvestia.
What was Stalingrad like before the fighting?
Now the length of Volgograd, stretching along the right bank of the Volga, is more than 80 km, and in some places it is only a few kilometers wide. In 1940, the city was smaller, but the general proportions were preserved. The fighting took place on a narrow patch of land, on which from July 1942 to February 1943 a monstrous number of bombs and shells fell, on which hundreds of thousands of people died.
Before the war, the city grew rapidly and in 1925 turned from the county Tsaritsyn into the provincial Stalingrad. In the early 1930s, a state district power station, the Stalingrad Tractor Plant, the Shipyard, a hardware plant were built and started operating, enterprises opened before the revolution continued to work – the Krasny Oktyabr metallurgical plant, the Barrikady plant.
The infrastructure was also actively developed, new houses were built. For example, in 1938, a residential building was built on Penzenskaya Street, now known as Pavlov’s House – the legendary battlefield of the Battle of Stalingrad. Grandiose plans appeared to rebuild the city named after Stalin according to the idealistic image of the pre-war USSR – it was supposed to be a city of the future, a garden city. But the plans were not destined to come true.
According to the city statistical office, on August 23, 1942, the population of Stalingrad was 494 thousand people. The Stalingrad regional commission for accounting for the damage caused by the Nazi invaders names an even larger number – 551.5 thousand people.
What’s Left of Stalingrad?
Six months later, on February 2, 1943, on the day the Battle of Stalingrad ended, a little more than 32 thousand people remained in the city. Most of them lived in three districts: in Dzerzhinsky – 3.1 thousand people, in Voroshilovsky – 6.7 thousand, in Kirovsky – 22 thousand people. The Kirovsky district, which was then located in the very south of the city (now there is another one to the south – Krasnoarmeisky, formed in 1944), turned out to be away from the main battles.
And in the very epicenter was the Yermansky district (now – Central). Before the start of the battle, about 50 thousand civilians lived there, and on February 2, 1943 – 32 people. 43 thousand people lived in the Barrikadny district, after the end of the battle – 76 people. In Krasnooktyabrsky before the start of the battle – 68 thousand people, after – 50 people.
The city center temporarily moved to the most survived Kirovsky district, where more than 7 thousand residential one-story houses could be preserved. In general, the destruction in the city was catastrophic: 41,685 houses were destroyed. The urban housing stock was up to 9.5% of the pre-war.
Fight on one of the streets of Stalingrad, July 1942-February 1943. Photo: RIA Novosti/Georgy Zelma
Yermansky, Dzerzhinsky and Traktorozavodsky districts were almost completely destroyed. For a long time, up to 200 thousand bodies of the dead, more than 10 thousand horse corpses remained uncleaned in the battlefields. They managed to bury them only by July 1943 – five months after the end of the battle. There were not enough baths and laundries in the city, sanitation was irregular, and cases of typhus were observed.
A lot of unexploded shells, bombs, minefields remained in the city and its environs. Historical materials indicate that it became possible to move safely along the streets only by July 1945 – two and a half years after the end of the battle! However, the guides still say: in preparation for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, unexploded shells and unburied bodies of soldiers were found near the stadium and Mamaev Kurgan.
In 1943, the damage to the Stalingrad region caused by the invaders, according to rough estimates, was estimated at 11.5 billion rubles. Later, the figure was revised and increased to 19.2 billion rubles, of which 9 billion were losses incurred by Stalingrad.
How did the recovery start?
The restoration of the city did not begin at all with the needs of ordinary people – there was a war, and the revival of industry was the primary task.
In addition to cleaning up bodies and clearing mines, the city was engaged in the repair of roads and vital facilities, along with the restoration of industry. Work on commissioning industrial enterprises was financed by Prombank without projects and estimates for actual costs, which is difficult to imagine now. Moreover, certain actions were taken even before the end of the Battle of Stalingrad – already on January 20, 1943, when Operation Ring was actively underway, a resolution of the State Defense Committee “On organizing the repair of tanks at plant No. 264 in Stalingrad” was issued.
The ruins of the Stalingrad Tractor Plant. F E Dzerzhinsky, July 1942-February 1943. Photo: RIA Novosti/Victor Dobronitsky
As a result of operational measures, by 1946, Stalingrad enterprises managed to reach the pre-war level of production. The Stalingrad Tractor Plant already in July 1944 began to produce T-44 tanks.
Just two and a half months after the end of the battle, on April 21, 1943, the Great Railway Bridge across the Tsaritsa River was restored, and traffic was opened through the Stalingrad-1 station. By that time, suburban communication had already been restored, two bakeries, three post offices, a cinema, a state district power station had started operating, and on April 17 the first steamboat arrived from Astrakhan.
By September 1, 1943, several schools were opened in the city.
Where did people live?
In February 1943, about 32 thousand people remained in the once half a million city. By January 1, 1944, the population had grown to 248 thousand people. And if the plan for industrial investment for 1943-1944 were completed by 123%, then for housing – by only 72%.
Housing development in the early years was carried out spontaneously. First of all, the preserved boxes of buildings were restored, and the quality of work remained in the background. Barracks and finished prefabricated panel houses were quickly erected. The amenities in these houses were a great success: the lighting was carried out almost everywhere, central heating – in 20% of the houses, running water – in 13%, and sewerage – in 12%.
Stalingrad after the Great Patriotic War, 1945. Photo: commons.wikimedia.org/Fotograph Onbekend/Anefo
The barracks were built by local authorities and enterprises, but the residents, realizing that they would not receive housing soon, tried to provide themselves with housing. Therefore, half of the housing stock in Stalingrad by May 1945 consisted of private houses. Residents were then allocated a loan for seven years for the construction of their homes. But they were also of extremely poor quality: 90% were built from wood waste, clay and other materials from which houses are not usually built. There were no amenities, and electricity was often a luxury.
Housing became more, but the population grew much faster. As a result, on May 1, 1945, there were 2.8 square meters per inhabitant of the city. The documents indicate that 16% of the population lived in dugouts, basements, summer kitchens, on the landings of destroyed buildings, in the back rooms of industrial enterprises. That is, where necessary.
A new stage in housing construction is 1945-1947, when the decision of the Council of People’s Commissars “On measures to restore the city of Stalingrad” appeared. 587 million rubles were allocated for housing construction (about five times more than in 1943-1945). They began to rent out approximately the same number of industrial and residential areas, but the pace of construction at the same time decreased – construction organizations were transferred to other regions affected by the war.
Nadezhda Kuznetsova, Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor of the Volga State University, writes about the problems of those years: a huge turnover of construction personnel due to low wages and difficult living conditions, an inexperienced and unskilled workforce. As a result, in 1946, only 56% of the planned housing was put into operation, in 1947 – 38%. As before, many barracks and prefabricated panel houses were being built. In the two post-war years, out of 1,750 houses, only about 130 were two-, three-, or four-story. Moreover, the construction of low-rise buildings in the center of Stalingrad was prohibited – they were erected on the outskirts, far from enterprises.
Residents of Stalingrad carry out restoration work on the streets of the city after the end of the Great Patriotic War. Photo: RIA Novosti/Smetannikov
New efforts were made in the late 1940s, when the industry of local building materials began to develop, new machines and mechanisms appeared. Only in 1949 did the city begin to build capital housing instead of temporary housing and abandon the barracks.
Then the formation of a new image of Stalingrad began, before that the development remained spontaneous. Six years passed from the end of the Battle of Stalingrad to the beginning of the restoration of the architectural appearance of the city.
But even in the early 1950s, the housing problem remained very acute. The population in 1951 was 385 thousand people, the total living space was 92% of the pre-war, but only a third of the houses were multi-storey. Another 23% is a one-story departmental fund (that is, mostly barracks and Finnish houses). The rest is usually low quality private houses. As of March 10, 1952, 17.5 thousand people were on the list of those in need of urgent improvement in their living conditions – this is more than 4% of the total population of the city. As before, many lived in cellars, ruins, dugouts, several families in large rooms of preserved houses.
How reparations helped in the restoration of Stalingrad?
The Soviet Union had to restore Stalingrad at its own expense – reparations from Germany did not play a big role in this. The Union allocated huge money for those times – in 1943, the USSR authorities allocated 239 million rubles for construction and installation work in the city, in 1944 – 417.9 million rubles, in 1945 – 404 million.
Restoration of Stalingrad after the Great Patriotic War. Photo: RIANovosti/Alexander mokletsov
How did Germany participate in the restoration of the city? In the post-war resolution of the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR on the priority supply of Stalingrad’s construction sites with everything necessary, it was, among other things, the transfer to Stalingrad of a significant amount of trophy property exported from Germany: building materials, equipment, tools and materials. By November 1945, more than 30 enterprises and equipment warehouses were sent to the Stalingrad region. This helped the factories involved in the production of tanks and mechanisms for them – the Stalingrad Tractor Plant, the Shipyard and Barrikady plants. Equipment from Germany made it possible to increase production capacity in the late 1940s.
The constant shortage of workers was made up by the involvement of prisoners of war and repatriates. Many of them were in the USSR until 1955, which is why they were restoring housing that had previously destroyed. However, the Germans captured in Stalingrad did not restore this city – they were sent to other regions.
How did the face of Stalingrad change?
In 1943, the architect Alexei Shchusev, the architect of the Lenin Mausoleum and the Komsomolskaya station on the Moscow metro’s Koltsevaya line, arrived in the city. Walking around the city, he said: the destruction is the greatest, but only the restoration should be discussed, and not the construction of a new city. Shchusev urged “to preserve the planning structure as much as possible, using all the traditions of this city.”
Architect Alexi Victorovich Shchusev (1873-1949)
However, in the end, an essentially opposite decision was made – to build a new city, retaining only the surviving houses in the center. There are very few of them, but they are there: the Germans failed to reach some buildings. A number of houses were restored in the same form in which they existed before the Battle of Stalingrad. For example, the building that now houses the Volgograd restaurant has been completely restored. After the destruction, only the foundation remained of it. But the heavily damaged theater in the city center was restored with changes – they added another colonnade on the facade, expanded the entrance. It was restored by August 1952.
In general, the architectural appearance of post-war Stalingrad was handled by Vasily Simbirtsev, who arrived in the city in 1944 and left only in 1959. He is also known as the architect of the Theater of the Russian Army on Suvorovskaya Square in Moscow.
“It cannot be said that the city was completely rebuilt,” says local historian Dmitry Gerasimov, “but its central part — the Alley of Heroes, the Square of the Fallen Fighters — looks very different from what it was here before the war, and even more so before the revolution. And in the Voroshilovsky district, in the part of the Central district, the grid of streets has remained practically unchanged.
Square of the Fallen Fighters in pre-war Stalingrad. Photo: RIANovosti/Georgy Petrusov
According to the plan of Simbirtsev, the city was straightened along the Volga – if earlier the streets flocked to the railway station and went obliquely from the river, then after the war clear avenues appeared, which became longitudinal streets, and squares of quarters. The few surviving houses that have remained in the city center remind of the former location of the roads – they stand at an angle of 40-45 degrees relative to modern streets.
At the same time, restoration did not begin in the center of the city for a very long time – it was clear that chaotic building was impossible there, Stalingrad had to get its face, become a monument city. However, some houses were still restored on their own. The most significant building in this sense is Pavlov’s house. It is believed that it was the first to be restored, and the “Cherkasovites” did it – volunteers of the movement founded by a resident of Stalingrad Alexandra Cherkasova in the summer of 1943. Now there is a memorial wall near Pavlov’s house, on which the legendary inscription “We will defend you, dear Stalingrad!” is preserved. And above the word “defend” – the letter “r”. Samuil Marshak once wrote about this inscription:
I walk through your streets
Where every stone is a monument to heroes.
Here is the inscription on the facade: “We will defend.“
And on top of the “r” is added: “We will rebuild.“
In fact, Volgograd assumed its present appearance only in the early 1950s: then the Alley of Heroes, the building of the medical university, the planetarium, and the central embankment with a wide staircase appeared. They were supposed to build the House of Soviets in the city – a Stalinist skyscraper 140 meters high, but they never built it – the drawings were sent to Warsaw, where it all turned into the House of Science and Culture.
Central district of Volgograd, former Stalingrad, July 1, 1972. Photo: RIANovosti/Georgy Zelma
But the famous fountain “Barmaley” – a symbol of the destroyed Stalingrad in the photographs of that time – was immediately restored, but six years later it was dismantled in connection with the redevelopment of the city. Two copies of the fountain appeared only in 2012–2013; they stand on the Railway Station Square and at the Gerhardt Mill, the only ruined building that has been preserved as a historical monument so far. The building of the flour mill, which will never be restored, is located opposite Pavlov’s house. And in the very center of the city, right on the sidewalk, there is a poplar that survived the Battle of Stalingrad. The tree is very old, but alive, although many bullets are said to be stuck in the bark.
The ruins in the city center, by the way, remained for a long time – for example, until the early 1960s, several walls of a six-story house of public utilities, built in 1937 on the Railway Station Square, stood. In fact, it took about 10 years to rebuild Stalingrad, but even after that, a lot of problems remained in the city, which was almost completely destroyed.