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September 28, 2002

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The Soviets renamed Volgograd after Stalin and it was a bad omen for things to come. During World War II, Stalingrad witnessed the worst fighting of Earth's history. Over 1.5 million soldiers died and any construction work still digs up bodies. After Stalin died the city's name returned to Volgograd. The city carries an ominous air from an overactive police force. Police stop people in the street and ask for their identification; this seems common. If the paperwork isn't in order then that means 'beeg problemski.' With us it meant being led to a street side shack the size of a hotdog stand. The shack contained a small desk and a closet-sized jail (standing room only) with a drunkard locked inside. The police searched our bags while the drunkard heckled us in Russian. "What are you doing here?" the police asked. Then they got down to business, frisking us and finding our money belts. "Show us your money." We replied they could see our money but we refused to take it out of our belt and lay it on the desk as they asked. We kept smiling, they kept asking questions. "Gde regristratsiya?" "Pochemu Volgograd?" We answered everything with a shrug and smile; they tired of this game and let us go. Police stopped us several more times as we walked around war memorials. In our backpacker attire we must look like drug dealers. Depressed from seeing the remains of history's bloodiest battle and the ever present police questioning, we decided to take the overnight train to Astrakhan.
Always open for business, Russian police shacks all over Volgograd. Go in for questioning and come out a few bucks poorer.
Volga river cruise: if you're posing for a picture who's driving the boat?
Mother Russia, 210 feet tall, standing over the site of fierce fighting
The last standing building in Stalingrad that witnessed WWII.
We often see old men proudly wearing their medals. This man is a Stalingrad veteran.