Volgograd was founded in 1589 as Tsaritsyn, a mighty fortress at the convergence of the Volga and Don rivers. Nothing is left of ancient Tsaritsyn, however, due to events in more recent history.
During the Soviet period, the city was renamed Stalingrad to honour the leader who took credit for organising its defences during the Civil War. As the locale of WWII's most decisive battle, the old city was levelled and hundreds of thousands died.
In 1952 the Lenin Ship Canal (also known as the Volga-Don Canal) was finished, connecting the two rivers and completing an intricate network of waterways from the Arctic to the Mediterranean. After Stalin's fall from grace, the city was renamed once again in 1961, this time to pay tribute to the river that dominates its geography, economy and culture.
Rebuilt from scratch since WWII, Volgograd is a bit sterile, although memories of the 'Great Patriotic War' are still fresh. Even today Volgograd bears witness to the simultaneously most triumphant and tragic event in Soviet history, the Battle of Stalingrad.