The Motherland Calls also called Mother Motherland, Mother Motherland Is Calling, simply The Motherland, or The Mamayev Monument, is a statue in Mamayev Kurgan in Volgograd, Russia, commemorating the Battle of Stalingrad. It was designed by sculptor Yevgeny Vuchetich and structural engineer Nikolai Nikitin. Declared the largest statue in the world in 1967, it is the last non-religious statue to be declared the largest; every record holder since has been a Buddhism-related sculpture. Compared to the later gigantic statues, The Motherland Calls is significantly more complex from an engineering point of view, due to its characteristic posture with a sword raised high in the right hand and the left hand extended in a calling gesture. The technology behind the The Motherland Calls statue is based on a combination of prestressed concrete with wire ropes structure, a solution which can be found also in another work of Nikitin’s, the super-tall Ostankino Tower in Moscow.
Construction and dedication
When the memorial was dedicated in 1967 it was the tallest sculpture in the world, measuring 85 metres (279 feet) from the tip of its sword to the top of the plinth. The figure itself measures 52 metres (170 feet), and the sword 33 metres (108 feet). Two hundred steps, symbolizing the 200 days of the Battle of Stalingrad, lead from the bottom of the hill to the monument. The lead sculptor was Yevgeny Vuchetich, and the significant structural engineering challenges of the 7,900 tonnes (7,800 long tons; 8,700 short tons) of concrete sculpture were handled by Nikolai Nikitin. The statue appears on both the current flag and coat of arms of Volgograd Oblast.
Sculpture name and translation
The duplication of the wording in the title “Mother Motherland” does not exist in the original. The Russian word for “Motherland”, is derived from “birth” and can be literally translated as “birth place”. The title The Motherland that gave Birth to me is Calling would be an alternate translation, but The Motherland Calls is probably better idiomatic English.
Sculpture model and inspiration
The model who posed for the statue, Valentina Izotova, a native of the city, is still recognized for her resemblance to the statue. She was recruited by Lev Maistrenko, an artist who was working on the memorial complex in the early 1960s.
According to some sources the statue was partially inspired by the Winged Victory of Samothrace, somewhat more extended drapery. Marshal of the Soviet Union Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov is buried in the area of the monument, as is famous Soviet sniper Vasily Zaytsev, who killed 242 Axis soldiers in the battle of Stalingrad.
The Motherland Calls was the tallest building in the world when it was constructed, measuring 279 feet from the plinth to the tip of the sword. The monument commemorates the Battle of Stalingrad and was built by Yevgeny Vuchetich in Volgograd, Russia in 1967. The figure, which is 170 feet tall ststue, is Valentina Izotova, a native of the city, who posed for Mother Motherland. The result is both impressive and imposing.
Statuesque beauty. It took six months for artists to persuade Valentina Izotova to take her top off for the Motherland. Now she`s glad she did:
When the sculptors asked me to model for a statue to commemorate the tremendous sacrifice of our Red Army boys at Stalingrad, how could I refuse? But I was horrified when they insisted I pose nude. This was the early 1960s and respectable girls simply didn’t take their clothes off for anyone other than their husbands. Artists – even revered and famous sculptors such as Lev Maistrenko, who was working on the memorial – didn’t mean anything to a woman of 26.
It was Lev who approached me. I was working as a waitress at the city’s top restaurant, the Volgograd – it’s still there today – and usually worked in an area reserved for top Communist Party functions or visiting delegations. Lev told me I was beautiful and embodied all the physical and moral qualities of the perfect Soviet woman. Of course I was flattered – who wouldn’t be? Curiosity got the better of me and I agreed to model.
Of course none of us had a clue how famous Rodina Mat would become. Today Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad) is as famous for this statue as for the terrible battle that took place here. My husband didn’t like the idea of my posing for a group of artists sent from Moscow. He was terribly jealous and drove me to the studios they had set up in an old gas appliance factory for each and every session. After a while it became like any other job – I barely thought about standing there in my bikini and certainly welcomed the three roubles a day I was paid, which was a decent sum of money then. But it was six months before I finally relented and gave in to the sculptors’ pleas to take my top off and bare my breasts. But that was all. I never budged in my determination to retain some modesty and never posed entirely in the nude. That was unthinkable. No one outside my family and immediate circle of friends ever knew about it.
Soon after I had completed my modelling duties I left to study for the first of my two degrees – I’m trained as an economist and an engineer. Later I left Volgograd altogether to live and worked in the polar mining city of Norilsk. After the statue was unveiled in 1967 I didn’t give it much thought and just got on with my life. I came home in the early 1990s. I clearly remember that long train journey because hyper-inflation was taking off and the considerable sum of money that I set out with was practically worthless by the time I arrived. It was not an easy time. I, like many others, put my trust – and money and share vouchers – into money-making schemes. Of course it all turned out to be a scam and a lot of ordinary people lost everything. That’s how I turned to social and political activism.
Today I am director of a charitable foundation to protect the rights of cheated investors and am running in December’s State Duma (parliament) elections as a candidate for the United Russia Party. It’s for this reason, mostly, that I decided to break nearly 40 years of silence. In the past few years the statue has become increasingly famous – you see its image everywhere. Now people recognise me in the street – not straight away – I’m not the slender young thing I was, but my features are still recognisable as those of Rodina Mat. She has stood there for nearly 40 years, her sword symbolising the defence of our homeland, one arm beckoning our men forward, mouth open in a cry of defiance. It’s not me precisely, but I suppose there are elements of me in her. I no longer feel any shame in having taken off my clothes – I’m proud of what I did, proud of the sacrifice Russia made to defend itself during those dark days of the war.
I was very young during the war, but I shall never forget being evacuated from Stalingrad, along with my mother. We spent two years in Ukraine, sleeping in barns, a miserable time. The shock of coming home in 1943 to a city obliterated by war is still with me. That first winter, studying in school buildings with no roofs, I shall never forget. The Russian people still need defenders. I don’t suppose that I shall be elected in December – but at least I can use what little fame Rodina Mat gives me to fight for the rights of ordinary people.
– As told to Nick Holdsworth Valentina Izotova, a 68-year-old grandmother, was the model for Russia’s most famous Soviet war memorial, Rodina Mat (Motherland Mother). For nearly forty years she kept silent about her part in its art creation.