by Ray Fleming

Political and military historians often differ on what was the most significant turning point for the western allies and the Soviet Union in World War Two. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour has its advocates as does the Battle of Alamein but important as those were the vote usually goes to the Soviet Union's victory at the Battle of Stalingrad. The German defeat there after devastating fighting that lasted five months came seventy years ago today when the last of the German army surrendered. Until that moment the ultimate outcome of the war as a whole had been uncertain but after Stalingrad the tide turned decisively for the Allies. The cost at Stalingrad was some two million people killed or wounded.

The victory of the Soviet army also had a profound effect on Stalin's influence on the direction of the war and its political outcome. At the Tehran conference between Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin in November 1943 Stalin's objection to Churchill's plan for a drive into central Europe was sustained and consequently the Soviet Union's subsequent predominance in Eastern Europe became inevitable. It is ironic that in 1961, only eight years after Stalin's death, the city of Stalingrad was renamed Volgograd. When President Putin visits there today to mark the 70th anniversary of the battle he may agree that Stalingrad should be reinstated, if only on special occasions.