The Donbass (a shortening of Donets Basin) region of eastern Ukraine is the industrial and mining heartland of the country and was thus a prime target in the German planning for the war. The region’s largest city, Stalino (now Donetsk) was captured by 1st Panzer Group and the 1st SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler Division on October 20, 1941, and the whole region was in German hands by the end of the month, although the retreating Soviets had evacuated or destroyed many of the manufacturing and mining facilities.
Following the failure of Operation Citadel to breach the Soviet defences in the Kursk Salient in July 1943, the Donbass was liberated by units of the Southern and Southwestern Fronts as the Red Army quickly drove to the Dnieper River. Stalino was taken by 5th Shock Army on September 8.
A decree on the construction of a monument in the city was signed by the Communist Party’s Central Committee in 1967, but little was done until 1976, when a group headed by architects V. Kishkan and M. Ksenevich, design engineer Ye. Raygorodetskiy and sculptors Yu. Baldin and A. Porozhniuk began work on what would become the monument that stands today. The official opening was originally planned for the 40th anniversary of the city’s liberation in 1983, but was delayed until Victory Day of the following year.
The base of the memorial is formed from three inclined walls of black granite, symbolising the region’s coal mining heritage and the slag heaps that are a major feature of the city’s skyline. An 18-m-high copper sculpture shows a Red Army soldier and a miner holding a sword and a star-shaped flag. The total height of the memorial from the ground to the top of the flag is 30m. On one face of the pedestal is the inscription “1943. Твоим освободителям Доньасс” — “1943. To your liberators Donbass” and further inscriptions on the walls list the dates on which cities and towns in the region were liberated and the names of 275 Donbass inhabitants who were honoured as Heroes of the Soviet Union.
Nearby, there is a small display of armour, featuring T-34/76, T-34/85 and T-54 tanks and two anti-tank guns: a 57-mm ZiS-2 and a 76-mm ZiS-3. A memorial to local soldiers who died in Afghanistan has also been added. A museum has recently opened underneath the monument. It features the usual collection of armaments and personal effects, although it has an impressive collection of uniforms from both sides, and a major plus point is that the videos that play on several screens through the exhibit can be viewed with English narration.
The memorial is located beside the Donbass Arena football stadium in the Lenin Komsomol Park at the northern edge of the city centre. It is within easy walking distance of the central district, and many public transport routes pass close by. These include tram no. 1 and trolleybus no.2 to/from the railway station.