Ruined mill of Gergardt in Volgograd
The bloody battles of World War II, which took millions of lives of Soviet soldiers and civilians, have long ceased. But even today, a new generation that knows about them only from books, films and stories of participants in those events, which are becoming less and less every year, can see monuments reminiscent of that terrible tragedy.
One of them, no doubt, is the Gergardt mill (Volgograd). It was a building destroyed during the time of the Stalingrad battle, which it was decided to leave in ruins, as a memory for the descendants of bloody battles. This is one of the symbols of Volgograd, only one of the thousands of buildings that were destroyed during the war with fascist Germany. Gergard's Mill, the photo of which you can see in this article, and now makes a strong impression on those who see it for the first time. Today we want to tell you about her.
Gergard's Mill: The Story
The newspaper Tsaritsynsky Vestnik, in May 1899, wrote that in the area of the Balkans, the Gergard brothers had begun the construction of a huge flour mill.Under the mill, the square was freed, and in 1899 the construction of the foundation was started. The mill began to work at the end of July 1900. In August 1900, the same newspaper reported that the main office of the Gergard brothers is located on Balkan Square (now Lenin Square), at the mill. There and ask to contact all interested parties with questions.
Who are the gergardts?
This is a merchant family, people from the Samara province. On all the facades of the building their surname was laid out of bricks. Of the four inscriptions today survived three.
The building of the mill was built traditional - with wooden floors inside and brick walls. In early August 1907, a fire broke out at the mill, virtually destroying all the interior of the building and leaving only the external walls.
The Gergard brothers immediately began a large-scale reconstruction of the building. New construction for Tsaritsyn of that period became outlandish. The interior of the Gergardt made of reinforced concrete - and the walls and floors, and stairs. Reinforced brick walls became a completely revolutionary innovation for the Volga city: strips of metal fifty millimeters thick were laid inside.
This was required to protect the structure from vibrations arising from the operation of the milling mechanisms. It was this measure that much later predetermined the incredible stability of the building in those terrible ordeals that fell to its lot.
Description of the facility
The mill had its own electric generator, which made the building independent of the city power grid. In addition, there was a private boiler room and mechanical conveyors. Inside there was a grain storage, as well as a warehouse of finished products.
Almost all the territory from the mill to the Volga berth was occupied by wooden household buildings, the narrow-gauge railway was laid to the Volga Railway. Next door were the flour and smoke production, which also belonged to the Gergardts. Later a trading house was opened here.
Years of Soviet power
When the Bolsheviks came to power in the Gergard family, a black line began. Alexander in 1933 was taken as a hostage in response to the detention in Germany of Karl Radek - the famous Social Democrat. He died on April 21 of the same year, unable to endure the torture. After his death, the mill was renamed in honor of K.Grudinina - secretary of the communist cell. In the early twenties, he worked at the mill as a turner. In May 1922, he was killed.
Despite the renaming, the inhabitants of the city still called the mill on behalf of its founder.
Battle of Stalingrad
It should be noted that the Gergard mill did not stop work until September 14, 1942. High-explosive bombs that day hit the building and provoked a fire. In the course of the hardest fighting, the 42nd Rifle Brigade, commanded by General Batrakov, who defended the center of Stalingrad, was forced to retreat to the River Station, and the 13th Rifle Guards Division of General Rodimtsev, having crossed the Volga, rushed to help.
The mill building was occupied by fighters under the leadership of Lieutenant V. Chervyakov. By September 20, the houses of Zabolotny and Pavlov, Gergard's mill had become key nodes of the city’s defense. Nearby, where the Officers' Club is located today, were the positions of the enemy. From the defensive point, which was located on a gentle slope, the Soviet commanders controlled the place of the proposed crossing to the east coast.
Our troops launched an offensive in the Mamayev Kurgan area in January 1943.Gergard's mill, which was partially surrounded for 58 days, withstood bombs as well as countless enemy attacks. Mortar and artillery fire was so intense that on the southern, northern, western walls of the building there was not a meter left without bullets.
Gergard's mill was not only an impregnable fortress for the enemy, but also allowed the Soviet soldiers to win back Pavlov's house, which is located across the street from the mill. From the east (Volga) side, the building was minimally damaged. The mill survived in the days of massive attacks only due to sufficient vibration resistance and increased strength of the reinforced concrete frame.
During the war years and immediately after it, some of the building’s premises, where it was still possible to spend the night, were quickly repaired and inhabited by citizens left homeless. The archives preserved a unique photo, which shows that several windows of the mill were glazed.
In the seventies of the last century, construction began on the famous museum-panorama "Battle of Stalingrad." This unique museum embraced the ruins of the Gergardt mill from all sides by overpasses, leaving the building inside the courtyard, which is not accessible to visitors today.
Until the early eighties, excursions were conducted in the mill building, but today this building is recognized as a historical reserve. Today you can see the ruins only outside. In 2013, a copy of the famous “Children's Round Dance” fountain appeared in the courtyard of the Gergardt Mill, which was captured by photographer Emanuel Evzerikhin.
The mill today
Gergard Mill, whose address - st. Marshal Chuikov, 47a, annually attracts thousands of tourists. Many of them think that the entrance to the destroyed building is in the place of contact of the mill with the museum. However, there is no entry there. Inspection of the building from the outside does not make such a strong impression as from the inside. That is why today we will go inside the structure.
A person who has seen the mill many times seems to be part of the museum complex. Formally, this is true, but inside it becomes clear that it is not. The museum and the mill live their non-intersecting lives. A completely different atmosphere reigns here. The entrance to the mill own, separate from the museum. This reinforces the impression of remoteness from both Panorama and the whole city.
It is empty and quiet, despite the fact that the center of the modern city is nearby. Many Stalingrad citizens died here, and this is felt in the room in some special way. Raising your head and looking at the sky through the holes and cracks, you can see huge concrete blocks. They hang on thin fittings and swing like monuments in a draft. If you stumble, you can hit the hole in the floor and fall 20 meters down onto a brick crumb.
It is much colder here than outside, the wind is always blowing. The mill during the construction was divided into two parts. Most of them were occupied by flour milling, fish-smoking and other industries. In the lesser were granaries. Today, all the transitions between these parts of the structure laid. Of the concrete stairs (1907), only one survived, passing through five floors.
A few words in conclusion
If you come to Volgograd, Gergardt’s mill, the photo of which can be seen in all the guides around the city, will make an indelible impression on you. Here time stopped in the winter of 1942/1943. It can be argued that, with the exception of minor changes, the heroic guardsmen of the 13th Division saw here what we can see today.
The excellent quality of the structure and the strength of the walls allowed the mill to survive well.However, the processes of destruction continue, and sooner or later it will be necessary to find some conservation techniques that will preserve this invaluable historical monument of our country for future generations.