The Soviet Army had been pushed back since the German advance into Russia but at the City of Stalingrad the Soviets were able to turn the tide of the war on their front. Hitler had decided to divert forces who would have gone to capture the strategic oil fields which were vital for the Soviet war machine but equally important for the Germans who needed the oil to fuel their own vehicles. Stalingrad was situated along the Volga River making it important as a transportation route. However, Hitler also saw taking the city as a way to stick it to Stalin since it bore his name.
By this point in the war the Soviet army was worn down by the constant defeats at the hands of the German army. However, as a way to motivate the Soviet troops to continue to resist the German advance Stalin issued Order No. 227 or “Not One Step Back!” “From now on the iron law of discipline for every officer, soldier, and political officer should be – not a single step back without order from higher command. Company, battalion, regiment and division commanders, as well as the commissars and political officers of corresponding ranks who retreat without order from above, are traitors of the Motherland. They should be treated as traitors of the Motherland. This is the call of our Motherland.” This essentially meant that anyone who retreated would be branded as a traitor which meant they could be shot. If you have seen the movie Enemy at the Gates then you may be familiar with the scene where the Soviet officer orders his men to open fire on the soldiers trying to retreat. That particular scene did a good job of portraying what would happen if you fled from battle.
The Battle of Stalingrad lasted from August 1942 until February 1943 and would claim the lives of nearly two million people (Germans and Soviets). This was one of the bloodiest battles of the war though it managed to turn the tide of the war for the Soviets who now had the momentum they needed to push the Germans out of the Motherland and back into Germany.