Парк Победы (Park Pobedy) and Soviet Revisionist History

May 10, 2010

Привет Друзья (Hello friends),

What a week it was. Our weekly excursion was moved from its usual Wednesday time slot to Thursday, because the Victory Museum in Парк Победы (Park Pobedy) doesn’t operate on Wednesdays. The excursion was also set for late afternoon, giving us an opportunity to celebrate Cinco De Mayo on Wednesday.

Despite the fact that we are in Moscow, and in the midst of the week of WWII remembrance, a week during which most Russians don’t work at all (May 1 – May 11 is generally considered a holiday), we decided to celebrate the minor Mexican victory over the French all those years ago. One of the most popular and ubiquitous beers in Moscow also conveniently offers a refreshing beer infused with lime, Сибирская Корона Лайм (Sibirskaya Corona Lime). It’s only slightly better than Bud Light Lime, but hell, it was Cinco de Mayo, and we made the most of what was available to us.

The next day, it was time to forget about Cinco de Mayo and head to Park Pobedy to focus on WWII. I’ve posted pictures of the park itself before, and I hope you all remember how vast and breathtaking the park really is. Though I’ve visited the park several times, this was my first chance to actually go inside the museum that dominates the grounds.

Just a little side note before I move on with the story. While I was outside, I took a few pictures of our group, and one in particular had a funny surprise embedded in it.

I'll let you try and find it first. When you give up, keep reading.

Nothing special, just a picture of Steve, Hannah and Graham on our excursion to Park Pobedy, right? Immediately after I took the picture, Adam turns to me and asks “Were you taking a picture of those girls making out?” Completely unbeknownst to me, I did in fact capture a couple of girls just over Hannah’s right shoulder making out. They didn’t seem to mind though.

On a more serious note, this museum is pretty unreal. Even though the museum was built in 1995, the ambiance of the place is that of post-war Moscow circa 1945. Hammers and Sickles, Soviet banners and war propaganda; it’s all there. It’s truly bizarre to see all the Soviet era paraphernalia displayed not just as history, but as living items that still play a tremendous role in the current Russian zeitgeist. The communist hangover is still very strongly felt in all corners of Russian society, and, like any hangover, it makes the events preceding it fuzzy and out of focus. Intelligent Russians remember the hardship, misery, suffering and millions murdered, but for many, it’s too easy to think that because times aren’t great now, they were somehow better then.

Anyhow, before I get too tangential, back to the museum itself.

One of the aforementioned Soviet banners.

This one features the “great” Lenin and says “За Нашу Советскую Родину,” which means, “For our Soviet Motherland.” These types of banners line the main hall, and though this one is legitimately from the period, others that were clearly made long after the war are also proudly on display.

There was another interesting caveat to the trip, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, John Beyrle, was in the building for a reception taking place on the main floor. It was a gala for the opening of a new exhibit about his father who had served during the war for both Russia and the U.S. The Marine Corps. Band was also at the gala, and it was kind of funny to hear the Notre Dame Fight Song in this context.

Notre Dame fight song under the Hammer and Sickle.

In Russia, the military is still a huge employer, and kids as early as adolescence are preparing for a life of service in some branch or another.

These kids are going to be in the Russian Navy one day. They love having their picture taken.

Moving on from the gala, we headed into the Hall of Heroes, which is located in the enormous dome that is visible from nearly all corners of the park. Partly because I am a novice photographer, and partly because the place is absolutely enormous, I had a really hard time capturing the true enormity of the Hall of Heroes.

This is the statue in the center of the hall. I'd say it's between 50 and 60 feet tall.

On the walls surrounding the statue are the names of some of the cities most affected by the war, and beneath them the names of the soldiers who died there.

The cities at the top are Smolensk, Tula, and Stalingrad (Volgograd), and between the columns of names it says "Heroes of the Soviet Union."

I decided to go macro since getting a picture of the whole place was out of the question.

After the Hall of Heroes, we moved downstairs to see some of the dioramas of scenes from the war.

This is one from Leningrad (St. Petersburg), which was under seige for something like 900 days.

The final room we saw was the Hall of Glory and Suffering. There are thousands of strands of copper with crystals on the ends hanging from the ceiling. They are designed to emulate rain, and it was my favorite part of the museum.

Entering the Hall of Glory and Suffering.

The ceiling of this place is really impressive.

There is something very comforting to me about this statue. This was the most tranquil part of the museum; no hammers and sickles, no communist slogans.

It’s really interesting to see the Russian perspective on the war, especially three days before День Победы (Den Pobedy, Victory Day.) Russians don’t have a lot to be proud of from the 20th century, which is why Victory Day is so huge here. It’s a complicated thing for Russians, because they can’t be proud of the victory over the Nazis without being at least a little bit proud of the Soviet Regime.

I have some more updates already in the works, so I hope you will stay tuned. Also, all the pictures on my blog can be greatly enlarged just by clicking on them, and I encourage you to take a closer look at some of the pictures from the museum. There is a lot of detail in each of the pictures that you’ll miss if you don’t enlarge them. That’s all for now, but check back often.

Ваш,

Кевин

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