Moscow has been on my mind since visiting St. Petersburg which was about 5 years ago. Like most tourists, I wanted to set my foot on the Red Square. For many, such an expedition is comparable to setting foot on the moon. Personally, I didn’t make a giant leap for mankind, but I realised the main purpose of my trip. I reconsidered my stereotypes about Russians.
Russia, and above all Moscow are treated a little standoffishly by foreign tourists. It’s particularly visible in tourist places where apart from Russian, almost you cannot hear any other language. I only heard Polish once during all week, however sometimes it seemed that I was a kind of “tourist attraction”. Muscovites didn’t hide their surprise with my nationality and each time they reacted very enthusiastically.
It’s impossible to hide that our relations are defined by politics and bitter history, but if we try to put these issues aside, then we will see a completely different, surprising face of the Russians.
I don’t want to talk about politics because it’s a shaky ground, but it’s not possible to escape while being here. So for contrast, it’s worth visiting a few places to see how the times of World War II, Cold War and after the collapse of the USSR are presented in Russia.
Honestly, I must admit that my notions have largely been confirmed, but at the same time some things have surprised me. It’s said that the winners write history, I would also add that each country writes its version of history. Taking this into account, I can briefly describe the nature of the places dedicated to events since 1939 (or more precisely since 1941), to the present times.
The one of such places is the Central Museum of the Armed Forces, also known as the Soviet Army Museum, which covers the exhibits from the Soviet revolution till the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008.
The first exposition was opened by Lenin himself in 1919, as the collection got bigger, the museum was moved in 1965 to the current location, right next to the Central Theatre of the Russian Army.
The main part of the museum was dedicated to the Great Patriotic War, to clarify, this war differs from World War II because it began much later on 22th June 1941, along with the invasion of the Third Reich on USSR. In the so-called Victory Hall you can see the replica of the flag that the USSR soldiers put on Reichstag in May 1945. In the central place of exhibition you can see the Nazi eagle and a huge photo presenting the parade organised in the Red Square, just after the end of the War.
The next four rooms are dedicated to the military history of Russia during the Soviet period. Here you can see exhibits related to the Cold War such as the wreck of the American spy aircraft Lockheed U-2 shot down in 1960, or exhibits from Russia’s participation in various armed conflicts: Vietnam, Korea, Syria, Afghanistan and Chechnya.
There are also flags and equipment captured from Georgian soldiers during Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008.
Outside there’s a large collection of tanks, combat planes and artillery.
Admission costs 120 RUB – data from 2019. More information about the museum and opening hours is available here. Unfortunately, information about exhibits is available only in Russian.
Following the footsteps of the World War II, it is worth visiting Park Pobedy – the Park of Victory. At the central point of the park, at the top of the hill of Poklonnaya Gora you can visit the Museum of the Great Patriotic War.
The tour begins with a huge, monumental Hall of Comrades, which honours the former commanders who were awarded the Order of Victory, including those outside the USSR like: Eisenhower or Montgomery. Then the way leads up the marble, wide stairs to the Hall of Glory, decorated in a typical Russian grandeur style.
In the centre of the hall there’s a huge sculpture of the Soldier of the Victory, while on the walls are the names of the Heroes of the Soviet Union.
The further part of the exhibition consits of Hall of Sorrow, commemorating fallen soldiers and 6 separate halls presenting huge images of key battles and moments during the war:
– the battle of Moscow
– the battle of Stalingrad
– the siege of Leningrad
– the battle of Kursk
– the battle the Dnieper
– the decisive battle of Berlin
An amazing impression is also made by the model of the bombarded building in the Third Reich.
The Museum is open every day from 10 am. to 7 pm., except Mondays and last Thursdays of the month. Admission costs 250 RUB – data from 2019. More information can be found on the website, unfortunately only in Russian language.
An interesting place is the VDNKh – Russian Exhibition Centre (Ros. Vserossijskij vystavočnyj centr), a huge former Stalinist complex composed of pavilions representing the Soviet Republics. At present, there’re souvenir shops and products from countries that were the part of the USSR, like Armenia or Belarus.
An interesting place commemorating the Soviet conquest of the Space is the interactive Museum of Cosmonautics. The entrance to the museum is just below a huge monument to the Conquerors of the Space.
Part of the exposition commemorates the breakthrough moment in space exploration – the date 12th April 1961 when the rocket “Vostok” with Yuri Gagarin on board was launched into space.
In addition, the museum presents the reconstruction of the space station “Mir” which is open to visitors. Its size corresponds to the Mir actual size.
The Museum also features the Module Soyuz – TM 7, which enabled to transport the crew to orbital Mir station on 28th November 1988. It was the research mission.
You can also see the propulsion unit, which is part of the spacesuit, used for the so-called spacewalk.
Among interesting exhibits, there are also the Salyut-6 Station, and the Lunokhod Soviet Moonrover controlled from earth, which was designed for the moon exploration.
Unlike the previous museums, all information about exhibits is translated into English.
The Museum of Cosmonautics is a fascinating, interactive museum even for those who aren’t interested in this topic. It’s a unique place to see while being in Moscow. The exhibits here are no less surprising than the cost of admission which is 250 RUB (which is about 4€). The good news is that in Moscow there are no separate fees for Russians and foreign citizens, which is common practice in Saint Petersburg.
Find out more about Moscow here: