Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Moscow Military Museums

For the history-enthusiast, Moscow offers unlimited insight into the epic 2000-year history of Russia. From the Moscow Historical Museum on Red Square to the quaint Pushkin Museum on the Old Arbat, both visitors and expats can follow the development of the rich Russian culture through it's often-times tragic historical legacy.

I'm an enthusiast of military history and the Second World War is one of my fortes. In fact, I am somewhat of an amateur historian (that is, I'm not paid) and can ramble off names and dates and facts from any period or theatre of the Second World War. I have, on occasion, shouted at my television when watching a documentary because of inaccurate information or pure pandering to the lowest common denominator of the audience (I tend to watch very hardcore war special graphics or glossing over the information for me).

So naturally enough I was super-excited to visit two of Moscow's biggest military museums: the Red Army Museum and the Victory Museum.

One thing that I should mention about Russian museums is that they are incredibly well thought-out and carefully maintained. Unlike in North America and Asia, where museums are a passing thought and there is little sense of history among the population, Europe is very much in touch with it's historical roots. This shows in the high level of expertise of museum curators in Russia and the importance given museums in government budgets. Russian museums are easy to navigate, they are aesthetically pleasing and their collections are among the most unique in the world.

The Red Army Museum

To get here, take the metro to Novoslobodskaya Station and turn left when you exit onto the street. Turn left again at the little intersection and walk down that street past a series of shops and restaurants. The street curves a bit but eventually you will come to the Red Army Theatre, a massive showcase building on your left, next to the construction site for a new metro stop.

Directly across the street from the Red Army Theatre is the Red Army Museum. Entrance cost about 400 roubles per person, and an additional 300 roubles to take photographs. The coat check is downstairs but after that return to the main level and begin your tour of Russia's military history.

Pre-war Stalinist propoganda touting the technical triumphs of the Red Air Force and it's ability to bomb targets in America and Canada.
The wreckage of a German Heinkel-111 bomber shot down over Moscow in late 1941.
A tank turret with battle scars.
Rubble from Stalingrad.
"Key to Amherst, Nova Scotia" Presented to the Red Army by this Canadian maritime town as a thank-you for the victory over the Nazis at Stalingrad.
Soviet anti-tank gun from the Kursk battlefield.
The famous eagle which adorned the top of the Reichstag in Berlin now rests in Moscow.
Nazi standards brought back from Germany were paraded through Red Square, thrown down at Lenin's Mausoleum and then trampled by Soviet generals on horses. They rest now in the Red Army Museum.

Mural depicting Russian soldiers carrying the nazi standards on their route through Red Square in 1945.

In 1962 an American U-2 spy plane was shot down over Siberia and it's pilot taken prisoner. The ensuing debacle almost caused an outbreak of war before the pilot was finally returned to the U.S. This is the wreckage of that plane.

The Victory Museum

Smaller than the Red Army Museum, the Victory Museum takes a bit of travel on the Moscow Metro to find. Go to Park Pabodi (Victory Park) station and cross the large street using the underground walkway. You will emerge in front of an enormous square lined with Soviet-era statues. At the far end is a massive obelisk and behind that is a long building. This is the museum.

In front of the museum is the Eternal Flame, lit in 1945 and guarded by two army guards at all times, to honour the 30 million Russian soldiers who died in the Second World War.

Large artillery cannons flank the main entrance to the museum but the ticket booth is located along the outside wall to the left of the guns. Admission was 400 roubles but 300 for photographs.

The obelisk outside the museum has the name of every battle on the Russian front carved into it.
The Eternal Flame.
Russian soldier guarding the Eternal Flame.
The Hall of Tears. This hall greets the visitor with it's eerie silence and feeling of solemn respect for the dead.
Statue at the end of the Hall of Tears, commemorating the war dead.
Leningrad diorama. There are six large dioramas in the museum depicting the battles for Moscow, Leningrad, Stalingrad, Kursk, the crossing of the Dneiper and the battle of Berlin.
Battle of Berlin diorama.
The stairs leading to the second level of the Victory Museum.
A memorial to the victims of the Holocaust and nazi atrocities.
The Hall of Heroes, on the top floor of the museum, has the name of every recipient of the "Hero of the Soviet Union" engraved in the wall.
There are over 10,000 names here, with 8,000 of them awarded during the Second World War (many posthumously)


  1. Wow, such interesting pictures you shared with us. Thanks and I hope you will continuously share now and coming days.

  2. Excellent pictures and comments. Do you have any more details on the "Key to Amherst"? This is where Trotsky was detained on his way back to Russia from NY in 1917.

  3. Great photos, thanks. Do you know happen to know the whereabouts of the actual flag raised above the Reichstag?
    Mike, Australia