The Dmitri Donskoi panel


Moscow’s (great) VDNKh exhibition park now has a massive patriotic history centre, Russia – My History. When I went today only the section on the Ryurikid dynasty was open, but as that’s the core Mythic Russia era, no problem there. It’s a massive exercise in 60% history, 20% nationalism, 20% kewl modern special FX treatments, and as such a great deal more approachable that places such as the Park Pobedy (‘Victory Park’) WW2-and-more memorial.

A lot of money has been spent on this, and it shows. The building is massive and the section I saw fills less than half the total. Furthermore, it is impressive and very well done. There are great display panels on the major rulers, pictures and video of everything from foods of the time to soldiers, maps, the works. Only in Russian, alas; this is clearly something aimed at the domestic audience.

It is also unashamedly propagandistic. Not just in the usual “aren’t we wonderful” style of so many national museums, but with a definite slant towards the themes underlying Vladimir Putin’s legitimating myth, such as a great stress on the ‘atomisation’ of Russia leaving it vulnerable to the Mongols (as if it had ever been united before) to the virtue of strong, centralising national leaders who stood up for national interests. There’s even one banner where Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov extols Alexander Nevsky for “laying the bases of Russia’s multi-vector foreign policy”!

But you don’t have to pay attention to that subtext. It’s a pretty stunning place to wander, with a rather trippy closing auditorium where you can flop onto a beanbag and watch stars, doves, and Christ in the heavens projected onto the dome above, to the sound of an Orthodox chorus…

Ivan the Terrible