Moscow’s Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War stands in Victory Park (Парк победы) at Poklonnaya Gora (Поклонная гора, which translates literally as “Bowing hills”), not far from Moscow State University and the Luzhniki Olympic complex in the southwestern part of the city centre.
The first memorial to be placed at the site was a granite stone monument in 1958, and the park was laid out in the early 1960s. Construction of the museum itself did not begin until 1985, and the first exhibition opened 8 years later. The full opening was held on May 9, 1995, marking the 50th anniversary of Victory Day. The obelisk in front of the museum is 141.8 metres tall, representing the 1,418 days of the war. A bronze figure of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, is mounted at a height of 100 metres, and a statue of St. George slaying the dragon stands at the base.
The main entrance hall of the museum is called the Hall of Commanders, which commemorates all the senior military leaders who were awarded the Order of Victory. As well as the expected Red Army Commanders, a number of foreign commanders, including Eisenhower, Montgomery and Tito received this award. In addition, bronze busts and heralds of a number of celebrated Russian commanders from earlier eras, particularly the Patriotic War of 1812 against Napoleon, are displayed. The upper gallery of the hall contains a series of exhibits charting the course of the war.
The staircase at the end of the hall leads up to the Hall of Glory, whose walls are inscribed with the names of all the individuals who were honoured as Heroes of the Soviet Union during the War.
The lower floor is dominated by six huge dioramas that illustrate key battles during the course of the war. Each diorama comprises a huge painting on a semi-circular wall, with equipment and debris placed in front to produce an impressive 3-D effect. The dioramas are arranged in chronological order around a central hall called the Hall of Grief, which honours the memory of the 26 million Soviet victims of the war. The dioramas depict:
- The Counter-Attack at Moscow
- The Battle of Stalingrad
- The Siege of Leningrad
- The Battle of Kursk
- The Crossing of the Dnieper
- The Battle of Berlin
The museum also features an art gallery that exhibits artworks relating to the war from the museum’s own collection and those of other galleries and museums across Russia. Two halls in the basement level host temporary exhibitions.
The park surrounding the museum displays a series of impressive collections of military equipment, including tanks and other vehicles, artillery, aeroplanes, trains, trenches and other engineering constructions, and even naval equipment on an artificial lake built to represent a dockyard. A Russian Orthodox church, a mosque and a synagogue have also been built in the park.
The museum opens from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm (8:00 pm on Thursdays) every day except Monday and the last Thursday of every month. The nearest metro station is Парк Победы on the No. 3 Arbatsko–Pokrovskaya (Арбатско-Покровская) line. Entry costs 250 rubles (about €6). The “Battle of Borodino” Panorama Museum and Moscow’s Triumphal Arch are nearby. The museum’s web site is in Russian only.