We’d been handed some flyers touting the USSR Museum, and it was also briefly mentioned in our Trans-Siberian guidebook. It sounded kitsch and fun, and so we hopped on the metro to go to VDNKh Station and walked from there to the All Russia Exhibition Centre.
The exhibition centre was a big surprise – it’s a huge complex that seems to have a semi-permanent mini fun park with inflatable dodgem cars and bouncy castles and show bags, as well as a wide array of museums. We found our way to the building we wanted, the big red car out the front confirming we were in the right place. 250 rubles each and we were inside.
The USSR Museum is the only museum in Russia dedicated to everyday life in the Soviet period, and it’s packed with a fascinating collection of items – all of which you can pick up and play with. It’s all about immersing yourself in the museum and enjoying it, a nostalgic place for many who grew up in the Soviet Union.
And it’s a happy place really: it doesn’t confront you with political ideology or history, just puts things from old motorbikes and gas masks to perfume bottles and kitchenware and boxes of condoms and arcade machines and cameras and dolls and military uniforms and guns and a thousand other things out there for you to interact with. Parts were semi-arranged like a kitchen or a bedroom dresser, and it was exciting to open drawers and pull out packets of stockings or rolls of film.
We mucked around with the military uniforms a bit.
According to my brother, the first rule of gun handling is to never let me near a gun. Even unloaded and non-functional, as it’s still basically a big metal club. Apparently.
So for some reason Russian women are born looking like models and knowing how to pose like them. They always seem to manage to look sexy and aloof and so on, and it bloody comes naturally to them. Here’s my attempt to look Russian. I’m putting it out there and calling it an abysmal failure. It turns out that posing isn’t my strong point.
We had a bit of fun with the cars and motorbike and little tractor-cart-thing.
There were some interesting posters behind the motorbike-tractor thing.
We found some very confusing things in the museum. I mean really, who’s seen a phone box lately? [Actually, last time I asked this in Melbourne I happened to be standing about two feet from one, but that aside they’re hardly common. Except on Collins St outside my old office.]
No one wanted to talk to us.
And this. Remember these? John was a little confused. It’s been a while.
While I’m sure that a lot of people would say that it’s still a political museum, it really seems like it’s there for your entertainment. It allows you to have a bit of fun with the physical remains of recent history. And maybe to give people either a reminder of their own childhood or lives decades ago, or a glimpse into the past and what maybe their parents grew up with – familiar toys, movie posters, radios, magazines, clothes and so forth. Whatever the purpose, it’s a lot of fun – whether you’re five or slightly older than that.