Russia is a nation of stunning natural beauty, ancient culture, and widespread wealth and opulence. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the past twenty years have been transformative for the Great Bear of Europe and Asia, with industries rising and companies transforming into corporate leaders. Where once the leading industries in Russia were manufacturing and… manufacturing, more and more companies are entering into high tech and intellectual fields. Meanwhile, the population grows more educated, more tech-savvy, and more connected to the rest of the world.
Yet this was not always how it was in Russia, and for those visiting it can be hard to forget the Cold War and all of the imagery that accompanied it. It’s hard to watch a television show or a movie made between 1950 and 1991 and not see some reference to Soviet Russia casting a pall over the plot. Rather than flee from this history of shared conflict and animosity, Russia has embraced their history, and even offers visitors and tourists an opportunity to go and explore that mysterious, dangerous, and intriguing era of Russia’s history.
While your tour of Russia can include its incredible rivers and plains and its cities littered with culture and architecture new and old, you can also take some time out of your vacation to visit the relics of the Cold War. For any discerning fan of Russian or Cold War history, the Red Square in Moscow is the place to go, as this is where it all started. Revolutions were born here, and some of them even succeeded, including the Bolshevik Revolution that eventually put the Communist Party in power.
A brief tour of the Russian Revolution is incomplete without a visit to Lenin’s Tomb, as well as the burial places of other important Soviet figures such as Josef Stalin himself. Moscow also sports the Central Museum of the Armed Forces of Russia, where you can see the impressive military armaments that bolstered the Soviet Union for so long, making it a formidable competitor for global influence and power against the United States throughout the Cold War years.
Moscow has no shortage of museums, and so your tours of Moscow’s history needn’t end with the Armed Forces museum. For example, you can – having finished touring the Kremlin Grounds – visit the Armoury Museum, one of the oldest museums in all of Moscow. Established in 1808, the arsenal was originally built in 1508, three hundred years before it became a museum. Over the years, more and more treasures have been stored there.
From there, you can visit the WWII Victory Park at Poklonnaya Hill. One of the highest points in Moscow, the park contains tanks and other vehicles that were used during World War II. It includes a triumphal arch, the loghouse where the decision was made to abandon Moscow to the Germans, and various pieces of art. It is a beautiful area where you can appreciate the triumph of the Russians in World War II as well as the beauty of Moscow itself, as it presents a great view of the city.
The Battlefields of Science and Memory
No tour of the history of the Cold War would be complete without a trip to the Cosmonaut Training Centre in Star City. The Yuri A. Gagarian State Scientific Research-and-Testing Cosmonaut Training Center, or GCTC as it is known, trains cosmonauts for missions to space, and as you well know, this was one of the great scientific battlegrounds of the Cold War. While much of the facility is off-limits, you can still get a taste of the history made here. Without the work done here, we might never have gone to space, much less the moon.
Of course, the Cold War is over now, and all of Russia is there for you to enjoy regardless of your national or political affiliations, and we are all the richer for it. Still, while you enjoy your museums, your trips to the ballet, your excursions into Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Volgograd, remember that once upon a time this might all have been impossible. It is only through the efforts of those who worked for peace, understanding, and brotherhood that we have come to where we are today. Perhaps, in visiting Russia and remembering the conflict and animosity shared by both sides during the Cold War, we continue to prevent such misunderstandings from ever happening again.