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Home The Feuilleton of MilSan and MikWag Park Pobedy (Victory Park)

Park Pobedy (Victory Park)

Moscow.  A victory-over-Hitler memorial park.  Completed in 1995.  In time for the 50th anniversary of the victory.  About 335 acres.

 

Adjacent to Victory over Hitler is Victory over Napoleon.  L’Arc de Triumph imprisoned behind columns of black marble, guarded by six black knights.  Originally constructed in wood (1814), rebuilt in marble (1827), disassembled, moved, reassembled next to Victory over Hitler (1968).

 

Park Pobedy (Victory over Hitler) is remarkable.  It expresses four years of struggle and staggering sacrifice.  An architectural triumph.  Exhibit A in support of Ayn Rand’s (the great Russian writer… apologies, Ayn), controversial claim that architecture is the highest of the arts.

 

What makes Park Pobedy special isn’t the materials from which it is constructed:  granite, marble, water, bronze, glass, electric lights for nighttime effects.   They are the usual memorial materials.

 

Nor is it the architectural elements:  a dome that looks like a black helmet (or perhaps it is meant to evoke a shield); a soaring bronze obelisk; fountains; plazas the size of football fields; statues of Nike and St. George slaying the dragon; the names of the dead; a semi-circular colonnade in white, resembling St. Peter’s.

 

No. It is the composition, how the architectural elements are arranged.

 

Go there and see the genius of the composition for yourself.

 

From the metro station, you turn west.

Your first step into Park Pobedy is onto a plaza the size of a football field.  The first in a chain of five.  Each paved with cobbled brick and granite.  You look downfield, see the obelisk, semi-circular colonnade, and helmet all in a line.  You look back, catch a glimpse of Victory over Napoleon.

 

On your right: fountains arrayed in formation, at battalion strength.  Each jet of water mirrors the distant obelisk.  It is said that there are 1418 fountains in Park Pobedy, one for each day of the war.  Night lighting turn them a blood red.

 

On your left: a pine forest, unfortunately often blocked by red tents, courtesy of Coca Cola.

 

You begin your assault.  In the middle of field one, you come upon a marker in red granite, the size of a small table.  Chiseled into its surface — "1941”.   At the end of field one there are low steps.  You step up, continue, pass another marker—1942—the worst year of the war.   You are tiring, but you can’t stop.  Another step up, another field to cross—1943—another hedgerow, another field—1944—another hedgerow—1945.

 

At the end of 1945, the victor’s staircase.  Big steps.

 

You take each one in a single stride, like a victor, like Caesar.

 

You do an about face, stand at ease, survey the distance you have come--all the way back to the black Victory over Napoleon (aka “we kicked his ass too”).

 

About face again, survey the circular plaza, three football-fields in diameter.  At its center—the epicenter of the Park and of the victory—the obelisk, a bronze bayonet, thrusting upwards.  It is 141.8 meters in height, exactly 10 centimeters for each day of the war.  Every centimeter of this commemorative bayonet is tattooed with images of great battles and the names of the cities in which they were fought, etched deeply and indelibly in bas relief.  At its base: the statue of St. George slaying a swastika-covered dragon.  At its top, silhouetted against the sun: Nike, the Goddess of Victory.

 

You stride across the plaza to the portico of the crescent-shaped colonnade that defends the western front of the plaza.  This portico is the true summit.  You have a commander’s view from the hilltop.  You are fanned by breezes that have flown the length of Russia.  A victor’s view, a victor’s welcome.

 

You buy a ticket and enter the crowned-by-the-helmet museum-memorial.

 

Hall of Remembrance.  On either side, glass cases set on pedestals, one for each hero-city.   In each case, a stack of books.  In each book, many pages.  On each page, a list of the names of the dead.   One book lies open in each case, open to a page that is turned every day.  There are twenty such cases and more than 26,000,000 such lines.

 

Hall of Sorrow, a dark chapel hung with 26,000 crystal teardrops to symbolize the 26,000,000 dead.  Under the tears, a pieta in marble.  A mother cradling a fallen soldier.

 

Glory Hall, a rotunda on the second floor. The names of Heroes of the Soviet Union are inscribed in marble on its 50-foot high walls.  Your question: “What level of heroism was required?”  Your answer: “Destroying two tanks single-handedly, minimum.”

 

They located Park Pobedy on the Poklonnaya Gora—the hill where in 1812 Napoleon waited for the keys to the city to be brought to him by the Russians.  Instead, the Russians torched Moscow and in so doing starved Napoleon’s Grand Army out of Russia.

 

They erected the Arch of Triumph in 1814 to thumb their noses at Napoleon. They also inscribed his face on the scrotum of a statue of a horse in St. Petersburg.  (If Park Pobedy is an architectural triumph, then the Russian Arch of Triumph is an architectural middle finger.)

 

The politicians have added a few elements to Park Pobedy since 2003.  The battle fields of '41, '42, '43, '44, and '45 seem more Las Vegas-like.  You may have some difficulty experiencing it, dear reader, like I did.  You may find yourself wishing that an architect like Howard Roark would appear on the field of battle, summoned perhaps by the ghost of Ayn Rand, with a team of demolitionists to set things straight.

 

I myself would wish that in place of the accreted poshlost, that this architect might add a singular element:  a rotunda-bunker with a video link to all the other victory parks of the world, a place where the children of the victors and of the vanquished can see each other, talk, become friends.  So that these victory parks never again will it be necessary to construct.

 

 

Getting there: Park Pobedy Metro Station.

 

YouTube video1 video2 video3

Wiki entry with several photos of Park Pobedy