By Nicholas Varangis
Explosions send fire through the air, aircraft drone overhead, tanks rumble across the cratered ground, and machine guns chatter in murderous conversation on a chaotic battlefield. Yet the five thousand spectators watching the carnage make sure that this spectacle is not mistaken for war. The display that unfolds is in fact a reenactment christening the new attraction of Russia’s Patriot Park: the Reichstag.
Patriot Park is the product of Russia’s growing interest in its military past and present. The Park opened in 2015 under the presidency of Vladimir Putin, whose tenure has seen the increased militarization of Russian society. Located in Kublinka, Moscow, Patriot Park features dozens of military vehicles and weapons which visitors are encouraged to interact with, whether it’s climbing on tanks or handling Kalashnikovs. The legacy of Russia’s (or, rather, the Soviet Union’s) involvement in World War II, known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War, is a key focus of this growth in military interest. Thus it is no surprise that the Park has commemorated the capture of Berlin by the Soviet Army by creating its very own model Reichstag.
On Sunday, the model Reichstag opened with a dramatic reenactment of the Battle of Berlin, involving armor, air, and infantry from both sides of the fight. The reenactment follows the Red Banner as it moves across the battlefield, representing the hard fighting that led the Soviet Army through the streets of Berlin and to the historic landmark.
The reenactment is full of flare. In one instance, German soldiers are fighting Russian soldiers hand-to-hand while on fire. Another shows a tank driver scanning the battlefield from a smoldering mock German Panzer. The battle culminates in the final charge on the Reichstag, and the hoisting of the Red Banner.
While perhaps not the most realistic portrayal of the combat in the race to Berlin, the reenactors do display a wide variety of realistic weapons and vehicles. German Panzerfausts, MG-42s, and Messerschmitts face off against Russian T-34s, PPSh-41s and Mosin Nagants.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced earlier in the year that Patriot Park’s model Reichstag was designed for the Young Army, or Yunarmia “to storm a specific location, not something abstract” and that the smaller-than-life replica “will contribute to the patriotic education of young citizens and foreign guests”. The model, which comes at a time of renewed tensions between NATO and Russia, has come under harsh criticism from the German government, whose foreign minister, Martin Schäfer, stated: “We wouldn’t build something like that for the education of German youth.”
Watch whole reenactment from the beginning here.
*Photo Credit: Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.