In the Footsteps of the Great Patriotic War in Moscow

In the Footsteps of the Great Patriotic War in Moscow

Despite the fact that the Nazi regime relentlessly attacked Moscow, Soviet soldiers were able to defend the city and avoid major devastation. However, this did not come without a cost; incredible sacrifices and the lives of millions of people were the price the city paid. Moscow still remembers these tragic events and their heroes who gave their lives to save other people. A ceremonial Victory Parade takes place in Red Square every year on the 9th of May and a major festive salute is fired in the evening. Numerous artefacts from the war years are kept in Victory ParkRussian: Park Pobedy or Парк Победы on Poklonnaya GoraRussian: Поклонная гора, in the history and military machinery museums. There are still remnants of defence works both within the city and outside it. The Tomb of the Unknown SoldierRussian: Mogila Neizvestnogo Soldata or Могила Неизвестного Солдата by the Kremlin wall is considered to be the main war memorial in Moscow.


The war broke out on 22 July 1941, dividing the lives of many people into a Before and an After. This photo is known around the world – people are standing and listening tensely to the announcement about the beginning of a war between the USSR and Germany. The photo was taken a stone’s throw away from the Kremlin in Nikolskaya streetRussian: Nikolskaya ulitsa or Никольская улица.

The first recruits went to the front lines at the end of June. They headed west from the Belorussky railway terminalRussian: Belorussky vokzal or Белорусский вокзал. Not many of them were destined to return. The monument called ‘The Slavic Woman’s FarewellRussian: Proschaniye slavyanki or Прощание славянки’ was installed in Belorussky rail terminal to commemorate these women and many others who saw their nearest and dearest off, only to never seen them again. The monument got its name from a marching tune which is traditionally played in Russia when men leave to serve in the army or to the front lines.


During bombings, Muscovites hid in air-raid shelters. Opened not long before the war, the Metro ended up being the best shelter. By 1941 there were tree metro lines in Moscow: Park KulturyRussian: Парк КультурыSokolniki Russian: Сокольники(Sokolnicheskaya lineRussian: Sokolnicheskaya liniya or Сокольническая линия), Sverdlov SquareRussian: Ploschad Sverdlova or Площадь Свердлова (TeatralnayaRussian: Театральная) – SokolRussian: Сокол (Zamoskvoretskaya lineRussian: Zamoskvoretskaya liniya or Замоскворецкая линия), KiyevskayaRussian: КиевскаяKurskayaRussian: Курская (parts of the modern Filyovskaya and Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya linesRussian: Filyovskaya i Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya linii or Филёвская и Арбатско-Покровская линии). Women with children were permitted to sleep in the carriages at night. Doctors were on duty at metro stations, and delivered 217 babies in the long subways of the Moscow metro.


1297_image11_sDespite the persistent resistance of the Red Armyor Soviet army, the German troops were at the gates of Moscow at the beginning of December 1941. They were around KhimkiRussian: Химки and LobnyaRussian: Лобня, about 5-10 kilometres away from what is now the Moscow Ring RoadRussian: Moskovskaya koltsevaya avtomobilnaya doroga or Московская кольцевая автомобильная дорога. In Khimki, there is a memorial called Hedgehogs at the 23rd kilometre of the Leningradskoye highwayRussian: Leningradskoye shosse or Ленинградское шоссе today. Three enlarged antitank “hedgehogsRussian: Ezhi or Ежи” were installed to commemorate the city’s line of defence in 1941. This is where the Soviet troops finally stopped Hitler’s army which would have otherwise breached the city.


1302_image16_sOn 9 May 1945, the day the war was over, hundreds of people descended into the streets, celebrating the long-awaited victory. An orchestra concert, directed by legendary conductor Leonid Utyosov, was performed in the Bolshoi TheatreRussian: Bolshoy teatr or Большой театр. Since then, the garden square by the theatre has become a meeting place for war veterans.

Although more than 70 years have passed since the war was done, Victory Day is still one of the main events celebrated by the Russian people. Both modern and period military vehicles take part in military parades in the Red Square. The Russian President, senior public officials and invited foreign politicians are invited to watch the event.

1307_image20_sConcerts are held in the streets and squares with singers and musicians playing and singing songs from those dark war years. Traditionally, the main venues to see the celebrations are Poklonnaya Gora (Victory Park), Lubyanka squareRussian: Lubyanskaya ploschad or Лубянская площадь, Teatralnaya squareRussian: Teatralnaya ploshchad or Театральная площадь, Gorky ParkRussian: Park cultury i otdykha im. M. Gorkogo or Парк культуры и отдыха им. М. Горького.

Muscovites also come together to the march of the Immortal RegimentRussian: Bessmertnyi polk or Бессмертный полк to pay tribute to their relatives who endured the trials and tribulations of that war. Hundreds of thousands of people hold photos of their fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers.

1296_image10_sThe city was besieged on 7 November 1941, and it is on this day that the parade is held. A reenactment of the first parade is held on this day with the participation of the military, cadets, the Suvorov Military school students as well as period military vehicles.



1310_image23_sRussia’s major war memorial is situated in the very centre of Moscow, in the Alexander GardenRussian: Aleksandrovsky sad or Александровский сад by the Kremlin wall. This memorial is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. One of the Red Army soldiers who fell in the battles outside Moscow was buried here, but we do not know his name. His remnants were placed under the Kremlin wall in December, 1966 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the defeat of the German army outside of Moscow. The tomb of this warrior is a tribute to all soldiers who died in that war and whose names remain unknown. The words chiseled in the memorial stone convey its message: “Your name is unknown, your deed is immortal”. These lines were written by Sergei Mikhalkov, the author of the lyrics of the anthems of both the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation.

1311_image24_sTo the right of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, there are blocks with the names of 13 Hero Cities: Moscow, Leningrad (St Petersburg), Kiev, Stalingrad (Volgograd), Sevastopol, Minsk, Kerch, Novorossijsk, Brest fortress, Tula, Murmansk, and Smolensk. Inside the blocks, there is encapsulated soil from these cities including the soil from the Piskarevskoye cemetryRussian: Piskarevskoye kladbische or Пискаревское кладбище, where over a million people who died of hunger, cold, and disease in Leningrad during the siege were buried in a communal grave. These cities are known as Hero Cities because of their strength of their resistance against foreign occupation. The last granite block, which bears the name, ‘Hero City Smolensk’, is followed by slabs with the names of the Russian Cities of Military Glory. An eternal flame has been burning in front of the Tomb since 1967. Post #1 of the Guard of Honour is located by the Tomb today, and it is the President’s regimentRussian: Prezidentskiy polk or Президентский полк that is on duty here. From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., the changing of guards takes place every hour.

Besides the gorgeous Kremlin and Red Square, there are a lot of outstanding historical landmarks in Moscow. You should visit Novodevichy convent, Moscow cathedral of Annunciation and other unique sights. You can read about them on our website pages “World religions in Moscow” and “History and Architecture”.



Мемориальный комплекс на Поклонной гореOne of the largest memorials dedicated to World War II in the world is situated in Moscow, specifically in Poklonnaya Gora. This memorial is Victory Park, which opened on 9 May, 1995 to commemorate 50 years since the end of the war. The 1000-ton Victory MonumentRussian: Monument Pobedy or Монумент Победы soars above the Square of the Winners. Its height is 141.8 metres, alluding to the 1418 long days of World War II. The bronze goddess of Victory, Nike, is placed at the height of 100 metres, surrounded by angels. At the bottom is St. George the Victorious’ statue. The monument features episodes of crucial battles – the battle of Stalingrad, the battle of Kursk, and the Belorussian Operation. The Victory MuseumRussian: Muzey Pobedy or Музей Победы located here houses 50,000 artefacts dedicated to World War II, including the Banner of Victory, which was raised on the Reichstag Building on 30 April 1945. Other landmarks in Victory Park include the Eternal FlameRussian: Vechnyi ogon' or Вечный огонь, a church with St. George the Victorious’ relics, the Holocaust MuseumRussian: Muzey Kholokosta or Музей Холокоста, a mosque, the Monument to the Defenders of the Russian land, and a sculptural group called Peoples’ TragedyRussian: Tragediya narodov or Трагедия народов.


Центральный музей вооруженных сил РоссииAnother place in the Russian capital where military artefacts are kept is located at 2, bld. 1, Sovetskoy ArmiiRussian: Советской Армии street. The Central Museum of the Armed Forces of the Russian FederationRussian: tsentralnyi muzey vooruzhennykh sil or Центральный музей вооруженных сил houses the possessions of commanders, heroes and common soldiers. In particular, it contains the Hero of the Soviet Union, Marshal G. Zhukovs’, uniform overcoat, the legendary reconnaissance mission leader N. Kuznetsov’s trench, the Hero of the Soviet Union Colonel-General N. Kamanin’s summer helmet and the Hero of the Soviet Union Junior Lieutenant V. Talalihin’s clothes. There are also some objects from the Reich Chancellery, including a violin and a stick which belonged to Hitler. The museum houses over 15,000 exhibits which represent the history of the Soviet Army.


Государственный центральный музей истории РоссииThe State Central Museum of Modern Russian HistoryRussian: Gosudarstvennyi tsentralnyi muzey sovremennoy istorii Rossii or Государственный центральный музей современной истории России (21, TverskayaRussian: Тверская str.) dates back to 1922. It is the leading national history museum. In 1941, an exhibition called ‘The Great Patriotic War of the Soviet People against the NazisRussian: Velikaya Otechestvennaya voyna sovetskogo naroda protiv germanskogo fashizma or Великая Отечественная война советского народа против германского фашизма’ was opened here. After the war came to an end, items from the war period as well as the post-war period were added to the collection.


Еврейский музей в МосквеWorld War II and the Holocaust are the main focus of the display in the Jewish Museum and Tolerance CentreRussian: Yevreyskiy muzey i tsentr tolerantnosti or Еврейский музей и центр толерантности in Moscow (11, 1A bld., ObraztsovaRussian: Образцова str.) The giant screens in the former garage building in Maryina RoschaRussian: Марьина Роща broadcast chronicles of the war crimes perpetrated against the Jewish people. Here, you can see movies and photographs condemning the actions of the Nazis, listen to the recollections of war veterans, partisans, learn about life in the concentration camps and listen to the accounts of the Jewish ghetto prisoners. The memorial with its names of Holocaust victims is particularly moving.


Музей техники Вадима ЗадорожногоCollector Vadim Zadorozhny’s Museum of VehiclesRussian: Muzey tekhniki Vadima Zadorozhnogo or Музей техники Вадима Задорожного is Russia’s biggest museum of retro cars and military vehicles. It is located in the Krasnogorsky districtRussian: Krasnogorskiy rayon or Красногорский район in the Moscow regionRussian: Moskovskaya oblast or Московская область, not far from ArkhangelskoyeRussian: Архангельское estate. Having started with a dozen units of military vehicles, the founder of the museum expanded the display to one thousand exhibits. Many of these are used in historical reenactments and parades, as they have been restored and are kept in working condition. Many are rare prototypes of military vehicles and light weapons. The walkway where military machinery is displayed features genuine cannons and mobile artillery, tanks, howitzers, mine throwers, multiple-launch rocket systems and surface-to-air missile systems, trucks and military air crafts.


Танковый музей в КубинкеThe Central Museum of Armament of Armored Force Vehicles and Equipment in KubinkaRussian: Tsentralnyi muzey bronetankovogo vooruzheniya i tekhniki v Kubinke or Центральный музей бронетанкового вооружения и техники в Кубинке (located in the Odintsovsky districtRussian: Odintsovskiy rayon or Одинцовский район) attracts over 70,000 visitors a year. It is one of the largest museums in the world, displaying more than 350 units of armored force vehicles of different types and periods in an indoor/outdoor display. It houses tanks, armored cars and the mobile artillery of armies from 14 different countries, including numerous examples of military machinery of World War II. Soviet armored force vehicles and military machinery occupy four pavilions. Restored to driving condition, the displays here also take part in military shows commemorating historic dates.


1312_image25_sThis is a small quarter in Moscow enclosed by streets named after Marshal Biryuzov, Marshal Konev, Marshal Meretsky, and Marshal SokolovskyRussian: Маршала Бирюзова, Маршала Конева, Маршала Мерецкова и Маршала Соколовского. It is located not far from Oktyabrskoye PoleRussian: Октябрьское поле metro station. The quarter is called thus because it was built after the war by German prisoners of war, who were frequently involved in restoring the damaged infrastructure of the western regions of the Soviet Union. For this reason, today there are “German” buildings not only in Moscow, but in many other cities of the former Soviet Union.

The German QuarterRussian: Nemetskaya sloboda or Немецкая слобода on Oktyabrskoye Pole is a unique monument of post-war Moscow, particularly because it is in such good condition. It was made to the design of a group of architects who were directed by Dmitry Chechulin. Chechulin was the chief architect involved in construction projects in the capital at the time. Soviet officers who returned from the war lived in this quarter.

1313_image26_sThe houses within the quarter are exquisite. Four corners facing the crossroads are made in the shape of semi-rotundas, two of which are decorated with domes. Mouldings decorate two four-storey houses (at 6, Marshala Sokolovskogo street; 9, Marshala Koneva street). The ground floor of the buildings is trimmed with a ribbon of rustics imitating stone work, which is a distinctive feature of classical architecture and the Empire style. The quarter itself comprises three yards separated from the street by arcades, grating, and arches with fountains inside.

Another notable nod to the war-time years are the décor elements of one of the buildings in Tverskaya street in Moscow. In December, 1941, the Nazis suffered a crushing defeat outside Moscow. Among other items, the Soviet troops found a wagon train with red granite. With it, the Nazis planned to celebrate their entry to the city and construct a monument to honour their victory. The slabs of the red granite were later used to line the lower storeys of the residential building at 9, TverskayaRussian: Тверская str.


1318_image6_sIn Autumn, when the Nazis approached the city, old people, women, and children started digging trenches around Moscow to block the streets with obstacles; that is, to turn the city into a fortress. In response to this, Hitler’s forces would drop leaflets saying: “Moscow ladies, do not dig holes! Our tanks will come and dig them in…” Today in some parts of the city you can see traces of trenches and rickety pillboxes. One such pillbox is located in the centre of Moscow in Neskuchny GardenRussian: Neskuchny sad or Нескучный сад.

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