Victory ParkRussian: Park Pobedy or Парк Победы on Poklonnaya HillRussian: Poklonnaya gora or Поклонная гора is a tribute to the memory of soldiers who fought in World War II, and the victory that was bought so dearly by Soviet people. Moscow suffered a lot in 1941–1945: hunger, aerial attacks, and daily back-breaking labour. Hundreds of thousands of Muscovites died during those black years. The victims of that dreadful war are commemorated in the colossal sculptures, the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic WarRussian: Tsentralnyi muzey Velikoy Otechestvennoy voyny or Центральный музей Великой Отечественной войны with its collection of military equipment, memorial avenues and religious objects in Victory Park. Picturesque greenery makes the park a wonderful place for a walk, and the wide avenues and paths make it Moscow’s rollerblading stomping ground.
Concerts, festivals and firework displays are held on Poklonnaya Hill on holidays. Yet, the most important date is the 9th of May, Victory Day, on which the hill gets crowded. People lay flowers at the foot of memorials, enjoy performances by Russia’s best artists, and look forward to seeing the fireworks which signify the climax of this public holiday.
Poklonnaya Hill, where Victory Park is situated, is an important place in the history of Moscow. Its name dates back to ancient times, when the hill was used to meet important guests from the West (poklon means ‘bow’ in Russian). As Napoleon and his army entered Moscow in 1812, he set up a camp on Poklonnaya Hill to await the keys to Moscow, and did so in vain – the Russian army chose to cede the abandoned city and muster its strength for a decisive attack. Symbolically, the hill is just opposite the Triumphal ArchRussian: Triumfalnaya arka or Триумфальная арка in Kutuzovsky AvenueRussian: Kutuzovskiy prospekt or Кутузовский проспект, built to commemorate Russia’s victory over Napoleon.
The idea to establish a huge memorial on the hill to commemorate the heroic deeds of the Soviet people was born even before the end of World War II. A sign reading, ‘A monument to the Victory of the Soviet people in the Great Patriotic War of 1941–1945 is going to be erected here’, appeared on Poklonnaya Hill in 1958. Plans to reconstruct the park were underway the same year; trees were planted and avenues were re-designed. However, it was not until 1984 that the construction of the memorial on the hill began. The designers were ambitious in their goal to tell the entire history of war through the use of architectural elements, in so doing creating a memorial to all those who fought the enemy for the common goal.
War and peace
Whilst Poklonnaya hill is a tribute to a terrible war, there are also wonderful things to do here. Thanks to the terrain and the abundance of paved slopes, the park is popular with bike riders, skateboarders and rollerbladers. Sporting equipment rentals are available in the park. Free group exercise classes are also available on a regular basis. In addition, you can have a snack, a rest on a bench, or just stroll along the avenues.
The central part of the park has a regular geometric shape, manicured lawns and flower beds. However, if you walk a little away from the main avenues, you will enter a ‘wilder’ part of the park where you can walk under the trees or ride a bike or rollerblade on the slopes.
Monuments and museums in Victory Park
The Victory MonumentRussian: Monument Pobedy or Монумент Победы is the central point of the park and the highest monument in Russia. Located in Pobediteley SquareRussian: ploshchad’ Pobediteley or площадь Победителей, it represents an obelisk in the form of a 141-m spiked bayonet. The Eternal FlameRussian: Vechnyi ogon or Вечный огонь lit from the flame above the Grave of the Unknown SoldierRussian: Mogila Neizvestnogo Soldata or Могила Неизвестного Солдата in Alexander GardenRussian: Aleksandrovskiy sad or Александровский сад burns close by. Right behind the obelisk, you will see the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War, which contains authentic war relics and presents dioramas of the key battles. It is not just the exhibits which explain the chronology of the battle but also a huge memorial that commemorates the fallen. The Memory HallRussian: Zal Pamyati or Зал Памяти keeps 385 volumes of the Book of RemembranceRussian: Kniga Pamyati or Книга Памяти that lists the names of those who fell in the Great Patriotic War. The museum holds temporary exhibitions dedicated to military history. Military equipment from both the Soviet Union and the Allies is exhibited nearby.
If you follow Guerilla AvenueRussian: alleya Partizan or аллея Партизан from the museum, you will see a monument to the Allied powers. This is another symbol of the unity of numerous peoples that fought for what they believed to be right. A chapel consecrated to Spanish volunteers who fell in the Soviet ranks during World War II can be found in the depths of the avenue nearby. In addition, there is a sculptural monument called ‘In the Fight of Fascism We Were Together’ that you will see if you turn right to follow Memory AvenueRussian: alleya Pamyati or аллея Памяти.
If you keep walking along Memory Avenue, you will reach a synagogue. Its permanent exhibition is dedicated first of all to the victims of the Holocaust and also to the history of Jewish people in Russia.
An Orthodox church consecrated to St. George, a patron saint of the military, is located across the central square. The nearby monument is called ‘To the Missing Soldiers without Graves’. It depicts a fatally wounded foot soldier with his knees half bent, who is about to fall. There is nothing like pathos or solemnity in this monument, rather, it simply reminds us of the cruelty of war and the millions of individual tragedies.
The central Wartime AvenueRussian: ‘Gody Voyny’ or «Годы войны» with memorial steles commemorating various fronts and fleets leads to Park Pobedy metro station. The avenue offers an incredible perspective of the monuments. Its five terraces refer to each of the five years of war, and its 225 fountains indicate the duration of the war in weeks.