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From: Sandy Lubkin
Date: Tue, 30 Sep 1997 14:08:14 +0000
Subject: 2 Museums and a Circus

We've been playing the tourist more than usual, since we'll be leaving Moscow in a couple weeks. I can't believe how fast the time has flown. Soon we'll be heading up to Saint Petersburg (Sanktpetorburg, or sometimes just Petorburg) for a week before our visas expire, when we'll head into the Scandinavian countries.

But while we're still in Moscow, we're trying to pack in as many of the things we'd said we had to do while we're here. We've recently gone to the Memorial Museum of Cosmonauts, the Panorama Museum of the Battle of Borodino, and the Moscow Circus.


The Memorial Museum of Cosmonauts is located across town from us, just across from the hotel Cosmos, where we stayed when we first arrived, and very near to the VVTs where we went to the book show (see Three 5000- rouble stories). There is a strip of tree-lined park called the Alley of Cosmonauts. Following that leads you to a statue of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, a scientist who contributed much to the development of the Soviet space program, and a tremendous monument called the Space Obelisk. The Obelisk is nearly 100 meters (325 feet) tall, and depicts a rocket at the top of a parabolic stream of exhaust. Around the base of the monument are sculptures of people who contributed to manned space flight, and inscriptions marking various milestones in Soviet space exploration.

(Picture) The Space Obelisk
(Picture) The base of the Space Obelisk
(Picture) Detail of the base of the Space Obelisk

Heading down the stairs, we found the entrance to the museum under the Obelisk. There were a couple of groups of people hovering just outside the doors, so I thought the museum might be closed for lunch. We went up to the doors anyway, and entered the museum. When we came through the inner set of doors, we found a guard with his machine gun levelled at us. Apparently he decided we weren't going to be trouble, because he pointed us over to the cashier desk.

We paid one of the three ladies who were hovering around the cashier desk for our admission, declining to pay the extra fee for permission to take pictures. Then one of the other ladies led us over to the coat-check desk, where we left our jackets and bags. Then we started looking at the exhibits. There were many display cases with lots of little things in them. Some of them were labelled and some weren't. Some of the exhibits I couldn't figure out. Perhaps they had been taken into space. If not, I don't know what they had to do with space. There were posters on the walls, including a fairly recent one showing all the people (Americans included) who had been part of the Soviet and later the Russian space program, flying on their rockets or living on their space station.

When we'd finished the exhibits in the main entry area, Bela noticed a curtain. Being Bela, he tried peeking behind to see if it was part of the museum. One of the ladies came over and motioned for us to go in. This was a very flashy section of the museum - much flash and little content. There were lots of larger exhibits in this section as well as more display cases. Most of the exhibits were unlabelled, although the lighting made it difficult to read what labels there were. There were a wide variety of space suits and satellites displayed, insignia patches and medals which had been awarded to various people. The entire time we were in this room, the lady sat in a chair just inside the entrance watching us and knitting.

Having finished that room, we found a bit more to the museum on the other side of the entrance. We examined those display cases, satellites and models as well. Then I went over to the souvenir counter and decided I wanted to get a couple of pins commemorating various events (like the Apollo-Soyuz Mission in the '70s). But now all three of the ladies had disappeared, so we were unable to buy anything. While we were waiting at that counter, the guard (who had put down his machine gun at some point) went into a back area. We thought perhaps he was trying to find one of the ladies for us, but he came back with a group of important-looking men in suits. That might have explained some of the guys waiting outside, as well as our greeting when we first arrived.


The Panorama Museum of the Battle of Borodino was really impressive. Borodino is a town southwest of Moscow which seems to be on the Required Invasion List for World Dominators. Both Napoleon's and Hitler's armies fought major battles against the Russian forces there. The Panorama Museum is dedicated to the battle with Napoleon's armies during the War of 1812.

The first time we tried to go to this museum, we discovered that they are closed on Fridays, so we noted the days and hours, and the prices and went over to the Triumphal Arch. It was erected in 1829-34 to commemorate Napoleon's retreat from Moscow and Russia. The monument has lots of details on it, and we spent some time looking at it. We were only able to recognize two of the 44 city emblems circling the arch - the emblems of cities represented in the Russian army which fought Napoleon. (The cities whose emblems we recognized were Moscow and Yaroslavl.)

(A picture of the statue of General Kutozov)Bela inspects the statue (in the front yard of the museum) of General Kutozov who led the Russian forces against Napoleon's.

(A picture of the Triumphal Arch)Sandy's standing underneath the Triumphal Arch for scale.

(A detail picture of the Triumphal Arch)Yaroslavl's emblem, a bear carrying an axe, is third from the left. Moscow's emblem, St. George defeating the dragon, is just to the right of it.

When we went back to the museum (on a Monday, not a Friday that time :) we were greeted by a lady who directed us around a corner and down the stairs. There we found the cashier desk, in a very out-of-the-way place. We paid our admission (7000 roubles or US$1.20 each with no tour guide) and the fee for permission to use our camera (20,000 roubles or US$3.40). (Our tickets all said 60 kopeks, with that crossed out and the new price stamped above it.) Then the original lady who had greeted us walked us back upstairs, tore our tickets, pantomimed us showing the camera ticket when we wanted to take a picture, and pointed us on our way.

There were climate-controlled display cases full of uniforms, weapons and documents. I noticed dispatches updating the progress of Napoleon's Grand Armee, a Russian soldier's diary, legal documents from the Tzar, and a soldier's will. Paintings hung on the walls showing variously officers who led the Russian Army and scenes of the various battles as Napoleon's troops fought their way into Russia, pushing back the defenders. A large map marked fortifications, battles and lines of advancement and retreat by the various armies. We entered a second room with more of the same, marking the progress of the French troops, and in the third room found a map of the placement of troops at the Battle of Borodino.

See pictures of the exhibits

Then we went up a spiral staircase which led to the panoramic battle scene itself. As we entered to room, we smelled smoke. The room itself was like a giant circular diarama. We stood in the center. Surrounding us were burned ruins (the source of the smoke smell - embers still glowing), broken cannons, trampled ground with ruts from cannons being dragged over it, and in the distance, a painting of the battle itself which blended very well with the foreground. In some places I had to look hard to decide where one ended and the other began. The whole effect was spectacular. Cavalry engaged over there. Infantry over there. Broken horses and men where the front line had passed. Soldiers running through burned farm buildings and trampling cabbages. Artillery shooting everywhere.

See pictures of the panorama

Napoleon's troops lost the Battle of Borodino on 26 August 1812, but the Russian army took such terrible losses that on 1 September, General Mikhail Kutozov made the decision to save what was left of the Russian army and retreat from Moscow. On 2 September, Napoleon's troops entered Moscow. Much of the city was razed by fire during the occupation. My guide book says that of the 9,000 buildings them in Moscow, 6,500 were destroyed or seriously damaged. After little more than a month of occupying Moscow, the Grand Armee began to retreat.

(A picture of a painting)Artist's rendition of the burning of Moscow.

The next room we were guided to contained more uniforms and weapons as well as paintings of the burning of Moscow and more officers. The next map we saw detailed the retreat of the French army, and it's harrasment by the Russian army. The retreat began on 6 October 1812, and by the middle of November, they'd only made it about half way back to the Russian border, having been slowed down by fighting three battles with the Russian troops, as well as by the early Russian winter.

(A picture of map)Map showing the routes of Napolean's troops and the Russians following them during the French retreat from Russia. French troops are shown in black and Russians in gold.

(A picture of painting)Painting of soldiers during the retreat.


And now for something a bit more upbeat: Our friend Irene and her darling daughter Anna (age 2 years) took us to the Moscow Circus last weekend. We were there for more than two hours, but it seemed like hardly any time at all. The circus is located in a permanent building, rather than travelling like the ones I've known in America. There are other buildings attached to the one we were in which looked like barns. Irene tells me that they change the shows to keep the performances fresh.

Let's see... We saw clowns, acrobats, jugglers, dancing bears, trick riding on horses, elephants and Saint Bernards (a Saint Bernard climbed a ladder onto the elephant), performing goats. Everything was very well done. One of the acrobats performed some manouevers in slow-motion that I could imagine seeing as part of something quick, like a cartwheel, but not something slow. The grace and control he had were simply amazing to someone like me (I'm very glad my parents didn't name me "Grace" - I'd have died of embarrassment by now). Another set of acrobats performed feats in the air - one of them bouncing on a flexible board held on the shoulders of two others. There were a group of bicyclists performing tricks (don't try this at home kiddies!), and a bear on a motorbike. The clowns were great - very acrobatic and extremely funny. What else can I say? I think it was the best circus I've been to. (And the animals looked well taken care of, and were enticed to do their tricks by treats and petting.)

The Lego store had this Lego circus scene in one of its display windows.
See pictures of the Acrobatic Acts
See pictures of the Performing Bears

Sandy (Cannady) Lubkin
Currently in Moscow, Russia

All text and pictures copyright 1997 Sandy and Bela Lubkin, all rights reserved.