Russia reduced to 800 square metres

russian church against blue sky

Can you imagine the entire Russian Federation being reconstructed in miniature? The diminishing Soviet Union tradition and technique of producing scale models has been resurrected for this impressive project and interactive work of art.

Known as the Grand Maket or ‘Grand Model’, it is the one of the most unusual museums of Russia. It’s an incredibly interesting miniature depiction of my country and it is in my city, St Petersburg.

I remember when they first announced the construction of the huge model of the whole country. I was excited, but thought it is another propaganda project that will not be finished. But we’ve been able to watch it grow while they’ve let people view its progress on weekends and after years of work it’s been successfully completed!

Some will proudly claim that it is the largest scale model in the world, with a layout area of 800 square metres. Well, Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, that inspired this project, is still marginally bigger. But the difference is not that great, when considering how difficult it is to create such completely new museum in Russia.

Some fun facts about Grand Maket:
100 people were making it for 4 years.
750,000 LEDs imitate the changing of day and night.
11,500 kg of plaster were spent on making the land shaft.
There is over 2km of railway track.
Besides Moscow and St Petersburg, there are 12 other regions depicted in the model.

There are always a couple of workers nearby the model. They are observing the visitors and helping them with info, they put back any fallen items and fix the trains if there is collapse. People who work there seem to be proud of their museum – and this is the best advertisement.

One of the workers told me that the creator, Sergey Morosov, had a small car-washing service near by when he got the idea of the model. He bought the building next to his car-wash and started to make the model in it.

The first area to be finished was Russkiy Island, which is in the far east part of the country. At that time there was a new suspension bridge just opened to the island – one of the largest in the world. So it was proudly depicted in the model.

Still, after the years of constructing the model, according to the worker, all the ideas have to be passed by the owner. He personally controls the whole construction of the model. And there are many things to be overseen: the thousands of metres of railroad and car roads. Trains run all over the model and there are depots were the engine leaves the train. All the trains are managed from the computer center and require the running of many programs to operate.

The cars traffic is even more tense. All the cars move chaotically: they have got censors to stop and turn, but still there are car incidents and traffic jams. Exactly like in real life!

The museum doesn’t have any signs – it is an ideological moment. You can take the audio guide in a choice of languages if you want some more explanations. But generally there are so many ideas and the fantasy of the constructors is so rich, that it is a great pleasure just to walk from one place to another, observing the incredible detail. Every single model of a person has its own role in this huge theatrical performance: a woman is throwing bags from the window and the man is waving his hands ready to catch down below. Young people are kissing on a park bench and an old woman is passing by with her dog. There is a fire and the special fire brigade is already rushing to the scene.

Every 12 minutes the day begins to become night. In some northern regions it even starts to snow. On the south you can hear the thunder – heavy tropical rain is coming.

The only limit to the creators’ imagination is what it costs to produce such a display. But the museum is still developing and they continue to put new figures in different areas, new parts of the country are added to the model. And they are always keeping an eye on their German competitors. In Hamburg they recently launched the large model of the airport, so you can probably expect to see one in the St Petersburg model soon.

The Grand Model of Russia museum is probably not the must-see site in St Petersburg, but it is definitely a unique experience and a very special place to visit in the city.

Have you visited Grand Maket or any other unusual museums around the world?

* photo by Jana Shaffner – Intrepid Photography Competition

About the author'
Bob Golodets - Russian born and bred, Boris 'Bob' Golodets loves sharing his extensive local knowledge and experience with Intrepid travellers. When he's not leading tours you'll find him exploring his own backyard and all corners of the globe!

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