Kubinka. The place every tanknut, World of Tanks player, modeler or armour enthusiast dreams of going to one day. This Russian museum houses one of the world’s finest collections of armoured vehicles including many unique prototypes. This short report is based on a visit during the summer of 2014.
Lets start of with a brief history of the museum. It’s located on the historic grounds of the Red Army’s armour testing facility. Kubinka proving grounds were a top secret military base where newly developed tanks of the Russian army were tested. Also tanks transferred from allied countries or captured on German or Japanese troops underwent trials here. After the Second World War the Tank Technology centre in Kubinka remained an important base were new soviet tanks were developed during the Cold War. A lot of the museum exhibits are war trophies gained from the Soviet Union’s enemies during the Second World War and conflicts in Asia and the Middle East. Nowadays the site is still controlled by the Russian military. Getting access to the museum used to be difficult involving a lot of screening and paperwork. However, recently access was made easier for national and international visitors.
The museum houses an amazing collection of Russian and foreign armoured vehicles. Having said this, don’t expect to find modern and inviting expositions which feature the vehicles at their best. All tanks are closely parked in large hangars which only allow you to view their fronts. Likewise It’s very hard to take sharp images in these dark pavilions on a sunny day. All informative signs showing the tank’s history and technical data are merely written in Russian.
Despite these downsides, the unique vehicles you will find in the museum will make up for everything. You’ll find impressive Russian heavy tanks, some of the few surviving German big cats and unique vehicles like the 188-ton Panzerkampfwagen VIII Maus. For all those military vehicle enthusiasts out there, this collection definitely belongs on your checklist.
The vehicles are housed in and around seven different halls. Each hall contains similar vehicles, like German Second World War vehicles, Russian medium tanks, Western post-war tanks, etc. . Some vehicles, like a Russian armoured train, are displayed outside.
The tank that helped to change the tide of war, the Russian T34 / 76 (model 1943)
A curious experimental vehicle, the Russian object 775. This extremely flat tank was armed with an 125mm armed missile launcher
The sole surviving Hungarian Turán II medium tank (41M Turán)
The German Alkett Vs.Kfz 61 Minenräumer. This strange vehicle was designed to clear a path through minefields. The superstructure mounts a Pz.Kpfw I turret.
88mm Ardelt Wafenträger. In the background you can see VK3001(H) ‘Sturer Emil’ and an Elefant tank destroyer.
The bizarre Kugelpanzer. Little is known about this one man reconnaissance vehicle.
A World War 1 British Mark V Hermaphrodite (Canon in one sponson, MG in the other) tank.
The heavy German tracked 60cm self propelled gun ‘Karl-Gerät’
Some tips for visiting the Kubinka Tank Museum
For most international visitors, it’s quite a long trip to Kubinka! First off you’ll have to get to Moscow. Different providers arrange guided tours from Moscow to Kubinka, but it’s also possible to take a regional train to Kubinka (considering you manage to correctly pronounce ‘Kubinka’ at the ticket office). Outside Kubinka train station there are taxis that bring visitors to the museum. If you’re more adventurous and have some geographical skills, it’s also possible to walk the short distance. Just follow the main road through town east, afterwards you can follow the abandoned railroad tracks that used to supply the base. These will take you underneath the busy highway. When you spot a lonely Russian IS-3 tank that marks the highway exit, you have reached the entrance of the museum.
The entrance fee is alright, the museum also hosts two small souvenir stands for the mandatory tank mugs, Stalin shirts and Soviet starred lollypops. Keep in mind that the museum is known for closing of exhibitions for undisclosed reasons. Although I mailed in advance to check the availability of all exhibits during my visit, I was unpleased to find an angry Russian senior preventing my access to the Russian heavy tank pavilion. From the looks of it they were retiling the floor…
The conclude this article, here’s a final picture of the author and probably Kubinka’s most famous exhibit: the massive PzKpfw VIII Maus
For more information or photographs of specific vehicles, feel free to contact me at email@example.com