There aren’t many places in the world where the desire to keep the events of the second world war in the public consciousness are greater than in Russia. For many Russians the idea of being a patriot is closely linked to honouring the Soviet people that fought or suffered in the Second World War or “The Great Patriotic War” as its known.
With the 70th Anniversary of the end of hostilities coming, which is celebrated on May 9th in Russia, there are a number of events being planned to celebrate and honour the victory. War History Online got invited to a new exhibition in St Petersburg, Russia focused on the Battle of Berlin.
The exhibition retells the exploits of Semyon Sorokin’s reconnaissance platoon. Everyone has seen the photos of Soviet soldiers waving flags on top of the Reichstag. Of course, while impressive these were staged after the event for the camera. What this exhibition does though is to try and show something of the story of the storming of the Reichstag and the men who were involved.Reconnaissance platoon of 674 Infantry Regiment, 150th Infantry Division
To call this an exhibition though, somewhat understates the interactive and immersive nature of the work. Situated in the LenExpo pavilion number 5, right near the sea port “Battle for Berlin” (“битва за берлин” in Russian) is housed in a giant hangar of a building and it utilises this space amazingly well.
We were greeted by Dmitry Poshtarenko, the young man who’s idea it was to create the exhibition. Walking into a dark corridor, you can’t help but kick bits of plaster on the floor. “It’s the war”, said Dmitry smiling as we crunched through into a perfect recreation of a musician’s house in Berlin.
One thing Dmitry keeps repeating as we walk around is “details, details, details”. He is passionate about creating all the details to keep the illusion of a real house. Even though it’s a fictional room, Dmitry is able to recite everything about the owner of the building, where the owner has been on his holidays. There are no barriers or ropes to stop you picking up and touching the items and its actively encouraged.
There are plenty of spent casings lying about which school children are keen to pocket as trophies.
Moving on from the musician house, a hole in the wall leads to a street scene.
This leads you around to a breathtaking view of Artillery in front of the foot of the Reichstag.
Dmitry explains that 35 people have worked on the exhibition and every night a team of 3 walk round and rearranging and working background stories into the exhibition. The meticulous nature shows an incredible passion for the subject matter.
Dmitry and his team travelled to Berlin an made detailed measurements and calculations to recreate, from old photographs, a section of the Reichstag as it would have been seen at the time.
Many of the items in the exhibit are real and have been dug up by enthusiasts in the countryside around St Petersburg.
Passing through the Reichstag there is a peaceful area of reflection. If there was one take away that the organisers would each visitor to take away is that war is not something to be celebrated so much as honoured.
If you happen to find yourself in St Petersburg Russia, this is well worth a visit. It runs until the 25th May and costs 150 roubles, thats about $2.50. Under 18’s go free.