Although it's a little out of the way in the north of the city, Moscow's Museum of the Armed Forces is perennially popular with war buffs for its vast collection of military memorabilia, with pride of place going, unsurprisingly, to exhaustive displays about the Soviet Union's part in the Second World War. It also has plenty to appeal to children, particularly the clutter of military hardware parked around the outside of the building, including tanks, MIGs and ballistic missiles.
The museum, which was established soon after the Revolution, and moved to its current location in the sixties, focuses on the 20th Century, and there is still some residual ideologizing from the days when the museum acted as little more than a propaganda machine for Soviet might. However, efforts have been made to give a revised version of the history, including a sympathetic display about the White Army that concentrates on the hardships rather than the triumphs of the Civil War. As can only be expected, the more recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Chechnya are treated with somewhat less objectivity.
Pride of place in the collection goes to the victory banner raised over the Berlin Reichstag in 1945, which is kept here alongside the swathes of captured Nazi standards that were trampled on Red Square during victory celebrations. Other displays of note include the remains of US pilot Gary Powers' U-2 spy plane, brought down over the Urals in 1960, and a section of tattooed skin taken from a prisoner in the Maidenjak concentration camp. There are also vast quantities of Soviet propaganda material, the personal effects of a number of famous revolutionaries, and extensive photographic archives covering all the conflicts of the 20th Century.
By turns stirring and harrowing, the museum is a little schizophrenic in its attitude to war, but the displays have been created with imagination and skill, and there is plenty to see here not just for military historians or blood-thirsty kids.
Opening hours: Daily from 10.00 to 17.00, closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.