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Victory Park on Poklonnaya Gora

Victory Park on Poklonnaya Gora in Moscow Victory Park was only completed in the mid-nineties, and is something of a last gasp for the Soviet tradition of monumental triumphal art. Located on and around the Poklonnaya Gora - the hill where Napoleon waited in vain to be given the keys to the city when his troops were surrounding Moscow in 1812 - the park is set in an area steeped in Russian military history.

Victory Park was initially laid out over an area of 98 hectares in 1961, although work on the creation of an architectural memorial was only mooted in the Politburo in 1983. Fortunately, the original plan - to level the hill and replace it with a 250-meter high column - was abandoned in the turbulent eighties, and only returned to under Yeltsin's government, when it was considered imperative to get the long-delayed project finished in time for the 50th anniversary of the end of the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945 - Russians have little interest in other countries' participation). Questions of taste left aside, the results are certainly impressive. The central avenue is called "Years of War": It has five terraces, symbolizing the five years of conflict, and there are 1,418 fountains - one for every day. It runs past a memorial chapel, mosque, and synagogue to the circular Victors' Place, which has a triangular obelisk soaring 150 meters and surmounted by a statue of Nike, the Goddess of Victory. Behind this lies the crescent-shaped Museum of the Great Patriotic War, which gives a detailed but staid overview of Russia's appalling loses and eventual victory.

On 9 May, Victory Day in Russia, the park becomes the center of Moscow's celebrations, and as many of the remaining veterans and survivors as can make there way here, along with scores of the younger generations. In Russia the emphasis is on celebration rather than remembrance, and this is one of the most popular public holidays.

Getting there: Park Pobedy Metro Station.

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