You’d be forgiven for thinking that a military theme park, complete with tanks to crawl all over, dummy rocket-propelled grenades, and tchotchkes celebrating former heads of the secret police would be from some sort of crappy dystopian novel. But it isn’t. These are all joys The Guardian
found in Russia’s newest entertainment complex — Patriot Park!

It’s hard to find a place to start with the absurdity that is a military-themed amusement park. Maybe it’s the Russian President Vladimir Putin opened it this week with an announcement that Russia would be acquiring 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Maybe it’s the oddly nefarious and jingoistic name of “Patriot Park.”

Maybe it’s that one of the illustrious VIPs invited to tour the children’s theme park on its first day included a member of a quasi-state supported biker gang, who himself is known as “The Surgeon,” and who was quoted as saying:

“When I look at all this stuff it makes me feel proud of Russia and realise that we have something to answer the Americans with. They wouldn’t dare to press the button.”

Maybe it’s the fact that the park doesn’t just set refrigerator magnets celebrating Josef Stalin, himself a brutal dictator responsible for the murder of millions, but also fridge magnets celebrating Lavrentiy Beria, his chief of the secret police.

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But definitely, the thing that seems to be fueling all of it is a deep state-supported sense of paranoia, one that goes beyond any Bush Administration-era notions of color-coded terror threat levels, and one pushed by state-sponsored channels of faith:

“I think this park is a gift to Russian citizens, who can now behold the full power of the Russian armed forces. Being here gives you a sense of internal self-sufficiency and makes you confident we can defend our territory,” said Sergei Privalov, a Russian Orthodox priest who attended the opening ceremony.

But Privalov knows who the park is really aimed at, and he’s proud:

“Children should come here, play with the weaponry and climb on the tanks and see all the most modern technology, which they would not have known about before.”

“Kids should play with weapons,” Jesus is definitely not quoted as saying anywhere.

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It’s not that the indoctrination of children into the state-military complex is particularly unusual. Plenty of countries have vaguely militaristic children’s organizations (America’s got the Boy Scouts, after all), or uncomfortable promotions of military might to a civilian populace (France has its Bastille Day parades).

But what does appear to be unique is the way all of it is presented in one harmonious messaging effort, all wrapped up with a bow in the form of what must be wildly entertaining tanks and artillery pieces, army field rations for lunch, and kid-friendly propaganda.

And no expense is being spared, either with the equivalent of $363 million being allocated for the Patriot Park, including a whole bunch of money for this slickly-produced video:

5,500 hectares! 5000 military designs! The biggest armored equipment museum in the world! Enough space for 100,000 visitors! 20,000 parking spaces! A MOTOCROSS SHOW!

THE BIGGEST RUSSIAN FLAG IN THE WORLD!

And all of it connected to the Alabino firing range and Kubinka air field, because simulated munitions never compare to the real thing.

I’m kind of tempted to open an American version of this, come to think of it. I bet it would do well.

Photo credit: AP


Contact the author at ballaban@jalopnik.com.
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