MINSK: At Belarus’s Stalin Line museum visitors can watch reenactments of World War Two battles, fire Soviet-era weapons and even pose for photographs next to a wreath-decked monument to Josef Stalin himself.
The open air complex 30 km (19 miles) outside Minsk was built to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the war and showcases some of the fortifications built to protect the Soviet Union’s Western flank – concrete bunkers and gun emplacements nicknamed ‘Stalin’s Line.’
More than 20 million Soviet soldiers and citizens died as a result of the war and the museum is dedicated to those killed on the Western front line.
“I often come here and always with my sons. They like to watch the battles and then climb around on the actual military equipment and hold weapons in their hands. It’s the best way to remember the history of our country,” said Vera, a mother of two.
Other visitors expressed concern that the museum appeared to honor Stalin for his defeat of Nazi Germany without mention of his repressive policies which led to the death of millions of people during bloody purges and the forced collectivization of farms.
“He’s represented in a one-sided way here – there’s not a word about his, let’s say, leading role in the mass repressions at the end of the 1930s,” said computer programmer Andrei, declining to give his last name.
Stalin led the Soviet Union from the 1920s to his death in 1953. He is revered among some in what was the Soviet Union for his role as war leader. But tens of millions of people – the exact number is unknown – died as a result of his policies.
Belarus is Russia’s closest ally and has been run along Soviet-style command lines by President Alexander Lukashenko since 1994 in what the United States described in 2005 as “Europe’s last dictatorship.”