April 11, 2021

The World's Largest Country, Made Tiny


The World's Largest Country, Made Tiny
A visitor's-eye view of central St. Petersburg, complete with Scarlet Sails. Griffin Edwards

Only got a few days in St. Petersburg, but want to see the whole of Russia in only a couple hours? Grand Maket Rossiya has you covered.

A nondescript yellow building from the 1950s, not far from the memorial to the Siege of Leningrad, houses the largest model layout ("maket") in Russia, and the second-largest in the world. Complete with moving trucks, rolling trains, and even hang gliders and skiers, the display stretches the entire second floor. In total, it's 8600 square feet in size— bigger than most Russian apartments— and is built in HO model railroading scale, 1:87.

Sochi's Winter Olympic facilities at nighttime, as recreated in the maket. | Griffin Edwards

All of Russia is recreated here. In one corner is Kaliningrad, the East Prussian enclave; next, St. Petersburg, Russia's gate to the West; next, Moscow, complete with tourists; then Siberia (including Lake Baikal). The other side of the room ends in Russia's Far East.

To add to the illusion, the display has its own day / night cycle, to simulate real-life Russia's spanning eleven time zones. LED lights in the ceiling change color from day to night every 13 minutes ("nights" last two minutes, so summertime visitors to St. Petersburg will feel right at home). Even as one side of the layout is sunny, the other might be shrouded in twilight or night, gradually shifting as the faux-sun rises or sets.

Maket-ception: a view of Grand Maket Rossiya inside Grand Maket Rossiya, with an optimistic line of visitors waiting to check it out. Note the Sapsan high-speed train in the background, departing St. Petersburg for Moscow. | Griffin Edwards

While some details are lacking – city centers are condensed, the Kremlin is relegated to a single tower, Siberia feels a little too full of human life – others are meticulously recreated and help bring the layout close to life. Bears intrude on campers, a TV news crew reports on crop circles, a tiny metro connects little Moscow and St. Petersburg stations. It is obvious that the creators put a lot of hard work and passion into telling tiny plastic stories. At one point, a sign proudly relates, "There are 39,260 sunflowers in this field." We did not verify that claim, but will accept it as true.

The display isn't without humor, either; the creators are happy to throw in a couple laughs. Take this scene, showing a domestic disagreement:

We're dying to know what the story is here. Seems juicy. | Griffin Edwards

Possibly the best part of Grand Maket Rossiya is that it's so delightfully self-aware. This is a portrayal of Russia by Russians, and sometimes that means they can poke fun at themselves in surprising ways.

For instance, this boat carrying scantily-clad women and a pudgy older man, sipping champagne:

Putin's palace is still missing, but at least we get this yacht. | Griffin Edwards

There's a surprising amount of lampooning self-deprecation on display, making fun of Russian habits, history, and even government attitudes. One of Russia's ubiquitous hovercraft hangs out near a permafrost-encrusted mammoth; brutalist hammer-and-sickles welcome visitors to tiny factories; and a cutaway of a submarine is captioned with an impossible order: "Don't look! Secret!"

There's also this tiny protest, where tiny citizens hold up signs in both English and Russian asking visitors to keep their hands to themselves:

We know it's tempting, but please don't touch. | Griffin Edwards

Whether this is a tongue-in-cheek send-up of protestors or police (or both), we're not sure, but it's cool to see a nod towards Russia's growing civil engagement.

Of course, in the end, the display is a patriotic and proud showcase of Russia's land, cities, and people. Military hardware like tanks and planes are front and center, balloons sport the Russian flag, and there's even a little Victory Day billboard calling us to remember the struggles of 1941-1945:

Don't forget about Victory Day as you enjoy looking at trains. | Griffin Edwards

While there's plenty on offer for "train people," the tiny stories on display showcase some of the oddities and inconsistencies of life in Russia. For anyone looking to get a sense of what the diverse array of Russia's rich lands are like, it's worth a stop. For those looking to get a sense of what some Russians think about themselves, it's a must-see, at least once we're free to travel again.

After all, we're in the Grand Maket, too:

Hi, Mom! | Griffin Edwards

 

You Might Also Like

17 Petersburg Places
  • September 01, 2017

17 Petersburg Places

Revolutions, including that Great October one, are not a popular topic in Russia today. Nonetheless, we take a photo feature look at how 1917 shaped Russia’s northern capital.
An Ode to the Hovercraft
  • February 14, 2021

An Ode to the Hovercraft

Russia is a land of many mysteries. The greatest of all, of course, is this: What's the deal with Russians and their hovercraft?
Like this post? Get a weekly email digest + member-only deals

Some of Our Books

22 Russian Crosswords

22 Russian Crosswords

Test your knowledge of the Russian language, Russian history and society with these 22 challenging puzzles taken from the pages of Russian Life magazine. Most all the clues are in English, but you must fill in the answers in Russian. If you get stumped, of course all the puzzles have answers printed at the back of the book.
The Samovar Murders

The Samovar Murders

The murder of a poet is always more than a murder. When a famous writer is brutally stabbed on the campus of Moscow’s Lumumba University, the son of a recently deposed African president confesses, and the case assumes political implications that no one wants any part of.
Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

The Life Stories collection is a nice introduction to contemporary Russian fiction: many of the 19 authors featured here have won major Russian literary prizes and/or become bestsellers. These are life-affirming stories of love, family, hope, rebirth, mystery and imagination, masterfully translated by some of the best Russian-English translators working today. The selections reassert the power of Russian literature to affect readers of all cultures in profound and lasting ways. Best of all, 100% of the profits from the sale of this book are going to benefit Russian hospice—not-for-profit care for fellow human beings who are nearing the end of their own life stories.
Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

Faith & Humor: Notes from Muscovy

A book that dares to explore the humanity of priests and pilgrims, saints and sinners, Faith & Humor has been both a runaway bestseller in Russia and the focus of heated controversy – as often happens when a thoughtful writer takes on sacred cows. The stories, aphorisms, anecdotes, dialogues and adventures in this volume comprise an encyclopedia of modern Russian Orthodoxy, and thereby of Russian life.
At the Circus

At the Circus

This wonderful novella by Alexander Kuprin tells the story of the wrestler Arbuzov and his battle against a renowned American wrestler. Rich in detail and characterization, At the Circus brims with excitement and life. You can smell the sawdust in the big top, see the vivid and colorful characters, sense the tension build as Arbuzov readies to face off against the American.
The Little Golden Calf

The Little Golden Calf

Our edition of The Little Golden Calf, one of the greatest Russian satires ever, is the first new translation of this classic novel in nearly fifty years. It is also the first unabridged, uncensored English translation ever, and is 100% true to the original 1931 serial publication in the Russian journal 30 Dnei. Anne O. Fisher’s translation is copiously annotated, and includes an introduction by Alexandra Ilf, the daughter of one of the book’s two co-authors.
93 Untranslatable Russian Words

93 Untranslatable Russian Words

Every language has concepts, ideas, words and idioms that are nearly impossible to translate into another language. This book looks at nearly 100 such Russian words and offers paths to their understanding and translation by way of examples from literature and everyday life. Difficult to translate words and concepts are introduced with dictionary definitions, then elucidated with citations from literature, speech and prose, helping the student of Russian comprehend the word/concept in context.
Jews in Service to the Tsar

Jews in Service to the Tsar

Benjamin Disraeli advised, “Read no history: nothing but biography, for that is life without theory.” With Jews in Service to the Tsar, Lev Berdnikov offers us 28 biographies spanning five centuries of Russian Jewish history, and each portrait opens a new window onto the history of Eastern Europe’s Jews, illuminating dark corners and challenging widely-held conceptions about the role of Jews in Russian history.
Russia Rules

Russia Rules

From the shores of the White Sea to Moscow and the Northern Caucasus, Russian Rules is a high-speed thriller based on actual events, terrifying possibilities, and some really stupid decisions.
Murder at the Dacha

Murder at the Dacha

Senior Lieutenant Pavel Matyushkin has a problem. Several, actually. Not the least of them is the fact that a powerful Soviet boss has been murdered, and Matyushkin's surly commander has given him an unreasonably short time frame to close the case.

About Us

Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

Latest Posts

Our Contacts

Russian Life
73 Main Street, Suite 402
Montpelier VT 05602

802-223-4955