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Moscow Museum Remembers Russian Jewish History

Russia's capital city has a host of fascinating attractions vying for the attention of locals and tourists alike, and on the 12th of November, 2012, a new museum opened which is well worth adding to the list of places to see when exploring Moscow. Housed in the 1927 Bakhmetevsky Bus Garage, the Jewish Museum and Center of Tolerance is the largest Jewish museum in the world and aims to detail the history of the Jewish people in Russia in a manner that will hold the interest of young and old alike. To this end, the museum designer Ralph Appelbaum has used technology in innovative ways, to capture the attention of visitors, and engage them in each topic covered along the journey through the museum.

Appelbaum notes that the museum presents a chronological journey along two paths, both of which lead up to World War II. He also points out that, with the exception of the T-34 tank on display, the museum has a limited number of original objects to exhibit and so have made use of documentaries and photographs to recreate events. Strategic lighting highlights the huge photographs on the walls, while superb life-size sculptures, holograms and videos depict Jewish life from the time of living in villages called shtetls (referring to the population being primarily Jewish) at the order of the Czarist government, through to their lives in 20th century cities.

A tour through the museum starts with a short film entitled The Beginning, followed by a viewing of a large globe detailing the geographic dispersal of the Jewish people. The tour continues with life in the aforementioned 18th century shtetls and the 19th century exodus to larger towns. Historical conflicts and persecution are depicted on large panoramic screens, featuring some of the most devastating and tragic times in World War II – including the massacres carried out by the Nazis at Babi Yar in Kiev, Ukraine, as well as the Siege of Leningrad and the Battle of Stalingrad. A pyramid-shaped memorial honors the millions of victims of those conflicts, while their names scroll on a huge black screen.

Rather than focus on the injustices of Czarist Russia against the Jews, the museum highlights the difficulties all Russians went through during World War II. Some critics have noted that the museum is no more than a political statement, but people who lived through the Soviet Era and have family members who were affected by the atrocities of World War II and other conflicts agree that having a museum of this nature in Moscow is a tribute to positive change in Russia that should be acknowledged.


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