Grutas park in Lithuania is a unique place which cannot be missed if you are interested in history and especially in communism and communist propaganda.
It is an impressive 2km long exposition park where about 90 monumental sculptures of communist leaders, dictators from the Soviet times are displayed. While walking you cannot miss the loud marching music and Soviet propaganda speeches played through the loudspeakers. There are statues of Stalin, Lenin, Marx, Engels and many Lithuanian communist leaders, such as founders of the Communist Party of Lithuania: Zigmas Aleksa-Angarietis, Vincas Mickevičius-Kapsukas and officers of the Red Army: Feliksas Baltušis-Žemaitis, Ieronim Uborevich.
At the beginning of the park you can step inside trains in which communist victims were deported to Gulags. They were transported as if they were animals, inside the trains you can feel how cold and dark the trains were and read about the terror of communism.
There are prison camp parts such as guard towers and barbed wire. In the park there is also a museum with Soviet relics including books, flags, socialist-realist paintings, including portraits.
There are outside and inside meeting spaces for communist party members, a library with Soviet propaganda books and newspapers and a Soviet-style playground.
You can also try some Soviet dishes in a Soviet style restaurant such as for example sardines served with a hard slice of bread, glass of vodka or a glass of sort of fruit lemonade.
When Lithuania gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1990 many statues of Soviet oppressors were taken down. Viliumas Malinauskas, a Lithuanian entrepreneur and his agency won atender called by the Ministry of Culture in 1998 for the establishment of an exposition of dismantled monumental sculptures from the Soviet period. A strong argument for choosing this undertaking was that Viliumas Malinauskas, was planning to establish the exposition using private funds earned from his family’s mushroom and berry business without asking for financial support from the state. The project submitted for tender also stressed the importance of the new tourist site for the development of this region in Southern Lithuania.
The preparations for the park started in early 1999. Grūtas Park was officially opened on 1 April 2001. The decision to establish the museum led to fierce protests and was controversial as many saw it as glorification of Soviet times. The founders of the park point out that the park has just the opposite purpose, namely to share the knowledge about the true, brutal face of communism.
Grūtas Park situated just 9 km from the beautiful Spa resort of Druskininkai, nearby the border with Belarus, 130 km from the capital City of Vilnius. And when in Lithuania make sure you will not miss another interesting location witnessing Soviet times, located 130 km from Grūtas park: Elektrenai purpose building Soviet town.
Author: Beata Bruggeman-Sękowska is an award-winning international journalist, TV correspondent, author, chief editor of international journalism centre, Central and Eastern Europe Centre, president of the European Institute on Communist Oppression and a sworn translator. She was born in Warsaw, Poland and has also Armenian blood and roots in Lvov, which is part of Ukraine. She has been living in Heerlen, the Netherlands since 2005.
Read about our visit to Druskinikai here: