Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Theme Parks: A Day out in a Cattle Truck

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Theme Parks: A Day out in a Cattle Truck

Article excerpt

Every weekend, thousands of Lithuanians drive to a remote, swampy area of woodland in the south of the country, park in a narrow lane and walk to wards a clump of fir trees. They see a lake, and then some buildings. Then, from behind high barbed-wire fences and wooden guard posts, they can hear singing--in Russian, not Lithuanian. And from giant loudspeakers comes the rallying cry of Soviet propaganda.

A few yards further on, on a section of railway line, they will find a windowless cattle truck, with a locomotive attached. An accompanying notice explains that this was one of many wagons used to deport 360,000 Lithuanians to Siberia between 1941 and 1953, on a month-long journey. At the turnstiles, Russian guards brandish rifles.

Welcome to Grutas Park, where 82 statues of communist leaders, in the Soviet realist style, are displayed at an open-air museum, along with memorabilia from the Gulag, a Communist Party library, art gallery, cinema and polling station. On the cattle truck, Lithuanians can experience deportation at first hand.

This weird and much-criticised theme park is the project of Viliumas Malinauskas, a Lithuanian millionaire and former wrestler, who made his money exporting mushrooms to the west. "My purpose is not to make money," says Malinauskas, sporting a large KGB tie and standing in front of one of 13 statues of Lenin. "It is educational and it is for fun. But we must not forget those terrible times. It is better for people to see these statues than to have them crumbling away in warehouses. …

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