Grutas Park: Stalinland

In June 2006 I was lucky enough to travel to Druskininkai, an attractive spa town, two hours south of Vilnius. I stayed in the pleasant Pusynas hotel where I watched England draw with Sweden in the World Cup. The only other guest watching the match was Rimvydas Valatka, the Lithuanian equivalent of Jeremy Paxman. (He supported Sweden). Druskininkai (much easier to pronounce after three glasses of Lithuanian vodka) is about 10 km from Grutas Park, a theme park set up by Viliumas Malinauskas, a man who made his money by selling canned mushrooms. He decided to collect communist statues from around Lithuania and bring them to a park. Whether Grutas park is a disney-style insult to the thousands who died at the hands of the Soviets or whether it is a historical outdoor museum, is a matter of debate.

Lithuanian pine forest

The walk from Druskininkai to Grutas park is a beautiful one though the man in the tourist office seemed surprised that anyone would want to. For those pressed for time, bike hire is also available so the park is just minutes away through a large pine forest.

Wagon

The entrance to the park is marked by a section of ‘iron curtain’ and also three cattle wagons which were used to transport Lithuanian dissidents to Gulags in Siberia.

Grtuas park

The park itself contains hundreds of statues collected from all over Lithuania. They have recreated the typical social realism style of that era, so they no doubt bring back very vivid memories for Lithuanians over 45.

Stalin

Many of the statues have small information boards explaining where the statue was taken from and who the person is. This evil character (the one on the right) doesn’t need an introduction.

Lenin

Another famous man. The guy on the left is Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, whoever he was.

Grutas House

This house belongs to Viliumas Malinauskas, the owner of Grutas Park and mushroom seller extraordinaire. Clearly a man of modest means.

Grutas Lake

The park is set in beautiful grounds next to the beautiful Grutas lake. In addition to the statues there are information centres about the Soviet occupation, a restaurant and a small zoo.

 

Practical Information

The Grutas Park website in English is here

For details of the Pusynas hotel in Druskininkai: Click here.

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