Propaganda preserved for the generations

  • 2006-09-07
  • By Tassos Coulaloglou

You might consider a park filled with statues of Lenin and Stalin to be a tragic joke. But it is no joke to owner Viliumas Malinauskas. In 1998, the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture declared the mushroom and berry magnate winner of a tender to establish this exposition of dismantled Soviet era statues.

On April Fool's Day, 2001, Malinaus-kas opened Gruto Parkas to the world. Some of the statues were in poor condition after years of neglect and others had simply vanished as scrap metal, but a few "gems" remained and today take prime positions in this strange and intriguing collection. Take for instance a monument of Lenin, which used to stand in one of Vilnius's main squares, fittingly, only footsteps from the old KGB offices.

In all there are 87 statues which line the sinewy paths of the park located in this forested region of southern Lithuania. An information guide and map is available in English as are audio tours. Tour guides are available for 40 minute (20 litas) and 2-3 hours (60 litas) tours in Lithuanian, Polish and Russian. There is also a museum which houses Soviet paraphernalia such as paintings, banners, and murals. The museum also explores the time period from occupation to independence, albeit rather weakly. No word yet on whether Russian President Vladimir Putin has fully endorsed this "version" of history. Some may enjoy purchasing the Soviet kitsch which makes most people who grew up in the U.S.S.R. feel both nostalgic and nauseated.

Gruto Parkas is more than just an ode to a bygone era of genocidal murders and psychopathic torture. The grounds also sport a small zoo, leading visitors to make the parallel between the caged animals and the Soviet government treatment of most of their citizens. Gruto Parkas is nostalgia, discomfort and fascination all in one place.

The park operates daily, all year round and is a 120 km drive from Vilnius. While in the area, you may also consider partaking in one of Lithuanians favorite pastimes, mushroom picking- this part of the country has some of the prime mushrooming spots. But be sure to bring along a local expert or a guidebook as some varieties are poisonous. The park is also near the natural springs of Druskininkai. Buses also run daily from Vilnius to Druskininkiai and from there a short bus ride takes you to the park.
The admission fee is 10 litas for adults , 5 litas for students and 3 litas for children aged 3-16.

For more information:
Gruto Parkas
Ph: +370 313 55511