Gorky Park


A few foreigners walked into Gorky Park. This post is not a joke, but many a Western joke in the Soviet Days started out with similar words. Although a park called VDNK in the northern part of the city was more popular back then, Gorky Park was immortalized by Martin Cruz Smith in his novel Gorky Park, which had been turned into a movie with the same name. However, the park seen in the famous opening scene of Michael Apted’s movie adaptation was in Finland; because of the Cold War, the film crew wasn’t able to access the real park.

[Gorky Park, if you are wondering, is a detective novel in which three corpses with their faces and fingertips cut off were found in the park. Smith’s detective is Arkady Renko, a chief investigator for the Militsiya, with a fictional psychological problem, Pathoheterodoxy, the idea of misguided arrogance.]

So I was in this Gorky Park last weekend–as far as parks go, it is a pretty shabby place, but I wasn’t there for topiary. I was there for this one hookah place, but that is besides the point (see the other post for details). The park commends the nice view of the Mockva–an amazingly clean river by Russian standards.

The park, formally Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure was built in 1928 by those Soviets who just couldn’t name things simple. The amusement rides in the park totally looked as if they had never been replaced since 1928. The only (relatively) new thing in the park is a mock-up test unit of a space shuttle.

A space shuttle? Russians don’t have space shuttles, you might say and then you are plain wrong. They had one in the late 70s and 80s which was continually plagued by mismanagement and funding shortages. After the Challenger explosion, this Buran (Blizzard) space shuttle program was halted, and was finally cancelled in 1993.

Digressions aside, the park has beautiful, colorful fountains which rival those dancing ones in Las Vegas. Apparently, the park is also the scene of an annual ice-sculpture competition so I guess I will be visiting it again.


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