Few countries can be toured in a single day, least of all Russia. Fortunately for those who want to see the entire northern nation from Vladivostok to Kaliningrad in just a few hours, there’s the Grand Maket Rossiya, or Grand Model of Russia, in St. Petersburg.
Built over the course of five years by more than 400 modelers, artists, and computer scientists using extensive wooden frames and 11 tons of plaster, the scale model represents nearly the entirety of Russia. Every major feature of the country is represented, though not always precisely, for space reasons, from the Ural Mountains to a frog on the side of a river, the Kremlin to a woman feeding her chickens as they peck at the ground.
The model even experiences changes in weather and season, and a day lasts 15 minutes (13 minutes of daylight, 2 minutes of night). Some 500,000 LED lights are used to create this effect.
Miniature fires are fought and miniature prisoners try to escape prison. Tiny rifles go off and tiny movies play on tiny screens. Somewhere on the model, there’s even a tiny UFO.
Over an area of 800 square meters, trains run on 2,500 meters of rails, and there are turntables to turn them around when they reach the end of the line. Cars and trucks not only drive on the road, but sometimes change speeds to pass each other or stop at a light. All of this is controlled remotely, and some of it can be manipulated by visitors by way of buttons on the side of the model.
The Grand Maket Rossiya was created by St. Petersburg businessman Sergey Morozov, and is housed in a two-story Stalin-era building, where it officially opened in June of 2012. The model is so big, visitors are offered binoculars to rent to see all of the details. The only model in the world that is bigger is Hamburg’s Miniatur Wunderland.
Know Before You Go
There is an audio tour available in English, German, and Russian, and short films about the creation of the model play every hour in English and Russian.