Russian Museum of Military Medicine – Saint Petersburg, Russia - Atlas Obscura
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Saint Petersburg, Russia

Russian Museum of Military Medicine

Rare documents, old instruments, and gruesome specimens showcase the history of military medicine. 

This museum is an absolute treasure trove of information about military medical history. It’s fascinating, but it certainly isn’t a destination for the faint of heart. 

The Russian Museum of Military Medicine was founded in 1942 and has been growing steadily ever since. Originally, its collection pooled together artifacts from a handful of small, specialized museums. But over time, it grew to become one of the largest medical museums in the world.

The museum, which is part of a military medical school, is packed with rare books and documents. One particular treasure is a treatise published in 1607 by Ambroise Paré, an esteemed French surgeon. There’s also an archive that holds more than 60 million military medical documents. Researchers have used these documents to collect data on the many Russians who died during World War II and to help foreign governments gain information about soldiers who went missing in action.

But there’s far more to do than browse old records. The exposition halls show a seemingly endless supply of gas masks, bandages, syringes, and other medical equipment. Among these items, you’ll also find some grim specimens that highlight the sheer human cruelty of war, including bone fragments, soap made of human fat, and patches of human skin transformed into leather.

The museum also has a huge collection of paintings and photographs. One hall is entirely devoted to recent war conflicts, and its walls are covered with pictures of dead and lacerated bodies and limbs strewn about the ground. You’ll see similar themes and items presented in the anatomical theater as well.

Know Before You Go

The museum is closed on Tuesdays. It's open Thursday through Monday from 11 to 8. On Wednesdays, it's open from 12 to 8.