A village church in Russia's Far East

Grand Maket in St. Petersburg: A Miniature Tour of Russia

Published: May 2, 2019

After two months in Russia where have I been? Only in St. Petersburg, but what have I seen? The entire country. How is this possible? Well, I took a tour of the Grand Maket Rossiya.

View of the eastern half of the model.

The word “maket” in Russian can be translated as “layout” or “model,” and the Grand Maket is the world’s second largest miniature model. It spans the entire second floor of a two-story building in St. Petersburg. Upon entering the second floor, you come face-to-face with the imposing Ural Mountains and must choose where to begin your tour—in the east or the west. After spending all of my days in the European part of Russia, I decided to begin my journey in the east.

The clear waters of Lake Baikal.

One of the interesting aspects of the display is that it does not clearly identify cities by name, only regions and some specific landmarks are clearly identified, such as the Far East and Lake Baikal. I personally liked the lack of clear names to places, as it allowed the scenes to speak more to Russian life as a whole rather than life in one specific city. This is what the model does very well: it represents all aspects of life and even covers different eras in Russian history. There are scenes in the model depicting everything from a car accident and a funeral to protests during the Soviet period and the Olympics in Sochi.

Moscow at night.

By far the most impressive aspect of the model is the attention to detail. At one point I noticed a car with its turn signal on, and through the windows to the buildings you can see that all of the rooms are different. Then, every 13 minutes, the lights slowly start to dim from east to west until the entire display transforms into a nighttime scene. Then, after two minutes of night, the sunrise begins creeping over the east. In addition to these small details there are also several “Easter eggs” in the model such as a hidden yeti and an shirtless man riding a bear in the Far East. The latter is almost certainly a nod to an internet meme first created by someone photoshopping an image of a shirtless Vladimir Putin off a horse and onto a bear. The meme got so popular, it was made into an action figure and souvineer stands in Russia sell the image on t-shirts, magnets, and coffee mugs.

Putin on a bear – a nod to an Internet meme.

Some say that the Grand Maket is “just a diorama,” but I fully enjoyed my time at the museum, and I would recommend everyone to go just to see the shear size of the display and appreciate the attention to detail that went into crafting a miniature model of the largest country on Earth. Depending on your interest in the model itself, a tour through the display can last anywhere from 30 minutes to over two hours. I think it was at hour two that I finally saw St. Petersburg, and then of course I had to search for all of my favorite spots in the city.

About the author

Natasha Harwood

Natasha Harwood studied German, Russian, and Linguistics at the University of Montana. When writing for this site, she was a senior and studying Russian as a Second Language in St. Petersburg with SRAS. She chose to study in Russia in order to improve her abilities to speak and understand Russian, as well as her understanding of Russia as a whole. After her program, she planned to pursue a career as a high school foreign language teacher of either German or Russian, which would allow her to draw upon her experiences in St. Petersburg for the rest of her career.

Program attended: Challenge Grants

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