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Mother Armenia Military Museum

(Victory Pk, 2 Azatutian; © 10.00-17.00 Tue-Fri, 10.00-15.00 Sat & Sun; admission free)

The museum is located inside the structure, which from 1950 to 1962 supported the statue of Stalin, but now supports the statue of Mother Armenia. Two soldiers died when his statue was wrenched off unannounced one night, leading to grim muttering about Stalin still killing from beyond the grave. Originally the whole was devoted to World War II but the upper floor is now devoted to the Nagorno Karabagh conflict.

Symbolism abounds in the huge statue of Mother Armenia (Mayr Hayastan). She looms over the city in line with Mesrop Mashtots Poghota, on a classic Soviet plaza complete with tanks and jets set on pedestals at the eastern end of Haghtanak (Victory) Park . The 23m-high Mother Armenia glares out across the city towards the Turkish border with a massive sword held defensively in front of her.

Inside the 50m pedestal is a Military Museum. The interior is based on Surp Hripsime at Echmiadzin, a brave acknowledgment of religion by the architect during Stalin’s lifetime. Originally fitted out with displays from WWII (300,000 Armenians died, half of those sent to fight), today most of the space is devoted to the Karabakh War – a Dashnak’s paradise which includes a tableau of female soldiers in the Karabakh conflict. All explanations are in Armenian and show no concession to those who do not speak Armenian but the dioramas are easily grasped.

The displays of uniforms, portraits of marshals, etc are not particularly interesting although camouflage netting is successfully used to create atmosphere on the lower floor. The museum is notable for succeeding, even in a Stalin-era building, in creating the atmosphere of a church as one enters and this is echoed in the statue of Mother Armenia, a young woman holding a sword horizontally and thus forming the shape of the cross.

Haghtanak Park, next to Mother Armenia, is a mostly overgrown patch of woods. Watch out for children (and sometimes adults) speeding around in miniature cars. There’s a quaint amusement park in the park with a Ferris wheel, cafes and outdoor billiards tables.

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