Anyone for a tank ride?
Riding in a Russian World War II tank or coldwar era BTR personnel carrier is becoming more difficult, but still possible with a bit of preparation. While Incredible Adventures (www.incredible-adventures.com) and other travel agents are still offering the public the chance to ride in T-34, T-64, T-72 and other tanks at the military base at Kubinka, an hour’s drive south of Moscow, be aware that the Army Headquarters have virtually prohibited this since February this year. Special permission is now required from Army HQ. “You could send us the request for the tank ride, but the answer will be 95% – ‘No’,” the Kubinka base says on its web site (tankmuseum.ru).
In fact to even visit, what is popularly known as the Tank Museum, requires a permit for both Russian and foreign visitors, as Passport columnist, Linda Lippner, discovered when she visited there on a Patriarshy Dom Tour. That is because it is not officially a museum, but a collection of some 300 vehicles from 11 countries including light tanks, armoured cars, heavy tanks and self-propelled guns maintained by the Military Institution Laboratory (NIIBT) of the Russian Army and this is technically a secret institution. Linda says they had to book the tour and submit passport details two weeks before visiting the base, which she writes about in her column on page 23.
However, if you really want a tank ride, don’t despair. The Kubinka web site laconically adds, “But… we have the second military base with WWII and Korean War T-34 and IS-3 heavy tanks and Cold War T-55’s. If you have the interest for a tank ride, let us know and we will try to help you.” The cost is about $1,300 for the tank ride, plus $30 for every round you fire.
In the Museum itself there is closed circuit video monitored by FSB officials. Model makers are apparently regular violators of the Museum’s rules and visitors are warned that additional special permission is required for any camera (or video camera) equipped with a lens more than 10mm in diameter. Journalists and others with such equipment should send details of the camera model and a photo of it to obtain special permission with your original permit request.
For a less hassle-free sight of Soviet era military hardware, roll up without preamble to the Central Armed Forces Museum at 2 Sovietsky Army Street in Moscow. In its extensive grounds, you will find not only examples of the first Soviet tanks, including the ‘monsters’, but also artillery pieces and an armoured train. It is 15 minutes walk from Novoslobodskaya Metro, or take Trolley Bus 69 from Novoslobodskaya or the number 13 from Tsvetnoi Bulvard (Pushkinskaya, Chekhovskaya and Tverskaya metro stations), from Wednesday through Sunday between 10 am and 4 pm. The museum closes at 5 pm.
An entrance ticket costs just 50 Rubles (Less than $2) and far from having CCTV and FSB officials monitoring your every move, one recent summer evening found youths climbing over the perimeter fence for some illicit fun among the armoured vehicles. The vehicles are all disabled however, so don’t expect to take one for a drive, let alone fire rounds from the blocked gun barrels!
Still want to visit?
Request the permit 2-3 weeks in advance of your visit by sending the name of the site you want to visit (Kubinka NIIBT); your full name; passport information (citizenship, number, date of issue); date of birth and planned date of arrival to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Access permits are valid for one month from date of issue.