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Russian Army Expo Opens at New Theme Park Devoted to Russian Nationalism

"Young people will not only be able to visit exhibits, but also drive and fly on military equipment, shoot military weapons, and do parachute jumps."

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The militaristic nationalism being peddled by Russian President Vladimir Putin reached a new height Tuesday when he arrived at a theme park dedicated to the Russian military — where children are reportedly allowed to play with grenade launchers — and announced that his country’s armed forces would receive 40 new intercontinental nuclear missiles.

Putin’s comments came at Patriot Park, which saw the beginning of Russia’s annual Army Expo. The amusement park, constructed to the tune of $360 million, is the latest outpost of Putin’s growing landscape of monuments to his particular notion of Russian greatness. Tuesday marked its opening, amid once more increasing tensions in the West, as the United States has said it plans to pre-position heavy military equipment in Eastern Europe.

It is envisioned that when the park is completed in 2017, it will serve as an introduction for Russian children to the Red Army. “Young people will not only be able to visit exhibits, but also drive and fly on military equipment, shoot military weapons, and do parachute jumps,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said when construction began. Eventually, the park will also include commemorations of famous battles from Russian and Soviet history.

International delegations were in attendance Tuesday to peruse the latest in Russian military technology. The expo included displays of armored vehicles, tanks, helicopters, and missile launchers. Putin’s government has plowed huge sums into a program of military modernization, and the Russian leader used the expo to tout his army’s technological advances. The new intercontinental missiles, he said, would be “capable of overcoming even the most technically advanced missile defense systems.”

“I think this park is a gift to Russian citizens, who can now behold the full power of the Russian armed forces. Being here gives you a sense of internal self-sufficiency and makes you confident we can defend our territory,” a Russian Orthodox priest in attendance told the Guardian for its hilarious dispatch from the expo. “Children should come here, play with the weaponry … climb on the tanks, and see all the most modern technology, which they would not have known about before.”

Photo credit: VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images

Elias Groll is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @EliasGroll

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