Russia is constructing a replica of Germany’s parliament building so Russian army cadets can practice sacking it, as Soviet troops once did, Russian news agency Interfax reported.
Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu announced Wednesday that the government will build a copy of the building in the outskirts of Moscow, so 17-25 year-olds in Russia’s Youth Army can practice “storming not just anything, but a specific site.”
Berlin’s Reichstag has housed the assembly of numerous German states, but was severely damaged in the latter stages of World War II, when the Nazi German regime was in retreat. The Soviet Red Army’s storming of the building in 1945 remains one of the most widely recognized and used symbols of Soviet-era pride in Russia. Although the derelict building fell into disuse during the Cold War, it was renovated following Germany’s reunification in 1989, and since 1999, it has housed Germany's parliament, the Bundestag.
Russia’s Youth Army was formed in late 2015 by Shoygu and President Vladimir Putin as a way of drumming up interest in Russian and Soviet military glory among youngsters.
The Reichstag replica will be erected in Russia’s Patriot Park—a public venue outside Moscow, used for arms exhibitions and for Soviet war re-enactment experiences. Shoygu said that the park will also add a “partisans’ village” and simulated trenches to its facilities.
“There will be a course in preparing demolition troopers there, a kitchen, a partisan bathhouse and an officer’s dugout,” he stated.
Keir Giles, Russian military expert at Chatham House said the proposed complexes “seem to represent a strange mixture of current military experience and nostalgia for the second world war.”
“It is as though a Western military were to mix current cadet training with playing at re-enactors,” he says. “In any case, building a Reichstag as a training ground for fighting in built up areas is the height of tasteless bombast.”
In recent years, the Russian government has moved closer and closer to Soviet-era levels of venerations towards the Red Army. At his last address to parliament last year on the anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, Putin said Western inaction had allowed Hitler’s army to “unleash war” on the bloc. He failed to mention that at the time Western allies had already declared war on the Nazi regime.
The Soviet Union’s non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany held for 22 months, allowing the two countries to brutally split control of much of eastern Europe without fighting one another. It was seldom mentioned in Soviet times and remains a highly inconvenient fact in modern Russia. Putin defended the pact in 2015, claiming Moscow was plotting how to defeat Adolf Hitler all along.
Germany’s Foreign Office did not immediately respond to Newsweek’s request for comment.Try Newsweek: Subscription offers