Those good ol' dayskis Khrushchev Land will reprieve stable Communist era


MOSCOW -- There's little doubt it will be one of the world's strangest theme parks, a place for Russians jostled by today's tough times to travel back through the decades to more stable, Communist days.

It will be a place where they can hear a radio trumpeting the launch of Sputnik and other victories in the space race with the Americans.

It will be a place where, for 22 kopecks, they will be able to swig a bottle of cold beer that today costs 100 times as much. And they will marvel as they meet the first human being in space -- a Russian -- or gasp as their leader reveals the crimes of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

"Moscow Nights" -- dubbed "Khrushchev Land" by one local newspaper -- is scheduled to open next week in a corner of the northern Moscow fairgrounds originally built to showcase the achievements of the Soviet economy.

Though a little fuzzy in theme, the fantasy park is chiefly aimed at recalling the times of Nikita S. Khrushchev, the Soviet leader from 1953 to '64.

The exhibit is the brainchild of artists Anatoly Chechik, 38, and Nina Getashvili, 41, who came up with the idea six months ago while reminiscing about the Khrushchev era with friends.

"Most of us spent our youth during this time," Mr. Chechik said. "We are trying to give people a chance to remember it. We invite them to play."

For people like Mr. Chechik, the Khrushchev years were relatively good ones, when political repression was eased, a cultural revival ("The Thaw") took place and living standards for most Soviet people improved markedly.

Moscow Nights will not make a statement about the superiority of communism, Mr. Chechik stressed, saying: "There were good things, there were bad things. But every time has a history."

Still under construction, the exhibit is designed to be half history lesson, half amusement park. It is housed on something resembling a movie set, with giant wooden replicas of some of Moscow's most famous buildings, including the Kremlin and the Bolshoi Theater.

Visitors will be treated to a living nostalgia show, where look-alikes for famous people will re-enact historical events. The celebrity doubles will include famous Communists like V.I. Lenin, Karl Marx and Fidel Castro.

Visitors also will be able to entertain themselves at art exhibits, concerts, plays and films.

To enter the three-acre exhibit, visitors will pay 57 rubles (about 35 cents) on weekdays and 250 rubles (about $1.50) on weekends, when there will be concerts and dances.

They will receive a sheaf of "old" rubles, which they can use to buy food and drink for Khrushchev-era prices -- like 10 kopecks (one-tenth of a ruble) for an ice cream.

The organizers raised 20 million rubles (about $118,000) from two Moscow banks to finance the first phase of construction. But they envision two more phases, bringing the entire exhibit to 10 acres, including a small town of about 20 buildings.

One person who won't be visiting soon is Sergei N. Khrushchev, son of the Soviet leader. A historian, he's spending the year as a research fellow at Brown University in Providence, R.I.

He thinks the theme park is a flattering idea. "My father tried to work to make our lives better," he said. "There was not great success, but it was a time of some success."

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