Road of Life Museum

   (   for Russian speakers)  - darkometer rating: 2 -
A museum on the shores of Lake Ladoga north of St Petersburg, Russia, about the heroic supply treks across the lake and down to Leningrad during the WWII siege of the city by Nazi Germany. It's partly open air and partly indoor exhibitions.  
More background info: On the topic in general see under Siege of Leningrad Tour, St Petersburg and Leningrad Blockade Museum.
This Road of Life Museum (ДОРОГА ЖИЗНИ, 'Doroga Zhizni' in Russian) is the latest incarnation of a memorial museum that started out as a small exhibition in a local school. After being taken over by the Central Naval Museum of St Petersburg – and it's still one of its branches – it first opened its doors to the public in 1972.
Over the following years, especially during the 1970s, the collection grew, including some large exhibits, such as gun turrets, a Ladoga Navy boat and a big transport plane, as well as the original cars used in the transport convoys.
Coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, it was decided to give the museum a substantial overhaul, and the modernized and expanded museum you see today was opened on time on 9 May 2015 (Victory Day in Russia – cf. German-Russian Museum, Berlin).
It's now the most commodified place on the Road of Life, together with the Nevsky Bridgehead panorama museum, both of which were part of the Siege of Leningrad Tour that I went on in August 2017.
What there is to see: When I visited this museum it was as part of my Leningrad Siege Tour from St Petersburg. It is a regular stop on those tours – except that when I went on it I had to make a compromise. My guide was busy in the morning so he suggested a shortened version of the tour, with a sped-up programme just in the afternoon. To make it work we had omit some points, such as the lunch break, and: this museum, where we'd just stop for a quick look from the outside. However, when we got there I was given the chance to at least have a very quick sweep around it in order to take some photos and get a rough impression. I'll augment these impressions below with information I gleaned from the museum's own website.
The open-air part of the museum is dominated first and foremost by the big transport plane. It's a Soviet-built Lisunov Li-2 … but if you thought it looked exactly like that American classic plane the DC-3, then you'd be right, indirectly. That's because the Li-2 was a licensed copy of the DC-3, or rather a slightly adapted version, first produced in Russia from 1939. The type played a vital role in supplying the besieged city of Leningrad, especially during the early phase before the supply routes overland and across the lake were fully established.
Along the newly landscaped lakeshore there are several large (and a few smaller) naval guns and such like, all painted a typical navy grey. In addition there's a small monument with a ship's anchor attached to a stylized ship's bow and what looked to me like a couple of dredger shovels.
Further inland, past the Li-2, is a building providing protection for an original wooden boat that was presumably used along the supply routes in the summer when the lake was not frozen over. Next to this are two boats left high and dry for open-air display, one of them a tug the other a simple barge.
Behind these is a hall for other large exhibits, including first and foremost a couple of those trucks used to drive supplies across the frozen Lake Ladoga in winter (one of them was salvaged from the bottom of Lake Ladoga, as the museum's website points out, while the other continued to go all the way to Berlin after the Siege was lifted, i.e. it took part in the very final phase of WWII).
A large photograph gives a dramatic impression of what the ice route looked like as the ice started to melt and the crossings became increasingly risky (see also under Siege of Leningrad Tour).
Furthermore there is an ancient bus, a field kitchen, sea mines, buoys, various guns and mortars, as well as other mostly naval paraphernalia. Text-and-photo panels along the wall provide extra information about the various phases of the Siege and the supply efforts. All texts and labels are in Russian only, though, so you won't get much out of them unless you have a fairly decent command of the language or come with a guide or somebody else to translate for you.
The ultra-modern building, finished in 2016, of the all-new main exhibition is supposed to look like a piece of ice, well iceberg rather, though I would rather have associated it with a ship's bow. Anyway, as time was so extremely short when I visited, I did not have a chance to see the inside.
Going by the information provided on the museum's website, this exhibition is subdivided into sections in a more or less chronological order, beginning with a bit of prehistory about the Ladoga area and ending with the victory in the Great Patriotic War (i.e. WWII). On display are smaller artefacts such as guns, grenades, bombs and shells, ship's compasses, flags, as well as several model ships, planes and vehicles. Complementing these are various documents, photos and paintings. Again, all labelling and all texts are in Russian only.
Since I only had such a short amount of time at the museum I don't feel in a position to put forward a verdict on it. I guess with more time and a guide to translate at least some of the Russian, you can get a lot more out of it, provided you're interested in the minutiae of the story of the Road of Life and all the military details. Otherwise a cursory look around may well be sufficient. I didn't feel like I was massively missing out due to my time restrictions.
Location: on the south-western shores of Lake Ladoga, a good 12 miles (20 km) north of Shlisselburg and ca, 40 miles (60 km) by road from the centre of St Petersburg.
Google maps locator: [60.124, 31.075]
Access and costs: a bit off the beaten track, and thus somewhat complicated (though it's feasible) to reach by public transport, but fairly cheap that way – or else very easy and comfortable as part of a longer guided Siege of Leningrad Tour from St Petersburg, but then it comes at a substantial price.
Details: When I was at the museum it was as part of a longer day excursion, the comprehensive historical Siege of Leningrad Tour, by private car from St Petersburg with an enthusiastic guide (8 hours in total with many other stops along the way), which is pricey but worth it overall.
Alternatively you can in theory get to the museum independently (and much more cheaply), e.g. by local commuter train ('Elektritchka') from St Petersburg's Finlandsky Station (itself reached by metro to Ploshad Lenina) to the terminus at Ladozhskoe Ozero. From there it's a ca. 10-minute walk (about half a mile) south along the main road to the museum entrance.
Admission: 300 RUB for adult foreigners, 200 RUB for students/children and adult Russians, 100 RUB for Russian students/children.
Opening times: Wednesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ticket office closes 45 minutes earlier); closed Mondays and Tuesdays (so could NOT be included in the Leningrad Siege Tour if booked on either of those days of the week!)
Time required: depends, especially on whether or not you can read Russian; if you do, then you'll need perhaps an hour or more, otherwise much less.
Combinations with other dark destinations: The museum can come as part of the longer (ca. 8 hour) Leningrad Siege/Road of Life Tour from St Petersburg, on which you'll see plenty of sites, monuments, battlefields, cemeteries connected to the same topic as the museum. If you've travelled to it independently by train, then you won't be able to see any of these – other than the monument and steam engine at the train station and the last of the Road of Life milestones. The nearest significant other monument, the Broken Ring Memorial, would be more than an hour's walk away and that along an uninspiring, regular road (and then you'd have to walk it all back again). So either book the tour or make do with the museum only.
Combinations with non-dark destinations: Just south of the museum is one of the most popular beaches on Lake Ladoga. And towering above it is the pretty and surprisingly tall, red-and-white, picture-book lighthouse. There's a small marina too.
See also under St Petersburg.
  • Road of Life Museum 01 - planRoad of Life Museum 01 - plan
  • Road of Life Museum 02 - modern buildingsRoad of Life Museum 02 - modern buildings
  • Road of Life Museum 03 - coastal gunsRoad of Life Museum 03 - coastal guns
  • Road of Life Museum 04 - more gunsRoad of Life Museum 04 - more guns
  • Road of Life Museum 05 - memorial by the lakefrontRoad of Life Museum 05 - memorial by the lakefront
  • Road of Life Museum 06 - biggest exhibitRoad of Life Museum 06 - biggest exhibit
  • Road of Life Museum 07 - American-design cargo planeRoad of Life Museum 07 - American-design cargo plane
  • Road of Life Museum 08 - original barge in a protective shedRoad of Life Museum 08 - original barge in a protective shed
  • Road of Life Museum 09 - open-air boat high and dryRoad of Life Museum 09 - open-air boat high and dry
  • Road of Life Museum 10 - inside the exhibition hallRoad of Life Museum 10 - inside the exhibition hall
  • Road of Life Museum 11 - field kitchenRoad of Life Museum 11 - field kitchen
  • Road of Life Museum 12 - driving on melting iceRoad of Life Museum 12 - driving on melting ice
  • Road of Life Museum 12 - hero vehiclesRoad of Life Museum 12 - hero vehicles




©, Peter Hohenhaus 2010-2019

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