On Saturday we decided to check out Minsk World, a military theme park based around the Minsk, a decommissioned Russian Kiev-class aircraft carrier. The Minsk was launched in 1975 but was decommissioned in 1993 and sold as scrap to Korea in 1995 when Russia could no longer afford the maintenance. Before it made it to the ‘crusher’s jaws’ it was sold to a Chinese businessman in 1999 and Minsk World was created. Despite the parent company going bankrupt and the Minsk being sold (for US$16m) the theme park still operates.
After some on-line research it seemed that the best way to get there was to accept a steep taxi bill. I phoned a colleague to see if he knew of a bus that ran that way and he kindly offered to take us there in his car, which was very much appreciated.
The land-based part of Minsk World consists of a Russian-looking building to welcome you, along with the usual Chinese water features and statues. In the square at the entrance there were all these white doves milling around. Why they were at this specific place, I don’t know, but you could buy bird food to keep them nice and plump. Quite obviously, many people did this. Inside the park there was an assortment of Russian tanks, aircraft, canons and missiles. There was also this corny mascot with a very short Chinese man inside.
Once on board the Minsk we were shown a short video (in Chinese) that gave an overview of where aircraft carriers came from, what they were used for and finally onto the Minsk itself. On this floor there are some real and fake torpedoes, complete with launching tubes, and the aircraft hangar. The hangar space has another fighter with lots of ordnance, a section dedicated to the Russian space program and a stage where some Russian and Chinese dancers were performing traditional folk dances.
Moving up to just below the top deck was the missile storehouse and most of the other ordnance. Also on this floor were the officers quarters, small doctors room (don’t get sick here!) and lots of other military paraphernalia. The separate officers and sailors quarters have subsequently been turned into bars and restaurants. Down a long corridor there were posters of Russian military propaganda, some of which were quite amusing. Not to be outdone, the corridor ended with some of China’s own military posters.
Up on the top deck there were a couple of armed helicopters and a mixed-bag of aircraft including a MIG-23, which realistically could have never operated from the Minsk’s 14,700m square flight deck, but it is a theme park after all. Sprinkled all over the top deck were rocket launchers, missile launchers, canons and guns of various descriptions. A small stage had been put down where some Chinese solders performed arms drills in sailors’ uniforms. Sprinkled throughout the ship were Chinese staff dressed in sailors suits who would happily explain their related section of the ship to anyone who could understand them, which didn’t include us.
Up inside the control deck it was very clear that the theme park owners have not spent any money doing any restoration work. Everything is just as it was left. There were cut wires, broken this, damaged that, etc. I’m sure it would be easier to build a new aircraft carrier than to try and re-commission the Minsk. I was a little surprised by how archaic the design seemed although Russia has always struggled on the dollars side of the equation. The level of technology used seemed more appropriate to world war 2 than the mid-70’s.
One of the funniest things from the day was found in the toilets. Above each of the men’s urinals was a political caricature. Here we see Condoleza Rice lighting Saddam up. Another one included Saddam ambushing some US troops whilst they were burying dead soldiers.
Whilst I wasn’t blown away by the physical size of the Minsk it’s still a very big bit of gear. To give you some idea of perspective, here I am with a few of the anchors. Some of the statistics are very impressive. 273m long, 53m wide, 43,000 tons loaded, 12m draft loaded, 32 knots top speed, 1,600 crew, 13 Yak-38 aircraft, and dozens & dozens of rockets, torpedos and missiles. In fact the Minsk was so heavily armoured that it seemed to be a bit of a hybrid; part destroyer and part aircraft carrier.
Google Earth coordinates for the Minsk:
- 22° 33′ 13.62″ N
- 114° 14′ 13.69″ E
PS: As usual, click the pictures to get the big versions.