Soviet Times Sucked. Want to See for Yourself?
Aug 1 2008
Photos courtesy of Rūta Vanagaite.
So these nuts in Lithuania have opened up a new theme park called 1984: Isvgyvenimo Drama. The basic premise is that you, dear customer, are a freshly caught Russian political dissident and now you are going to be locked up in hell and then interrogated by monstrous communists. Six Flags? Who needs it?
The fun begins about 15 miles away from the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius where an abandoned bunker in the middle of the woods has been transformed into the most fun you can have this side of the Gulag Archipelago. You’ll be questioned by a KGB agent, visit the infirmary (whether you need to or not), and learn the Soviet anthem under shrieked threats of a smack in the face. You’ll also watch the TV programs that were broadcast back in the day and eat typical Soviet food on some quality Soviet tableware. And if you don’t carry out all the orders you receive, you will immediately be kicked out with no refund. Sorry comrade, but them’s the rules.
We recently talked with Rūta Vanagaite, producer and creator of this attraction, to find out why the fuck anyone would want to go there.
Vice: Why are you doing this?
Rūta: Two years ago, I was on the committee that developed new activities to take place in Lithuania in 2009, the year in which Vilnius is going to be the European Capital of Culture. We realized that by 2009 there would be about half a million young Lithuanians born since the fall of the Soviet regime in 1991. These kids have never seen a Soviet soldier. They don’t know what the KGB really was. So we designed a TV reality show called Back to the USSR, where a number of 18-year-old boys and girls would be immersed in the conditions that their parents had to endure during the 50 years of Russian occupation. Lithuanian public TV rejected the idea after considering it for a long time. They were afraid that it would represent a bitter look at the past for the older generations. That’s when I thought about creating this other project, in the form of a performance.
Why do you think people want to come to your place? On first impression, it seems like they are paying to have a bad time.
That’s exactly what is going on. But oddly enough, when we finish the show, we see 40 happy faces, inspired by what they have come through. It’s more therapy than fun. When you are in, you experience what it was to be a Soviet citizen, and you keep thinking about this experience after it’s over.
The actors are pretty scary.
All of our actors—both professional and not—were in the Soviet army. Some of them were even interrogators during Soviet times.
Let’s wrap this up with a sales pitch. Can you persuade our readers to travel to Lithuania to be treated like shit by you and your employees?
If you want to fully enjoy daylight, you have to get into the dark for a while. If you want to fully enjoy your dinner, stay hungry for a while. If you want to fully enjoy democracy and freedom, come to our bunker and become a Soviet citizen for two hours.
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