Russian President Vladimir Putin opened the Patriot Park on Tuesday as nationalist feeling continues to grow.

Visitors to the park are fed on army rations, and the gift shop is full of Vladimir Putin accessories. The family park does not attract visitors with rollercoasters and games, but instead offers the chance to play with weapons and climb over military equipment, writes Shaun Walker for The Guardian.

Vladimir Putin Opens Military Theme Park In Russia

Patriot Park promoting Putin’s ideals

The military theme park is found in Kubinka, an hour away from the Russian capital, Moscow. Putin officially opened the park on Tuesday, and it joins a growing tide of nationalistic initiatives. Patriotism and military rhetoric has been growing in Russia as tensions continue to rise with the West.

The situation has worsened since the Russian annexation of Crimea in April 2014, and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine continues to be a major source of tension. The Patriot Park is yet another sign of the rising tide of aggressive rhetoric and nationalist feeling in the country.

At the opening, Putin announced that Russia would be adding 40 new intercontinental missiles to its nuclear arsenal this year. He claimed that the park would be “an important element in our system of military-patriotic work with young people.”

Russia’s military expansion on display

Alongside the theme park, the new attraction also boasts a conference and exhibition venue. The first event to be hosted is Army 2015, an exhibition displaying the latest Russian military equipment, which will be attended by military delegations from around the world.

As well as a speech from Putin, the opening event featured a military choir and a balalaika orchestra playing patriotic tunes. In his speech, Putin told assembled media that Russia was currently working on new pieces of military hardware which had “no equivalents in the world,” such as the Armata tank.

Worryingly for Western observers, he claimed that the new nuclear missiles would be “capable of overcoming even the most technically advanced missile defence systems.”  The new missiles are supposedly Russia’s response to the West, which Russia’s deputy defense minister Anatoly Antonov claims is “provoking an arms race.”

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg criticized the move. “This nuclear sabre-rattling of Russia is unjustified,” he said. “It’s destabilizing and it’s dangerous.”

Nationalist sentiments on the rise

Among the first visitors to the park were members of the pro-Putin biker group the Night Wolves, who are constructing a similar “patriotic park” near Sevastopol in the newly annexed Crimea.

“In Soviet times the army was a distant, faraway thing, but now we all feel closer to the army. The army is being romanticized and I see that as a good thing,” said Night Wolves leader Alexander Zaldostanov. “If we don’t educate our own children then America will do it for us … like we have seen in Ukraine.”

The Patriot Park will be able to handle tens of thousands of guests each day, offering them a chance to watch battle reconstructions, get up close and personal with military hardware and even participate in training exercises.

Promotional literature promises families the chance to stay for a few days in one of the hotels which will be built on-site, allowing Russian families to take a truly patriotic holiday. Construction on the park will be finished in 2017, and the overall cost is set to be $371 million.

Military training for children

The Army 2015 forum provides an opportunity for visitors to check out the latest equipment offered by Russia, ranging from fingerprinting equipment to armored vehicles. Among the equipment was a small stall selling fridge magnets emblazoned with the faces of Putin, Stalin and a notorious Soviet henchman called Lavrenty Beria.

Putin has urged his countrymen to focus on military victories, and has placed great importance on the celebration of the victory over Nazi Germany. However the event made no mention of the war in Ukraine, in which Russia has officially denied taking any part.

Patriot Park shows visitors the glory of war, and it is hoped that the park will educate Russian youth in their patriotic duty. Vladimir Kryuchkov, who was demonstrating a computerized training system for launch systems, said that he wanted children to receive military training. “Boys are geared towards the army from birth by genetics,” he said.

“All males of all ages are defenders of the motherland and they must be ready for war, whether war comes or not,” he continued. His words are a chilling reminder of the growing nationalist rhetoric developing in Russia, and the growing willingness to go to war.