Irkutsk dump
Figures at the Irkutsk dump museum

Irkutsk City Dump Museum
Fifth kilometer of Aleksandrovskiy Highway
Free

The Irkutsk city dump museum is one of the strangest places I have ever been in my life—not just for the fact that it exists, which is weird enough in and of itself, but for what’s in it.

The dump/museum is probably about a 20-minute drive outside the Irkutsk city center, and is accessible (though hard to find) by car. It’s mostly an outdoor museum; at the approach you’re greeted by three enormous pirate ships full of metal sailors/warriors. Things continue in that vein for a while once you get inside, with enormous weapons, more soldiers, cars… It seemed like everything was made out of things that had been found in the dump, but it was not entirely clear when I was there. After the fact, I read an article on the subject, which confirmed that after a new director took over the dump in 2012, he started having all the dump’s workers embark on creative projects using things people had brought to the dump to get rid of.

Irkutsk dump

Figures created from garbage at the Irkustk Dump Museum.

Farther inside the “museum,” there’s a giant wall/closet/thing full of various objects that have appeared at the dump; the one that stuck out the most to me was a giant snake skin (it turned out to be a stuffed animal). The most interesting are old Soviet-looking appliances of various types; you could spend a lot of time looking around, if it wasn’t too cold and if you could manage not to breathe through your nose. The smell is… not fantastic.

Irkutsk dump

Completely normal goings-on in Russia.

The best/worst part of the museum is entirely surprising: TWO BEARS. Yes, somewhere in Siberia there is a city dump museum with two bears living in a cage. Why?? One of them seemed extremely friendly, practically asking to be pet (I didn’t, but I really wanted to); the other ignored us. Their living quarters were extremely depressing, but according to various articles I read, the dump saved them from being put down, so maybe they’re just happy to be alive. It’s hard to tell.

 

Irkutsk dump

And a bottle of ром.

Julie Hersh

Julie is currently studying Russian as a Second Language in Irkutsk (and before that, Bishkek) with SRAS's Home and Abroad Scholarship program, with the goal of someday having some sort of Russia/Eurasia-related career. She recently got her master’s degree from the University of Glasgow and the University of Tartu, where she studied women’s dissent in Soviet Russia. She also has a bachelor’s degree in literature from Yale. Some of her favorite Russian authors are Sorokin, Shishkin, Il’f and Petrov, and Akhmatova. In her spare time Julie cautiously practices martial arts, reads feminist websites, and taste-tests instant coffee for her blog.

Julie is attending Home and Abroad
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