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Moscow Museum Takes You Inside North Korea

Visitors can study North Korean stamps through a magnifying glass. UMAM

The exhibition “Made in North Korea” at the Ultra Modern Art Museum (UMAM) in Moscow opens a window onto the everyday life of North Koreans with a collection of common objects, including propaganda posters, photographs, stamps and sweets.

North Korea, a state that has been ruled by the Kim dynasty since 1948, is a mystery for most of the outside world. In his annual New Year's address, Kim Jong Un, the nation's current leader said his country had developed its nuclear weapons and that the "entire area of the U.S. mainland is within nuclear strike range now."

“Our exhibition is not political, despite North Korea being a nuclear threat to the international community," Daria Dovbenko, one of the show’s two curators, told The Moscow Times. ”The goal of the exhibition is to give a glimpse inside the world's most closed society, to give a fuller picture of how it really is, including facts about the human side of its people who are so often ignored by the West."

The organizers of the exhibition believe that most visitors will be surprised to hear that cannabis is not prohibited by law in North Korea, and in fact everyone is allowed to grow it in their garden or can buy it from others. “Hardly anyone knows that North Korea has its own rules of basketball. In fact, they changed the whole game. They have also banned jeans, which are considered a symbol of their main enemy — the U.S.,” Dovbenko said.

Valery Maloveshchkin, 21, an engineering student from Moscow, told The Moscow Times that he was very interested in North Korea and that he liked the exhibition “because it answered a lot of my questions about the secretive life of North Korea's citizens.”

Alexander Donskoi, one of the two curators and a former Russian politician, collected the exhibits from North Korea. He has been visiting North Korea for years where he is involved in various projects. This has given him unique insight into a country which the majority of people know very little about. Dovbenko said that they were intrigued by the opportunity to explore first-hand the experiences of the guarded country at a time when tensions are high between North Korea and the West.

From 2005 to 2008  Donskoi was involved in politics and managed to beat the candidate from Vladimir Putin's United Russia party, becoming mayor of the northern city of Arkhangelsk. In 2006 he was nominated to run for president of Russia. In 2011 he ended his career in politics and opened the Museum of Erotic Art "Point G" in Moscow on Novy Arbat. Four years later, he opened the Crazy Toilet Restaurant, which quickly closed. Donskoi’s most recent project is the Ultra Modern Art Museum. The last exhibit was SUPERPUTIN — portrayals of President Vladimir Putin in various styles.

The show runs from Jan. 20 until Feb. 1.

UMAN. 11 Nizhnyaya Syromyatnicheskaya Ulitsa, Bldg. 2 (Pluton Bldg. at Artplay). Metro Kurskaya. +7 (499) 653 4990.

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