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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Feast Your Eyes

For MT
Russians love a good celebration -- and for centuries chocolate factories have been only too pleased to dress up their wares to mark special days, from the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty to the 23rd Communist Party Congress.

An exhibition titled "Happiness Is Chocolate," put together by the Museum of the Contemporary History of Russia and the Red October chocolate factory, showcases some of the more illustrious samples of celebratory confectionary packaging from the end of the 19th century to the present.

One can't help liking the show before actually seeing it: large chocolate figurines emitting mouth-watering aromas precede the neat displays of boxes, tins, postcards and pre-Revolutionary advertising materials in the main exhibition space.

Lessons in Russian and Soviet history are made all the sweeter by richly decorated ornamental boxes bearing the faces of Napoleon and one-eyed General Kutuzov, Peter the Great and the Grand Duke Mikhail Fyodorovich Romanov. Some of the older confectionery boxes made with silk, velvet and leather look spectacular.

Then there is a more modest chocolate box, one of the last before Red October began producing chocolates solely for the soldiers fighting at the front during World War II. Congratulatory postcards from that time show smiling soldiers sending New Year greetings from trenches. The men are drawn as waving hands on the background of tanks, high snow piles and warplanes.

A special display is dedicated to space exploration. "Every flight to space was a holiday back in the day," said Yelena Buzina, a research fellow at the museum. Fittingly, it features a chocolate box bearing the cute faces of two space dogs, Belka and Strelka, an authentic space suit and a large box of chocolates in the shape of a space ship.

Packaging marking the new Soviet holidays is hard to miss: the shelves are graced by sweets tins bearing May Day wishes, images of corn knobs and a VDNKh logo, or the iconic statue of the worker and the collective farm woman.

At the end of the exhibition, children can join a chocolate-making class.

"Happiness Is Chocolate" ("Schastye v Shokolade") runs to Feb. 4 at the Museum of the Contemporary History of Russia, 21 Tverskaya Ul., 699-5458. Closed Mondays.