Some years ago, Mikhail Krasinets, former pilot and mechanic of the Moskvitch factory racing team, and star of Russian TV shows, began curating one of the largest automobile collections in Europe. Pictured here with a Moskvitch 400 (built between 1946 and 1954 with tooling originally used for the 1937 Opel Kadett K38), he’s since gathered over 200 now historical Soviet vehicles built between 1940s and 1990s. His exhibit occupies three hectares (seven and a half acres) of field near his home in Chernousovo village, Tul’skaya Oblast, some 200 miles south of Moscow. While the sheer number of rarities collected sets Krasinets apart from all but the richest of oil sheiks, the condition of this open-air menagerie is rather depressing. It begs the question: is his collection a museum or a junkyard?
After Krasinets’ left professional motorsports, he began to collect cars. Unfortunately, his neighbors did not share his enthusiasm and began to resent him as his collection outgrew his compact urban yard. Even worse, local punks would often torch and loot his cars. He eventually decided to sell his Moscow apartment and move to a countryside estate where he could put the rest of his money into buying more cars. The first exhibits found their home in the garden of his new house but year by year, the collection grew.
Before long, Chernousovo village became a point of pilgrimage for old car enthusiasts. Some of them tried to trade for rare spare parts and others wanted to buy particular cars, but Krasinets resolutely refused and on the contrary, bought even more vehicles. In 2004, the collection was given official status as a branch of the local history museum, and named “Auto USSR.” While this brought some funding, the lack of any reasonable progress in restoring the cars exhausted museum administration’s patience and in 2013, they divested themselves of the controversial branch.
Unfortunately, nothing has changed since then and the exhibits of the “Auto USSR” (old Soviet cars and a few foreign-built ones) continue to rot away. It’s especially sad considering that many are quite rare (and even custom-made) examples. It’s obvious that a generous investor with serious intentions is needed.
As a disclaimer, I am not personally acquainted with Michael Krasinets. I have never visited his automobile museum (graveyard?) and I obtained most of my information from online Russian sources. However, the preservation of these cars is a pressing matter as many of these cars will be lost to history if no one intervenes. Of course, pictures say more than I ever could…
1964 Mercedes-Benz 280SE (W108), purchased by Krasinets after selling his apartment in Moscow.