No. 1, 2005

Alexander Anatolyev


The 60th anniversary of the Victory over Nazi Germany in World War II is less than two months off. Thousands of volumes of scientific monographs, books of various genres, newspaper and magazine articles devoted to various aspects of that remote war have seen the light of day in various countries over the past decades. In their turn, Russian amateur war historians are looking far and wide for relics of the past so as to reconstruct, bit by bit, and hand down to the coming generations hitherto unknown episodes of our soldiers' titanic effort toward Victory.

Mementoes of wartime alliance

Statistics know everything, a popular saying goes. In Moscow, there are about 600 state- and public-run museums representing, to some extent or other, various events of World War II known as the Great Patriotic War in Russia.

The museums' expositions illustrate many heroic pages of Russian military history and commemorate those who stood up to the aggressor and saved Russia and Europe from Nazi enslavement at the cost of their lives.

A new museum, The Allies and Lend-Lease, was opened on June 22, 2004, the Great Patriotic War outbreak anniversary commemoration day, in Moscow's High School No. 1262 at 6, Zhitnaya Street. The museum immediately drew public and media attention.

Its exposition was built up by hard-working investigative amateur historians with the backing of the Prefecture of Moscow's Central Administrative District, and war, labor and army veterans' organizations.

The idea is to view Lend-Lease, currently underestimated here, in the right perspective and to turn a spotlight on many of its important political and economic components hitherto left out of account.

Under Lend-Lease agreements, the United States, Great Britain and Canada supplied to us military and industrial equipment, raw stuff, materials and other items worth a total of $13.2 billion which, at my estimate, equals almost $150 billion in current prices. Annual Lend-Lease deliveries helped solve a multitude of urgent problems involved in keeping the Soviet Army supplied with war materiel, ammunition, fuel and food.

For a long time, the Soviet press mentioned Lend-Lease only in passing, if at all. Now that previously classified information has become public knowledge we can re-examine some of our prejudiced attitudes of old - toward lend-lease, in particular.

Special credit must be given to Museum Director Nikolay Borodin, a man of boundless enthusiasm, and his associates - Valery Nasonov, Viktor Vvedensky, Sergey Natruskin. The Lend-Lease Union Historical Club, public organization headed by German Borodin, was of great help to the Museum. The students and teachers of School No. 1262 and its Principal, Galina Shurygina, have been most instrumental in setting up the museum, furnishing it and decorating its interiors.

War relics tell their tales…

The museum shedding light on an obscure page of WWII history is the only one of its kind in Russia - and in the world, for that matter.

A WWII history research center in Moscow's Central Administrative District, the museum has an important role to play in youth education. Nikolay Borodin, its Director, says that the museum's mission is to keep alive the memory of wartime cooperation between the anti-Hitler coalition armies which crushed the Nazi aggressors.

Get-togethers of representatives of different generations are regularly held in the museum, and a lecturers' team has been formed there to enlighten high-school students on the history of the Armed Forces and the major events of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.

The get-togethers are always attended by war veterans Oleg Ozerov and Gleb Plaksin, honorary members of the Club, heroes of the French Resistance movement and bearers of high French government distinctions.

As a rule, teenage visitors of the museum get interested in its work, find retrospects into history most exciting and share their newly-acquired knowledge about the Great Patriotic War with their families and friends. The more they learn about the Great Patriotic War, the more pride they feel in their heroic grand- and great-grandfathers, the higher intellectual and moral standards they attain, and the closer they get to becoming good citizens.

Among the museum exhibits, such items as a front-line Jeep, a Ford amphibious vehicle, a field walkie-talkie and various weapons invariably attract visitors' special attention. The exposition features rarities of great historical value.

The museum pieces on display are classified into: manuscripts and printed matter; documentary photos and drawings; medals and coins; uniforms, accoutrement; weapons and materiel.

The museum's voluntary assistants and activists are continuously replenishing its standing exposition, missing no opportunity to acquire things of historical interest and often going off on long exhibit-hunting trips.

Besides, they are systematically taking stock of the museum exhibits, inventorying, attributing and filing them - i.e. bringing more order and system into the collection. New expositions are created, and the existing ones, replenished and improved.

The Allies and Lend-Lease museum has drawn numerous visitors and received extensive media coverage. It is generally agreed that the magnitude of the subject-matter and the wealth of the exhibits on display call for more exposition space and a different conceptual approach. Hopefully, Moscow's municipal authorities will heed the pleaders of the good cause and meet them halfway.

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Oil of Russia, No. 1, 2005
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