Exhibition telling story of British soldiers in Russia after Great War opens at Green Howards Museum

Prized objects from the collections of National Galleries Scotland and Royal Armouries are helping tell the hidden story of the British in Russia at the end of the First World War.

From 28 June, items including artefacts from the famous Fabergé workshop and imperial factories, will feature in The Green Howards Museum’s new special exhibition in Richmond.

The museum has received funding from the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund to enable it to bring these objects to Yorkshire.

Instead of returning home at the end of the First World War, thousands of British soldiers, including 1800 Green Howards, were deployed to northern Russia.

They were part of a multi-national force tasked with turning the tide of revolution.

The exhibition tells the hidden story of Britain’s involvement in the Russian Civil War.

Hostile Environment: The British in Russia 1918-1920 opens on 28 June and runs until 14 December.

Hostile Environment explores the complex positioning of ‘red’ versus ‘white’ at a time of enormous global social and political upheaval.  It uses personal archives from the museum’s collection and loaned objects from a variety of regional and national lenders to assemble memories, personal possessions, objects, kit and equipment; one hundred years after ‘Operation Syren’ took place.

Alongside the museum’s own extensive collections, visitors will be able to see:

  • Fabergé Kvosh with original fitted case, chalcedony, gold and agate, made by Mikhail Perkhin, 1887-1896: National Museums Scotland. Traditionally a wooden drinking cup, elaborate versions were given as gifts by the Tsar.
  • Cossack whip, plaited leather and wooden handle. Used against protestors in the St. Petersburg Riots, 1906:  National Museums Scotland
  • Easter egg, porcelain painted with blue-green and black enamel, gilt, made at the Imperial Factory in St Petersburg, 1894-1917: National Museums Scotland
  • Mosin rifle model 1891, c1917, captured at Mudjugsky Island, near Archangel: Royal Armouries

The loans are supported by the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund. Created by the Garfield Weston Foundation and Art Fund, the Weston Loan Programme is the first ever UK-wide funding scheme to enable smaller and local authority museums to borrow works of art and artefacts from national collections.

“This is a fabulous opportunity for people to find out what happened to soldiers after the Armistice of November 1918,” says Museum Director, Lynda Powell.

“Far from putting down their guns and going home, many were deployed to fight in the Russian Civil War.  As it turned out, they ended up on the losing side; which may help explain why this period of history is not quite so well-known within the wider context of the First World War.

“Luckily we have several personal collections, including some incredibly forthright diaries, in our archive, which have enabled us to give an intimate take on the civil war, which was, in fact, a global conflict.

“One hundred years after those soldiers were on the ground in Russia, we’re able to tell their story.

“The objects we have on loan are vital in helping us present this special exhibition, which we believe will certainly offer some surprises for visitors.”

Sophia Weston, trustee of the Garfield Weston Foundation, said: “We are delighted that these incredibly important works of craftsmanship and history are coming to Yorkshire as part of our loan programme.

“When we started the Weston Loan Programme we hoped it would help bring national treasures to many different communities across the UK and we are thrilled that museum visitors will get to enjoy these pieces.”

The Green Howards Museum is in the centre of Richmond’s market place.

The museum is open Monday to Saturday 10am to 4.30pm and on Sundays in August and September 11am to 3pm.

Admission to Hostile Environment is included in museum admission.

Adults: £5 Concessions: £4 Under 16s: Free.