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Prisoners of War

31.07.2020

The Martial Chamber of Tsarskoe Selo is housing the "Prisoners of War during WWI" exhibition from 31 July to 8 November 2020.

The First World War surpassed all previous military conflicts and changed the nature and scale of military captivity, as well as the attitude towards hundreds of thousands of prisoners of war (POWs). In 1915 Russia held one million POWs, second after Germany which held one and a half million. Before building prisoner-of-war camps, like Germany did, Russia kept POWs in military barracks.

Transit, filtration or concentration POW camp were like towns built by the captured, with residential barracks, hospitals, bath and wash houses, workshops, warehouses  and other buildings. Their poor life conditions were slightly improved after the Red Cross began camp inspections in war-conflicted countries, thanks to two international conferences convened by the Swedish Red Cross Chairman, Prince Carl of Sweden and Norway (Duke of Västergötland), in Stockholm in 1915 and 1916.

Our exhibition showcases over thirty photographs provided courtesy of the archive of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Especially noteworthy are those taken at the Narva and Riga transit camps—spontaneous shots unlike the staged ones usually made for reports by POW camp administrations.

All the other exhibits on display are the artefacts kindly donated to our WWI Museum at the Martial Chamber by many people from St Petersburg and other places. You will see personal belongings of Russian POWs, their letters home and drawings, as well as some important archive documents, medals, jetons and other objects.

Of particular interest is an album of watercolours by a Russian prisoner of the Mühling POW camp in Lower Austria. Also interesting is a typewritten manuscript of Behind the barbed wire: POWs in Germany, 1914-1918 by Nikolai Belov, which was discarded by the Soviet censorship and might be published by the Museum in the future.

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