Sunday, April 21, 2013

Lion, Unicorn, Hammer and Sickle

Here's something interesting I just ran across while doing background reading for my current project. From Sonja Rose, a portrayal of the popularity of Soviet Russia in Britain during the Second World War (after the point when Britain and Russia became allies in June 1941):

Numerous celebrations across the country were organized throughout 1942 and 1943. There were, in addition to Anglo-Soviet weeks, International Woman’s Day rallies, Red Army Day celebrations, and commemorations of the day the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union.

In early January 1942, for example, Coventry staged an Anglo-Soviet week. It began on a Sunday at the Opera House, with the Mayor of Coventry presiding over the opening ceremonies. Sharing the platform with the Mayor was the Bishop of Coventry and the MPs for Coventry and nearby Nuneaton. A respected historian and the author of numerous books on Russia, Sir Bernard Pares, spoke. The programme was designed to ‘appeal to every class of the community’, according to the Coventry Evening News announcement of the week-long gala.

Each day there were public functions scheduled featuring aspects of Russian life including the showing of numerous Russian films. The week-long festival included school programmes, lectures, and a concert by the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Sargent playing an Anglo-Russian programme of music; there was a woman’s rally and an education rally. The week concluded with a parade of local organizations including civil defence workers, members of the National Fire Service, and a salute by the Mayor from the Council House steps. Opening during the week and on display for the month was an exhibition of Soviet life and books.

The exhibition was positioned behind a frontage that featured the British Lion and the Hammer and Sickle, surmounted by the flags of both nations. There were large photographs displaying aspects of life in the Soviet Union as well as charts and posters demonstrating, according to the press, the ‘tremendous strides’ made in the Soviet Union’s Five-Year Plans.

Sonya O. Rose, Which People's War?: National Identity and Citizenship in Wartime Britain 1939-1945 (Oxford: OUP, 2003), p. 50. (line breaks and highlighting added for clarity)

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