The Frosty Arctic is No Stranger to Beauty

Source: "Rossiiskaya Gazeta" newspaper.

The world’s first drifting polar station SP-1 celebrates its 70th anniversary.

Someone once made the shrewd comment that modern Russia will always have the Polar epic, the Great Victory and Gagarin to be proud of. Quite fair a statement. Nothing less, but a few words more.

Exactly 70 years ago Russia witnessed events that did not just shake the country but made the whole world reel. Another new word emerged among the others lavishly enriching Russian vocabulary – “papanintsy” which stands for “Papanin’s crew”. This was the name for four polar explorers who planted the Soviet flag at the North Pole on June 6th, 1937. They were selflessly romantic, those strong brave men: Ivan Papanin, Evgeny Fedorov, Pyotr Shirshov and Ernst Krenkel who drifted on SP-1 polar station for almost a year amidst the arctic ice.

We imagine that the pre-war epoch judging by scarce documentaries, seldom shown on modern TV and scanty films –was heroic, full of love, patriotism, valour and faith in a bright future which was too hard to conquer. Today 1937 and the following years are commonly remembered with grief and woe. It is understandable. But that epoch had its victories, celebrated all across the country from Moscow to the very outskirts, both now and then seeming real and sincere. As real as crowds of thousands of people parading spontaneously along the cities’ main streets, as real as festive corteges, flocks of pigeons, multi-coloured balloons, music and dancing and that unspeakable feeling of delight, pride and belonging to the deeds of the chosen.

In 1937 Papanin’s crew landed on the ice, in June the same year three Heroes of the Soviet Union Chkalov, Bajdukov and Belyakov (yet without the Golden stars, but country-wide famous) arrived in America out of the blue astonishing the US aircraft designers by the Soviet planes’ capabilities. “The mastery and bravery of three Soviet pilots” was proclaimed by Roosevelt himself who could hardly be suspected of having taken a liking to the Soviet Union. A month later another Soviet crew of Gromov, Yumashev and Danilin flew from Moscow to the US San-Jacinto setting an absolute straight flying range record – 10,148 kilometres. That time no one in the world could repeat the polar pilots’ achievement.

There were other drifting stations and flights, and reasons to reward Soviet polar explorers, pilots and sailors. But SP-1 will always be remembered nationally and in global history as an outstanding, unmatched, milestone event.

Is it known and remembered today? It is and this is confirmed by yet another event coinciding with the 70th anniversary of establishing the world’s first scientific polar station SP-1 in the Arctic region and the non-stop flight across the North Pole to the USA by Chkalov and Gromov. This event was the creation of the mobile Polar museum. The project narrating the history of heroic exploration and development of the Arctic region was launched on April 23rd, 2007 during the expedition to the North Pole where the world’s first exhibition about SP-1 was organized.

Two tents were put on top of the world: one being an exact copy of legendary Papanin’s tent with hammer and sickle and white USSR letters on its black side. Another was painted with a magnificent and proud Russian tricolour tinting the Arctic ultrawide landscape. They hosted the exhibitions’ exposition. That day the pole heard not only the sound of the Russian anthem and rolling Hooray’s but also the velvety, tender, mysterious and magic sounds of the cello. Denis Shapovalov, the student of great Rostropovich, was playing Schubert’s Ave Maria on top of the Earth.

Early in June the museum was brought to the Russian State Duma where deputies and numerous guests of the Russian parliament got the chance to explore this singular exposition having stirred fantastic interest of its visitors.

The museum originally called “The role of history in life and business” was initially designed to be mobile. The idea belongs to Director General of MVK, the International Exhibition Company Alexey Shaburov, the author of such sensational projects as organizing Moscow-the Far East-Moscow flight equivalent to Chkalov’s and two Eiffel towers’ project “Exhibitions – Opportunities – Markets”, one in Paris, France and another in Paris, a town of Chelyabinsk region, Russia.

He believes that Russian big business needs to take unconventional steps and come up with fresh ideas to develop and bolster its market standing. “Our creative branding projects enhance the corporate culture which is vital for successful business operations”, claims Alexey Shaburov. The only way to achieve the national scale and acknowledgement is to employ such factors as corporate social responsibility and projects’ of a patriotic focus. Creative activities develop corporate culture. It results in beauty and powerful energy coming from every single project of ours. Besides, these projects affect performance improvement and the favorable image of Russian companies and Russia on the international stage”.

Exhibits for the mobile polar exposition were provided by seven museums. It is a rare case for museum practice. Occupation binds museum curators to be punctual, incredulous and very conservative. But here — giving away exhibits, that will travel across the country (18 Russian regions originally expressed the willingness to host the Polar museum); moreover they’ll reach the North Pole! Nevertheless, exhibit gathering and exposition planning went almost smoothly. Specialists claimed this to be the merit of MVK members and executives who repeatedly confirmed high reputation of company with their experience and ability to solve different unexpected problems.

There were about 300 exhibits. Among them were unique photos, household items and personal possessions of polar explorers, including Otto Yulievich Schmidt (head of expedition of 44 crew members), Ivan Papanin, pilot Mikhail Vodopjanov. Almost 500 thousand people have visited the museum during 6 months. But museum organizers are still receiving mail from the whole world and from across the country with people offering their help and sending historical items, which gives this anniversary polar project a truly international flavour. Mike Hewitt from England said that he was ready to contribute his collection dedicated to Soviet and Russian polar explorers to the exposition. He possesses a copy of Chkalov’s log book, photos signed by Gromov and Chkalov, menu of supper, organized in honour of Valeriy Chkalov and his crew in the “Astoria” restaurant in New-York, and even a ten-kopeck coin, that was in the Soviet pilot’s trouser pocket when he was flying ANT-25 across the North Pole. “The way you commemorate these events delights me”, Hewitt wrote.

Those adventures are really worth a lot. Alexey Shaburov is sure that they will forever be our moral riches. As for the museum he thinks that such projects will always be in demand, because they give a new impulse to the understanding of our history and realization of where we are now and where we are heading to”.

Source: "Rossiiskaya Gazeta" newspaper.

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