Artefacts expand our understanding of the past

Postcard collectors help restore 1812 war monument
Minsk postcard collectors are familiar with Moscow’s Kirill Sokol, who is a candidate of geographical sciences. The researcher of Russian Empire monuments, and member of the editorial board of Moscow’s Filokartia (Deltiology) journal, is also a staff member of Moscow State University, and frequently visits our capital. Here, he shares his views on the latest events in Belarus’ collecting activities.

You like to follow what’s happening in Belarusian collectors’ lives?

Vladimir Lihodedov at presentation of albums

I not only follow, but, as a jealous colleague, participate in their affairs, as far as possible. For instance, I’ve been helping organise a showcase for Minsk’s Vladimir Lihodedov and Vladimir Peftiev, in Moscow.

Tell us more…

Vladimir Lihodedov and Vladimir Peftiev have been collaborating for quite some time, as devoted collectors of illustrative materials on various corners of your wonderful country. I know that their partnership is a contemporary continuation of the ‘In Search of the Lost’ project, well known in Belarus. The recent exhibition in Moscow was dedicated to the 1812 war.

Didn’t Vladimir Lihodedov publish a book about his collection?

In 2012, Vladimir and I published ‘1812 War Monuments on Old Postcards’ jointly as a book. Working on it was a pure delight. I became convinced once again that old postcards are unique documentary sources for historical geography. 

I must mention more recent work by Vladimir Lihodedov, accomplished jointly with Vladimir Peftiev. The ‘Saint Equal-to-the-Apostles Duke Vladimir’ album, published by Zvyazda Publishing House, is the result of their great ambitions. I’m astonished and impressed by the scope of their aspiration, both in relation to this album and to all other endeavours. Owing to Vladimir Peftiev’s and Vladimir Lihodedov’s efforts, we can view almost every lithograph by Faber du Faur.

A 1931 photo

They pertain to the War of 1812?

Right. Faber du Faur was a legendary painter of German battle scenes. He survived the entire Russian campaign against the Napoleonic army, as a lieutenant under Marshal Ney. He drew Russian landscapes, camping soldiers, river crossings, troops marching, and battles — all as he saw them. Afterwards, he would finish his sketches with watercolours. Paintings by Faber du Faur were first exhibited to the public in 1816. In 1840, his series was published under the title ‘Blätter aus meinem Portefeuille, im Laufe des Feldzugs 1812 in Russland’. Various experts view those illustrations by Faber du Faur as an informative source on the 1812 war, from various perspectives.

Vladimir Peftiev’s collection contains lithographs of pictures by Vereshchagin. Presenting these keen Belarusian collectors in Moscow, I talked much about the importance of their work in terms of learning from history. Russia is making efforts to restore its genuine history, focusing on the activities of historical and geographical societies. Many new historical periodicals have appeared, and all want to richly illustrate their publications, including with replicas of old lithographs and with old cards. I believe that illustrations like this, as are held in Vladimir Lihodedov’s and Vladimir Peftiev’s collections, will soon be in demand in Belarus too.

So, cards and lithographs should help expand our objective understanding of various historical times…

Indeed! They not only develop our understanding but encourage society towards better judgement. Lihodedov and Peftiev don’t hide away their collections; they view them as engines driving forward practical events. For instance, with their help, Vladimir Lihodedov located a monument of the 1812 war previously unknown.

To be precise, he first found a photograph. Then, he figured out that the monument was situated between Vileika and Molodechno. The monument had been destroyed, with no trace remaining, and we had no information besides his image. We can only guess the efforts and funds required to restore the monument on its original site, where it stood more than fifty years ago. Vladimir Peftiev and Vladimir Lihodedov involved other like-minds and local authorities to erect a new version of the monument, dedicated to our ancestors who defended Russia and Belarus from Napoleonic invasion. The monument is dedicated to all those killed in the 1812 war, regardless of the side on which they fought.

Memorial sign in Vileika District after reconstruction

Almost 20 deltiological albums and books have been released under the In Search of the Lost project. Are you familiar with all of them? What is your assessment of these collectors’ activity?

We lack a library for such editions in Belarus and Russia, maybe worldwide. The collectors’ publishing activities are very impressive. I know that the Belarusian state encouraged Vladimir Lihodedov in his project to publish albums of cards.

It’s true, Zvyazda Publishing House has released five out of twenty albums in the In Search of the Lost series. Work on presenting old cards to the general public began long ago with SB. Belarus Segodnya newspaper. The edition’s large circulation was an advantage. Later, other media joined in publishing images of old cards from Vladimir Lihodedov’s collection.

Most importantly, the books, albums, newspaper and magazine publications all contain significant texts. These editions can be used at schools and universities, as cards can and should help in studying our homeland’s history.

What are your plans for collaboration with Belarusian collectors?

Another monument has been restored with help from Belarusian collectors (including financial). The monument is to Orthodox priest Fiodor Yuzefovich, who sacrificed his life to affirm justice. He deserves to be remembered by future generations. Vladimir Peftiev and Vladimir Lihodedov are preserving his memory by restoring the monument, laying foundations for future education and enlightening. I hope to participate, with my Belarusian colleagues, in creating new editions and new exhibitions. I know that Vladimir Lihodedov intends to publish a book about monuments located in Belarus before 1941, when the Great Patriotic War began. I’ll be glad if my co-operation is of use.

By Kirill Ladutko

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