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Russian and New Zealand wartime ties revisited

January 14, 2011

New Zealand’s relationship with Russia during World War Two brought a Russian film crew to Archives New Zealand’s Wellington office on Wednesday 12 January.
 
The crew: Kirill Kiryanov, correspondent for Russian State TV – channel Rossiya-1, and cameraman Igor Nikulin, were interested in material for a special documentary on Russian’s ties with other countries during the war. The programme, destined to be screened on Russian TV later this year, will include an episode on New Zealand.
 
Archives New Zealand holds records pertaining to the government’s correspondence with European countries including Russia during the time of war. One of these documents, New Zealand’s Declaration of War against Germany, signed by acting Prime Minister Peter Fraser on 3 September 1939, was of great interest to the crew.
 
Access Services archivist Uili Fectau showed the pair the papers and film footage and in turn was filmed explaining what the records were. The Declaration and other documents are listed on Archway, Archives New Zealand’s online search engine.
 
The crew were accompanied on their visit to the Archives’ office by Russian Embassy’s Deputy Head of Mission Andrey Kornykukhin and three members of the Russian Convoy Club of New Zealand who are veterans of the Arctic Campaign 1941-45. The trio, Pen Moore aged 90, Chris King, 88, and Derek Whitwam, 85, were also interviewed.
 
The documentary will also feature the story of New Zealander Wing Commander Henry Ramsbottom-Isherwood who was awarded the Order of Lenin medal by the former Soviet Union. He was one of only four non-Russians to receive this prestigious medal.
 
Born in Petone, Mr Ramsbottom-Isherwood served in the RAF during the war, training Russian pilots and ground crew to fly and maintain British Hurricane aircraft. He led an RAF fighter wing from inside the Arctic Circle at Murmansk after Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. He died in 1950.
 
Mr Kornykukhin thanked Archives New Zealand for helping the film crew. He said the Russian Ambassador was thrilled with the assistance and support from the department.
 
Before returning home Kirill and Igor are this weekend filming the Russian rugby team in New Plymouth where they are playing against a Taranaki side.
 
The film crew’s visit to Archives New Zealand attracted the local media, with the Dominion Post featuring a story in Thursday’s edition, and TVNZ running an item during its evening news.