The map of Russian places in Great Britain, originally developed on the basis of the free Google Maps service in 2015 for the website of the Russian Embassy in London, has now become the most complete and clear illustration of the deep historical ties between Russia and the United Kingdom. At the time of launch, it included about 160 addresses, including “Names of streets and houses”, “Burials”, “Monuments”, “Memorial plaques and benches”, “Russian organizations”, “Russian Orthodox churches” and “Places with Russian history”.
While compiling this map, a big question to deal with was the criteria for adding facilities. What personalities are worth mentioning on the map – only Russians who lived in the UK? Or also the British, who joined Russian culture and made great contributions to Russian studies (for example, William Morphill, the first professor of Russian language at Oxford University). And (currently absent on the map) immigrants from the Russian Empire who did not consider themselves Russians, but left a mark on British history (philosopher Isaiah Berlin or businessman Michael Marx for example)?
From the very beginning, the map does not include commercial facilities, the so-called “Russian businesses” and the names of pubs, hotels, shops and so on associated with Russia – only official toponymy and places that have valid historical reasons are included. The plaques are marked not solely by established English Heritage, but also by local authorities and individuals, including inside the premises (London Remembers website, which contains the most comprehensive database of commemorative signs in the British capital, does not take this last category into account).
Many places have a “Russian history” – uniform criteria of significance have yet to be worked out. It is obvious that the map should indicate buildings where prominent personalities lived and where important events occurred. But what about the locations that famous people visited only occasionally? In a number of cases, we marked such spots on the map, for example, Oxford University, in order to recall the great Russians who became honorary doctors there.
“Political” matters are separated. So, near Holland Park in London there is a statue of Prince Vladimir with the inscription “Prince Volodymyr, ruler of Ukraine”, constructed by the local Ukrainian community to celebrate a millennium of the Baptism of Rus. Because of this wording, the monument to the all-Russian saint, apparently, should not be placed on the “Russian” map.
And what about the monuments dedicated to the Crimean War – the only real war between Britain and Russia? They are connected with Russia, but glorify the British. An even more complicated case is the Russian captured guns included in some of these monuments. At the moment, only the “main” one, the London monument, is marked on the map in order to highlight this big topic and taking into account the fact that the British Minister of War immortalized on it was Sydney Herbert – the grandson of S.R. Vorontsov, the Russian ambassador and earl.
New constructions appear on the map constantly – such as new articles about the history of the Russian presence in Britain and the targeted search for “Russian toponymy” appear. Unfortunately, however, a national register of “blue plaques” does not exist: there are separate “schemes” for counties and cities, but in addition to them, the plaques can be set by individual organizations and private individuals with the consent of the municipality. These plaques have different “weights”, but every point of the Russian presence on British soil is important. There are aggregators as openplaques.org and blueplaqueplaces.co.uk, but they are also incomplete, and the descriptions of the plaques are insufficient (sometimes only a number is given in the description, without further details).
We urge you to take a closer look at the plaques and monuments established in your city, study the websites of organizations that constructed them (and write on specialized websites and organizations that study local history and Russian memorials that they didn’t take into account!). This will not only succour to broaden our horizons, but will also contribute to commemorating the memory of our compatriots in those places, where are memorial constructions cannot be found yet.
by Konstantin Shlykov
OCA#33 FALL 2019 WWW.OCAMAGAZINE.COM