Ceremonial Vase “Chelyuskin Saga
A gift to Grigory Ordzhonikidze
from the staff of Leningrad
Porcelain Factory, 1936
A great specimen of Soviet circumstantial
vases dedicated to the country's
historically important event. The vase
carrying scenes of the famous Chelyuskin
saga stood in the personal office of
the People's Commissioner of Heavy
Industry of USSR, Grigory Orjonikidze
(nicknamed Sergo within the party).
The vase is covered
with scenes,
which unfold
the legendary heroic
saga of 1934.
We see the map of the Soviet Union, marked with the route
Пароход Челюскин
of the “Chelyuskin” ship, which sank in the Arctic ice.
The ship was on its way from Murmansk to Vladivostok
to lay out a route for the transportation of goods
over the Northern Sea Route. The crew and scientists
on board were to fulfil an extremely difficult
task which had never before been a success:
an ordinary vessel, not an ice-breaker, had to cover the
entire Northern Sea Route reaching the Pacific Ocean
through the Bering Strait in one shipping season.
The next painting depicts the catastrophe in the
Bering Strait: the ship, heavily squeezed
by the ice, sank within two hours.
Further on we can see a camp of survivors (104 people)
on ice, under a red flag. Above it is the portrait
of the leader of the scientific expedition,
Otto Schmidt, who was the last to
leave the drowning “Chelyuskin.
The next image shows the beginning of the rescue
operation: a plane lands on the ice to pick-up the first
group of polar explorers, who have passed two
months on ice during the polar winter.
Here we can also see the portrait of head
of the rescue commission, Valerian Kuibyshev.
The most colourful and expressive image
shows to the courageous members of
the “Chelyuskin” crew being welcomed
by a happy crowd of people on Red
Square near Lenin's mausoleum.
In the 1930s Arctic expeditions were as prestigious as future space
missions. The Arctic, which the USSR claimed its territory, was a
heavily sought after piece of land for super powers. The North was
actively explored, with the whole country closely following the
surrounding events.
The “Chelyuskin” tragedy called for unparalleled heroism from the
Air Force. Spy planes and bombers were brought as close as possible
to the survivors' camp on ships, but they could not pick up a lot of
people at a time. Pilots literally worked miracles landing on ice
that worked similarly to a very short airstrip. Still, all of the
polar explorers were saved within 24 flights. This was atriumph for
the entire country; the whole nation celebrated the survivors
showering them with flowers all the way from Vladivostok to Moscow.
Schools held special assemblies in their honour, with children role-
playing the “Chelyuskin” survivors. Three days after the completion
of the heroic saga, on 19th of April 1934, the title of Hero of the
Soviet Union was instituted in the country. Of course it is the
“Chelyuskin” crew who became it's the first laureates.
Medal «Gold Star
Author: Dubasov, I. I.
Collection custodian:
“A notable fact about this vase is that it was made for the Paris International
Exhibition of 1937, which had the theme of ‘Art and technology in the modern
world’ and brought together participants from 47 countries together. Back then,
the highlight and symbol of the Soviet pavilion was the famous 24-metre
sculpture ‘Worker and the Farmer Woman’ by Vera Mukhina. It was on its return
to the Soviet Union from Paris that the vase was handed to Sergo Ordzhonikidze
as a present.