Isles’ Cold War items to be exhibited at National Museum

Items collected from Shetland during the Cold War will go on display in a new exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland this month.

A large hammer and sickle emblem and flag retrieved from Soviet factory-fishing ships that docked in Shetland in the 1980s are among the items on loan from Shetland Museum.

Despite relations between Nato countries and the Soviet Union were characterised by mistrust and animosity, formal and informal relations in Scotland continued.

This was evident in the isles where Soviet factory-fishing ships known as Klondykers, regularly docked at Lerwick Harbour.

The exhibition will include objects from these fishing ships, gifted by their crew to the people of Shetland.

Shetland Museum and Archives curator Carol Christiansen said Shetlanders experienced “a very human side” of the Cold War.

“Klondyker crews, arriving with little money and few resources, found friendship and support among the Shetlanders,” Ms Christiansen said.

“Locals provided food from their gardens and donated unwanted but repairable items for the crews to take back to their home countries.”

At the time, several factory ships were wrecked in Shetland waters, with crews rescued by the coastguard helicopter and lifeboat. These crew members were taken care of in the isles until safe transport could be arranged to return to the USSR.

The Cold War Scotland exhibition begins on Saturday 13th July and will run through to the end of January next year.


Add Your Comment
  • wayne conroy

    • July 2nd, 2024 10:20

    I remember how desperate some of the poor men aboard these vessels would get spending their spare time at the dump in Lerwick going through what the locals were dumping to grab what they could and helping the locals offload anything they took there. I’ll never forget my brother coming home all proud as he had swapped his expensive new watch with a Russian for an old watch on a chain worth next to nothing and my dad going nuts. My brother then proceeded to take the watch apart to see its workings and that was the end of that watch… lol.


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