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7 March 2017Interior Ministry Museum: centuries-old documents and typewriter that witnessed Nuremberg trials

The Belarus Interior Ministry Museum opened its doors after a major renovation in the run-up to the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the Belarusian police. Now the museum welcomes its visitors with new ideas and exhibits. The sculpture of an early 20th-century policeman recently installed in Minsk and the old police patrol cars near the entry doors help people find the museum.

 

 

From the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to present

Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Kobrusev said that the museum was founded in 1986. The authorities decided to give it a spruce-up in the run-up to the anniversary celebrations and to update the exhibition of the achievements of the Belarusian police. It seems that the renovation project worked out well. The exhibition has been increased by half, and now it features a section about the present days of the Belarusian Interior Ministry.

The museum's holdings are impressive: there are 14,000 items, and all of them have digital copies. The holdings feature photographs and documents, honors, arms and personal possessions of policemen. Visitors are particularly interested in physical evidence of crimes solved by the Belarusian police.

The five halls of the renovated two-story museum tell about the law enforcement bodies that operated on the territory of Belarus back in the times of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

The development of the Belarusian police in 1917-1939, and first and foremost the Minsk city militia led by Mikhail Frunze, is one of the key themes of the museum. The museum also shows the police during the Great Patriotic War, its participation in the restoration of law and order in the devastated cities. A separate page in the history of the police was the involvement in the Chernobyl relief effort. And, of course, the museum tells about the activities of the Belarusian Interior Ministry units and its specialized agencies to protect the public order and fight against crime in the 21st century.

When wandering around the museum, I realized that the regional museums also work hard to record the police history. For example, I remembered how carefully the veterans headed by former Chief of Pukhovichy District Interior Department Viktor Savchenko collected exhibits for a local police exposition in Maryina Horka. This is also part of a large, 100-year history of the Belarusian police.

The name of the killer is written on the package of Belomorkanal cigarettes

In the meantime, we continue to tour around the museum in Minsk. Alexander Kobrusev is convinced: the history of the police is as important as the history of the whole country. The values of honor, valor, and integrity are still relevant as they were when the police were in its formative years.

“In 1917, there was a deficit of uniforms, necessary weapons. The police officers were lacking knowledge. But they had a huge desire to make the world a better place,” said the Deputy Interior Minister. The Interior Ministry Museum is not just about the history. It shows that order and calm are not a given. They are achieved through huge efforts, sometimes, unfortunately, at the cost of lives of police officers. There is a separate booth that tells about those who lost their lives in the line of duty.

It features photos of the police officers killed in the line of duty, exhibits handed over by their families and district interior departments, and also exhibits found in the archives. Next to a weapon there lies a cigarette package of Belomorkanal on which the police officer wrote the name of his murderer. It happened in Gomel Oblast in 1985.

The examples of courage and heroism of our compatriots are many.

Typewriter from Nuremberg trials

The typewriter Olympia looks quite new. Perhaps, it was not used much after the Nuremberg…

Its story is worth telling. Stenographer Ertselia Lvova (a worker of the Soviet delegation of the international military tribunal) used this typewriter during the Nuremberg trials. A document that survived to the present day says that the stenographer got this typewriter as a reward for her hard work and she took it home, to the Soviet Union. “This document was issued for the presentation to the customs authorities,” reads the unique worn-out document permitting Ertselia Lvova to take her “reward” home.

How did the typewriter get to the Interior Ministry Museum? Era (that is how Ertselia Lvova was called by her coworkers) headed one of the Minsk investigation departments after the war. After she got married, she took the surname of her husband, Bogdanovich.

“Era Bogdanovich was not only a highly-professional specialist but also a wonderful actress and an amateur art enthusiast. One of the stands here is dedicated to this outstanding woman. The stand features her photos, archive documents from the Nuremberg trials and her typewriter,” director of the museum Violetta Salodkaya said.

Instead of an epilogue

One of the stands features counterfeit dollars, rubles and money printing instruments, an excise printing machine and skimmers for ATMs. This exposition will encourage people to be more careful.

Designers said that there were some exhibits they did not want to touch with their hands while renovating the museum. Among them is a crossbow with an optical scope withdrawn from a member of Morozov's criminal gang.

Many exhibits tell the stories of people's pain and grief… “This is why I want tell more about the people who work to protest and to serve,” the director of the museum said.

We cannot agree more. A lot has been recently said and written about criminals while the people who solve crimes and help preserve stability in the society remain in the shadow. I am convinced that these men and women in uniform are heroes.

The website of the museum will be launched soon. People from all over the world will have an opportunity to take a virtual tour to learn more about the 100-year history of the Belarusian police.

Alina Grishkevich,
Photos by the author, BelTA.