South African Navy Museum joins BRICS online discussion


BRICS is the acronym coined for an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Originally the first four were grouped as “BRIC” (or “the BRICs”), before the induction of South Africa in 2010. The association extends to a shared heritage that goes back to the Second World War (1939-1945).
Coinciding with the 75th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War (the end of the Second World War), TV BRICS produced a documentary film entitled “Unknown Stalingrad” directed by Anastasia Shkitina. TV BRICS is an international media network of the BRICS countries. The mission of TV BRICS is to form a united information space in order to accelerate the process of economic development and increase the quality of life of the people of BRICS, while also showing the BRICS countries to the world – their traditions, history, culture, sport, economics and modern traditions.

The film “Unknown Stalingrad” is a story about forgotten battles of the Second World War and forgotten heroes. Former soldiers from Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa talk about their participation and experiences in the war. These countries all have their own Stalingrad.
The Danish journalist Peter Harmsen called the Defence of Shanghai “Stalingrad on the Yangtze”, the Battle of Kohima is known as the “East Stalingrad”. Monte Castello and El Alamein are often compared with the Stalingrad Battle too. The film suggests that Stalingrad became not only a battle but also a symbol of the Second World War. Harmsen added, that “if you look overall, if you look at the importance of this symbolic value of the battle, then I think there are similarities.”
The film was premiered on Sunday 7th of June via live stream and followed by a live discussion with invited guests via a Zoom conference link.

The invitation to the South African Naval Museum to join the discussion goes back to its earlier collaboration with the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Cape Town in the development and opening of the Arctic Convoys Display (1941-1945) at the museum in 2016.

The Arctic Convoys of World War II were oceangoing convoys which sailed from the United Kingdom, Iceland and North America to northern ports in the Soviet Union to deliver essential supplies to the Soviet Union. The cargo included tanks, fighter planes, fuel, ammunition, raw materials, and food to a besieged Soviet Union. Approximately 250 South Africans were seconded to British Royal Navy warships that undertook the arduous convoy escort duties. The display at the Naval Museum honours and remembers the South African men that were a part of the Russian Arctic Convoys of the Second World War.

An online discussion of almost 3 hours followed the viewing of the film, wherein experts, historians and diplomats raised topics of the film and also discussed the recent trends around the preservation of historical memory in their respective countries.
It was particularly enlightening to observe five different perspectives from the various participants; “looking at the history of World War II through different lenses”, so to speak. Dr Tasin Nazim facilitated the online conference in two languages with participation by Commander Leon Steyn, Curator of the SA Naval Museum in Simon’s Town, Ganes Pillay, long serving member of the South African Military History Society of KwaZulu Natal, Dr Elina Komarova-Tagar, Russian Club member, Cape Town, Rana T.S. Chhina, editor USI CAFHR (India), Professor João Claudio Platenik Pitillo, historian and writer (Brazil), Dr Alexandra Arkhangelskaya, Centre for Southern African Studies, Professor Carlos Daróz, historian and writer (Brazil), John Slava Pei, linguist and writer (China) as well as the press attaché of the Russian Embassy in South Africa, Alexander Arefiev.

A trailer of the documentary film can be viewed on YouTube at