A plate from a sunken ship: a story about an expedition of 1933

A plate from a sunken ship: a story about an expedition of 1933
Expedition for Special Underwater Operations (EPRON) work. Stepan Zakharov in a diving suit
"Loss of class vigilance" and cosmopolitanism that forced to move from the Caucasus to Novorossiysk, and porcelain ware of the early 20th  centuryfound on the bottom of the Black Sea.

In late March, the Museum of Moscow opened a 'New Arrivals. Memory Storage Chest' exhibition, prepared by a writer and screenwriter Marina Moskvina and her husband, an artist Leonid Tishkov. The authors call the 'Memory Storage Chest' an exhibition and a novel: it tells a life story of the Moscow Zakharov-Moskvin family and things it has been storing since the early 20th century. Each exhibit goes with an essay by Marina Moskvina's telling the story of her ancestors' and relatives’ life intertwined with the history of Russia.

The exhibition owes its name to its chief exhibit, a chest recovered in 1933 from the ship Janerose that sank in Novorossiysk during the Civil War. Expedition for Special Underwater Operations (EPRON) was in charge of recovering property from sunken ships. Stepan Zakharov, Marina Moskvina's grandfather, was an EPRON diver.

The History of Things presents the photos of a plate found by Zakharov on board Janerose, and his granddaughter's story.

A plate from the sunken Janerose

A plate from a sunken ship. Marina Moskvina's story

At various times, Zakharov was accused of alcohol abuse, "losing his class vigilance" (his second wife Matilda was once married to a White Army General) and 'cosmopolitanism', that is sympathy for oppressed small Caucasian peoples, including the Germans and the Romani. It resulted in her grandfather's deportation from the Caucasus and his reassignment to a post of a secretary of the Black Sea District Committee of the Russian Communist Party in Novorossiysk.

Zakharov spent all his time at dockage facilities and on ships. And his zeal was rewarded, when Fotiy Krylov, EPRON head, made him an honorary diver and allowed to go down to the bottom of the Tsemes bay.

EPRON was engaged in recovering ships that sank during the Civil War, and Stepan was tasked to recover property from Janerose. We have two porcelain plates from Janerose, which had spent 15 years underwater; they are heavy enough not to fall off a table in ship motions. Plates are white and have a small St. Andrew's flag on the edge.

Zakharov put on a diver's suit and a diving helmet on his red head, lead shoes on his feet and fastened heavy lead weight on his chest.

Anything to please our secretary. Come on, Stepanych, follow us!

And a commemorative photo with an inscription on its back:

Steshka! It's your father going down to the sea bottom in a diving suit. And if they tell you I'm dead, don't believe it! Here I am, your loving daddy!

1933, November.

Read more stories about the Museum of Moscow exhibits in the History of Things.