To mark the 70th anniversary of the Victory in World War II the State Museum and Exhibition Center ROSPHOTO in collaboration with the Museum of Military Medicine launches an important exhibition project presenting unique photographs, drawings and paintings which cover the last period of WWII, the capture of Berlin and the first postwar days of the fallen capital of the Third Reich.

Among the participants of the Red Army Vistula–Oder Offensive, the Prague Offensive and the Battle of Berlin were special units which were established in 1943 at the Museum of Military Medicine and whose task was to document the activities of military medics at the front. Those units consisted of medics, photographers and artists. Thus, a successful attempt was made to revive a tradition which had existed in pre-revolutionary Russia when photographers and painters had worked together to cover military campaigns.

In January 1945 they formed two specials detachments to document the events of the last major operations of the Soviet Army. The first one consisted of the artists E.A. Lvov and N.G. Kozlov, photographer V.S. Faminsky and S.M. Rogachevsky, Major, Medical Corps. The members of the second detachment were the photographer E.S. Mikulina, artist N.G. Yakovlev and N.D. Strunin, Colonel of the Guards, Medical Corps. The artists were called up for military service upon the recommendation of the Moscow branch of the Union of Artists.

The first unit was attached to the medical department of the 5th Shock Army of the 1st Byelorussian Front under the command of Colonel General Nikolai Berzarin, the first commandant of the Soviet forces in Berlin. The second detachment was a part of the medical department of the 13th Army of the 1st Ukrainian Front under the command of Colonel General Dmitry Lelyushenko.

Fairly large number of art pieces and documents relating to the final stage of WWII (800 photographs and 37 drawings and paintings) has been preserved up to now. The current exhibition features 60 photographs and 17 artworks created by the members of the abovementioned detachments during the Battle of Berlin. All the featured artworks are exhibited to the public for the first time ever.

The works by the military photographers and artists were not meant for publication, and thus were not censored: that makes these materials especially valuable and important for us now. As to the majority of military photojournalists, they were bound to follow the directive “About the Contents of the Front, Army and Division Periodicals” issued by the Main Department for Political Propaganda on June 23, 1941. That directive imposed significant restrictions on the coverage of certain military events and activities.

The display Berlin. May gives us an opportunity to see the liberated city through the eyes and cameras of the members of the Military Medicine Museum’s detachments. In the photographs one can see Berlin in ruins, the aftermath of fierce fighting which raged there, as the city was severely damaged by allied bombing and during the final assault.

A large part of the exhibition is dedicated to the selfless work of the military medics who did their best to provide medical treatment to Soviet soldiers, German prisoners of war and residents of Berlin.

The paintings, drawings and photographs were always taken by the artists – members of the front detachments — from life, and often from the same locations. Therefore, the visitors to the display will be able to compare the evidence produced by means of two art forms — painting and photography.