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Devoting to the 90th Anniversary from the date of the loss of Russian cruiser"Zhemchug" in Penang

The history of relations between Russia and Malaysia opened its first page not in 1967 when Moscow and Kuala Lumpur officially established diplomatic relations. In retrospect we can find more deep roots, because some events which took place many years ago, you know, couldn't help leaving a trace. History of friendship and mutual understanding between peoples of Russia and Malaysia created a strong basis for the further developing of economic and political cooperation between our countries.

At the very beginning of the First World War Russia as an ally of the UK and France against Germany directed a light cruiser "Zhemchug" to provide convoy to British and French transport vessels with troops and military cargo in the Indian Ocean. After intense campaigns the Russian cruiser arrived to Penang harbor for some repair works.

The tragedy broke late at night on 27th of October, 1914, when German warship entered the harbor of Penang quietly. The point was that, the French patrol vessels allowed Germans to pass into the harbor without any hindrance as the German warship was camouflaged "a la British". In such a way the high speed German cruiser "Emden" found itself in a very short distance to "Zhemchug" and launched one after another torpedo which didn't miss their target. Moreover "Emden" was lobbing shells into "Zhemchug", which was ablaze already and in a few minutes vanished under the water. A big number of Russian sailors were lost, 3 officers and 112 seamen were wounded. The surprise attack was so short and effective that German cruiser "Emden" didn't meet any serious counteraction and left the harbor of Penang successfully.

All wounded Russian seamen found themselves in the houses of local civilians where they got all necessary assistance and support.

81 seamen and one officer of the Russian cruiser "Zhemchug" took their last refuge in the Christian cemetery in George Town ("The Western Road Cemetery, Penang") under the grey granite monument with epitaph in Russian and English languages: "To the officer and men of the Russian navy cruiser "Zhemchug" - Their Grateful Motherland".

Much water has flowed under the bridge since then. Our two countries experienced a lot of important changes. But human memory and feelings are remaining permanent. And nowadays The Western Road Cemetery in Penang is the place where Russians and Malaysians get together at the end of October every year and more than usual this year to garland the tombstone in memory of the Russian sailors who fell in action 90 years ago.

On behalf of the Russian Government and Russian people I would like to express my deepest and sincere gratitude to the people of Malaysia and personally Mr. Teoh Seng Lee, Honorary Consul of the Russian Federation, who is doing voluntarily noble work of maintenance the grave in his care. Moreover Mr. Teoh Seng Lee contributes to development of Russian-Malaysian cultural relations and in particular in the area of education.

And then we have to remember and always take into account lessons given by the best teacher - History. It is to the benefit of our countries, our peoples, our future and our further mutual understanding and cooperation.

Vladimir Morozov
Ambassador of the Russian Federation
to Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam

Published in "Berita Harian" on November 14, 2004

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