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When the Second World War broke out in September 1939, New Zealand had no diplomatic representation abroad, except for its High Commissioner in London.  At that time, almost all New Zealand’s trade was with the United Kingdom, and the country was closely aligned with its former colonial parent.  Five years after the war began, and largely because of the war, New Zealand had established diplomatic representations in the three main allied capitals, London, Washington and Moscow, as well as in Canberra and Ottawa.

The New Zealand Legation in Moscow was established in 1944, only a year after the creation of the New Zealand Foreign Service, in the form of the New Zealand Department of External Affairs. The Head of the Legation was Mr Charles Boswell.  The building occupied by the Legation was a smallish mansion in the Art Nouveau (“Moscow Moderne”) style built at the turn of the nineteenth century to the design of the well-known architect, Lev Kekushev.  It was located on Ulitsa Metrostroievskaya, now Ulitsa Ostozhenka.

From the very beginning, the Moscow Legation was in a difficult position.  At the time it was the only New Zealand post in a non-English speaking country.  It was in a country at war, indeed a country that was partly occupied by the enemy, Nazi Germany.  It also found itself isolated from all sources of information, except official sources.

For New Zealanders, Moscow in the 1940s was undoubtedly an exotic location.  It also possessed a very climate that was strange and difficult for New Zealanders.  The First Secretary at the Legation, R T G Patrick, wrote to the Head of the External Affairs Department that the Second Secretary who was coming to Moscow, Paddy Costello, should bring the following clothing:

“Full dress evening suit, dinner suit, black coat (not morning) and vest and striped trousers, lounge suits and sport suit.  Ordinary galoshes also boot galoshes covering ankles of rubber, the latter to have tops fabric or leather lined which we have ordered in Washington for immediate despatch to New Zealand.  Suggest Costello obtain his while here or in the United Kingdom, also dress footwear.  We are having long lambskin coats made with outer surface of gabardine.  A good warm cloth overcoat is also recommended by Australian Legation which advises in addition, fur-lined coat.  We have not examined cost of latter but have been informed by local resident previously living in Russia these are de rigueur for official classes, sheepskin coats being associated more with peasantry.  Fur-lined boots suggested for severe weather and we are investigating possibility of flying boots being made available.  Fur hats and fur-lined gloves are recommended.  Top hats are not being taken.”


Russia - New Zealand History

Mr. A. Williams, in the Auckland Herald, gives an account of the visit of British warships to Russia last June, among them being the New Zealand. “When I made myself known as a onetime resident of Auckland and Wellington, I was invariably greeted with the remark. Don't I wish I was there now,” which speaks well for the memories the men took away of our country. The New Zealand was visited by the Czar and Czarina and their daughters, probably because Prince George of Battenberg, a nephew of the Empress's is an officer of this ship, and the Imperial visitors expressed much interest in the many trophies presented by the New Zealand towns, and especially in the Maori curios displayed in Captain Halsey’s quarters. The English colony in Petrograd (late St. Petersburg) entertained the Admiral and officers at a dinner and dance, and in return Admiral Beatty and his officers gave a ball on the night of June 27th. The flagship, the Lion, served as a cloak and supper room, and the New Zealand, beautifully, decorated, was turned into a ballroom. The Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna, daughter of the late Duke of Edinburgh was present with her husband, the Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich. On this occasion, a haka, danced by 20 of the crew of the New Zealand was a decided novelty to the Russians, and had to be repeated. There were many inquiries as to Maori customs and as to the meaning of the names “Cook”, “Tasman” and “Ao-te-aroa”, inscribed on the turrets." Poverty Bay Herald, Vol. XLI, Issue 13482, 10 September 1914, Page 5

Stuart Prior, Honorary Consul for Belarus in New Zealand

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