Recently, I was reminded of Russian involvement in the South African war of 1899-1902. I had come across Russian involvement years ago when I purchased the book by Apollon Davidson and Irina Filatova called The Russians and the Anglo-Boer War (Human & Rosseau, Cape Town, 1998).

Whilst following up another lead, I came across the following link – dated 2012! http://protea.bookslive.co.za/blog/2012/04/24/apollon-davidson-receives-order-of-the-companions-of-or-tambo-in-silver/

South Africa is rightly referred to as a Rainbow Nation, there are so many groups making up the rich tapestry of the country and adding to its culture(s). Discovering the individual stories and links between cultures is one of the fascinations of studying African history. Another aspect is how the relationships forged in the early years and changed over time…

Most people in South Africa (and probably elsewhere) will associate Russia with the Cold War (Angola) and Anti-Apartheid movement of the latter half of the 20th century. However, Russians were involved long before, fighting on the side of the Boers against Imperial Britain and after Union in 1910, forming one of the largest immigration groups into the country (here the term Russian is used in the broadest sense to include Lithuanians and others under Russian control at the time).

I look forward to the day when a scholar takes up the reigns of Davidson and Filatova and writes a ‘complete’ history of the Russians in South Africa.

Some other little Russian discoveries include a review in the Scientia Militaria vol 19, no 3 (1989) of a review by Jan Ploeger of a book by Rein Rijkens entitled Brieven uit die Boere-oorlog van Reintjo Rijkens published in Den Haag, Amsterdam in 1988. In the review, two other books are mentioned:
Helleman, Met het Roode Kruis mee in den Boeren-Vrijheidsoorlog (Amsterdam, 1901) and
Izedinova, Sophia, A few months with the Boers: The war reminiscences of a Russian Nursing Sister (Johannesburg, 1977)

There are some other articles on Russian involvement in the Anglo-Boer War in the Scientia Militaria and whilst working through these I discovered that about 25 South Africans had participated in the Russian Civil War of 1918-1920 (WM Bisset, 1985, vol 15, no 4 refers).

I wonder what other little discoveries will turn up regarding the Russian-South African relationship?

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