Un­lock­ing a mys­tery

The key to Amherst is sit­ting in a Mos­cow mu­seum


So how did a large alu­minum key from Amherst make it into a mil­i­tary mu­seum in Mos­cow? Yes, the Mos­cow in Rus­sia.

It has been a mys­tery to Amherst’s An­gus Fur­long since 2010 when he re­ceived a photo taken by a rel­a­tive in a Rus­sian mil­i­tary mu­seum. It’s a mys­tery that has fi­nally been solved.

“It’s pretty neat to know how this key got from Amherst to Rus­sia,” Fur­long said. “When I first re­ceived the photo by email I won­dered how it got there and now I know.”

The key says, “Key to Amherst, Nova Sco­tia” on the front and the year 1943 is on it. Fur­long said it had some­thing to do with the Sec­ond World War and he knew at that time Amherst was home to nu­mer­ous war in­dus­tries and Rus­sia, or the Soviet Union at that time, was al­lied with Canada, the United States, Bri­tain and the Al­lied Forces.

Upon re­ceiv­ing the photo eight years ago, Fur­long emailed it to the Cum­ber­land County Mu­seum, which in turn sent it to the North Nova Sco­tia High­landers Regimental Mu­seum. Af­ter that he for­got about it.

“At first I wasn’t sure what he was talk­ing about and thought he was try­ing to get in touch with some­one else, but then it came to me and I was amazed at how the in­for­ma­tion fil­tered down and the mys­tery was solved,” Fur­long said.

John Wales, who is the mu­seum’s as­sis­tant cu­ra­tor, said he found the mys­tery a chal­lenge. He sent emails to al­most ev­ery Rus­sian mil­i­tary mu­seum and wasn’t mak­ing much progress un­til an of­fi­cial with the Cen­tral Armed Forces Mu­seum in Mos­cow con- firmed the key was there.

“I first tried the Vic­tory Mu­seum and the cu­ra­tor there told me it wasn’t there. I asked him if there were other mu­se­ums and he sent me a list,” Wales said. “I reached out to the Cen­tral Armed Forces Mu­seum and was told the medal was there and had been there since 1956.”

Wales con­tin­ued to re­search the ori­gin of the key and learned the Soviet con­sul in Hal­i­fax, Ro­man Ovsienko, and vice-con­sul Michael Kut­senko vis­ited Amherst in Sep­tem­ber 1943 to visit var­i­ous war in­dus­tries and while here spoke to mem­bers of the Amherst Ro­tary Club.

It was dur­ing that meet­ing that then Mayor M.J. Kauf­man pre­sented Ovsienko with the key that had been man­u­fac­tured ear­lier that day at Robb En­gi­neer­ing. That com­pany and oth­ers, in­clud­ing Canada Car and Foundry, pro­vided sup­plies to the Al­lied war ef­forts and some of those were sent to sup­port Soviet forces in their fight on the East­ern Front against Nazi Ger­many.

Amherst’s town coun­cil even gave $100 to the Rus­sian Re­lief Fund.

Wales said it’s amaz­ing a key from a small town in Nova Sco­tia would be in a mil­i­tary mu­seum in Mos­cow. He has no in­ter­est in ask­ing the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment to send it back to Amherst, say­ing it’s where it be­longs. It would be neat if peo­ple from here trav­elled to Mos­cow to see it, he added.

“That’s where it be­longs. It was a gift to the Rus­sian peo­ple from the peo­ple of Amherst,” Wales said. “Hope­fully it will in­spire Cana­di­ans and Nova Sco­tians to visit Mos­cow and see some­thing from their home.”


North Nova Sco­tia High­landers as­sis­tant cu­ra­tor John Wales, left, and cu­ra­tor Ray Coul­son look over a pho­to­graph of the key to Amherst that’s in a Rus­sian mu­seum. The key was given to the At­lantic con­sul to the Soviet Union dur­ing a 1943 visit to Amherst to tour war in­dus­tries in the com­mu­nity. It was pho­tographed in Cen­tral Armed Forces Mu­seum in Mos­cow eight years ago.


This key is in a dis­play case in the Cen­tral Armed Forces Mu­seum in Mos­cow, where it has sat since 1956. The key to Amherst was given to the Soviet Union’s At­lantic con­sul by the town’s mayor dur­ing a visit to the com­mu­nity in 1943 to tour var­i­ous war in­dus­tries.

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