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Russian war diggers (Youtube)

Article about: Firstly, apologies if this has already been the subject of discussion elsewhere. This looked like the best place for this topic. I've recently found myself watching the 'Russian war diggers'

  1. #1
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    Default Russian war diggers (Youtube)

    Firstly, apologies if this has already been the subject of discussion elsewhere. This looked like the best place for this topic.

    I've recently found myself watching the 'Russian war diggers' Youtube channel.

    Russian war diggers (Youtube)

    It's amazing to see such rare items found in remarkable condition. I recently watched the one where they recovered a 'propaganda' shell which was opened with it's contents of papers intact. However, I do have mixed feelings about these videos.

    I'm rather uncomfortable with the complacent and casual manner they deal with human remains and live ordnance.

    The group state they are an 'official' group who recover remains of fallen soldiers from WW2. But it seems to me they are more interested in the relics they find. I realise these groups are volunteers and perhaps have good intentions, but I would question whether that's sufficient. Wearing military style clothing and playing with the relics comes across as very amateurish and even disrespectful. And what exactly does 'official' mean? That they have a licence to use a metal detector or have government approval to dig for human remains? or both. I don't understand Russian so my comments are based on the visual video content only, albeit with some English subtitles.

    Surely at the first sign there are human remains it's time to stop and call in the professionals? In my view the area should be recorded and excavated by qualified professionals who can catalogue everything and hopefully identify some remains. Otherwise there is a risk that vital evidence is lost. On one video a perfectly preserved leather belt was pulled from a swamp. The belt was locked which suggests the person wearing it actually died there. In which case perhaps it would be time to focus on further evidence of human remains. What's the priority here?

    Using a spade or wire brush to clean an object found seems to be rather harsh and harmful. Am I naive to suggest it should be passed to a museum who can clean it professionally and display it rather than hastily do so on site?

    Not to mention the live ordnance. They seem to have a good knowledge of the ordnance but surely their work is still highly dangerous? Especially in swamps where you can't see what you're walking on. Mortars, grenades, shells and anti tank mines are abundant. I do wonder what happens to those finds. Some of it is in such good condition I can't help feeling it would be nice if it could be safely deactivated and put on display in a museum. Quite incredible to see a whole box of mortars preserved in their original wooden box. But taking apart an anti tank mine on site?

    No, I don't have to watch the videos but seeing what they find is captivating - for now anyway.

    Is it just me that feels this way?

  2. #2
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    Your suspicions are quite correct, I’m afraid.
    I have no idea about this particular group, and have not watched the footage you refer to (I choose not to anymore), but I believe the majority of these people are what are referred to in Russia as ‘black archaeologists’.
    Such people are, indeed, more interested in valuable and sellable relics.. very, very sad - if not historically criminal behaviour. Bodies are often robbed of goodies, and reburied, and unrecorded.

    Another ‘hobby’ is excavating wartime firearms and ammunition and, with minimal, on the spot cleaning, firing them.. It is tragically more about ‘fun’ than respect.

    There are, of course, decent and respectful archaeologists, but I fear they are in the minority.

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