The National Railway Museum has cancelled an upcoming exhibition about the Trans-Siberian Railway following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The state-owned Russian Railways Joint Stock Company was the “lender and principal partner” of the exhibition, Trans-Siberian: The World’s Longest Railway.
The exhibition would have seen priceless artefacts brought to York from Russia, including items from the Moscow Kremlin Museums, the State Archives of the Russian Federation, Russian State Library, the State Hermitage Museum and the Central Museum of Railway Transport in St Petersburg.
Begun in 1891 and stretching over 5,700 miles, the Trans-Siberian is the world’s longest railway, spanning eight time zones.
A smaller display would also have gone on show at the Science Museum in London.
Gareth Dennis, a York-based railway engineer and writer, said: “Lots of people have expended huge amounts of effort to create this exhibition, and it is clearly very disappointing for them and people who were looking forward to visiting the Railway Museum to view it.
“However, particularly with the principal sponsor being the Russian state railways, it would be morally indefensible for the exhibition to go ahead whilst the Russian state commits appalling acts against the Ukrainian people and their territory.”
It was initially set for a 2021 opening, which was delayed by the pandemic.
Science Museum group director, Sir Ian Blatchford, said: “In light of distressing events in Ukraine, we have decided not to proceed with our upcoming exhibition at the National Railway Museum and Science Museum, Trans-Siberian: The World’s Longest Railway.”
Sir Ian has also decided to hand back his Pushkin Medal, the Russian cultural decoration received in 2015 for his work on an earlier exhibition.
He said in a personal statement: “I cannot keep a medal that was handed out in the name of the Russian state by Vladimir Putin, who is responsible for this war. My enduring admiration for the Russian people themselves, and their cultural and scientific achievements, is undiminished.
“I know I speak for all my colleagues in the Science Museum Group, when I say we stand united in opposition to this conflict and in support of all those impacted by Russia’s invasion.”
It comes after performances by the Russian State Ballet company have been cancelled in theatres across the UK including Harrogate.