Exhibit in detail: cigarette case with the Russian Red Cross Society emblem

Today, on the "International Day of the Red Cross and Red Crescent", our regular column "Exhibit in details" features a cigarette case with onlay emblem of the Russian Red Cross Society, made in the Mattey Lombardo jewelry workshop in Moscow in 1908-1917.

Rectangular gold cigarette case with rounded sides and corners, hinged lid with thumb ramp. The fluted surface of the cigarette case is supplemented with the onlay emblem the Russian Red Cross Society ("Love your neighbour as yourself"). The flap stop is decorated with a row of small rose-cut diamonds.

International Red Cross and Red Crescent Day is celebrated annually on May 8, the birthday of Henri Dunant (May 8, 1828 – October 30, 1910), a Swiss humanitarian, founder of the Red Cross and the first winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

In February 1863, the Geneva Society for the Promotion of the Commonweal set up a committee of five Swiss citizens ("Committee of Five") to study the ideas of Henri Dunant in his book “A memory about Solferino”, a book about the protection of sick, injured and wounded in battle. As fate would have it, Henri Dunant witnessed the biggest bloody battle of the Austro-Italian-French war, the Battle of Solferino, where over forty thousand people were killed and wounded. Henri Dunant began organising aid stations, tending to the wounded and recruiting volunteers from the local peasantry. The last pages of his book contained proposals for organising aid to the wounded and injured during the war. The author sent copies of his book to the heads of governments at his own expense. Two main suggestions were formulated in the book:

  • establish a group of volunteers in peacetime in each country to assist victims in times of war;

  • get countries to agree to protect first aid volunteers as well as the wounded on the battlefield.

By the end of October 1883, the "Committee of Five" had organised an international conference attended by both official delegates from various States and representatives of non-governmental organisations from 16 countries. The conference adopted a resolution and laid down rules on various pertinent matters, and also adopted the international emblem for the organisation. The conference appealed to all states to establish voluntary brigades for the care of the injured and wounded in time of war. These brigades eventually became National Red Cross Societies and the Committee of Five became the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The first version of the document contained only 10 articles; however they enclosed the basic principles of neutrality, independence, humanity, impartiality and universality. From now on, both – the organisation providing assistance on the battlefield and the people under its protection were sacred. All that was required was a clearly visible distinguishing emblem. Since Switzerland was the birthplace of the international document, the symbol was based on its flag. The only thing they've changed was the colour ratio: medical services were marked with a red cross on white background. The first convention was later supplemented by three others, dealing with the provision of assistance to shipwrecked persons, prisoners of war and civilians. These conventions were revised from time to time; the most extensive revision took place in 1949.

The Red Cross is a completely neutral and independent international organisation dedicated to humanitarian purposes and, in particular, to alleviating human suffering. It is comprised of three main divisions:

  • Self-governing National Red Cross Societies, including Red Crescent Societies (in Muslim countries) and Red Crystal (Israel), operate on a voluntary basis both in their own countries and abroad. Each of these societies should be recognized by the International Committee. To date, there are 114 such societies, all of which have youth branches;

  • The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is a worldwide organization that coordinates the activities of the societies. It works under an executive committee and a board;

  • The International Committee of the Red Cross, an independent group of Swiss citizens, takes action in times of war or conflicts whenever the intervention of a neutral organization is required, which is a feature of its work.

Between conferences, the work of the League and the Committee is co-ordinated by the Standing Commission of the International Red Cross.

In Russia, the Red Cross Society was established in May 1867, under the name "Society for the Care of Wounded and Injured Soldiers", in 1879, it was renamed the Russian Red Cross Society. In 1923, the Union of Red Cross and the Union of Red Crescent Societies of the USSR was established, which united the Red Cross Societies of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, Georgia and the Red Crescent of Azerbaijan. In 1992, the USSR "Red Cross and Red Crescent" was liquidated and the Russian Red Cross (RRC) became its legal successor.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement celebrates the holiday every year, highlighting the important role of its staff and volunteers in saving lives and rendering of help to most vulnerable social groups around the world. The International "Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement" unites more than 500 million people. Countless numbers of people have received help thanks to those who have dedicated themselves to the service of mercy. In our country, this movement has been implemented under the auspices of the Russian Red Cross for 157 years. The RCC team provides a range of services including emergency assistance, implementation of health and social programmes. In their work, all members of the movement are guided by seven Fundamental Principles: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary involvement, unity and universality.

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