At the foot of Western Hill in George Town, on Malaysia’s Penang Island, is a curious monument. Located under a broad canopy of yellow acacia trees and sited among a jumble of white stone crosses, it is a vertical granite slab. Next to it stands a Russian Orthodox cross and a steel anchor whose chain wraps around the upright stone. Its inscription, in Russian, reads: “To the officers and men of the Russian Navy cruiser Zhemchug from their grateful motherland.”
The monument was erected in 1975, more than 60 years after the ship sank in George Town Harbor, taking with her 82 crew members. Their remains were fished out of the harbor and interred in the Western Road Cemetery. The graves are still tended, by the Hai Thong Shipping Company, the agents for the Russian vessels that call on Malaysian ports. Sailors from Russian merchant ships visiting Penang often put fresh carnations on the site, as Russian custom prescribes.