The soldiers fed the polar bears with condensed milk tins.

The soldiers fed the polar bears with condensed milk tins. Soviet Union, 1950.

Photo taken during a routine military expedition in Chukchi Peninsula, Soviet Union. It isn’t sure if the Chukchi Peninsula has more people or white bears. The climate is very severe and sometimes weather can be so fierce in winter that the temperature falls 40 C degrees below zero (-40 Fahrenheit) so that poor white bears and their cubs start starving and freezing.

The soldiers, who served on the Army District of Chukchi Peninsula, didn’t turn their backs on the poor and starving animals and started to feed them every now and then. Of course you do not have such big amounts of meat at home to feed several white bears. And soldiers decided to feed the bears up with what they had in abundance – tins, or to be more exact, condensed milk.

Soldiers would open such a tin with a tin-opener and then gave the can to the bear who licked all the milk from tin and then feed her little bears with it. Those blue and white tins of condensed milk were the winter dessert staple of every Soviet kid. The condensed milk (called in Russian: sgushchennoye moloko) had indeterminately long shelf life and there was always plenty of it. It was a common dessert in the army too. It isn’t surprised to see it given away to bears, because unlike some stuff that was rationed the condensed milk in USSR was available in unlimited amounts.

The tracked vehicle you see on the photo is a GT-SM GAZ-34036, fully amphibious. This vehicle was widely employed by the Soviet Military. It was an over-snow vehicle designed for a variety of roles, but primarily as a general cargo/troop carrier and light artillery/heavy mortar tractor. The GT-S is also capable of traversing shallow swamp areas. The layout is conventional, with an engine compartment at the front, a cab behind that, and the cargo/troop section behind the cab. Towing capacity of the GT-S is 2 tons.

Giving a kiss to the bear cub.

Giving a kiss to the bear cub.

Here is some milk for you!

Here is some milk for you!

A group of Soviet soldiers feeding a polar bear.

A group of Soviet soldiers feeding a polar bear.