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Lenin's sofa Lenin's sofa
by Thanos Kalamidas
Issue 6
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The Lenin Museum
The Lenin Museum
Hämeenpuisto 28, Tampere, Finland
I suppose there are few reasons to visit a specialized exhibition but there are two main reasons to excuse your visit. One is because you know what the exhibits are about or just curiosity. Last week in Tampere, Finland, I visited an exhibition for both excuses. I was aware about the theme of the exhibition and curious about what they were showing; a couple of friends of mine, who were just aware of the theme, accompanied me on that visit.

The exhibition, a permanent one, is about Lenin and his brief life in Finland. According to what I read, the museum was created sometime in the end of 1946 and even though Lenin’s name was part of 20th century world history, it seemed that the Finnish state was not exactly ready to accept and honor his visit to the country.

According again to the museum, the initiative to establish the Lenin museum originated from the people of the city of Tampere. As early as the 1920s, the students in the workers’ institute discovered they were studying in the same Workers’ Hall where Lenin had pledged to a delegation of townspeople to further the cause Finnish independence. In the same building, Lenin and Stalin met for the first time in 1905. Finally the museum has undertaken to preserve, exhibit and research the objects, documents and symbols of the Soviet era.

That’s when the theory and the poor marketing finish and reality starts. The exhibition is hosted in two small rooms, plus a very rich gift shop. In the first room everything is about Lenin’s life in Russia, which later became the USSR, It follows the revolution days of 1917 and his last days; there is even Stalin’s and his death masks on display.

Most of the exhibits were photographs or photocopies of newspapers from that period. For the ones who read history, I presume most of the photos were familiar and for the ones who are familiar with Soviet history it is even funnier since they were the official photos.

For the ones who don’t know, in the Soviet era some of the leaders stopped being favorites of the system and found their way to Siberia or into exile abroad. These people were somehow wiped out of the photos, so you can see photos where Leon Trotsky was supposed to be standing next to Stalin and Lenin but without…Trotsky and Stalin is standing in a very peculiar way giving you the sense that something is missing. At the end of the room there is an oil painting with Lenin in the middle and a two-seater sofa, but I will return to the sofa later.

The second room was more interesting, at least for me. I didn’t know that Lenin and Stalin met for the first time in Tampere, while Lenin lived here; actually I was a bit shocked reading the rest of the names in that meeting. It seemed that all the leaders of the first years of the revolution had been in Finland. We must always remember that Finland is a very young country and then it was just another county of the Great Russian Empire.

There you can see photos, newspapers and magazines, even Lenin’s books in Finnish. I was impressed, not from the quantity which I have to admit was very poor, but knowing Finland and how ‘friendly’ the Finns were to the Communists during that period and that some people saved all this material and preserved it so well. I suppose having all this material some people had actually endangered their lives. A gigantic metal statue of Lenin was standing in the end to the room next to his desk, chair and the set of china he used to have his tea.

It doesn’t matter if you agree with his ideas or not, the feeling that this man thought and wrote his ideas at that table is amazing and makes you stand there quiet for a few minutes. Returning to the other room, I was sure that the small wooden sofa with green fabric that looks old and faint was the place where Lenin sat reading a book or made one of his historic conversations. There is a small sign at the top with the names Lenin and Maxim Gorgy.

Maxim Gorgy is one of the biggest names in Russian literature for the 20th century and friendly to the Bolsheviks, so your first natural reaction is…wow! And you will probably never bother to read what it says underneath. Well, I did! It read: ‘This is where Lenin and Gorgy sat during Lenin’s visit to Helsinki University.’

It actually took me five minutes to stop laughing. So, so clever. I’m sure they had made a poster and sold it on the streets. I mean poor Lenin, he was tired and then he sat for a few seconds on that sofa and it became an item for an exhibition. What’s next? This is a part of the asphalt Lenin walked one day and people walking in front the bulletproof exhibit saying wow?

My friends had already left while I had a quick look at the gift shop. You have seen the t-shirts with Che Guevara face, but have you ever seen Lenin’s familiar face with the recognizable small beard on a plastic bag? What about a make up bag? A hair comb? Underwear? That was fantastic and I can see why another couple of visitors just stayed in the gift shop and spent money on these funny gifts while we paid four euros each to look around the exhibition.

Coming out from the exhibition I found my friends were really disappointed for a real waste of money and time. They said that they had seen many of the items and they’d actually seen some originals, not bad copies. They were angry because it was too small and the ticket price was too high.

I totally enjoyed it and I will definitely go again sometime in the future. I loved the gift shop, since it shows how history demythologizes itself within years; Lenin had become knickers. I loved the small sofa and I forgot to mention that I really liked an exhibition just at the entrance of the hall by somebody from the left youth.

The museum is open from 0900 to 1800 on weekdays and from 1100 to 1600 on weekends. These hours can be extended upon agreement. Admission is 4 € for adults, and 2 € for children (7-16 years), students, pensioners, those doing their military or non-military service. Guided tours must be ordered in advance. 17 €/34 € per group.

The Lenin Museum
Hämeenpuisto 28, Tampere, Finland
THE LENIN MUSEUM WEBSITE >>>>
  
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ray walker2007-09-10 05:27:03
good to see a museum in finland to the great man


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