hidden europe 10

Not quite...goodbye, Lenin!

by Nicky Gardner


The former Russian leader may have slumped in the popularity stakes in recent years, but that doesn't mean that all the tributes to Lenin have disappeared. We explore a few Lenin museums.

A larger than life figure of Lenin may still preside over the abandoned main square in Pyramiden in Svalbard (Spitsbergen - see page 4 in this issue), but on the whole Vladimir Ilyich has fallen out of fashion. The fine seated statue of Lenin that once graced Lukiskiu Square in Vilnius now decorates a forest clearing near the southern Lithuanian village of Grutas, part of a bizarre theme park devoted to the iconography of the Soviet period. In Baku, the old Lenin museum has been redeployed to other uses: floor coverings have replaced communism in the National Museum of Carpets in Baku. Carpets are big in Azerbaijan.

Boris Yeltsin rather peremptorily closed Moscow's huge Central Lenin Museum in 1993, although many of the former exhibits are still stored in the glorious red brick palace on Revolution Square, and earlier this year some limited access was allowed to visitors. In Warsaw, the old Museum of the History of the Polish Revolutionary Movement, known to all and sundry as the Lenin Museum on account of its commitment to documenting Lenin's every thought and move on Polish soil, has recast itself in a new Lenin-less mould as the Muzeum Niepodleglosci (Museum of Independence). It is, it has to be said, still not a bundle of fun, with its emphasis on the doubtless heroic but inevitably rather dry topic of Poland's struggle over several centuries for cultural and political independence from its marauding neighbours.

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