The Lenin Museum in Tampere, Finland

In the past I used to live in Finland and I remember my shock when I found out that in the nearest big city – Tampere – there is a museum that is fully dedicated to Lenin. I must admit I didn’t expect it at all, after all Finland wasn’t a communist country (although they were dependent on USSR after the war) so why to create a museum about Lenin? I was afraid that the museum would depict Lenin and communism in a positive way, but luckily I was wrong.

On the official web site of the museum (www.lenin.fi) you can find a following information:

Many views on Lenin. Art from museum collections.21.4. – 25.9.2011


From the first in the West to one of the last ones in the worldOne of the only permanent Lenin Museums in the world is located at the Worker’s Hall of Tampere, Finland, inside the hall where Lenin and Stalin met for the first time in 1905. Almost all Lenin museums elsewhere in the world have closed down, but now in Russia the Lenin Museum in Vyborg has started again with a new concept under a city museum status.
The original function of the museum was to present the life and ideas of Lenin. The museum ethos was to remain aloof from the ideological education practised by other Lenin museums, as well as from a tendency toward a ‘Lenin cult’. Today, the museum, among other things, collects, exhibits and researches material related to Lenin’s life and activities and the history of the Soviet Union/Russia, particularly where the material relates to connections with Finland and the Finns.

Unfortunately, the Russian version of the web site informs us:

 Ленин , как политик и человек , один из наиболее интересных деятелей прошлого века . Английский философ Бертран Рассел писал о Ленине : « Государственные деятели такого масштаба встречаются в мире не более , чем раз в столетие и немногим из нас доводиться видеть их во плоти »
As if Lenin was in fact a great guy.

My overall impression of the museum was positive as it is a place full of interesting original documents and newspapers from the revolutionary period in Russia. It also provides you with information about Lenin’s visits in Finland, he actually spent quite a long time over there and many aspects of the exhibition is dedicated to his life in Finland. For instance, we can see his cabinet where he worked or some photos of him taken in Finland. It is very interesting from a historical point of view because many books on Lenin skip the time he spent in Finland before revolution. Yet I didn’t like that in the little museum shop you can purchase all possible communism-related gadgets with Lenin, like he was a popculture icon. To me, such gadgets should be forbidden because communism was as cruel as nazism and Lenin himself murdered thousands of his political enemies. Maybe in theory communism was awesome but we shouldn’t forget how it turned out to be in reality. In Central Europe we know it very well.

Of course Lenin wasn’t as bad as later Stalin. But still, it doesn’t mean because Rudolph Hess wasn’t as bad as Hitler that we can wear t-shirts with his face. That’s why I’d prefer if the museum shop focused on selling books instead of Lenin gadgets 😉

Note: I was there 4 years ago so the exhibition might have changed. I’m planning to visit the museum this year once again as the Revolution of 1917 is one of my interests and only now I’m fluent in Russian (including the pre-revolutionary Russian orthography) to be able to read all documents. In 2007 I had to settle for only short descriptions in Finnish.

So if you treat history seriously and Lenin is not just a face on a cool t-shirt for you – I recommend you this museum. Especially if you speak Russian, which helps a lot.

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