Art Around the World

Lenin Still Causing Controversy in the 3rd Millennium

By Tom Gross, March 21, 2000

There’s a furor in Finland after an art museum announced plans to put up a statue of Lenin, just after the last Lenin statue in eastern Europe has come tumbling down.

Museum directors and city officials throughout the former Soviet empire have spent much of the last decade hauling down the massive monuments to the communist leader. The Helsinki Arts Museum, however, has spent $9,000 of public funds to bring an enormous granite bust of Lenin from the nearby Russian province of Kaliningrad.

Whereas some Finns remain grateful to the first Soviet leader for granting Finland independence in 1917 after more than 100 years of Russian rule, many Finnish politicians have denounced the move as “sick.” Millions died under Lenin’s rule. But the museum director, Tuula Karjalainen, has defended her decision. “Its an important piece of historical art,” she said, “and not meant as a statue to honor Lenin.”

The cult that the Communists created around Lenin led them to build hundreds of “Lenin Museums” in his honor, but one former Lenin Museum is flourishing in a new guise. Whereas most have since been closed, the former Lenin museum in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, has undergone a miraculous transformation, and been voted Best Museum in Europe by the Council of Europe.

The museum’s five stories have been purged of most references to Lenin and his Communist revolution, and replaced with exhibitions of modern art and Siberian history. Only one of the museum’s former Lenin statues remains a 65-ton statue in the foyer, which is “too heavy to move.”

Article copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.