One of the strangest museums that I have ever visited was the Lenin Museum in Tampere, Finland. As its name implies, it is dedicated to the first leader of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin. It is currently the only museum outside of Russia dedicated to him.
Finland has a museum focused on Lenin, because the building that houses the museum used to be the Tampere Workers’ Hall, where Russian revolutionaries, including Vladimir Lenin, secretly met in 1905. In 1809, Russia took Finland from Sweden in the Finnish War, and moved the country’s capital from Turku to Helsinki (the former is closer to Stockholm, Sweden and the latter to St. Petersburg, Russia). Because Finland was under Russian rule, Lenin and his comrades felt safer conducting a revolutionary meeting in outlying Finland than on mainland Russia. The 1905 meeting has even greater significance, because that is where 35-year-old Lenin first met 27-year-old Joseph Stalin, who also attended the meeting in Tampere. Stalin ultimately became the second leader of the Soviet Union (and a mass murderer).
As you walk through the Lenin Museum, you follow a chronological timeline of Vladimir Lenin’s life. The displays include photographs, signs, and some objects, which all help flesh out who the man was. The Museum came into existence after Finland had already gained independence from Russia, but during Joseph Stalin’s rule, so visitors from the Soviet Union would visit Finland to see it. The goal was to bridge the gap between East and West. However, the Museum now strives to take a more critical approach of Lenin than it did during those years.
Perhaps the strangest part of the museum were the two wax figures near the entrance of the Museum. One is of Lenin in a motorcycle sidecar, and the other is of Stalin standing nearby. Visitors are welcome to dress up (put on a leather jacket and driving goggles) and sit on the motorcycle that “drives” Vladimir Lenin’s sidecar, and then take pictures. Since neither Lenin or (especially) Stalin are viewed favorably by most of the world today, the whole place felt strange to me. However, it was still historically interesting.
The Museum’s gift shop was different. Its souvenirs included a “capitalist pig” piggy bank and stuffed toys of Lenin, Karl Marx, etc. It also sold Russian nesting dolls of Russia’s leaders, with Vladimir Putin being the biggest “doll,” and Vladimir Lenin nesting as the smallest “doll” inside. A reverse version of this was in one of the Museum’s displays.
If you ever visit Tampere, Finland, there are many potential museums to visit. However, the Lenin Museum may be the most unique among them, so is worth a stop.
Sources and Further Reading
“Lenin Museum.” Tripadvisor. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g189948-d297204-Reviews-or10-Lenin_Museum-Tampere_Pirkanmaa.html (accessed May 28, 2020).