The Lenin Museum is remarkable not only because it may be the only surviving museum dedicated to the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution but because it is in Finland, the strange and archaic collection fixing and reminding us of the Finns' special relations with Lenin. At the very north of Europe, between Russia and Sweden, Finland has often found itself between millstones. It is hard to play what-if with what might have been had Lenin not recognized Finland's independence in gratitude for Finnish support for the Revolution. When he was deported to Siberia in Czarist Russia, Lenin's fellow inmate was a Finn. Later, Lenin was in Finland more than once. He even lived not far from Helsinki for a while and hid from the Czar's secret police in the archipelago. In the Hermitage in St. Petersburg there's a painting immortalizing Lenin's run across a frozen lake, from Parainen to Nauvo, where he caught a steamer to Stockholm. Lenin visited Tampere, too, participating in various Social Democratic conferences. It was in Tampere that Lenin first met Stalin, in fact, in 1905. The museum, opened on 20 January 1946, is housed in the building where this fateful meeting took place. It never belonged to the Communist Party but was established by the Finno-Russian Council. Located on the second storey, the museum is by no means expansive - the two rooms it occupies could as easily be found in a Soviet Hall of Culture. The museum employees, dressed in shirts sporting images of Lenin and Che Guevara, don't seem to be overly busy - there were only five visitors when we were there. The exhibits are rather austere - there's no glorification of a heroic Lenin, only displays of objects, documents and symbols relevant to the topic. Among them is a threadbare couch upon which not only Lenin but also Maksim Gorky slept when in Helsinki. As in most of Tampere's museums, the displays are unfortunately labelled in Finnish only for the most part... and as it is no metropolis, no one will be offering you headphones with recorded commentary in the language of your choice. You can, however, make use of a red Soviet-style album that contains a translation of information in English, Russian and German, carefully inserted in plastic pockets. There's something charming in this old school approach, however, and you may end up reading about things and events that you might otherwise never delve into.
Keywords: museum, Lenin museum, Tampere, Finland