November 01, 2011

Russian Finland



Russian Finland

"Come in, come in," Aimo Minkkinen said as he ushered us through the museum shop to the office beyond. "I must apologize for all the clutter in the shop," he added, evidently referring less to the scholarly editions of Marx and Engels neatly stacked on bookshelves in the corner, than to the racks of t-shirts, mugs and badges that hold center stage. There are postcards of Trotsky, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro and Lenin, amid reprints of old Soviet-era posters and nicely retro Lenin plaster busts painted in gold, white or black.

"That's the way things are under capitalism," Minkkinen quipped, almost as if our visit to the Lenin Museum in the Finnish city of Tampere might well be our first-ever encounter with a market economy. Earlier this year Dr. Minkkinen marked 20 years of service as director of Europe's foremost surviving museum on the life, work and influence of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin). "And it has not always been easy," Minkkinen said, explaining that the museum has had to move with the times. "We have succeeded where similar museums in the former Soviet Union have all closed down," he said with an evident sense of satisfaction.

If the price of survival is peddling trinkets and souvenirs in the Lenin Museum's gift-shop, then it is a price well worth paying. Aimo Minkkinen is a quietly thoughtful man and he is keen to stress that the museum is more than a mere apologia for Lenin. "With the benefit of hindsight, we can see that Lenin made some misjudgments, some miscalculations."


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