New Exhibition to Replace
Former Lenin Museum in Moscow

Early 20th century photograph of the Moscow Duma. During the Soviet years it served as the V.I. Lenin Museum

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The former Lenin Museum in Moscow is to get a new lease on life when a new exhibition dedicated to the War of 1812 opens next year. The decision to celebrate the historic event through a massive exhibition coincides with the 200th anniversary in 2012.

Situated facing Revolution Square (formerly Voskresenskaya Square until 1918), the Lenin Museum is located next to the State Historical Museum and the Iberian Gate, which leads into Red Square.

The ornate red-brick edifice was completed in 1892 by the architect Dmitry Chichagov, and patterned in the style of 17th-century Russian palaces. It was originally built to house the Moscow City Council, known as the Duma.

After the 1917 Revolution, the Duma was disbanded and in 1936, the building was converted to the Lenin Museum. As a consequence of this decision, the opulent pre-revolutionary halls were either plastered or painted over, so as not to distract the visitor's attention from the more than 7,000 personal effects of the deceased Communist leader exhibited there. These included manuscripts, books, brochures, photos, portraits, and other personal belongings of Lenin. The museum also hosted lectures and films on Lenin in Russian and foreign languages.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of Communism in 1991, the Lenin Museum closed and the Duma reinstated. However, the Duma preferred to keep its headquarters in a modest building of the former Moscow Soviet on Petrovka Street. For years, there was speculation as to whether the Lenin Museum would open again. Times had changed as a growing number of Russians became apathetic towards the former Bolshevik leader. The massive building remained locked for years until it was handed over to the State Historical Museum where it would be employed to exhibit the vast collections of the museum.

The War of 1812 exhibition will be displayed in a grandiose hall covering an area of a thousand square meters and include over 2,000 rare historical items from archives and museums across Russia pertaining to the historic event that drove Napoleon from Russia.

Emperor Alexander I of Russia and Napoleon Bonaparte

"We want to show age of Napoleon in Russia at that time, - said Victor Bezotosny, head of the expository department of the State Historical Museum. - Visitors will be able to see the defeat of Napoleon's army by the Russian army at Austerlitz in Friedland. Then the victory of the Russian army in 1812 and, most importantly, the final step, when the Russian army, led by Emperor Alexander I entered the capital of France. "

A lot of work has gone into the exhibition already, including the restoration of the building itself. Part of the collection of icons of the time, which are rarely exhibited, are currently being put in order. Works by Henry Semiradsky, which lay hidden in the museumís archives for more than a hundred years, will be put on display for the first time.

"It is believed that before the revolution the murals depicting scenes from events of 1812, which were in very poor condition at the time, were transferred to the Historical Museum - says Lyudmila Tarasenko, head of the department of ancient Russian painting of the State Historical Museum. Right now the frescoes are in the process of restoration, and we hope that by the end of the year they will be completed and placed on display in the War of 1812 Exhibition."

Now that the fate of the Lenin Museum has finally been decided, it is yet another nail in the coffin of Vladimir Lenin and his legacy. The War of 1812 is considered to be one of the proudest moments in Russian history, therefore, it seems only fitting that the Russians should choose to commemorate an event they take great pride in, rather than further honour the man who fuelled the Russian Revolution, which resulted in the murders of millions of innocent people, including the Russian Imperial family, and the near destruction of the Russian Orthodox Church. Aside from a pocketful of Communist faithful, it appears that most Russians want to forget Lenin and the horrific legacy that both he and his predecessors left behind.

Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia
5 August, 2011