Lenin of Turku and Riga – Public and privatized
The installation consists of two studies, made separately within the past year, and presented in the Tampere Lenin museum parallel, that each trace the discussion around a much debated Lenin-monument. One of them is in Turku, the other in Riga.
In Finland there are two existing outdoor Lenin-statues. One is in Kotka and the other in Turku, in front of Aurakatu 15. The statue by Mihail Anicushin was donated to Turku by friendship city Leningrad in 1977, at the time of the politics of Finlandization.
Today Finland is proud to be a Western democracy, where statues remain standing regardless of the changing of the times. Nevertheless, the statue to Lenin in Turku is much debated and frequently vandalised. Student-groups steal the bronze letters of the pedestal as trophies. Officials do not interfere with the student rituals and often the statue is in a miserable condition. Also, for long periods the statue was strategically hidden in the midst of vegetation by the decision of the City’s gardening department, following to a wish from residents in the building next to it.
In the installation the eventful escape of Lenin in December 1907 through Turku is told in slightly differing ways, with the main characters changing depending on who is telling and from which position. Also contradictory is the campaign to get a Lenin-statue to the Lenin-park in Helsinki: the supporters of the statue, as well as the ones against it, both appeal to the Finnish national reasoning. The resistance is with the grounds that we are not accustomed to erecting statues to heads of foreign states, whereas the defenders stress the fact that Lenin’s role in Finland gaining independency was crucial, and he was ruling Finland for a short period.
In Riga the removal of the Lenin-monument signified victory over oppression of the Soviet regime. Since its removal in 1991 the statue has been largely neglected by the authorities, and there are various rumours about the destiny of it. The Lenin-statue of Liepaja, another Latvian city, was melted and recast as hundreds of small bronze bells that are sold as souvenirs. In Lithuania the Lenin-statues, as well as other products of the Soviet regime, are protected and collected in a sculpture park.
In both of the videos, the increased influence over public space by private businessmen is brought up. In Riga, interestingly, it is businessmen, who see a value in remembrance of Lenin. In Turku private businessmen erect statues, of various historical references, as a prestige to themselves and as an attempt to increase the importance of the property they own.
The method in the two case-studies has been the same: interviewing various specialists of different fields related to the topic. Regarding the monument in Turku, these have been: Aimo Minkkinen, director of Lenin-Museum in Tampere; Riitta Kormano, Intendent, Wäinö Aaltonen Museum/The Museum Center of Turku; Tatiana Tolonen, researcher, Wäinö Aaltonen Museum/The Museum Center of Turku; Kari Immonen, Professor of Cultural History, Turku University; environmentalist and activist Ritva Hartzell; doctor Esa Tulkki; Student organization leader Riikka Laanila, P-Klubi; Student union board member Marina Stenbäck, Kåren; artist Kimmo Sarje; theoretician Sezgin Boynik. In Latvia, the interviewees have been: Guntis Gailitis, director of the Riga Municipality Cultural Heritage Preservation Agency; Sergei Kruk, researcher and lecturer at the Riga Stradins University; Ojars Sparitis, art historian, director of the Latvian Academy of Sciences; Janis Lejnieks, architect and editor of journal Latvijas Architektura; Gunars Janaitis, photographer; Gundega Cebere, art historian and curator, exhibition hall Arsenals; Andris Svaglis, businessman, owner of the Lenin Memorial Room in Cesu Iela, Riga; Meinards Metelis, businessman, collector of Lenin-sculptures and owner of Soviet-era museum ‘Other Time’ in Kuldiga; Inga Lace, project manager and curator, Latvian Center for Contemporary Art
The installation consists of the two videos, and also large amounts of photographs, newspaper clips and other archived material that contain statements about specific historical events and of the role of statues in the public sphere.
Duration of the videos:
Lenin Aurakadulla 38 min
Lenin Privatized 27 min