Staunton, June 21 – What was not so long ago unthinkable is now happening: the Lenin Museum in Ulyanovsk (Simbirsk), the city of his birth, is now closed for renovations and will be reopened not as a museum dedicated to the memory of the Bolshevik leader and founder of the Soviet state but as museum about 20th century Russian history.
Three things make this event important. First, it is a clear sign that ever fewer Russians are interested in Lenin, however much the Soviet past may be making a comeback. Second, it is occurring in a “hybrid” fashion, that is, the museum isn’t being closed but “reformatted,” an approach used many places and intended to avoid controversy.
And third, despite that, the closure of the Lenin Museum in this case has led to the formation of an action group whose leaders say that they will work to reopen the Lenin Museum with its original purpose intact and with the exhibits only updated to reflect technological possibilities (forum-msk.org/material/region/15713393.html).
The decision to repurpose the museum appears to have been taken by local and regional authorities, not only because they had long promised to remodel the museum but also because the Soviet-era exhibits were no longer attracting the attention that they did, but the opponents of this move want to raise the issue to an all-Russia one.
Whether they will be able to do so remains to be seen, but both the fact that the decision was taken locally and that the opposition to this move sees no possibility of reversing it there and consequently is turning to Moscow is yet another example of the way in which regional policies and politics and all-Russian one are inextricably interconnected.
And it is an indication of something else: those who can’t achieve their goals in Moscow, at least not yet, may have a very much better chance of doing so locally and regionally than many in the center or the analytic community assume, another development far more important than the closing of yet another monument to Lenin.