Lenin photo ex­hibit shows his softer side

The Guardian Weekly - - Diversions - Mark Brown

Rare and largely un­seen im­ages of Vladimir Lenin from a vast Bri­tish archive that for nearly a cen­tury has been pro­mot­ing cul­tural re­la­tions be­tween the UK and Rus­sia are to go on dis­play in Ox­ford.

The pho­tographs in­clude Lenin in dis­guise, al­most un­recog­nis­able in makeup, wig and clean shaven, and show a less well-known side to the ruth­less revo­lu­tion­ary leader: Lenin the cat lover, pic­tured.

The pho­tographs are all drawn from the archives of the Bri­tish So­ci­ety for Co­op­er­a­tion in Rus­sian and Soviet Stud­ies (SCRSS), which was set up in 1924 to foster good artis­tic and sci­en­tific links, in a ex­hi­bi­tion timed to co­in­cide with the cen­te­nary of the Rus­sian rev­o­lu­tion.

The Soviet Union may have gone but the so­ci­ety, based in Brix­ton, south Lon­don, con­tin­ues to­day. “Rus­sia and the Soviet Union con­tinue to fas­ci­nate peo­ple,” said Ralph Gib­son, hon­orary sec­re­tary of the SCRSS.

Most of the pho­tographs are be­ing shown pub­licly for the first time: “For the vast ma­jor­ity of peo­ple they will be some­thing new, they won’t have seen them in an ex­hi­bi­tion con­text,” Gib­son said.

There are many strik­ing im­ages, in­clud­ing the pho­to­graph of Lenin with­out his fa­mil­iar bald head and man­i­cured goa­tee, pro­duced for his fake ID card when he needed to flee Pet­ro­grad in 1917 and cross the bor­der to Fin­land.

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