The Historical Turning Point: Revisiting the Russian Revolution | cultural | Report on arts, music and lifestyle in Germany | DW

Lenin is exceptionally present. His larger-than-life iron statue dominates the lobby of the Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum), catching the eye of photo-taking Chinese tourists. They seem to be more pleased with the revolutionary figure than their compatriot and Russian President Vladimir Putin often is.

But again, the whole Russian Revolution doesn’t really fit Putin’s narrative about Russia, points out historian Jan Claas Behrends, of the Center for Contemporary History in Potsdam, near Berlin. “During the reign of Putin, the cult surrounding the Great Patriotic War [Editor’s note: during World War II] has become so massive and pervasive that it leaves little room for other ways of thinking,” he said.

Moreover, Russia‘s approach to the Ukrainian revolution of 2014 or the Arab Spring in 2010 reveals that the country rejects such upheaval. “People in Russia have a problem with revolution as a phenomenon and therefore don’t really appreciate it or celebrate it,” Behrends noted.

Read more: From Che Guevara t-shirts to prefabricated houses: how the Russian revolution changed the world

Soviet poster, “What the October Revolution gave to the working woman and the peasant woman”, from 1920

The Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin sees things differently. Although not officially responsible for the policy surrounding public memorials, it sees itself as a place of “enlightenment and understanding about the shared history between Germans and Europeans”. Hence the exhibition “1917. Revolution. Russia and Europe”, from October 18, 2017 to April 15, 2018.

“With this exhibition, we aim to convince visitors of the relevance of the Russian Revolution for the course of 20th century history,” said curator Kristiane Janeke.

Quotes and wall displays explaining why the Russian Revolution is so important

Politicians and philosophers have their own view of the importance of the Revolution

The exhibition begins and ends in a white room in which they can reflect on the meaning of the Russian Revolution.

From here, visitors can follow the zigzag path to the main part of the exhibition along the dark gray walls, where artifacts, photos and information depict the history of the revolution.

Read more: Moving away from history: 100 years since the Russian February Revolution

Much attention is paid to the pre-revolution period, including the Tsarist autocracy, its prohibitions and the First World War, before the main event of the Revolution took center stage: the Bolshevik insurrection of 25 October 1917 (November 7 in the Gregorian calendar). ).

Although this revolutionary overthrow and transfer of state power was quickly ratified by the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets, the country soon erupted into a bloody civil war in 1918, which continued until the establishment of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1922.

Yellow zig-zag on the exhibition floor

The Russian Revolution changed the course of history

Red October in Europe

Not only did political power structures fundamentally change internationally after the founding of the Soviet Union, but after the October Revolution mass migrations also took place. New independent states such as Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland emerged. Other countries, however, reacted differently to these events – from fear to renunciation.

In his book “The Age of Extremes”, British historian Eric Hobsbawm sees the 1917 revolution as a defining event of the “short 20th century”, just as the French Revolution was ultimately for the 19th century. “The October Revolution sparked the most turbulent revolutionary movement in modern history,” he said.

The exhibition at the Deutsches Historisches Museum focuses on its consequences in six European countries: Germany, Poland, Italy, France, Great Britain and Hungary.

A painting and a sculpture in the exhibition

Georg Baselitz has Lenin upside down (left) and in Alexander Kosolapov’s sculpture the revolutionary leader holds hands Mickey Mouse and Jesus

Among the quotes of famous thinkers such as Hannah Arendt on the revolution, the exhibition presents around 500 objects from more than 80 international lenders, including revolutionary posters and flags.

Unlike the iron depictions of Lenin, contemporary works by Alexander Kosolapov, Werner Schulz and Georg Baselitz humorously show that the revolutionary figure has long since entered mass culture.