This project will analyse the formation of memory about the nineteenth-century revolutionary movement in Russia and the 1917 Revolution in a group of historical-revolutionary museums in Petrograd-Leningrad between 1917 and 1941. The two decades after the October Revolution witnessed a transformation of the memory landscape, as Bolshevik leaders exploited the struggle to overthrow the old regime as an instrument of political legitimacy. The scholarship has dealt extensively with the management of the revolutionary narrative from the top; however, key institutions involved in the governance of the recent past, particularly, museums, remain understudied. This pioneering study of museums will provide a unique view of how memory was shaped on the ground. Petrograd-Leningrad is chosen for the analysis due to its status in the Soviet memory politics – that of ‘the city of three revolutions’ and ‘the city of Lenin’. The historical-revolutionary museums explored here include the House Museum for the Memory of Freedom Fighters, the State Museum of the Revolution – GMR, the Museum of Sergei Kirov, the Museum of Lenin in Leningrad, and a handful of smaller, short-lived museums such as the Museum of Komsomol and the Museum of the Army and the Fleet. While scholarship claims that the Soviet state was steady in imposing the ‘Bolshevik-centred’ memory project from 1917 on, I will show how a clash of seeming similar, yet different memory projects unfolded in all these museums. The House-Museum and the GMR operated with a broad concept of the ‘revolutionary movement’ that included all the antimonarchist political forces that had been active in the Russian Empire, not just the Bolsheviks. This project withered only in the early 1930s ceding way to the ‘Bolshevik-centred’ and then ‘Lenin/Stalin-centred’ ones that emphasized the role of the Communist party and mythologized figures of Lenin and Stalin in designing the 1917 revolution – to the detriment of all other participants.
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