Cultural Learnings Of… Communist Leaders In Russia

As I mentioned before Im in Tampere, Finland and beside the natural beauty and nice hairdressers there is one quirky attraction, a small museum devoted to one Vladimir Lenin, who spent several of his exile years here because he said some whack shit about the rulers of the time. No doubt you all recognise his mug, but I admit before I went today that part of Russian political history had illuded me. So heres what I learnt today, expressed in my own unique style of history presentation where facts and dates never have to be boring again!

So it all starts at the end of the 19th century and you have a German bloke called Karl Marx, once again name sounds familiar? He wrote stacks in his life about political and social theory and basically formed what is known today as the Communism, or indeed his view of how capitalism will be destroyed either by its own gluttony or the will of the people… or both.

So we wrote a lot but was mostly ignored at the time, however some people were listening, like a young Russian by the name of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov who we better known as Lenin. He was into all kinds of good social revolutionary ideas and spent some years in jail in his youth for particpating in student protests.. like the real kind that students used to be into, like changing the government and not to keep the bar open for an hour longer on friday nights.

Eventually Lenin has to flee Russia, not the last time it would happen and he spends much time in Finland, all while writing a shiteload of books on the political situation of Russian and indeed how the ideas of one man… our German friend from before, Mr Karl Marx can be applied to his beloved fatherland. He eventually becomes the figurehead of a popular anti tsarsist faction from his various hideouts.. see Russia at the turn of the 20th century wasn’t the red menace we used to know, it was ruled by a king which they called Tsar and things were tough, Russia was a superpower already but it was mainly fuedal, meaning it was still mostly blokes out in the fields. Growing pains of the hardest type and tsary wasnt dealing with them too well.

Then it all happened in 1917 and the peoples revolution happened, the imagiatly titled "February Revolution", the last straw was the complete botching the Tsar was doing in WWI. Lenin was down in Swiss at the time but he cut a deal with ze germans to let him pass through to get back to Russia, at the time they thought this was a good idea because this guy was about to shake up Russia in a big way and distract them for a while.

And he did, Lenin comes to power, pulls out of the war and begins down the road of turning Russia into something different… into the worlds largest and indeed first functioning Communist state. Times are tough and social change is never quick or easy but the country starts to implement Lenins ideas which are themselves based on Marx’s writings from years earlier. See, the germans are even responsible for communism too… and to think they wanted to get rid of Knut the polar bear… anyway back to the beginnings of Communist Russia.

Lenin forms what we now know as the USSR, a federation of associated states all working together for a common goal, the beterment of the common man by the common man working hard. actually Lenins foreign policy at this stage is pretty good, hes happy to let everyone else do their thing, hes even happy to do some trading with America. Things kind of look ok but really his ideas havnt been implented for THAT long in the grand scheme of things. Now dont get me wrong, Lenin did some nasty shit too, he ordered the killing of tens of thousands of those "opposed to the revolution" and set up labour camps which would form the basis for the infamous Gulags.

Now check out this smiling bloke to the right. Maybe you recognise the young man here, its Joseph Stalin grinning back at you, taken while he was an exile too. See this young upstart was also part of Lenin’s revolutionary group, doing his thing for the party day in day out and rising up the ranks, getting himself more and more power using the least obvious ways possible.

I think for me, its the early pictures of Stalin I find the most chilling. We all know the image of the pudgy old man who was possibly the most evil dictator in history but this guy here seems normal, like anyone you see in photos from this time.. and more than a passing resemblance to the character Borat too. I dont think Stalin wanted to "make sexy time" however.

So Lenins health is failing, hes had some assassination attempts and the strain of rebuilding an entire country is getting to him however in one of his last writings to the party he says that one of the other members has far too much power, had shown content for the system and should be severely demoted, if not stripped of his position completly… that person is of course one J. Stalin.

However Lenin soon dies and in a line straight from a political thriller, Stalin and his other buddies have the documents hidden, of course he doesnt want this stuff getting out.

So this was it, after some more internal fighting and schrude moves by Stalin, he installs himself as supreme overlord of all of the USSR and sets off down a rather more nasty interpretation of Lenin and Marx’s ideas. This is where all the really good stuff starts, like changing the history books, because Lenin was seen as a god and couldnt be wrong, making himself far more prominent in past events or my favourite, "reinventing" of famous items by Soviets. Did you know a guy called Mozhaysky invented the plane? Or a guy called Popov invented the radio? Sorry Marconi, your off the Christmas card list now!

Ill leave the details of what Stalin got up to for another time because basically, they are farking terrible. He killed countless of his own population, killed anyone else he could from anywhere else and through acts of cunning and luck and a real dumkopf called Hitler, managed to convince the West to give him half of Europe at the end of the WWII. I wonder if theres a person alive in Europe whos life HASNT been effected by the actions of this bloke and probably in quite a negative way.

The next thing that spins me out is that the position of Supreme Overlord of the USSR, the position Stalin created was last held by this bloke to the left, Mikhail Gorbachev. Wow, hes a guy I remember in my own short lifetime, Im kind of excited and scared by that in the same breath. Still old Mikhail was a good guy (relativly) and began the process of reforming the USSR which kind of fell apart and he got kicked out by your favourite whacky leader of modern times, "dancin’ "Boris Yeltsin we know and love today. In seriousness, Mihail did a tremendous amount to prepare the USSR for its breakup and he is rightfully one of the great men of the century I think. Check it out , hes even got his own website, its cute it was his 75th birthday recently, go on, send old bacon head a greeting card.

So thats it, my one page guide to how Russia came to be a big red commie state and how it came to be removed in our own living memory. It was pointed out to me the other day I seem to have something of a preoccupation with the Russians… II couldn’t wait to see that monument in Tallinn which could be torn down any day now… the country facinates me, I think most westerners have ZERO idea about what its really like inside of this mega state sitting just to the left of Europe and this just drives my curiosity about the place. No doubt my story here has historical holes all the way through it but you get the general idea right? Right? is anyone still here? shit. Ill go back to photographing stupid signs soon, dont worry.

By Louis Zezeran

Louis Zezeran is an Australian Stand Up comedian and comedy promoter based in Tallinn, Estonia. He was the co-founder of Comedy Estonia, Comedy Finland and Comedy Latvia. Louis writes, does gigs and performs at private events through the Baltics and Finland

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