Lenin in Razliv

3 Jul–11 Oct 2017All exhibitions

The “Painting as a document of the epoch” exhibition series at the State Museum of Political History of Russia continues to introduce its visitors with the paintings from the visual art and author's graphics museum collection. This collection embraces many works of the Socialist realism style – a distinctive aesthetic understanding of the outside world and people in it through the communist ideology. The aim of this exhibition series is to explore the impact of ideology on the artist’s works.


Lenin's illegal stay in Razliv in the summer 1917 can be named one of the most important facts in the Revolution history. This plot was carefully elaborated in Soviet art in order to fit into the general canon image of the party and the Revolution leader, the world famous mastermind. This image was constructed in accordance with the unified edition of the Soviet history, which was shaped in the 1930s.

Historical context: summer 1917

In the last days of June the atmosphere in the Petrograd garrison was tense. The government decided to send the 1st machine-gunners regiment, quartered on the Vyborg side (one of the pro-Bolsheviks centres in Petrograd) to the front. The regiment expressed disagreement with such decision and refused to obey. On July, 3 the majority of the regiment’s soldiers decided to stand out for passing the power to the Soviets. Armed soldiers and workers went to the Petrograd Soviet building. They were joined by sailors on the way. On July 4 thousands of radically minded armed Kronstadt sailors led by Bolshevik Fyodor Raskolnikov came to Petrograd. They all headed to the Kschessinska mansion, where the Bolshevik headquarters were located at that time. Lenin saluted them from the balcony. In his speech he expressed his assurance in the victory of the “All power to the Soviets” slogan – it “must win and it will, despite all the zigzags of history” he said. Lenin appealed to “restraint, endurance and vigilance”. People expected him to call for action, but that did not happen. Nevertheless, nothing could have changed the crowd’s combative mood. Clashes between armed demonstrators and troops loyal to the Provisional government in different areas of Petrograd led to shooting and panic. Shooting was carried from the roofs on Nevsky prospect and Sadovaya street. Dozens of people were killed and wounded. A new government led by Alexander Kerensky was formed after the July events; it consisted of cadets and moderate socialists, who came together before the Bolsheviks’ threat and called themselves “Salvation Revolution Government”.         

Contemporaries took two totally different sides when evaluating those events: first ones were sure that the uprising was organised by the Bolsheviks with the financial support from the German General Staff, the second ones were certain that workers and soldiers acted spontaneously.

However, everyone asked: Who is to blame for the dead?

The Bolsheviks took responsibility for the demonstration, however claimed it had been a peaceful one. The Provisional government accused the Bolsheviks in provoking mass disruptions and declared their activities illegal. Bolshevik centres, including the Kshesinskaya mansion, were crashed. The Bolsheviks had to act illegally. On July 5, Lenin, along with his closest party fellow Grigory Zinoviev went into hiding.


The July events led to the initiation of legal proceedings. P.N Pereverzev, minister of justice of the Provisional Government decided to unveil the counterintelligence materials on the Bolsheviks’ “criminal connections” with the German General Staff. The justice department had collected this information earlier, even before 1917. A special press release was made. The first to publish sensational news was the “Living Word” tabloid: “Lenin, Ganetsky and Co are spies!” Then the news spread to other newspapers (a copy of the “Little Newspaper” in the vitrine contains an example of such publication).

The Provisional Government formed a special investigative committee to deal with the Bolsheviks case. The Bolsheviks were charged with two articles of the Criminal Code: State treason and espionage (Article 108) and “violent encroachment on the change of regime established by state law in Russia or some part of Russia” (Article 100). The committee was headed by the prosecutor P.S. Karinsky, whereas the investigative unit included two special investigation officers from the Petrograd district court: Aleksandrov and Bokit'ko. P.A. Alexandrov took the leading position in the committee: it was he, who was instructed to personally investigate the Lenin case.

A preliminary charge was pressed on July 21: V.I. Ulyanov-Lenin, G. E. Zinovev, L.D. Trotsky, A.V. Lunacharsky, A.M. Kollontay, M.Yu. Kozlovsky, A.L. Parvus (Gelfand), Y.S. Ganetsky (Furstenberg), F.F Raskolnikov and other members of the RSDLP (b) were accused of “helping to disorganise the Russian army and home front in order to weaken the army's ability to fight, meanwhile holding Russian citizenship… On July 3 and July 5 in Petrograd they organised an armed uprising against the existing supreme government that was followed by a number of murders, cases of violence and attempts to arrest some members of the government. The consequence of these actions was the refusal of some military units to perform the orders given by their commanders and also unauthorized abandonment of their positions that contributed to the success of the enemies' armies”.

The committee released 21 volumes of documents and records. These materials were published in 2012. (They are found in the vitrine.) Some of the accused – L.D. Trotsky, A.M Kollontay, A.V. Lunacharsky – were arrested and taken to the Kresty (the Crosses) prison, where they stayed for about a month and then were released on bail as the period of the pre-trial detention expired. Lenin, Zinoviev, Parvus, Ganetsky were put on the wanted list.

The investigation ended in October 1917. It was meant to be a sensational political process. However, there was no court trial to take place. In October 25-26 the Bolsheviks staged a coup and seized power in Petrograd. In the 1930s, the former special investigation officer P.A Aleksandrov was arrested and charged with compiling an ”artificial case” against Lenin and the Bolsheviks. He was shot in September 1940.

What about the money?

With all the investigation committee materials on the Bolshevik case having been published, our visitors can find out more details and decide for themselves how convincing the evidences are.

A number of top Russian historians believe that the connection between the Bolsheviks and Germany during the First World War is nothing, but a myth and there is still no evidence of cooperation between Lenin and the Bolshevik party with the German government.

Although, there are other opinions. Back in the 1950s, the archive of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs was published; the documents that archive contained were related directly to the activities of the left wing Russian Social Democratic party. As it comes from those papers, the Germans spent a lot of money on sabotage in Russia and some of the funds went directly to the Bolsheviks. Was Lenin aware of those funds? Most likely he was, however that did not affect his political position. Lenin was fanatically committed to the ideas of socialism and communism – the realisation of those ideas was his first goal. Lenin did not mind the fact that he had been accused of anti-state activities and treason. The thing he really cared about was the unfolding world revolution.


Grigory Zinoviev, who Lenin shared his stay by the lake with will not appear in the paintings by Vladimir Serov and Alexander Lyubimov. Neither he will on the canvases of many other Soviet artists, who worked on the “Lenin in Razliv” theme. By the mid-1930s Zinoviev was moved from the category of Lenin's fellows to the “enemies of the people” class and could no longer be mentioned in connection with the leader. Besides, despite the fact that Lenin’s appearance was changed beyond recognition at that very moment (as said in the legend of a hired seasonal worker), the artists portrayed the leader in accordance to the well-known canon: in the troika, with a recognizable beard and moustache (see the photo in the vitrine).

In order to create the image of Lenin as the Bolshevik leader, as the major developer of the party’s strategy in the changing realities of the revolutionary events and as the keeper of sacred knowledge about building the future Soviet state, the artists used his well-known look. Similarly, in accordance with the established iconographic scheme, images of the "true" Bolsheviks Grigory Ordzhonikidze and Yakov Sverdlov were elaborated. G. Ordzhonikidze and Y. Sverdlov were reliable party members, who provided the communication between Lenin and other party members.

Recollections of the participants

From the G.K. Ordzhonikidze’s (member of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party) memoirs we know that visits to Lenin could not have been frequent for security reasons. Party members were coming to Razliv to get the "directives" as the Sixth Congress of the RSDLP (b) was due. At the congress the Bolsheviks decided to give up on the "All power to the Soviets!" slogan and wait for the right time, when "the nationwide crisis and the mass rise will create a good moment for the poor citizens and villagers to take the workers' side... The task for the revolutionary classes is to make an effort and take the state power in their own hands". The Congress also discussed the question of Lenin’s appearance on the forthcoming court trial. However, since the charges were too serious, it was decided for him to remain in hiding. First Lenin hid in conspirative apartments in Petrograd, but on July 10, along with Zinoviev in the guise of Finnish mowers moved to the arms factory worker Nikolai Yemelyanov’s place in the outskirts of Sestroretsk. Yemelyanov’s barn and then a hut in the forest on the shore of the lake Razliv became the last shelters for the leader of world proletariat. In August, due to the end of the haymaking period it became too dangerous to stay in the hut. On August 9, with the help of the Bolsheviks A. V. Shotman and Eino Rahja Lenin fled to Finland.

Ordzhonikidze remembers how once Yemelyanov’s son brought him to the other side of the lake: “…he came close and said hello… a man, clean shaven, no beard, no moustache… Turned out it was comrade Lenin…” They talked about the inevitability of the armed uprising: “Freshly made hay, – Ordzhonikidze recollects – smelled nice, it was a warm day…” Ordzhonikidze fell asleep and while he slept, Lenin wrote down his thoughts on that moment.

From the N.A. Yemelyanov’s memoirs we learn that apart from Ordzhonikidze, Sverdlov and Dzerzhinsky visited Lenin in Razliv. In the first editions of his memoirs Yemelyanov never mentioned Stalin’s name. In 1935 Yemelyanov, his wife and their son were arrested. After a long interrogation, the 64-year-old Nikolay Alexandrovich “recollected” that Stalin came to visit Lenin twice. However, another witness of those events, Yemelyanov’s son Alexander insisted that Stalin never came to Razliv.  

The version of Stalin's visits was needed in order to justify the succession of authority from Lenin to Stalin; the same idea was reflected in the meeting Lenin returned from the exile in April 1917, then Lenin’s replacement by Stalin during the last Lenin’s hiding period and finally, Stalin’s presence next to Lenin in October 1917.


A.M. Liubimov «Y.M. Sverdlov visiting V.I. Lenin in Razliv» 1937.

Oil, canvas.

V.A. Serov «G.K. Ordzonikidze visiting V.I. Lenin in Razliv» 1953.

Oil, canvas.


Публикация от: 21.06.2017 15:12:10