Leipzig’s spark extinguished


„From the spark the flame will strike“ was the slogan of the Decembrists, who were the first to fight the tsarist regime in the 19th century. Lenin was inspired by it when he worked in exile in 1900 on the publication of a newspaper to unite the Russian workers‘ movement. It was given the title „Iskra“ (Engl. „Spark“) and was initially published in a small print house near Leipzig. In the former building of this print office, the first permanent museum exhibition on Lenin outside the Soviet Union was created in GDR times.

After five years of banishment in Siberia, Lenin fled into exile in 1900. One of his priorities was to create a revolutionary newspaper that would bring the fragmented Russian workers‘ movement back together. To print the first edition, he chose the city of Leipzig, where he stayed illegally between December 14 and 23. Leipzig was a stronghold of the German workers‘ movement at the time, and Lenin found the necessary support for his project here. The Social Democrat Hermann Rauh made his print house available and provided Cyrillic letters. The first editions of the newspaper were printed here and then secretly sent to Russia (some directly, some via other cities and countries).

In memory of this milestone of Russian resistance against the tsarist regime, the Central Committee of the SED (Socialist Unity Party of the GDR) had a Lenin museum erected in the former printing house. The solemn opening took place on May 5, 1956. The exhibition was mainly dedicated to the development of the Russian workers‘ movement and specifically to the role of the „Iskra“. The most important exhibits were a replica of the old printing press and a bust of Lenin by the sculptor Ruthild Hahne.

After the reunification, the museum was closed and now the building is abandoned. It’s a sad sight to see the decay of a historic print house that still attracted so much interest in GDR times. And a dubious handling of a place with such relevance for the international worker’s movement…

Special thanks to Gudrun Huhn


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