Brexiters buy KGB artefacts for ‘museum of communist terror’ | Museums

It depicts the Russian revolutionary chief in characteristically critical temper, staring throughout Pink Sq., maybe, and rendered with greater than a contact of kitsch.

However whereas a Soviet-era oil portray of Vladimir Lenin, which bought for almost $2,000 at public sale within the US, may seize the person as many know him, its patrons should not precisely Bolsheviks.

They’re a gaggle of fervent Brexiters who goal to determine a “museum of communist terror” within the UK, and the Lenin portrait is amongst a variety of Soviet paraphernalia they acquired for greater than £24,000.

Different objects they snapped up included a KGB jail door, handcuffs, covert surveillance tools and a Soviet executioner’s thermometer, which was plunged into victims’ stomachs to find out if that they had been killed.

A KGB spy cigarette pack with hidden camera
A KGB spy cigarette pack with hidden digicam. {Photograph}: Frederic J Brown/AFP/Getty Photographs

“These purchases signify a step-change within the rarity and curiosity of the artefacts which were acquired to date,” supporters of the deliberate museum have been instructed by its director, James Bartholomew, as he thanked them for financing “a singular alternative” to buy objects from the KGB Espionage Museum in New York, which is closing because of Covid-19.

Together with Bartholomew, who’s a former election candidate for the Brexit celebration, the museum’s trustees embody the MP and former minister Owen Patterson, the previous Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan, the Tory activist Tim Montgomerie, the Conservative peer Nigel Vinson and the Vote Depart digital strategist, Thomas Borwick. Its honorary president is Matthew Ridley, the Tory peer and former Northern Rock chair.

Bartholomew stated the shared Brexiter backgrounds and the Vote Depart connection of these concerned was “an entire coincidence”.

He added: “It’s in all probability not a coincidence that they’re on the correct however it’s a coincidence that they’re Vote Depart. It’s all a query of time. If solely I might commit every week in the direction of discovering outstanding leftwing figures to come back onboard then I might do it.”

A bust of Vladimir Lenin
A bust of Vladimir Lenin. {Photograph}: Étienne Laurent/EPA

The purchases have been made collectively with one other enterprise, the Basis for the Historical past of Totalitarianism, of which Bartholomew is a director, and which has just lately registered in Britain as a charity. It goals “to advance the training of most of the people within the topic of totalitarianism”.

Initiatives of the muse embody a scheme being supported by the Polish authorities: a college historical past essay prize for sixth-form college students who have been invited to write down about Witold Pilecki, the Polish resistance chief who volunteered to infiltrate Auschwitz. An awards ceremony during which the primary prize is £1,500 is being hosted on the Polish embassy in London.

The involvement of the embassy comes as two historians in Poland confronted a libel motion over a ebook analyzing the behaviour of the Poles through the second world struggle, in a case whose final result was anticipated to find out the longer term of impartial Holocaust analysis underneath the nationalist rule of the Regulation and Justice celebration.

It comes within the wake of a 2018 regulation that makes it against the law to falsely accuse the Polish nation of crimes dedicated by Nazi Germany.

Bartholomew indicated, in the meantime, that the objective of establishing “a full-size museum” in London was a way off and that the undertaking was largely depending on particular person donations for now, though organisers didn’t rule out making use of to official sources.

The plan’s origins date again to 2017, when Bartholomew wrote within the Each day Telegraph that there was the necessity for “a everlasting manner of informing the following technology and each succeeding technology of what occurred underneath communism”.

“If I can attain a couple of individuals who really feel ‘I’ve realized one thing and perceive it a bit higher’ and it helps maintain British folks in favour of a liberal democracy, then I will likely be happy,” he added.

Since then the artefacts which were steadily acquired embody a chess set made by a prisoner within the gulag and an East German Trabant automotive.


Bartholomew has travelled extensively, interviewing former prisoners of communist regimes. A video on the museum’s web site data him telling one viewers in Australia that the historical past of communism was “at finest, grey-washed” within the faculties of English-speaking nations and at worst, not taught in any respect.

Ignorance about communism on the half of younger British folks, he added, was the fault of lecturers “who, if not Marxist themselves, are leftwing and assume that communism could also be an extension of what they assume” whereas their textbooks have been written by communists.

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