Today in history... St Petersburg becomes Leningrad

On this day, in 1924, roughly two years had passed since fighting between Russia's Bolshevik Red Army and the anti-Bolshevik coalition, the White Army, had been at its most intense.


A Lenin Statue in St Petersburg

January 26 marked another key development in the Bolshevik's assumption of power: the occupation and renaming of Petrograd (St Petersburg) to Leningrad.

A week previously, the Bolshevik leader and Russia's first Head of State, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, had died at his home in Gorki following a series of strokes, aged 53.

In his honour, the renaming of Petrograd - which would remain Leningrad until 1991 - was just one of many ways that Lenin's legacy as a statesman, orator and writer still endures to this day.

In 2010, a statue of Lenin still stands outside Finland rail terminal in St Petersburg, while other Lenin statues can be found globally in Seattle and even India.

During the Soviet era, the renowned sculptor Sergey Merkurov, was commissioned to author many of the late Head of State's statues.

But Merkurov wasn't just a sculptor. He was also a crafter of post-mortem masks, or death masks, for the likes of Leo Tolstoy and Maxim Gorky.

According to records, Merkurov produced 14 Lenin death masks immediately after Lenin's death - three original casts and 11 subsequent casts.

Today, until very recently, these death masks (pictured above) could only be found in museums in the former Soviet Union, or the Mausoleum of VI Lenin in the grounds of the Kremlin in Moscow.

The last time one of Merkurov's death masks emerged on the collectors' market was in 1989, and it sold with an estimated value of $12,500.

It is only now, in 2010, that another of Lenin's death masks - believed to possibly be one of Merkurov's original three casts - has again emerged on the market. It is available to collectors priced £35,000 ($57,000).

 


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