Lenin is Back (Statues)


One of the earliest Lenin statues – built in Tashkent, opened in 1924.

Lenin’s 143rd birthday was marked by some opinion polls in which, according to RIA Novosti Russians were generally positive about Lenin’s legacy but according to the Moscow Times (http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/russians-relate-moderately-to-lenins-legacy-poll-says/479042.html) they were more luke-warm. According to Russia Today (http://rt.com/politics/bury-lenin-russians-majority-249/) they wanted him buried. Berezovsky was to sell off his Warhol print of Lenin briefly before his death and prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev cited Lenin to condemn the Cyprus bail-out plan. In January some Poles were up in arms about using Lenin to sell mobile phones and Orthodox ‘scholars’ want to censor Lenin’s works for extremism whereas in the southern Indian state of Kerala, even the hotels are festooned with red flags in honour of Lenin


Statues of Lenin and stories surrounding them abound.

Seattle’s Lenin

Seattle’s Lenin and the story of how Lewis E. Carpenter tried to rescue and ship a monument of Lenin from Slovakia to the US is an extraordinary one. Victim of a considerable local scandal due to this plan, Carpenter died in a car accident in the middle of the furore but finally the Lenin statue was to be placed in the city near a felafel and ice cream store in the artistic Freemont district of the city. According to wikipedia, its place in the artistic life of the area is now firmly rooted:

Fremont was considered a quirky artistic community, and like other statues in the neighborhood (such as Waiting for the Interurban), the Lenin statue is often the victim of various artistic projects, endorsed or not. A glowing red star and sometimes Christmas lights have been added to the statue for Christmas since 2004. For the 2004 Solstice Parade, the statue was made to look like John Lennon. During Gay Pride Week, the statue is dressed in drag. Other appropriations of the statue have included painting it as a clown, and clothing it in a custom-fitted red dress by the Seattle Hash House Harriers for their annual Red Dress Run.

Another Lenin statue which was to find itself at the centre of a news story was the one in the small central Italian town of Cavriago. On April 1st 1995 the statue of Lenin was found to emit tears for several hours proving that the Virgin Mary or San Gennaro were not the only statues to be capable of this feat. According to the report by Andrew Gumbel in the Independent on April 3 1995 this is how things went:

Miracle or fraud? At noon on Saturday, a statue of Lenin began weeping in the small town of Cavriago in the heart of the “Red belt” of central Italy. A small crowd gathered in the main square to gaze at the founder of the Russian revolution’s image as it emitted thick white tears for several hours.
Was this Communism’s answer to the epidemic of Madonnas reported to be weeping blood and other substances all over Italy? Actually, it was an April Fool’s joke, but it was convincing enough to take in quite a few of the crowd

Cavriago’s weeping Lenin

Another Lenin statue adorns The Kremlin which is, according to the venues banner outside, Europe’s hottest gay venue. (And since Lenin did decriminalise homosexuality in Russia- five decades before Britain- Lenin as gay icon is not altogether unthinkable).

Belfast’s Kremlin and accompanying Lenin statue

Some Lenin statues have been the victims of bombs like the one in Saint Petersburg:

St Petersburg statue after it was bombed

Others have been decapitated. Some through design but others simply because people tried to adorn them with some accoutrements such as a scarf as happened a few days ago in Kostroma:

beheaded Kostroma Lenin

In another case in Poltava both Lenin and Kruspskaya were decapitated:

Decapitated Lenin and Krupskaya in Poltava

Some Lenin statues may be found lurking in the most unlikely of places like this one in the Lake of Baikhal:

Andrew Moore photo of Mishka and Ilich

A look at the news section of a Russian-language site devoted to Lenin statues suggests that at least as many Lenin statues are being restored as those vandalised or beheaded.

Here are a few more statues (statues to the Lenin lamp or a statue of Lenin made of sugar, rice and chocolate which was erected in Bucharest:

The Lenin Lamp

Lenin in Dudinka

About afoniya

I am a translator, language teacher, independent film scholar who is interested in many aspects of culture. I have my own blog on Russian and Soviet cinema at http://giuvivrussianfilm.blogspot.com and I have also written for journals such as Film Philosophy and Bright Lights as well as Ribbed magazine. Outside of film my interest runs to language, politics, literature and my world is centred around the Meditteranean, Russia, Southern Ukraine as well as the UK.

5 responses »

    • thanks very much for mentioning it – I didn’t check (I’m really bad at editing my posts). For some reason it didn’t put the links in (and even trying a second time didn’t help) – so I’ve left most of them out. Hope it reads OK now.

      • That’s great thanks, really enjoyed reading it and it made me think of Lenin statues etc I have come across unexpectedly in corners of the former USSR.

      • you’re welcome- I’m hoping to add a few posts soon on Lenin in literature, theatre, art and film – plenty of material- Leniniana has been a long neglected subject recently and there are plenty of surprises to be found in the theme.

      • I will look forward very much to those. I very recently read a surprisingly readable and even-handed brief biog of the man written by James Maxton (Scottish socialist leader) in 1932, which I happened to pick up in a charity shop. I have a couple of photographs of art works incorporating images of Lenin from the recent historical exhibition of 60s Moscow unofficial art at the Saatchi gallery in London (not the contemporary exhibition which was showing alongside it and is still on), used ironically of course. I can email them if you are interested in seeing them (email me on m@mjbarlow.plus.com)

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