Things to do in Russia: Spot the Lenin

Nearly every city or town we visited in Russia had a statue of Lenin. You’d go to the main square, and there was a Lenin. You’d get off the train at a stop along the trans-Siberian, and you’d find a Lenin. You’d be walking around downtown and find a Lenin. Lenin, Lenin, Lenin.

To people from the U.S. or Western Europe, this might be baffling. “Isn’t the Soviet Union dead? Isn’t the Communist experiment over in Russia?” they might ask. But Lenin’s continued popularity doesn’t seem to have as much to do with Communism as with Russia’s image as a great country. Lenin is a great man to Russia not because he brought about Communism, but because he grew the Russian sphere of influence. He made Russia more productive, more powerful. As someone we met on our travels put it “Lenin was a great man, a thinker, an intellectual. He did great things for Russia.*” So in honor of that, here’s where we spotted Lenin in Russia:

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Tourists wait for passerbys to take a photo with the giant Lenin head in Ulan-Ude.
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Lenin hails you from under a tree, in Goryachinsk.
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Lenin stands outside a train station, somewhere in Siberia.
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Lenin standing in one of the central squares of Krasnoyarsk.
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Lenin, looking contemplative, in a statue near Hovel Hostel in Krasnoyarsk (which was actually quite a nice hostel).
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Another Lenin hails you from what I think is a government building, complete with Russian and Soviet Union flags.
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Tourists pose with Lenin’s mausoleum in Moscow, where you can see his embalmed body.

This glorification of Lenin is an interesting contrast to his treatment in the rest of Eastern and Central Europe, where Lenin statues lie unloved in storage or have been moved to memorial parks, long since removed from their original posts. If you’re looking for more info, there’s a fascinating website on the Communist monuments of Eastern Europe and the Balkans here.

Oh, and the only place we didn’t see a Lenin was in St. Petersburg (although I’m sure he’s around if you search hard enough). Instead, we got this guy greeting us at the train station:

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Far different in expression from Lenin, Peter the Great stares down at you in disapproval.

*When we asked the same person about Stalin, their response was, “Stalin…was both good and bad. He did good things. But he was scary. So not many statues of Stalin.”

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