First Person

MTKoklenkov inciting revolution and redistributing wealth.
Anatoly Koklenkov, 61, Lenin impersonator:

I have been Lenin for 13 years. I was the first Lenin, and then others came.

"People have always told me I looked like Lenin. But I began this line of work as a result of what happened many years ago, when I was still living in Tashkent.

"I had started growing out my beard and mustache. One day, I bumped into an old school friend whom I hadn't seen in 10 years. We started talking about our lives, and although he had gone through university and received a diploma, he wasn't happy. I, on the other hand, was happy. So he asked me: 'What are you, imitating Lenin?'

"I went home, looked at myself in the mirror, and thought, 'What was that he said about Lenin?' Then it occurred to me that I really looked like Lenin.

"For several years, I impersonated Lenin just for kicks, not for any material gain. It wasn't until much later that I started getting money out of this.

"In 1990, there was a competition for impersonators of iconic personalities. I submitted my photo, and they decided that I really resembled Lenin and invited me to Moscow. So off I went.

"We went through a lot of rehearsals before our performance in the Hotel Rossiya theater. While I was doing this, people kept coming up to me to take photos with them, and they gave me money for it.

"After that, I went back to Tashkent. At that time, there was a lot of political turmoil... It didn't make sense to me to stay there. I kept remembering that in Moscow it was possible to get money for posing as Lenin in photographs. So in 1994, I packed up my bags again, signed my apartment off to my daughter, and returned to Moscow.

"This work can be very difficult, especially as competitors have appeared. There are three Lenins, and we've quarreled a lot.

"I've done this so long that I have financial stability and don't need to work much. In the summertime I make about 5,000 rubles a day, more on holidays.

"It's [Tsar] Nicholas II that I worry about. If he stands alone, no one approaches him for photos. So he calls me all the time to ask whether I can stand next to him. Nicholas II has it hard.

"In addition to this work, I also take part in politics. At demonstrations, for example, I walk around with a sign saying 'It's nuclear holocaust or global revolution!' I even have that sign here on Red Square with me."