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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lenin the Red-Hot Lover Exposed




There's a popular joke about Lenin advising his followers on how to divvy up their time. "Tell your wife you're going to see your lover," the revolutionary leader says. "Tell your lover you're going to see your wife. Then head straight to the library and work, work, work!"


Much has been said about Lenin at work. What remains more of a mystery is Lenin at play. What was the proletarian idol really like when it came to the art of love? Boris Sokolov, author of "Armand and Krupskaya: Lenin's Women," has some ideas.


Vladimir Ilych was no Don Juan, but he was not without his charms. He liked women, and women liked him. But although he preferred an ideologically dominant role in his occasional dalliances, he never abused his power, unlike Lavrenty Beria, Stalin's secret police chief, who picked women off the street and had them delivered to his door.


Published last month, Sokolov's book is dedicated to the two main romantic bonds in the Soviet leader's life: his official relationship with his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, and his semi-official affair with his lover, Inessa Armand. The three members of the so-called "red love triangle" were all close friends and were even buried in proximity to each other at Red Square.


The Lenin love triangle has been public lore for years, but Sokolov says the real geometric model is really more of a quadrangle. Lenin, the author alleges, had another, secret girlfriend - an aristocrat, no less, whom Sokolov refers to by the pseudonym Yelizaveta K.


"Relationships with women humanize Lenin's image as a monster," the 42-year-old Sokolov says, explaining his interest in the leader's private life. "Every monster has his noble side. The man is more complicated, and more interesting, than any myth."


Sokolov's job wasn't easy. He believes Lenin's personal letters, which could have contained easy proof of his amorous relationships, were censored in order to keep his crystal-clear reputation uncompromised. However, from the sparse hints he managed to discover amid tons of "propaganda rubbish," Sokolov was able to slowly piece together the story of Lenin's more intimate moments.


He first met Krupskaya, his future wife, at a secret Marxists' meeting. Lenin's sister Maria openly disliked Krupskaya's pale "herring" looks and bulging eyes - the result of an untreated case of goiter that also left her barren. But Lenin himself treated his wife's physical unattractiveness and lack of domestic skills lightheartedly. It was he who gave her a party nickname: "Fish."


The couple enjoyed a solid, if somewhat cool, relationship. It was a different matter altogether with Yelizaveta K., who, according to Sokolov, was wildly attracted to the "romantic image of a revolutionary with secret names and fake biographies." Yelizaveta didn't think twice before traveling across Europe to Stockholm or Paris to spend a few hours with Lenin.


Though deeply in love, Yelizaveta never accepted her paramour's ideas and he, too, was reluctant to continue the liaison with a woman firmly entrenched in the enemy camp. Yelizaveta, whose true identity remains a mystery, left an insightful memoir about the revolutionary's private life, published in Paris in 1935.


It was before the breakup with Yelizaveta that Lenin met the last of his lovers, Inessa Armand, and for a while he shared his heart with all three women at once.


Armand was all Lenin's wife was not. The beautiful daughter of a French opera singer, she had a thick red mane of hair and looked 10 years younger than her 37 years. She also was a talented writer and pianist - as well as a loving mother of five. Improbably, she and Krupskaya also became close friends. Armand's death from cholera in 1920 was such a powerful shock for Lenin that Sokolov believes it triggered the illness that eventually killed him. The widowed Krupskaya went on to care for Armand's children as though they were her own.


Unlike Eva Braun, the lover of Adolph Hitler, both Krupskaya and Armand knew about and supported Lenin's every political move, including the Red Terror. Without Lenin, Krupskaya would have remained a mid-level party apparatchik and was clearly aware of the fact. Armand, herself a devoted revolutionary, put up with Lenin's chauvinism despite her feminist views.


"He tended to dominate in love and was attracted to those who were willing to follow him," Sokolov says of his subject. "Lenin had only one love - the revolution. Love for a woman wasn't nearly as important to him."