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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Place Where Lenin Still Lives

MT
After Lenin's death in 1924, the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky wrote, "Lenin lived, Lenin lives, Lenin will live!" At his funeral, a banner was unfurled that read: "Lenin is more alive than the living."

The cult that developed around Lenin in the Soviet period is very difficult for Westerners to comprehend fully. We have our respected leaders, our Churchills and our JFKs, but none of them has entered into myth in the same way as Lenin.

Streets, libraries, factories, the Moscow metro -- it seems everything in Russia has been named after Lenin at some point. The Gorki Leninskiye State Historical Museum-Preserve was also named after the revered leader, but there is a difference -- it is actually directly connected with him.

The Gorki estate in the southeast of Moscow was owned by the noble Spasitelev family for almost three centuries. The first stone building on the estate was completed by the end of the 18th century. During the 1800s, the estate changed hands many times, but toward the end of the century, it began to fall into disrepair.

It was in the 1910s that Zinaida Morozova, the widow both of the successful entrepreneur Savva Morozov and General Anatoly Reinbot, the governor general of Moscow from whom she inherited the estate, undertook a large-scale renovation of the mansion. It was remodeled in the neoclassical style by the architect Fyodor Schechtel and retains the same facade today.

The estate was nationalized in 1918, and Lenin recuperated there after Fanya Kaplan's attempt on his life in August of that year.

As Lenin's health declined, he spent more and more time at Gorki, living there permanently from May 1923 until his death on Jan. 21 1924, after which the estate was renamed Gorki Leninskiye.


James Marson / MT
A statue of Lenin sits imposingly on the grounds of the Gorki Museum-Mansion.


There are now a number of museums located at the site, perhaps the most interesting of which is Lenin's Kremlin Office and Apartment Museum. The display was originally located in the Senate building in the Kremlin but was moved here in 1994 after that building became the president's residence.

The rooms are laid out as they were when Lenin occupied them and are full of a variety of genuine artifacts -- his desk, his bed, an eclectic collection of presents and his huge library of books. The clock in his office shows 8:15 p.m., the time on Dec. 12, 1922, when he last left the office, complaining of feeling ill.

The Gorki Museum-Mansion, located in the main building, contains a number of objects related to Lenin's time at Gorki Leninskiye, including a number of wheelchairs he used as his health deteriorated, his death mask and banners from his funeral. In the garage, you can see Lenin's Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, specially adapted for Russian weather conditions with skis on the front wheels and tracks on the back.

The two museums are devoted entirely to how Lenin lived; his politics are left untouched and no link is drawn between his life and work. The objects he surrounded himself with are presumed to be of interest simply because of their connection with the Bolshevik leader. In this sense, the museums can be considered a relic of the personality cult that developed after his death -- uncritical, reverent, obsequious, but fascinating.


James Marson / MT
Lenin's office is preserved exactly as it was on the day he left it for the last time.
Gorki Leninskiye is in a way a museum within a museum, providing an intriguing insight into the contrasting views of Lenin in modern Russia, from the reverence and encyclopedic knowledge of museum guides and the strange sight of a policeman guarding the estate with a gun slung over his shoulder to the naivete of schoolchildren, who now, it would appear, do not learn about him in great detail. "Why was Lenin killed?" asked one boy. Needless to say, the indignant guide cleared that one up immediately.

What to See

In addition to Lenin's Kremlin Office and Apartment Museum and the Gorki Museum-Mansion, there are two other museums:

The Museum of V.I. Lenin, built in 1987, contains photocopies of Lenin's writings, government documents and photographs, and his wife Nadezhda Krupskaya's transcription of his Last Testament. It takes a much drier, more official look at Lenin than the other museums.

The Museum of Peasant Life was created in 1982 and gives a romanticized insight into peasant life and work in villages around the turn of the 20th century. The exhibits, laid out in a traditional wooden peasant hut, include clothes, shoes, furniture and farming tools.

How to Get There

From metro station Domodedovskaya, take bus 439 to the "Baza" stop. Walk away from the road through the housing blocks and you will see the main yellow building.

Contacts

The Gorki Leninskiye State Historical Museum-Preserve Moscow region, Leninsky district, 548-9309, www.gorki-len.narod.ru. Open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Entrance to each museum is 100 rubles.