Sunday, November 8, 2009


Today we went to Gorki Leninskiye. It is an estate, about 30 km south of Moscow. What is interesting about it is that this is where Lenin went to convalesce after an assassination attempt in 1918. The property had belonged to a wealthy widow, but was nationalized and turned into a sanitarium for the Bolshevik elite.

We went with a tour, so we went from the center of Moscow to the estate by van. That was interesting it itself because I go around by Metro normally. Which means I pop up at various points above ground and so don't often see how these places connect with one another. I found I knew most of the route, actually. I had just never seen it from that perspective.

A confession: I am not particularly well-versed in Russian history. Lennon is a lot more interesting to me than Lenin. I happen to live here, however, and, love him or hate him, to say that Lenin was an extremely important character in modern history in an understatement. It seemed foolish not to take the opportunity to learn a little something.

The estate at Gorki Leninskiye is a perfectly preserved snapshot of a place Lenin lived and, ultimately, died. In addition, his apartment/offices in the Kremlin have been meticulously recreated in a separate building on the grounds. While the layout and some of the room proportions are not the same as they were in the Kremlin, every item is just as it was. They even took the oak paneling from the conference rooms.

As usual, I have a lousy little camera that is profoundly limiting. Glass in front of many items made for reflections, glare and unusable pictures. But don't be discouraged: the estate is definately worth a visit.

The estate is comprised of three main houses. Lenin and his wife and sister lived in the more modest one at first.

We had to wear these slippers over our shoes whenever we went inside. MUCH better than the blue, plastic numbers you normally get. But they were big. I tripped over mine a lot.

Below is Lenin's first bedroom. He worked at the small desk. The wolf was a gift.

But eventually he had to move to the bigger, more elegant house because his strokes made climbing the stairs in this building difficult.

Here is the bigger house. It is definately posher, but not grotesquely over-the-top.

One of the attractive features about this place was that in the 1920s it had a telephone.

The letters on the desk are notes Lenin wrote to the phone company complaining about problems with the service.

Part of Lenin's personal library. If you can read the Cyrillic, you might see that this shelf holds his copies of works by Marx and Engels.

They had a movie projector and used to watch movies. The films were silent, so his sister would accompany on the piano.

The curtains were inspired by Napoleon's flags at the battle of Borodino. The bees symbolize work, power, and wealth. I think they, like almost everything in this house, were remnants of the previous owners and not personal possessions of Lenin.

In fact, Stalin thought this painting of a Russian cemetery was gloomy and inappropriate to have around a convalescent. But Lenin did not want money spent to change anything on his behalf. So the painting stayed put.

This mechanical wheelchair was a gift to Lenin by some factory workers. However, he never used it because it required two hands to steer, and his strokes profoundly impaired his use of his right hand.

He did use this wheelchair. There are many photos of him in this chair on the estate grounds.

He had to have the hand railing on the stairs modified to fit his crippled right hand. I'm not sure why the steps in the other house were a bigger problem (they did seem steeper, as I recall).

This was his bedroom in the big house. He died here in 1924 at 6:50 p.m. All of the clocks were stopped and still show that time.

You can see his walking stick leaning against the table.

The death mask was sort of macabre. You can see how his right hand was unnaturally clenched by the strokes.

Perhaps the best part was in the garage . . .

His specially customized, snow-ready Rolls Royce! How cool is that? The estate guide told us it is still in working order, although the hood ornament is a replacement after the original was stolen during a tour of school children during the 1990s.

P.S. The Spouse sent me this today.


Tina in CT said...

Very interesting. What a beautiful estate.

valentina said...

Fascinating...Your kids are certainly getting a great history lesson living in Moscow... Have they learned anything about the Russian Revolution in school? As it is French school instead of Russian I am curious... I don't suppose they'd learn anything about this history in an American school until high school or at least junior high?

So what do you have scheduled for your next adventure? This was a busy week with the Cat Circus AND Lenin! We are all waiting for your next report! It is fabulous having you post these visits for those of us who may never get to Russia! Thanks! xov

Amber Page Writes said...

Is Lenin still on display in Red Square? I thought I read that they had finally put him to rest, but I'm not sure.

That was one of the creepiest things I've ever seen.

I Wonder Wye said...

It 's always fascinating to get a glimpse into how public figures live. Those death masks are becoming fashionable again BTW....poor wolfie!

Jen said...

Wow! You are right there, aren't you?! The Rolls is AMAZING! The wolf is so macabre, poor thing.

The Expatresse said...

Yes, Lenin is still on display in Red Square. I saw him this spring, but now I want to go again. He had been out for some sprucing up, but he is back.

VC said...

Great photos and commentaries. Cannot help but envy your adventures.

Chelle said...

Fascinating...beautiful pictures and such a beautiful estate.

I love how they stopped the clocks at that exact time. Gave me goosebumps!

Anonymous said...

Why exactly do you want to see him again?
Just curious.

The Expatresse said...

Olga: to see his right hand. I also heard that one ear and a finger or two had been replaced with wax. I'm ghoulish enough to want to try to see.

Anonymous said...

I see now, you are very educated and particular in these matters.

The Expatresse said...

Olga: Yes, I am a class act, aren't I.

Major Allen Espy said...

Amanda, your greatest work yet. I love history and this was a great lesson. This is one of the stops I had read about, but did not see due to lack of time. Another Lenin hotspot, the Smolney Convent, where he had his first office shortly after the revolution, can be seen in St. Pete. Anyway, thanks for this lesson. I would like to recommend that you read Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar. It gives insight into Stalin's rise in the ranks and his interactions with Lenin during those early years. There's even speculation of the possible poisoning of both Lenin and Stalin. Very interesting.