The photo above is credited to Fotostrasse
Today, 150 years ago, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was born. His actions during and after the Russian Revolution changed the course of human history, led to the collapse of centuries-long empires and subsequently led to wars erupting around the world from Vietnam to Cuba.
On our Soviet Europe tours and beyond, we spend a lot of time around monuments to Lenin in former communist places like Transnistria and Russia. However, it’s not uncommon to find them in countries that have never even been under Communism. Many may be surprised to find that London boasts its very own Lenin statue and the story behind it is very interesting indeed.
The story of London’s Lenin statue has its roots in the Borough of Islington. Back in 1902, when Islington was known as Clerkwell, Lenin set up shop there and focused on his revolutionary newspaper called ‘The Spark’ or ‘Iskra’ in Russian. He was based in the office of a socialist publishing company at an address which is now the Karl Marx Memorial Library.
During WW2, when Russia and Britain became uneasy friends in order to repel the Nazi onslaught, the Finsbury Council at the time, which was socialist, implemented plans for a Lenin monument in a token of friendship towards the USSR. It was designed by Russian architect Berthold Lubetkin and erected in 1942, a year after the German operation Barbarossa which attacked the Soviet Union.
At the centre of the memorial to Lenin was a rather impressive bust of the man himself. It was delivered personally by the embassy of the Soviet Union and was placed in Holford Square, facing the address where Lenin had lived between 1902 and 1903.
However, it’s no secret that Lenin was far from a saint, and not everybody was overjoyed to see the monument to him and Communism in general. London’s Lenin statue was subject to repeated vandalism and was moved into storage during the 1950s before being moved to Islington town hall in the 1970s, where it suffered even more vandalism.
In the 1980s, Islington Council was controversial and became known as ”the Looney Left Council” by the mainstream British press. As a result, the Lenin monument was moved to a permanent display in Islington Museum, where it’s available for all to visit. It can be seen here in this incredible photo from Berlin-based photographer Fotostrasse.