Not that many people know that London almost had a housing project named after Lenin. The building was designed by a Russian architect, Berthold Lubetkin, and it was supposed to be called Lenin Court.
This happened in the early 1940s, but the naming idea didn’t last long. The Cold War started when the building was completed in 1954, and Lenin Court didn’t become a reality.
But the statue of Lenin that was part of a memorial built in a square nearby can still be found in London.
During my last visit to London, I had the goal of looking for odd things. Places that most people don’t even know exist in the British capital. I found the first drinking fountain, the smallest police station in Great Britain and I manage to visit the only statue of Lenin in London. And, when I started researching about this statue, a new world opened itself to me with a lot of things I had no idea about it. Let me share with you some of this things.
Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, best known to the world as Lenin, came to London six times during his life and most of the time he spent in the city was at the British Library, a place where he first got in touch with the work of Karl Marx. Not to be confused with Chetham’s Library, where Karl Marx and Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto and that we also visited. Back again, during one of these six visits, back in 1902 – 1903, Lenin stayed in a house located at Holford Gardens.
When the Soviet Union became Britain’s ally during the Second World War, the Finsbury Council planned a monument as a sign of friendship between the two countries. The statue of Lenin was the central part of this memorial, and the Soviet Embassy presented it to the people of Finsbury.
This Lenin Memorial was erected in 1942, and the construction of what would be Lenin Court stalled during the Second World War due to material shortage and the destruction caused to the area by Nazi Germany.
But, even though the building changed its name to Bevin Court, named after the anti-communist Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin, the statue of Lenin remained there.
It became a center of pilgrimage for British communists but, at the same time, was regularly damaged to the point that it needed a 24-hour police guard, according to the BBC.
After the start of the Cold War, Berthold Lubetkin managed to hire a crane and save the original Lenin statue. At the Lenin Memorial at Holford Gardens, a copy remained without the knowledge of the people that wanted to vandalize it until 1951, when the statue was moved into storage.
During the 1970s, the Lenin statue was displayed at Islington Town Hall until it was again vandalized when somebody threw red paint all over it.
It was only in 1996 that the statue moved to the Islington Museum, where it is on permanent display today. This was the place I wanted to visit during my time in London, and I was quite surprised to find this statue of Lenin is such an interesting museum.
The Islington Museum is a small local museum focused on telling the story of this part of London. It shows how the Islington district developed from many small manors in medieval times to the Royal Agricultural Hall, built in 1862. There, you can also learn a lot about what happened in the area during the Second World War and a lot more from the later years. The museum is free, and its main focal point, at least for me, is the only statue of Lenin in London.
Some say that Berthold Lubetkin sculpted this statue of Lenin, but it seems he wasn’t a sculptor. It would appear that he was the one that designed this statue with a rugged modernist look to it, but I couldn’t find anything about the original artist. I read an article that points to the author as a Russian artist known as A. Kow, but they can be wrong about it too. I don’t know.
I saw the statue from the corner of my eye once I went down the stairs that led to the Islington Museum. I wasn’t sure if I was in the right place, so I went to the desk to ask about it. The woman there looked quite surprised when I asked about it, but she pointed me straight to it, and I was happy to add another Lenin statue to my collection.
In the end, if you want to see the only statue of Lenin in London, you have to come to the Islington Museum. And, since you are already there, you need to find time to visit the Marx Memorial Library.
The Marx Memorial Library holds more than 40,000 books, newspapers, and pamphlets on Marxism, Socialism, and the history of the working class. But I’m not telling you to go there to read, but you can do that either way.
The building where the library is located was home to many radical organizations and an important center for publishing in London. Starting in 1902, Lenin published seventeen issues of his newspaper, Iskra. His office has been preserved as a memorial, and you can visit it at the Karl Marx Memorial Library.
Another thing related to Lenin found in the Islington District is a memorial plaque erected at 16 Percy Circus.
This is another place that Lenin stayed in London during his visits in 1905. The plaque was first erected in 1962 on the original building but was removed in 1968 when it was demolished. In 1972, it was constructed again, and it’s where it stands today.
If you want to explore Berlin looking for traces of Lenin, we have the perfect article for you.
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