Visit Gorki Leninskie – where Lenin lived out his final days
Russia is full of places with links to one of the world’s most famous historical leaders, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. But do you know where the man considered by some as the father of communism died?
Just over 30 km south of Moscow, you’ll find the estate at Gorki Leninskie. Established in the 18th century, its pre-revolution owners included General Pisarev, hero of the 1812 war, and Zinaida Morozova, widow of the famous Moscow industrialist and theatrical patron Savva Morozov.
In 1918, the estate was 'nationalised' and turned into a sanatorium for the higher echelons of the Bolshevik Party. It was also chosen by Lenin for his convalescence after Fanya Kaplin's assassination attempt in 1918. As his health deteriorated, he returned more and more frequently and, after a series of strokes left him half paralysed and unable to speak, he spent the last ten months of his life here with his wife and siblings.
The estate was officially turned into a museum in 1938, and served as a place of pilgrimage for Soviet citizens right up until the fall of the Soviet Union. Despite changing its name and purpose to the Museum of Political History in 1987, it remains a fascinating relic of the almost religious attitude among some Russian citizens toward Lenin and his successors that helped cement absolute power in the USSR.
The Museum of Political History is an extraordinary building in black and white marble whose exhibits include vast numbers of photographs and government documents, as well as audio-visual displays. The entrance hall, with its enormous statue of Lenin before a billowing red sheet, is most impressive.
The Lenin House Museum in the mansion is well worth a visit. Here, you can see the study bedroom where Lenin worked, his library of over 4000 books in ten different languages, and touching displays such as the mechanised wheelchair built for Lenin by a group of factory workers (as Lenin was paralysed on his right side, this gift was never used). The tour of the museum ends in the mansion's garage, where you can inspect Lenin's Rolls Royce. Among a number of unusual features, the car was converted to run on alcohol, which was considerably easier to obtain than petrol during the turmoil of the Civil War.
In addition, the Lenin Kremlin Office and Apartment Museum was transferred here from the Senate Building in 1994, with the whole display reconstructed in a separate outbuilding. Here you can see how Lenin and his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, lived from day to day, and take a look at the staggering 28 000 books in their combined library.
The estate’s park also contains burial mounds that date back to the 10th century, and a quarry that was the source of much of the stone used to build medieval Moscow, Vladimir and Suzdal. In the village of Gorki itself, there’s a Museum of Peasant Life, which is merely a village house as it would have looked at the turn of the 20th century.
To visit this fascinating look back into the life of possibly the Soviet era’s most prominent figure, take the metro to Domodedovskaya Metro Station, then bus no. 439 to the 'muzei' (museum) stop. The estate and museums are open daily from 10.00 to 17.00, except Tuesdays and the last Monday of each month.