04 March 2007

Following in Lenin's Footsteps

I was walking past the Lubyanka again today (on the safe side of the street this time) when I was both shocked and awed to see Lenin himself pop out of the Metro station smoking a cigarette. Funny, I didn't think Lenin smoked... But there he was, complete with his 3-piece suit and trademark hat.

I realize that some may think I've developed an obsession around things related to Lenin. I beg to differ. Besides, the appearance of Vladimir Ilyich in the flesh was too intriguing to leave unexplored. I followed Comrade Lenin for about 10 minutes through the slush and muck that have taken the place of Moscow's sidewalks. As I was behind him, I was able to observe the reactions of passersby as they encountered my illustrious mark.

The majority of pedestrians, in true Muscovite form, didn't even look up. Of those that did at least glance at him, most had no visible reaction. Perhaps they didn't recognize him. But who wouldn't recognize Lenin? Perhaps they were used to this sort of thing. After all, they were raised with the slogan, "Lenin is always with us," a maxim which, if true, would make his appearance on the street unnoteworthy. A handful of pedestrians appeared surprised as I was and even pointed, while a couple of girls giggled.

I followed Lenin all the way down to Red Square, where I half expected him to march right into his mausoleum and lay down for a little nap. After all, walking around Moscow all afternoon must get tiring when you're 136 years old. But instead he parked himself near the entrance to Red Square and just milled about.

Of course, as I knew from the outset, this is the gentleman who hangs around Red Square offering to take pictures with tourists for a few dollars, having been blessed (or cursed?) with bearing a striking resemblance to Lenin, down to the bald head, pointy chin, narrow eyes, and red hair. He usually hangs out with "Nicholas II" who also does the photos-for-dollars routine. Vlad and Nicky seem to get along well, which is ironic considering that the former ordered the latter's execution in 1918...

Maybe Russians really are taking to heart November 7th's new designation as "Day of Reconciliation and Accord" after all. And if it worked for Lenin and Nicholas, why couldn't it work for the rest of us?

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