Saturday, March 7, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Communists Want to Memorialize Lenin’s Wife and His Mistress in the Same Place

Paul Goble

Vienna, March 7 – In advance of international women’s day which is marked tomorrow, Communist Party activists in St. Petersburg and Leningrad oblast have called for raising funds to build a monument to the two women most beloved by Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin – his wife Nadezhda Krupskaya and his mistress Inessa Armand.
Not surprisingly, this call -- one never made in more straight-laced Soviet times -- has sparked a flurry of comments not so much by those who believe that such a monument, which would show Krupskaya on Lenin’s right and Armand on his left, would be appropriate but rather by those who believe it would be either a sacrilege or an absurdity.
Yesterday, the website of the interregional communist party organizations of the northern capital and the surrounding oblast called for the erection of a set of statues in St. Petersburg’s Lenin Square, showing the two women who figured most prominently in the life of the founder of the Soviet state (
According to people behind the plan, including party activist Sergey Malinkovich, the figure of Krupskaya, Lenin’s legal wife, should reflect the enormous dignity with which she lived, the way in which she tried to provide Lenin with a comfortable home, and her patience in the course of a conflict-filled life.
The figure of Inessa Armand, who is assumed to have been Lenin’s mistress and whose death caused Lenin for one of the few times of his life to display truly human emotions of the deepest sorrow, should reflect her sensitivity, her femininity, and her passion for those she loved, Malinkovich said.
The party webpage as one would expect not only proposed collecting money for this enterprise but also provided what the party viewed as uplifting slogans. These include an appeal to the women and girls of Russia to “follow the example of the beloved of the great Lenin” and support their husbands as Comrade Krupskaya did or their beloved as Comrade Armand did.
In Soviet times, officials played up the role of Krupskaya and largely ignored Armand’s personal ties with Lenin, all the more so in recent decades because at one point Stalin threatened to replace Krupskaya as Lenin’s widow with someone else, a threat that most analysts assume would have led to the anointing of Armand in that capacity.
In commenting on this l, “APN North West” suggested that at the feet of this new sculpture garden there should be the figure of Malinkovich “as the true continuer of the project of Lenin-Krupskaya-Armand and the initiator of the most idiotic ideas that could only occur to someone interested in self-advertisement” (
More seriously, in advance of a day which many Russians remember as the occasion for the beginning of food riots in 1917 which led to the abdication of Nicholas II, various articles discussed the current state of women in Russia. Among the most interesting was a poll on political role of women there (
On the basis of what it said was a representative sample, the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion, a survey center known to be close to the Russian government, drew three conclusions. First, the agency said that Russian men consider the equality of women to be “an accomplished fact” while Russian women very much doubt that is so.
Second, “more than half of all Russians consider that there are an insufficient number of women in the organs of power,” although other surveys show that a higher percentage of top jobs in the private sector are held by women in Russia than by women in any other country except Finland.
And third, Russian women, the VTsIOM survey found, “support the idea of introducing quotas for guaranteed representation of women in the organs of power” something that was the case during Soviet times while Russian “men are inclined to oppose that idea. One reason that women want more women in government is that they prefer working with them.
The most striking aspect of these findings is the extent to which they suggest that Russian women are becoming increasingly political, a trend that is likely to present challenges not only to the male-dominated government but also to the nearly as male-dominated organizations of the opposition.

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