Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
660 N and 36th Street, Fremont, Seattle, Washington, USA
Sixteen feet tall and weighing seven tons, this statue of Lenin had its first home in Poprad, modern-day Slovakia. When it was erected in 1988, however, Poprad was part of Czechoslovakia. But only a year later, revolution. The Velvet Revolution, the peaceful transition from a system of one-party communist government to a parliamentary republic. Change had come. Nobody wanted these giant statues, these reminders of communist influence and control. Except for one man. Lewis Carpenter. For Lewis Carpenter, a US veteran who was living in Poprad at the time and working as a teacher, there was something magnetic about this particular statue, something that was bigger and more important than politics and regimes. The statue was a work of art. He came across it abandoned by a roadside and straight away, he knew he had to rescue it. The huge cost of buying the statue and transporting its entire seven-ton weight back to Washington state meant Lewis had to re-mortgage his home. And once he’d got Lenin to the USA, Lewis didn’t have long to enjoy it. He was killed in a car crash in 1994. Ownership of Lenin passed to Lewis’s family who agreed with the local authorities that he should go on display for the whole of Fremont, and Seattle, to see and enjoy. It’s not known how Vladimir himself would have felt about his new home. We will encircle the last bastion of capitalism – the USA! he said back in the 1920s. We will not need to fight. It will fall as ripe fruit into our hands. History proved Lenin wrong about that. In the end, it was Lenin’s regime that had fallen. But on this street corner in the USA, surrounded by fast-food signs and flash cars, a little bit of that regime lives on. Through its art.