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Lenin’s Birthday Resonates In New York, Too

New York City's rooftop Lenin

New York City's rooftop Lenin

During my first years as a New Yorker in the mid-1990s, I was astonished to discover the familiar silhouette of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin hovering over the New York City skyline.

The five-meter-tall statue was erected on the rooftop of a residential building in the East Village, one of the trendiest and priciest neighborhoods in Manhattan.

Early in the mornings on my designated tours as a bicycle messenger, I would sometimes look toward Lenin for inspiration. After all, his image and ideas had been an indispensible part of my childhood in communist Bulgaria. It felt as cozy as being back home.

On the other hand, I'd wonder if it had been worth relocating to the other side of the pond just to see it all the same.

The Manhattan Lenin was salvaged from a dacha outside of Moscow, the story goes, after its creator, Yuri Gerasimov, was unable to sell it in the aftermath of the Soviet Union's implosion in 1991.

Interestingly, the building that hosts the statue is called Red Square (it's made of bricks and is squarish). In an interview published a long time ago, one of the co-owners of the building, Michael Shaoul, said the building was built in 1989 and that its nickname does refer to the momentous changes that were happening that year in Eastern Europe.

The Manhattan Lenin is facing west, and it can be argued that he looks toward Wall Street, the quintessential symbol of capitalism. His right hand decisively points, as I was taught in school, toward the glorious communist future.

In clear weather, Lenin can be seen from as far away as the Brooklyn Bridge, itself immortalized in a poem by another communist icon, Vladimir Mayakovsky.

The tenants of the building have been proud to play host to such an unusual architectural gem. Some are even joking about hosting a barbecue on Thursday, the 140th anniversary of Lenin's birth.

The place?

Of course, on the rooftop where Vladimir Ilyich firmly stands his ground in New York. After all, it feels as cozy as home.

-- Nikola Krastev

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at