Lenin formed such a backdrop to daily life in the U.S.S.R. that this Belarusian man can’t imagine living without him.
Vladimir Lenin died in 1924 but was immortalized by Soviet authorities in millions of busts, portraits, badges, statues, pins, and books. Even nearly three decades after the fall of the U.S.S.R., one man can't get enough of Lenin.
Meet Belarusian Mikalay Pankrat. He has a whole houseful of Lenin memorabilia. In fact, he has a collection so vast that he expanded his home to try to fit it all in. But he still only has enough room to display about 70 percent of his collection.
Pankrat lives in Polatsak, a town in a remote corner of northeastern Belarus. His house is not easy to find, but he says his collection has attracted 13,000 people from 58 countries since he opened it to the public in 2007.
It’s easy to imagine that Pankrat is a dyed-in-red supporter of Soviet founding father Lenin. But he claims that he is largely apolitical. He says his collection simply fills him with memories of his own lifetime, of growing up in the Soviet Union. He calls his collection “The Meaning of Life.”
Pankrat refers to his Lenin-filled home as a museum but charges no admission fees. And he claims to have refused an offer of $1.5 million from Russian buyers who want to pack it up and take it to Russia. "The past is not a commodity,” he says. "How can I put a value on it?"
His sign reads, "The whole exhibition is a gesture of respect to the history of the country and to the people who lived in that era."
There's more than just Lenin in Pankrat’s house. He's an inveterate collector since childhood and also has arrays of Soviet-era radios and TVs, busts of Russian poet Aleksandr Pushkin, and symbols of Belarus, which declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. But the vast majority of the 50,000 or so objects he displays are of the one thing he most associates with his youth: the omnipresent gaze of Vladimir Lenin.