Striding forward with a scowl on his face and surrounded by flames and the symbols of war, this 16-foot-tall bronze sculpture of Lenin looks particularly fierce, so it is all the more out of place in the friendly neighborhood of Fremont in Seattle.
The statue was made in 1988 by Emil Venkov for the communist republic of then Czechoslovakia. The solid bronze statue was built to last, but communist Czechoslovakia wasn’t, and only a year later in 1989, communism fell during the now-famous “velvet revolution.” The brand new statue was sent to the scrapyard.
Lewis E. Carpenter, an ex-pat from Issaquah, Washington living in the Czech Republic found the statue ready to be melted down and fell in love. He saw an artistic work that deserved to be preserved. At a total cost of $41,000, Carpenter bought the statue and shipped it back to Washington, saving it from assured destruction.
Sadly in 1994, Carpenter was killed in a car accident leaving the statue once again in limbo. After being shuffled around, it found a home in nearby Fremont, appropriately only a block from a salvaged Cold War rocket fuselage.
While Fremont may at first seem an odd home for the statue, it is a more appropriate location than first appears. Known as “The People’s Republic of Fremont” and “The Artists’ Republic of Fremont,” it was once a hotbed of radical politics and counterculture, and despite gentrifying a bit with age, it is still home to a vibrant artistic community.
Besides being near the rocket fuselage, the angry Lenin is close to the Fremont Troll, a giant concrete troll crushing a car, and sign with such advice as “throw your watch away.” Lenin himself is often the victim of artistic exuberance and has appeared dressed as John Lennon, adorned with a red star during Christmas, in drag during gay pride week, and painted as a clown. Notably, his head is a prized seat during parades. In this context, the scowling Lenin almost looks like he is in on the joke.
Should you fall in love with the Lenin sculpture as much as Carpenter did, you can have it for yourself. As of 2006, the sculpture was on sale for $250,000 dollars.