Communists shed tears for ‘Lenin’ bathhouse

Russian communist supporters lay flowers near a statue to pay their respects to party founder Vladimir Lenin (AFP/File, Kirill Kudryavtsev)

AFP | Mar 14, 2012

SAINT PETERSBURG — Communists mourned Tuesday as developers moved in to demolish a bathhouse in the northwestern Russian city of Saint Petersburg which Lenin is said to have frequented.

The Communists of Petersburg and the Leningrad Region called for an investigation after developers bulldozed the 19th-century Udelniye bathhouse where the Bolshevik leader soaped up on the eve of the 1917 revolution.

“The building of the public baths dating from 1834 was demolished without any discussions, even despite a veto from the previous governor,” complained Sergei Malinkovich of the Communists of Petersburg and the Leningrad region.

“Vladimir Ilyich Lenin washed here just before going to Finland in August 1917,” he told AFP, calling the building “historic.”

The leader of the Communist group, which is not part of the official Russian Communist party, said they would appeal to the regional governor over the demolition.

Lenin fled Russia for exile in Finland, returning in triumph months later after Bolsheviks seized the Winter Palace in a virtually bloodless revolution. The city was renamed Leningrad after his death.

Local television showed an excavator reducing the brick building to a pile of rubble.

Many Russians regularly attend public baths, or banyas, where people roast themselves in piping hot steam rooms and flog each other with birch twigs to open up pores and cleanse the skin.

Former regional governor Valentina Matviyenko, now speaker of the Russian Senate, said two years ago that the building would be closed for reconstruction but vowed it would not be demolished.

“With all respect for Vladimir Ilyich Lenin washing there, this bathhouse dates back to 1834,” she told local television, saying the building was in a dangerous condition.

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