Statue of Lenin, Seattle
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|Dimensions||5 m (16 ft)|
The statue was constructed by a Slovak Bulgarian sculptor, Emil Venkov, under commission from the Soviet and Czechoslovak governments. While following the bounds of his commission, Venkov intended to portray Lenin as a bringer of revolution, in contrast to the traditional portrayals of Lenin as a philosopher and educator. His Lenin marches ahead fiercely, surrounded by torrid flames and symbols of war.
Venkov's work was completed and installed in Poprad, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia), in 1988, shortly before the fall of Czechoslovak communism during the 1989 Velvet Revolution. Despite popular belief, the Poprad Lenin was not toppled in the demonstrations during the fall of communism. Instead, it was quietly removed from Lenin's Square, in front of Poprad's main hospital, several months after the Velvet Revolution.
Lewis E. Carpenter, a resident of Issaquah, Washington, who was teaching English in Poprad, found the monumental statue lying in a scrapyard ready to be sold for the price of the bronze. In close collaboration with a local journalist and good friend, Tomáš Fülöpp, Carpenter approached the city officials with a claim that despite its current unpopularity, the sculpture was still a work of art worth preserving, and he offered to buy it for $13,000. After many bureaucratic hurdles, he finally signed a contract with the mayor on March 16, 1993.
With the help of the original sculptor, the statue was professionally cut into three pieces and shipped to the United States at a total cost of $41,000. Lewis Carpenter financed much of that via mortgaging his home.
On February 18, 1994 in the midst of the uproar in Seattle that was set off by his import of a statue of a communist leader, Lewis Carpenter was killed in a car accident. The statue, now part of his estate, was left lying in his backyard. The family contacted a local brass foundry, who offered to move it off the property. In 1995, the statue was first placed in Fremont at the corner of N 34th St & Evanston Ave N, one block south of a salvaged Cold War rocket fuselage, another artistic Fremont attraction. It now stands two blocks northward at the intersection of Evanston Ave N, N 36th St, and Fremont Place, outside a felafel shop and a gelato shop. This new location is just 3 blocks west of the Fremont Troll, another Fremont art installation under the Washington State Route 99 bridge.
The Carpenter family continues to seek a buyer for the statue. The asking price as of 2006 is $250,000, up from a 1995 price tag of $150,000.
Fremont was considered a quirky artistic community, and like other statues in the neighborhood (such as Waiting for the Interurban), the Lenin statue is often the victim of various artistic projects, endorsed or not. A glowing red star and sometimes Christmas lights have been added to the statue for Christmas since 2004. For the 2004 Solstice Parade, the statue was made to look like John Lennon. During Gay Pride Week, the statue is dressed in drag. Other appropriations of the statue have included painting it as a clown, and clothing it in a custom-fitted red dress by the Seattle Hash House Harriers for their annual Red Dress Run.
- Tomáš J. Fülöpp, "Obrovský Lenin putuje ako skladačka" Slovenský východ (Košice, Slovakia), 6 May 1993, available online at http://www.vacilando.org/index.php?x=5603.
- Tomáš J. Fülöpp, "Zahynul Lew Carpenter", Podtatranské noviny (Poprad, Slovakia), 24 February 1994, available online at http://www.vacilando.org/index.php?x=9863
- Fremont Chamber of Commerce, "The Story of the Statue of Lenin"
- Lenin of Poprad: The Story (original Slovak articles and photos, most of them by Tomáš Fülöpp, who worked with Lewis Carpenter on securing the statue in Slovakia in 1992-1993)
- The Seattle Lenin photos at Flickr
- Murakami, Kery. "Lenin is the star attraction at an only-in-Fremont holiday lighting," Seattle P-I, December 4, 2004.
- Roadside America, "The Seattle Lenin"
- Murakami, Kery. "Fremont merchants plan to light up Lenin this season," Seattle P-I, November 26, 2004.
- Artists' Republic of Fremont: Lenin Statue
- Brooks, Diane. "Free spirits frolic at Fremont festivities," Seattle Times, June 20, 2004.