Why did Vladimir Lenin drive the ultimate rich man's car?
Did he not vow to create a classless state?
Communist revolutionary Vladmir Ilyich Lenin declared that revolutionaries must guard against bourgeois tendencies. And yet, Moscow’s State Historical Museum contains something Lenin owned that is one of the ultimate examples of bourgeois conveyance - a Rolls Royce car, Silver Ghost model complete with fog lamps and all-leather interiors.
What business did the leader of the Communist party have owning such a luxury automobile? How did he come to own it – and why did he keep it?
Early in the Revolution, the Bolsheviks had seized the Tsar's gold, and the Tsar's collection of fine automobiles. There were about 40 motor vehicles in the Tsarist garages and even the Communist leaders could not resist taking a liking to these cars.
So perhaps Lenin owned this Rolls Royce because he got it for free? To be certain, proof was needed to confirm that Tsar Nicholas II was the original owner.
Unfortunately the original documents do not exist. However, when researchers took a closer look at the auto itself, they looked more closely at the chassis number. The chassis number is fixed to the front of the dashboard under the bonnet. With a car this old, it would be surprising if the chassis number could be traced. Or maybe not? Rolls Royce keeps records of all the cars it has manufactured and sold. A request was made to the Rolls Royce head office in London. Incredibly, the original bill of sale was elicited. The purchaser was not Tsar Nicholas II, but an emissary of Vladimir Lenin. The date is 1922.
In the years following the bloody revolution, all industrial nations imposed an embargo, forbidding trade with the Russian Communist State. So how did Lenin manage to do business with a British car maker? A clue lies not in cars, but in planes. Rolls Royce made the best engines for bomber planes and Lenin needed them for his war machine. Lenin asked the British to break the embargo. He knew that Britain was mired in depression, with idle factories and hungry workers. British leaders held their noses and allowed the Bolshevik government to buy several of their most advanced airplane engines. To sweeten the deal, Lenin was given a 15% discount on something else . . . . . a Rolls Royce automobile, a luxury in which he paid £1850.
The Rolls Royce engines helped Lenin and his Bolsheviks win the civil war and impose a brutal totalitarian state.
© The History Channel and Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 17 March, 2013