Library of Congress Control Number: 2017947792
A man in a dark suit with close-set penetrating blue eyes waited impatiently for the museum’s curator to unlock the heavy wooden door with the big iron key and then rotate the ancient dial switch on the wall to soak the office in soft light sifted through several old crinoline lampshades. The fidgeting visitor had a nervous foreboding of impending trouble as he entered this socialist simile of sacred ground. He contemplated attempting to calm his nerves with a cigarette, but as if reading his mind, the curator admonished him that smoking was absolutely prohibited by the force of Russian law.
In early 1918, soon after the Bolshevik Revolution, the greatest hero of the Russian people, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin), had assumed his new residence and office space on the third floor of the beautiful neoclassical Senate building, built during the American Revolution and still proudly standing inside the north wall of the Kremlin. This portion of the building on the third floor housing Lenin’s
living quarters and office was now a state run museum, but it had never been open to the general public. Only well connected patrons, carefully selected by the Kremlin Commandant after being placed on long waiting lists, were admitted by appointment only. The modest office and four-room apartment had been frozen in time and meticulously maintained exactly as it had been left by Lenin and his wife. It still contained all the accoutrements that the couple actually used during the last six years of Lenin’s revered life. The four old fashioned telephones in his office demonstrated the latest level of technology present in 1924. The main telephone on his desk possessed a light bulb in lieu of a bell so the ringing noise would not disturb him. The only modern day aspect of the office was the strict and contra
Russian prohibition against smoking which actually had been proclaimed by Lenin himself, much ahead of his time.
The visitor had been born the same year that Lenin had died, and he had probably been named after the old hero. The visitor had been making that very claim for so long, he was not sure if it was true or not, nor did he really care. Vladimir Alexandrovich Kryuchkov was the Chairman of the Committee of State Security, better known as the infamous KGB, and member of the Soviet Politburo. He had been strangely but politely summoned to this haloed place for a clandestine meeting on a late Friday evening by his secret nemesis, ostensibly the most powerful man in the USSR, and arguably the second most powerful man in the world. The curator ushered his vaunted and widely feared visitor to a chair in front of Lenin’s desk, inquired as to whether he could do anything further for his visitor, then politely bowed, and took his leave after receiving a dismissive wave from Kryuchkov’s left hand. Kryuchkov was again mentally practicing his plan for handling this unconventional meeting. He was fairly certain that he knew what the subject matter would be, and, if he were correct, he believed that his very life, as well as the entire future of his beloved Soviet Union, depended on whether he could be successful in surviving the test that was about to be forced upon him.
Kryuchkov thankfully did not have to wait long. The door at the side of the office leading to Lenin’s living quarters opened and Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, the first ever, and most probably the last President of the Soviet Union, walked briskly into the room.
“Vlad, oh Vlad,” gushed Gorbachev. “It is so good to see you. How have you been keeping?”
“Well, Mikhail, very well, and you?” answered Kryuchkov. As Gorbachev approached, Kryuchkov stood for the obligatory clasping of arms and cheek bumps then asked with feigned nonchalance, “What are we doing here, Mikhail?”
As Gorbachev circled the desk to occupy Lenin’s chair, he apologized. “I am terribly sorry for all this cloak and dagger stuff. I have a very delicate matter to discuss with you. As you know, I just returned a few hours ago from my meeting in Washington with the illustrious Mr. Bush, and my office down stairs is still full of people trying to get my attention. Also, with all the dissension going on these days, I worry about who might have been given access to my office. My staff hasn’t had time to sweep it for bugs. So, I thought we could get some privacy up here… and what idiot would bug a museum that hardly nobody ever uses?”