It's not generally known in the Soviet Union, but Vladimir Lenin, the father of the revolution, was chauffeured around the countryside in the ultimate symbol of capitalist decadence, a Rolls Royce, during the last few months of his life.
This stately vehicle, modified for travel on snow, is lovingly preserved in working order at a Lenin memorial museum on the outskirts of Moscow about 21 miles from Lenin's tomb in Red Square.The fact that the machine still works after six decades may be as much a tribute to the British workmanship of its original builders as to the care provided by the curators of the museum.
A sparkling dark green sedan, it is equipped something like an overgrown Canadian snowmobile. The front tires are mounted on skis. The rear wheels drive a set of tracks.
Not many Soviet citizens ever see Lenin's Rolls. It is kept in a garage at the museum, right next to Lenin's rowboat, which still floats, officials say.
In fact, not many Soviet citizens ever get to the museum, which opened only last year. The museum, draws an average of only 700-800 visitors a day, compared with the thousands who daily gaze upon the embalmed body of Lenin at his Red Square tomb.
In spite of its authentic historic significance as Lenin's last home, the grounds are hard to find. There are no big signs directing visitors to the museum.
It is located on an old country estate where Lenin died on Jan. 21, 1924. He had suffered a stroke and lived out his final days in the grandeur of an estate that once belonged to the chief of the Moscow police under the czar.
The estate still has a beautiful cherry orchard. The setting is so pleasant on a summer day that brides and grooms venture from the city to the grounds to get their pictures taken.
The current Soviet regime is invoking the name of Lenin at every opportunity to promote glasnost and perestroika, General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev's program for open political debate and economic restructuring.
A whole room at the Lenin memorial museum is devoted to new posters quoting Lenin's thoughts as they might be interpreted to support Gorbachev's program.
One of the posters urges party members to remember Lenin's revolutionary spirit when they attend the party conference at the end of June. Gorbachev is counting on the conference to endorse his reform program.
The modern museum building, which is only a five-minute walk from the old estate buildings, is an impressive two-story structure. One enters from a central hallway to climb a broad stairway to see a larger-than-life status of Lenin. The red Soviet flag flutters in the background (hidden fans keep it fluttering).
There are various historic exhibitions inside the museum, including one with a recording of Lenin's voice.