Bicycle Diaries: Dictatorship of the <i>velotariat</i>

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21.3.08

Dictatorship of the velotariat

Lenin rolled
in
Paris & Cracow


During his 1909-1916 exile from Imperial Russia, V.I. Lenin, like all refugees was too poor to afford a car. So Lenin, ever at the Forefront of the Proletariat, got himself a bike - model unknown. It seems, though, that he wasn't a very skilled biker. In Paris, he even tangled with a cager! His wife, Nadezhda K. Krupskaya, reports in her Reminiscences of Lenin:
Studying in Paris was very inconvenient. The Bibliotheque Nationale was a long way off. Vladimir Ilyich usually cycled there, but riding a bicycle in Paris was not what it was in the suburbs of Geneva. It was a great strain. Those cycle rides tired him out. The library closed at lunch time. There was a lot of red-tape in the arrangements for ordering books, and Ilyich swore at the library, and while he was at it, at Paris in general...

Ilyich made the round of all the libraries mentioned but none of them was suitable. In the end his bicycle was stolen. He used to leave it on the stairs of a house next door to the Bibliothetque Nationale and pay the concierge ten centimes a day for it. When he came for the bicycle and found it gone, the concierge declared that she had not been hired to look after the bicycle but only to let Ilyich keep it on the stairs.


Riding a bicycle in Paris and the suburbs required great care. Once, on his way [to watch an air display at] to Juvisy-sur-Orge, Ilyich was nearly run over by a motor-car. He barely managed to jump clear, and the bicycle was wrecked.
Then in June 1912, Lenin & Krupskaya moved from Paris to the ancient Polish city of Cracow:
...In the morning Lenin would swim in the Dunajec, little mountain river, before breakfast. Then he would drop in to the post office, receive his correspondence, and quickly glance through it in order to answer urgent telegrams and letters on the spot. After breakfast he would sit down to work which lasted until 7:00 in the evening with one short break. Then he would take his mail to the train station on bicycle. In nice weather Lenin would take his work and climb up to the hill Galitsova Grapa. A splendid view of the Tatry Mountains could be seen from there.

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