The sporting life of V. I. Lenin
The conventional picture of V. I. Lenin found in all Soviet and most Western biographies is that of a man committed solely to factional politics and the attainment of revolutionary power. In 1953, N. V. Vol’skii, writing as Nikolay Valentinov, referred to this as “the geometric Lenin.” He noted that there was another dimension to the Bolshevik leader: a man with very human foibles and, often, bourgeois tastes. One of the over-looked aspects of this “non-geometric Lenin” was his interest in a wide variety of athletic endeavours. During his privileged upbringing, he learned to ski, swim and row. While in Siberian exile, he took up hunting and ice-skating. In his long years as a political émigré in Western Europe, he continued to pursue some of these sports as well as becoming a committed mountain climber and a long-distance cyclist. This article discusses these sporting interests. It suggests that he was unique among his revolutionary colleagues in the breadth of these activities and it questions the assertion that he pursued them simply because he felt they made him a better revolutionary. Lenin, like many sportsmen, liked to challenge himself physically and he derived a certain pleasure from being in close touch with nature.