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Mother Russia or Father Lenin?


A Russian legislator’s proposal that coins depicting Communist icon Vladimir Lenin be issued is likely politically motivated. Shown is a previous Soviet coin on which Lenin appears.

Should Vladimir Lenin be remembered as the founder of modern Russia? Valery Rashkin, Communist Party member of Parliament, thinks so.

Rashkin recently sent a letter to the Bank of Russia, Russia’s central bank, in which he proposed a 25-ruble commemorative coin honoring Lenin.

The coin subject is obviously politically motivated. In the letter Rashkin suggests such a coin would be supported by a large number of Russian citizens who are nostalgic for when Russia was part of the Soviet Union.

Rashkin also suggests in the letter that additional coins be issued, these featuring the battle cruiser Aurora, a symbol of the 1917 Russian Revolution, and another of Lenin surrounded by Red Army soldiers.

Lenin’s birthday is April 22. A public opinion poll taken just before that anniversary indicated 65 percent of Russians perceive Lenin as a leader who worked in the interest of the majority of citizens. The survey also indicated 23 percent do not agree, while 31 percent believe Lenin’s accomplishments did more good than bad. Looking further into Lenin’s legacy, 23 percent of those surveyed believe that legacy is negative, while 35 percent believe Lenin’s negative and positive accomplishments are about equal.

Following Lenin’s death his body was embalmed and placed on public display in the Red Square Mausoleum in Moscow near the Kremlin. About 60 percent of those participating in the survey indicated they would like to see his body removed from the mausoleum and given a proper burial. Lenin’s successor, Josef Stalin, had shared the mausoleum until the 1990s when Stalin’s body was given a formal burial.

It was under Stalin that the Soviet Union became industrialized and defeated Nazi Germany during World War II, known as The Great Patriotic War in Russia. Stalin was also responsible for massive purges, reigns of terror and repression through which millions of ordinary citizens died.

The motivation for Rashkin’s proposed Lenin coins can be seen through the results of the survey. Of those surveyed who said the body should be buried, 36 percent said the burial should be organized quickly, while 24 percent indicated authorities should wait until the generation that identifies strongly with Lenin has passed away. About 32 percent indicated they don’t see any reason to remove Lenin’s remains from the mausoleum.

It might be extra labor for the Goznak, Russia’s main mint, to prepare coin designs and dies for the proposed issue; however, as Rashkin pointed out, the original Soviet printing plates on which a vignette of Lenin appears are in storage and ready to use to print commemorative bank notes.

According to Rashkin’s letter, “Lenin’s return to Russian rubles will confirm the fact that our society has finished its formation and entered the phase of maturity. This will also be good because the majority of Russian citizens have warm feelings towards Vladimir Iliych [Lenin] and the Soviet era in general, as it allowed us to become one of the world’s leading countries. We should pay tribute to Lenin, who laid the foundation of a social state in Russia.”

No coins depicting Lenin were issued during Lenin’s lifetime.

Playing on Russian nationalism, Rashkin’s letter continues, “Everyone knew that it was a bad idea to play games with the Soviet Union. We will let them know that our country is experiencing [a] rebirth, that we’re becoming stronger and remember our leaders.”

Anywhere else in the world, a single letter from a private citizen or politician suggesting commemorative coins and bank notes would likely carry little weight. Not so in Russia. In January 2016 Russian Communists issued a bold statement directed at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s criticism of Lenin’s concept of the former Soviet Union. Putin compared Lenin’s policies to “a nuclear bomb planted under Russia.”

The Russian Communist Party is still active in post Soviet Russia. A majority of the party’s voters are from the older generation. Exploitation of the memory of Soviet times and the legacy and cult of Lenin are an important part of this.

This article was originally printed in World Coin News. >> Subscribe today.

More Collecting Resources

• The 1800s were a time of change for many, including in coin production. See how coin designs grew during the time period in the Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1801-1900 .

• The Standard Catalog of United States Paper Money is the only annual guide that provides complete coverage of U.S. currency with today’s market prices.