Lenin (Vladimir Ilych Ulyanov)

1870-1924 • Russia

Communist • Armand • 3rd International

Vladimir Ilych Ulyanov (Lenin) first visited Paris in June 1895 to meet Paul Lafargue, Marx’s son-in-law, the first socialist to be elected to the French parliament and a leader of the French Workers’ Party, the POF, Parti ouvrier français.  On December 3 1911, ironically perhaps given Lenin’s political distance from Lafargue, Lenin was one of those who spoke at Paul and Laura’s joint funeral after their suicides on November 25.

Lenin used his first visit to read about the history of the 1848 Revolution at the City of Paris’s Carnavalet Museum iat 23 rue de Sévignés that was created in 1880.  It will be great to visit it again after its 2018-2019 renovation.

In 1902 and 1903 Lenin gave several university lectures under the pseudonym Mr Illine. He also spoke to Iskra political meetings at various locations in Paris while living most of the time in London. He would be put up by Russian exiles while lecturing in the Rue des Écoles.

Trotsky, also in exile, attended at least one of the lectures he gave on the Russian Agrarian question. On 25 February 1903 Trotsky and Lenin spoke at a conference on Iskra‘s agricultural policy.

In December 1902 Lenin and Trotksy, Krupskaya and Natalya, went together to see a show at the Comic Opera in Rue Favart. Lenin leant Trotsky a pair of shoes for the occasion since his were not presentable. Trotsky later complained they were too small: ‘I suffered awfully, and Lenin kept making fun of me the whole time’.

In 1902 and 1902 Lenin and Krupskaya were put up by a Russian exile in 3, Rue de l’Estrapade.

On December 10 1904 Lenin sat for the Russian Jewish sculptor Aronson in the Rue Vaugirard who produced a bust that won a gold medal at the Liege art show in 1906.

Lenin sat for Naoum Aronson in his studio iat 93 rue Vaugirard on December 10 1904. The bust was subsequently displayed in the Soviet pavilion at the 1937 World Fair in Paris.

A few years later Lenin and Trotsky met again in Paris. In 1910 they are recorded as playing chess together and with Guillaume Apollinaire at the La Closerie des Lilas café restaurant at the eastern end of the Boulevard du Montparnasse.

In May 1905 Lenin is recorded as having spoken at a meeting on ‘Our tasks’ at 8 rue Danton. He was back speaking again in May 1908 and used the Sainte-Geneviève library at 10 Place du Panthéon in research for his book on Materialism and Empirical Criticism.

in December 1908 on their arrival from Geneva after staying a couple of nights at the Hotel des Gobelins (24 or 27 Boulevard St Marcel), where Lenin’s younger sister was living at the time while studying at the Sorbonne, Krupskaya and he moved to a second-floor flat at 24 rue Beaunier with his sister and Krupskaya’s mother.

In July 1909 he and Krupskaya then moved to a 48m2 flat at 4 rue Marie Rose, living there until July 1912. It became the Paris Lenin museum, but was sold by the French Communist Party when it needed the money in 2007. [A plaque on the wall outside was taken down soon after.]

Lenin opened a bank account at the Credit Lyonnais branch at 19 avenue du Général Leclerc soon after arriving in Paris. The Café du Lion, just down the avenue at number 5, was where he used to organise meetings of the Bolshevik faction within the Russian Social Democrats.

Lenin used to regularly cycle the 20 minutes to the National Library in the Rue de Richelieu next to the Palais Royal until the bike was stolen one day. But Lenin’s life wasn’t all Bolshevism and research.

On October 13 1909 the news arrived in Paris that Spanish educationalist, anti-monarchist and anti-Church, Francisco Ferrer had been shot by a military tribunal after September’s bloody suppression of an uprising against Spain’s colonial war in Morocco at which Ferrer had not been present.

Hours later Lenin and Krupskaya (and Jean Jaures) went on a 20,000-strong protest demonstration that surrounded the Spanish Embassy (34 boulevard de Courcelles). When the cavalry were ordered to disperse the demonstrators, pistol shots killing a policeman answered the sabre attack,.

In 1909 the 40-year-old Lenin also quickly fell head over heels in love with the 35-year-old Inessa Armand, the mother of five who was also lecturing at the Russian revolutionary school in Paris. Observers wrote: ‘He doesn’t take his eyes off her’. In 1910 Lenin had organized for her to move into a flat next door to him at number 2, rue Marie Rose [No plaque there either.]

Not surprisingly, in 1910-12 Armand and Lenin used to pop out to the Cafe d’Orléans, at 43 avenue de Général Leclerc, 10 minutes from their flats. But that was knocked down and the current café with that name (on the opposite side of the Avenue) is even closer, but without enough charm to merit a drink when I walked by it.

When Lenin left Paris for the last time (heading towards Poland) in July 1912, his comrades held a farewell meal for him and Krupskaya at the Pavillion Montsouris restaurant at 20 rue Gazan.

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Avenue General Leclerc

Arrondissement 14

Numbers 5, 11, 19, 43, 70, 101, 110

Since 1948 the Avenue is now named after Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque, the first French general to arrive in Paris in August 1944 – in American-loaned tanks and armoured vehicles and wearing American helmets with the Croix de Lorraine painted on their sides. He died in a plane crash in 1947 just as he was about to argue the case for French withdrawal from Indochina – before the wars of national liberation in the region had really started.

From 1863 to 1948 the tree-lined avenue was called the Avenue d’Orléans, running from the Denfert-Rochereau Square to the southern ‘ entrance to Paris (Porte d’Orléans), at the huge roundabout now called the Place du 25 Aout 1944, commemorating the Liberation of Paris.

It is one of Paris’ oldest roads, down which pilgrims used to follow what the Pope officially called one of the three most important pilgrimages for Christians in 1492 to the cathedral of Saint Jacques de Compostelle in Spain. This pilgramage had begun as early as the 9th century AD.

In the days when it was still the Avenue d’Orléans Lenin was often seen in the Café du Lion at No. 5 , where he organised meetings of the Bolshevik faction of the Russian social democrats.

Lenin might well turn in his Moscow mausoleum. His old meeting place is now a McDonald’s with a tiny Lion tobacco shop adjoining it that still bears the name of the original Lion cafe.

The French police estimated there were around 25,000 Russians in Paris around 1910, of whom 1,000 were revolutionary socialists and 500 anarchists. They were being watched both by the French police and by the Czar’s secret police, the Okhrana. On one occasion an agent spying on them was chased by Lenin and other Bolsheviks along the pavement in front of No. 101.

In 1911 a meeting of the Bolshevik faction organised by Lenin in the first floor room at the Café Les Manilleurs at No. 11 saw a near physical fight between them and Anatoli Lunacharsky and other followers of his brother-in-law, Bogdanov in the Vpered faction.

In December 1908 Lenin opened a bank account at the Crédit Lyonnais bank branch at No. 19.

Lenin and Inessa Armand used to frequent the old Cafe d’Orleans at No. 43 in 1910-1912. This is the new one, even closer to Rue Marie-Rose where the lovers lived. And still good for a drink after a long walk.

During his time in the area, Lenin used occasionally to be seen at the music hall called the Fantaisies de Montrouge at No 70. It was converted from being a theatre to the Grand-Cinéma that re-opened there in September 1911. That building was knocked down and rebuilt in reinforced concrete in 1922 and then became the 1,300-seater cinema the Mistral. Gaumont finally closed it in July 2016 and sold it to a housing developer.

The headquarters of the Russian Social Democrats on the first floor and the printworks of the ‘Social Democrat’ paper in a office in the back of the yard, were at No 110. Among those regularly present between 1909 and 1912 were Lenin, Zinoviev, and Kamenev.


Rue Marie Rose

Arrondissement 14

Numbers 2, 4, 7

The street was built in 1898 over an old quarry. It was named after an earlier owner of the land.

Inessa Armand lived at No. 2 from 1910 until she left France with her lover, Lenin, and Krupskaya for Switzerland in 1912 .

Inessa Armand lived at No. 2 Rue Marie Rose from 1910 to 1912

Number 4, the 48 square meter two-room second-floor flat was occupied by Lenin, Krupskaya and her mother from July 6 1909 to June 12 2012.

The flat was bought by the Communist Party in 1955 and opened as the Paris Lenin museum in 1955. On March 25 1960 it was visited by Krushchev along with Maurice Thorez. It was given the Russian Communist Party’s seal of approval a second time in 1985, when it was visited by Gorbachev and Georges Marchais.

In 2007, however, the PCF sold it when things were going downhill for its fortunes . The plaque outside the building was then taken down.

Lenin used to do repairs and maintenance on his bicycle in the street outside No. 4. When I passed by and took these photographs, all the windows on the second-floor had their shutters closed.

Father Corentin Cloarec (1894-1944), the Franciscan vicar of the nearby Saint-François monastery at No. 7 who was chaplain to the Denfert-Rochereau resistance group, was assassinated there by the Gestapo on June 28 1944. The brick monastery was built in 1935 and its remarkable chapel glass is now listed as a historic monument.

Franciscan monastery


Rue Saint-Jacques

Arrondissement 5

Numbers: 2, 10, 44-46, 54, 115-123, 158, 176, 216, 241, 260, 272, 277, 278

One of Paris’ oldest streets the road was the main north-south route through Paris under the Romans, who paved it and widened it (to half its present 20 metre width).

Use of St Jacques in the road’s name dates from the 1218 founding of a monastery of Dominican ‘brother preachers’ with a Saint-Jacques chapel. The location of the Jacobin brothers’ monastery was approximately around No. 158. It was closed in 1790 and its building gradually demolished over the first half ot the 19th century. In the early 17th century a second monastery for ‘reformed Jacobins’ was built on the Rue Saint-Honoré.

Pre-revolutonary Paris showing the Rue St Jacques from left to right with the College de Plessis, the Sorbonne University and the Jacobin monastery

The road was definitively named the Rue Saint-Jacques in 1806 and variously widened and extended out to the Boulevard de Port Royal in the 1860s and 1900s.

No. 2 used to stand with other houses and shops in front of the Saint-Sevérin church was finally pulled down in 1907 for the last road-widening.

Saint Sevérin church with about-to-be demolished houses and shops in front of it in 1907 before the road’s definitive widening at its northern end close to the Seine (and the tourists).

But on June 23 1848 workers resisting the closure of the world’s first workshops for the unemployed took shelter in the novelty shop No. 2 (not unlike the one I photographed in 2017 in the Rue des Petits Ponts a few metres away and shown here). The bourgeois armed guard entered the shop after them and massacred all of them.

A small narrow shop like this one a few metres to the north of the Rue St Jacques was the scene of a summary execution of those fighting to defend the first ever unemployment pay system.

The Saint-Sevérin church itself at No. 10 witnessed the summary execution of Communard supporters within the Church’s domed apse on May 24 1871. Many had been defending the barricade across the street at No 54 that was helping protect the Versaillais troops from attacking the Panthéon further up the hill.

Another barricade across the road at No. 195 was bypassed by the Versaillais troops and all its defenders killed on that same day during the ‘bloody week’ of the Commune.

The first student demonstration against the German occupation took place on 8 November 1940, when students gathered at the cross roads of the Rue des Écoles and Nos. 44-46 Rue St Jacques to protest against the arrest of Paul Langevin.

The Jesuit-origin Lycée Louis-le-Grand  at No 123 has helped train French ruling elites since the 17th century now includes the site of the old Collège du Plessis at No. 115.

From 1792 to 1799 the Collège de Louis-le-Grand was renamed the Collège de l’Égalité. Its alumini included Danton, Desmoulins and Robespierre, but also before the Revolution, Moliere, Voltaire, Sade and after Victor Hugo, Delacroix and Marc Bloch.

Part of the Plessis college was used as a prison, initially keeping those sent to Paris to be tried or executed by provincial towns lacking a guillotine, and then as an overflow. It was here that Babeuf met and influenced Buonarroti, Joseph Bodson (or William Bodson), Claude Fiquet, Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lefranc, Morel, Claude Menessier, Jean-Baptiste Cazin, Guillaume Massart and Mathurin Bouin and other future members of Babeuf’s “conspiracy”. They were rounded up as Robespierre’s supporters in the summer of 1794 but used the months together to develop a more radical, communistic revolutionary politics.

The Academie d’ Absinthe café used by Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine was situated at No. 176. Absinthe was banned in 1914 in France but it remained the only European country not to allow the name to be used when it was approved by the European Union in 1988.

In 1888 Verlaine restarted his Wednesday literary meetings at the Grand Hôtel des Nations at No 216 where he was living. Later, in 1891, he lived at the dancer Eugénie Krantz’s flat at No 272 before moving to No. 187, which was where in 1893 he asked her to come and live with him.

When she came back to France in October 1910, the Bolshevik Inessa Armand first lived at No. 241 before moving to a flat next to Lenin’s in the Rue Marie-Rose.

Half a century earlier, No. 241 had also been one of the addresses where the teenage Emile Zola had stayed in 1859-1860 soon after arriving in Paris.

Zola moved to the sixth floor of No. 278 in 1864-1865 when he was 24 and worked in a bookshop. This was where his first novel, Contes à Ninon (Stories for Ninon), was published.

The school for deaf children founded by Charles-Michel de L’Épée at No 254 became a centre for revolutionary republican clubs in 1848. Those based here included: the Club des Intérêts du Peuple, the Club démocratique Ibérique and the Comité électoral démocratique du 11ème arrondissement.

The plaque at No 254 recalls the Institute’s history of welcoming pilgrims on their way to St Jacques de Compostelle in the Middle Ages, but not its revolutionary credentials in 1848.

Further south down the street is a plaque outside No 260/262. This honours Emile Durkheim, the ‘founder of sociology’, who lived there from 1902 to 1912.

The military hospital, Val de Grâce, at 277bis, now houses an interesting museum. During the First World War Apollinaire was a patient there, while Louis Aragon and André Breton first met when they were stationed there.

In 1979 the military teaching hospital in the old abbey was moved to a new building with an entrance in the Boulevard de Port-Royal. It was finally closed in 2016, after having treated people like Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy and the Algerian president from 1999 to 2019, Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Marc Blondel died there in 2014.

Today outside the Val de Grace hospital the authorities have hung a copy of De Gaulle’s 18 June 1940 proclamation calling for the French to fight together to ‘Save France’.

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Women ready to fight at a barricade in the Rochechouart district in May 1871

From 1791 French feminists argued for their natural rights. In the 1830s and 1840s many women campaigned for equality and the vote. Many saw the 1871 Commune as a route to equality and fought on the barricades. In 1909 a French women’s suffrage movement was established. France’s senate rejects giving women the vote in 1922 , 1935 and 1936. The vote was finally given by the 1945 Fourth Republic constitution. In 1975 women win the right to have an abortion. In 2017 French women’s average wage was still 24% less than men’s, and their pensions are 42% lower.

Marthe Bigot

1878-1962, Montargis (Loiret)

Teacher, feminist, and anti-war activist during World War I. Founder member of the Communist Party, which she left in 1926. A campaigner for female suffrage, she organised women’s candidacies at elections, taking up a pre-war tradition, and in March 1922 presented her own “symbolic candidacy” in the Paris municipal elections; unable to hold her own meetings she demanded speaking rights at those of other candidates, and despite being ineligible as a woman came third in the vote.