Lenin in Letchworth

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In 1907 Lenin attended a congress of exiled communists in London that helped plan the overthrow of the Russian tsar a decade later. It was during this momentous event that the Soviet Union's future leader is said to have visited the English garden city of Letchworth.

Firm evidence of Lenin's presence in Letchworth is tantalisingly hard to find. But even the very idea of the single-minded Russian revolutionary finding himself among the English radicals of rural Hertfordshire - people George Orwell described as the "fruit-juice drinking" and "sandal-wearing" classes - turns out to be a revealing one.

What could turn-of-the-twentieth-century English socialists, committed to healthy living, fulfilling work and parliamentary democracy, teach the self-proclaimed leader of the Russian workers and peasants with his revolutionary fervour and appointment with destiny?

Francis Spufford visits Letchworth to investigate the background to the story. He finds out why Lenin would have wanted to make the visit. He discovers who and what he may have seen and the effect which the young Russian revolutionary might have had on the locals.

Francis also reveals what lasting impression the trip into the Hertfordshire countryside may have made on Lenin and how it seems to have shaped the physical design of Moscow and Stalingrad.

Producer Simon Coates.

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