The estate at Gorki Leninskie, just over 30km south of Moscow, was established in the 18th century, and its pre-revolution owners included General Pisarev, hero of the 1812 war, and Zinaida Morozova, widow of the famous Moscow industrialist and theatrical patron Savva Morozov. In 1918, the estate and Pisarev's neoclassical mansion were 'nationalized' and turned into a sanatorium for the higher echelons of the Bolshevik Party. The estate's fame rests on the fact that it was chosen by Lenin for his convalescence after Fanya Kaplin's attempted assassination in 1918. As his health deteriorated he returned more and more frequently and, after a series of strokes left him half paralyzed and unable to speak, he spent the last ten months of his life here with his wife and siblings.
The estate was officially turned into a museum in 1938, and was a place of pilgrimage for Soviet citizens right up until the fall of the Soviet Union. The very last of scores of Lenin Museums was opened here in 1987 and, though the number of visitors has plummeted since then, it is still a fascinating relic of the quasi-religious attitude toward Lenin and his successors that helped cement absolute power in the USSR.
The 1987 museum, now called the Museum of Political History, is an extraordinary building of black and white marble that celebrates the life and works of the Father of the Revolution with belligerent tastelessness. The exhibits include vast numbers of photographs and government documents, as well as audio-visual displays that might have seemed the height of technology in the late eighties, but now offer nothing to distract from their remarkably tedious content. The entrance hall, however, with its enormous statue of Lenin before a billowing red sheet, has to be seen to be believed. There is a certain irony in the fact that the museum and its facilities, including lecture halls and cinema, can now be rented out for business conferences.
The Lenin House Museum in the mansion is a rather more staid, and considerably more engaging, exhibition. Here you can see the charming study bedroom which Lenin chose to work in, his library of over 4,000 books in ten different languages, and touching displays such as the mechanized wheelchair built for Lenin by a group of factory workers. As Lenin was paralyzed on the right side, this gift was never used. The tour of the museum ends in the mansion's garage, where you can inspect Lenin's Rolls Royce. Among a number of unusual features, the car was converted to run on alcohol, which was considerably easier to obtain than petrol in the turmoil of the Civil War.
As if that weren't enough, the Lenin Kremlin Office and Apartment Museum was transferred here from the Senate Building in 1994, and the display has been reconstructed in a separate outbuilding. Here you can see how Lenin and his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, lived from day to day, and take a look at the staggering 28,000 books in their combined library.
Apart from Leninalia, the park also contains burial mounds that date back to the 10th century, and a quarry that was the source of much of the stone used to build medieval Moscow, Vladimir and Suzdal. In the village of Gorki there is also a Museum of Peasant Life, which is merely a village house as it would have looked at the turn of the 20th century.
If you are a fan of Soviet kitsch, or a historian of the Revolution, then Leninskie Gorki is essential viewing. If not, there's still enough in the area to make a trip worthwhile, but only if you are spending plenty of time in Moscow.
Getting there: If you are not coming as part of an organized tour, then take the metro to Domodedovskaya Metro Station, and then take bus no. 439 to the 'muzei' (museum) stop.
Opening hours: The estate and museums are open daily from 10:00 to 17:00, except Tuesdays and the last Monday of each month.