Lenin in Antarctica: Is this the loneliest statue in the world?

Updated on Feb 12, 2022 07:00 PM IST

A plastic bust of Vladimir Lenin, founder of the USSR, oriented so that his face looks towards Moscow, was installed in the heart of Antarctica in 1958. It stands there still, but few visitors ever make it this far inland.

 (Wikimedia Commons) PREMIUM
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Soviets got there first. In December 1958, a team of 18 scientists and explorers arrived at Earth’s Southern Pole of Inaccessibility, in Antarctica. This isn’t the South Pole, but a spot 878 km further inland; the centre of the continent itself. It is the most remote spot of an already remote and inhospitable region. Year-round temperatures average -50 degrees Celsius. Even penguins stay away.

The Soviet team, part of the third Soviet Antarctic Expedition, marked their arrival at the Southern Pole of Inaccessibility by setting up a pre-fabricated hut. Atop their hut, they set up a giant plastic bust of communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, founder of the USSR, oriented so his face would look towards Moscow.

The Soviets didn’t linger; they left in 12 days. The station was too bleak for later Soviet teams too. No one stayed more than two weeks. And every team that visited until 1967 noted that snow kept piling higher and higher, threatening to bury the makeshift Soviet station.

No one went back until 2007, long after the fall of the Soviet Union, when most Lenin statues around the world had been destroyed, repurposed or put in storage. Would the lone Lenin at the bottom of the world, his eyes trained on Moscow, still be standing four decades after the last humans bade it goodbye? The Canadian and British explorers who made it there reported, happily, that while the hut was all but buried in ice, Lenin, perched atop it, was still visible. The plastic had yellowed with age. The explorers greeted him like an old friend.

In December 2019, Australian explorer Geoff Wilson was making the world’s first 5,500-km solo trip around Antarctica when he reached the Southern Pole of Inaccessibility. For a little while, that journey was a little less solo. Wilson stopped at the old Soviet station to take a few pictures with the Lenin bust. Lenin was probably glad for some company too.

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    Rachel Lopez is a a writer and editor with the Hindustan Times. She has worked with the Times Group, Time Out and Vogue and has a special interest in city history, culture, etymology and internet and society.

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