A Statue of Lenin Has Finally Come Down from Red Square…in New York City

One of Manhattan’s strangest buildings has lost its mascot

Red Square Lenin
The statue of Lenin where it formerly stood on the roof of the Red Square building on E Houston Street. Randy Levine/Flickr Creative Commons

For most people, “Red Square” probably brings to mind images of Soviet Russia, wintry scenes from Moscow and military parades. But for many New Yorkers, it’s a building that has sat in the East Village, just blocks from the riverside. True to its name, the quirky red-brick apartment complex has been the home of a larger-than-life statue of Vladimir Lenin for nearly 20 years—until now, that is.

From the street, Red Square doesn’t look too special—just another large brick apartment building. But ever since 1994, those who knew where to look could get a glimpse of an 18-foot-tall statue of Lenin perched on the roof of the building, surveying New York City as if it was his own domain, Sarah Laskow reports for Atlas Obscura.

“I think it gave the building a lot of character and I think taking it down is sort of a sad change in the neighborhood,” a resident of the building tells Allegra Hobbs for DNA Info.

In addition to being another marker of the odd design taste of the building’s original owners (it sits next to a misnumbered clock), the statue was a nod to Red Square’s construction in 1989, the same year that the Soviet Union fell. The statue was originally commissioned by the Soviet government, but by the time the sculptor put the finishing touches on his latest Lenin, the communist regime collapsed.

Needless to say, statues of Lenin quickly fell out of favor in the former Soviet Union and the statue was never put on public display, Martin Stoltz reported for the New York Times in 1997. A few years later, a friend of one of Red Square’s original owners stumbled across the statue in the backyard of a rural Russian estate. Michael Shaoul and his business partner Michael Rosen bought the statue, had it transported to the United States and installed it on top of Red Square.

“The Lower East Side had been for many decades a place of true political thought,” Rosen told Leonid Bershidsky for the New York Post. “So we hoisted Lenin to the top to wave to Wall Street.”

The Lenin statue quickly became another element of the quirky fabric of the East Village, with his triumphantly raised hand looming over bodegas and bagel stores alike. However, nothing stays the same for long. Neighborhood locals recently watched as a crane lifted the Lenin down from Red Square’s rooftop and onto a flatbed truck to be taken away, local blog "EV Grieve" reports.

The disappearing statue comes amidst rumors that Red Square has been sold to a new developer. Presumably, it appears that the potential new owners might not be so thrilled with having a communist dictator who oversaw the brutal Red Terror gracing the roof of their new property. Those invested in the fate of the statue don't need to look far though—for now, it rests on a L.E.S rooftop just a few blocks away.