Lenin loved beer! But he was never seen drunk

There wasn't a single photo of Vladimir Lenin in front of the Hofbräuhaus in Munich with a mug of beer. Until we made one.

There wasn't a single photo of Vladimir Lenin in front of the Hofbräuhaus in Munich with a mug of beer. Until we made one.

Russia Beyond (Boris Vigilev/Sputnik; Getty Images)
A short history of the Soviet leader's relationship with lager beer.

When Lenin and Krupskaya arrived in Munich in 1913, Ilyich immediately went to a beer house. “We wanted to stop in Munich for a day or two,” Krupskaya recalls, “to see how it had become since we lived there in 1902, but, because we were in a great hurry, we only stayed a few hours in Munich <…> in the Hofbräu restaurant."

The legendary Hofbräuhaus in Munich, 1924

"On the walls, on beer mugs, everywhere were the letters: ‘H.B.’ – “Peoples Will,” I laughed," Krupskaya recalled. ['HB' was the emblem of Hofbräuhaus that appears on its mugs. But in Russian, 'НВ' is an abbreviation for 'Народная Воля' ('People's Will'), the terrorist organization that was responsible for killing the tsar in 1881]. "We spent the whole evening in this ‘Narodnaya Volya’… Ilyich praised Munich beer with the look of a connoisseur and lover," Krupskaya wrote.

Circa 1955: Munich's famous Hofbräuhaus beer hall, site of the former Royal Bavarian brewery.

Vladimir Lenin loved Munich beer. In his first emigration (1900-1905), the then thirty-year-old Lenin lived illegally in Munich, at Kaiserstrasse 46. He was given an apartment by a local Social Democrat, who was also the owner of a beer house in the same building – Georg Rittmeier, “the fattest German”, as Nadezhda Krupskaya describes him in her memoirs.

Living in Munich, Lenin introduced himself as “Mr. Meier from Siberia”, held underground meetings for social-democrats and published the newspaper called ‘Iskra’. But, the future leader liked popular entertainment. “In general, I like to go to different folk evenings and amusements more than to visit museums, theaters, passages, etc.,” he confessed in 1895 in a letter to his mother.

And he loved to drink beer at Munich’s famous Hofbräuhaus. “We remember Hofbräuhaus especially fondly, where the fine beer erases all class distinctions,” Krupskaya would later write in her diary.

READ MORE: How much did Russian tsars drink?

Sunday morning, 10 a.m. at the Hofbräuhaus, published by 'Die Dame,' 1928-1929

Interestingly, in 1913, when Lenin and Krupskaya stopped by in Munich, a young Adolf Hitler was living there. It is known that he also went to this beer house and even drew watercolors from it. In 1920, Hitler announced his ‘25 points’ program there, which soon became the official program of the NSDAP.

Vladimir Lenin and Nadezhda Krupskaya at their garden at Gorki estate, Moscow region

No evidence has survived of anyone seeing Ilyich drunk, but he was never a teetotaler. Finnish communist Jurje Sirola in 1910 dined with Lenin in a restaurant. “When the carafe of vodka reached us in a circle, I asked Lenin, ‘Will you allow yourself a shot before dinner?’ To which he replied, ‘My party does not forbid it’.”

If using any of Russia Beyond's content, partly or in full, always provide an active hyperlink to the original material.

Read more

This website uses cookies. Click here to find out more.

Accept cookies