Movies of Lenin and recording of his voice

April 3, 2023 • 10:15 am

For some reason I was reading about Lenin this morning and wondered, “Are there any recordings of his voice?” It turns out that there are, as well as movies, both black and white and colorized. Let’s have a butcher’s and a listen:

Lenin’s voice, with the YouTube captions

“Recording of the voice of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin” and “Appeal to the Red Army.” I presume we have at least one Russian speaker who can tell us what he’s saying. As with most famous people, he doesn’t sound like you’d imagine he’d have sounded.

Black and white footage, labeled “Russian Commentary – Lenin Obit 1918/1919. Many good shots of Lenin. Shots of a funeral [not his!] and a parade. DATE 1918/1919”. He died of a stroke on January 21, 1924.

And some (mostly) colorized footage. I believe that’s Trotsky on the podium at 1:09, and Stalin shows up at 2:40

21 thoughts on “Movies of Lenin and recording of his voice

  1. Huh. I had never wondered about that. On a related note, a month or so ago, I stumbled upon this recording, which is supposedly the only recording of Hitler conversing normally, as opposed to making a speech. He is in conversation with Marshal Mannerheim of Finland. A few weeks after I heard this, I saw that Anthony Hopkins, when he portrayed Hilter in The Bunker, commented that one of his challenges was wondering what Hitler sounded like in private.

  2. It’s interesting listening to recordings of public figures from before the age of amplification: having spent their lives having to project their voices as much as possible to be heard by large numbers of people both outdoors and in, they generally sound strained and effortful, since by the time they were recorded they had become accustomed to public speaking in this heightened mode and couldn’t switch it off. Hitler, a generation younger than Lenin, began his career without amplification but by the time he came to power had clearly become so used to it that even when amplified, as at the Nuremberg rallies, he just carried on shouting.

    1. Yeah, it’s kinda like singers before and after the microphone. First, you had the old-timers like Rudy Vallée who used a megaphone to amplify his voice when fronting a band. Then, after the invention of the microphone, came Louie Armstrong, who was the first to use it effectively to get in the pocket behind the beat. Bing Crosby and, eventually, Frank Sinatra picked it up from Pops and perfected the art of microphone singing, using it essentially as its own form of musical instrument.

      1. One exception is the realm of opera, where the singers have to be, in the words of one of them, Rosa Ponselle, “freaks of nature,” meaning they have the extraordinary physical gifts to be able to sing as loudly as possible without hurting their voices in order to be heard over large orchestras. Though, as you have stated, pop singers and musical theater performers have been using microphones for a long time, opera still requires such freaks of nature who are able to shun microphones.

        1. Indeed. The requirement to project an individual singing voice with clarity of diction and also purity of tone and accurate intonation has effectively created an entirely new method of singing over the last four hundred years, migrating from the “head voice” typical of pre-Baroque choral singers to the full “chest voice” of the modern opera singer. Unlike the very mixed effect on public speakers, the development in singing has been spectacularly fruitful, by developing voices with far wider dynamic and frequency ranges, powerful breath control, and often extraordinary extended techniques, especially in upper registers. Singers who rely on amplification, by contrast, usually have only a fraction of these capabilities.

        2. A while back I came across a video clip of someone interviewing an opera singer. He asked her to sing something, she obliged and when she started singing it was as if he had been poked with a cattle prod. He was sitting right next to her and had no idea of the volume.

  3. Made me think of that splendid black comedy “The Death of Stalin” (2017), with Steve Buscemi as Khrushchev and Michael Palin as Molotov.. Hey, what about a prequel, with John Malkovich playing Lenin? Any other casting suggestions?

    On a more serious note, Heterodox Stem has a new, very penetrating essay by Ilya R.
    on the relationship between Bolshevik verbiage and that of our prevailing DEI worship.

    1. I think Patrick Stewart would make a better Lenin, although he might be a bit old for the role now.

  4. Here’s my transcript of his Appeal to the Red Army:
    Обращение к Красной Армии:

    Товарищи красноармейцы, капиталисты Англии, Америки и Франции ведут войну против России. Они мстят Советской Рабочей и Крестьянской республике за то, что она свергла власть помещиков и капиталистов и дала этим пример для всех народов Земли. Капиталисты Англии, Франции и Америки помогают деньгами и военными припасами русским помещикам, которые ведут против Советской Власти войска из Сибири, с Дона, с Северного Кавказа, желая восстановить власть царя, власть помещиков, власть капиталистов.

    Нет, этому не бывать! Красная Армия сплотилась, поднялась, погнала помещичьи войска и белогвардейских офицеров от Волги, отвоевала Ригу, отвоевала почти всю Украину, подходит к Одессе и к Ростову. Еще немного усилий, еще немного месяцев борьбы с врагом, и победа будет за нами!

    Красная Армия сильна тем, что сознательно и единодушно идет в бой за крестьянскую землю, за власть рабочих и крестьян, за Советскую Власть. Красная Армия непобедима, ибо она объединила миллионы трудовых крестьян с рабочими, которые научились теперь бороться, научились товарищеской дисциплине, не падают духом, закаляются после небольших поражений, смелее и смелее идут на врага, зная, что близко полное его поражение.

    Товарищи красноармейцы! Союз рабочих и крестьян с Красной Армией прочен, нерасторжим! Кулаки (“кулаки” — зажиточные крестьяне, использующие наёмный труд, сельская буржуазия) и очень богатые крестьяне пытаются устраивать восстания против Советской Власти, но их – ничтожное меньшинство. Ненадолго и редко удается им обмануть крестьян. Крестьяне знают, что только в союзе с рабочими одолеют они помещика.

    Иногда называют себя коммунистами в деревнях худшие враги рабочего народа, насильники, прилипшие к власти ради корыстных целей и действующие обманом, позволяющие себе несправедливости и обиды против среднего крестьянина. Рабоче-крестьянское правительство твердо решило бороться с такими людьми и очистить от них деревню. Средний (среднего достатка) крестьянин не враг, а друг рабочего, друг Советской Власти. К среднему крестьянину сознательные рабочие и действительно Советские люди относятся как к товарищу. Средний крестьянин не грабит чужого труда, не наживается за чужой счет, как кулаки. Средний крестьянин трудится сам, живет своим трудом. Советская Власть подавит кулаков, очистит деревню от тех, кто несправедливо относится к средним крестьянам, проведет во что бы то ни стало союз рабочих со всем трудящимся крестьянством, и с беднейшим, и с средним. Этот союз растет во всем мире!

    Революция близится, нарастает везде! На днях она победила в Венгрии. В Венгрии установлена Советская Власть, рабочее правительство. К этому неминуемо придут все народы!

    Товарищи красноармейцы! Стойте крепко, стойко, дружно! Смело вперед против врага! За нами будет победа! Власть помещиков и капиталистов, сломленная в России, будет побеждена во всем мире!

  5. I am that “one Russian speaker who can tell you what he’s saying” 🙂 but I was unable to post the transcript I made here. I click “Post Comment” and nothing happens. What could be the reason?

  6. Not sure what you would like translated. His speeches wore written in abundance and this sounds like more of his ignorant speeches and not understanding society nor man.

    I grew up with this numbskull being fervently worshiped.

  7. Russian speaker is here. 🙂

    This is an appeal to the Red Army. Here’s the beginning of his speech:

    “Comrade soldiers of the Red Army! The capitalists of Britain, America and France are waging war against Russia. They are taking revenge on the Soviet Workers’ and Peasants’ Republic for overthrowing the power of the landowners and capitalists and thus setting an example for all the nations of the world.

    The capitalists of Britain, France and America are helping with money and military supplies the Russian landowners who are leading troops from Siberia, the Don, the North Caucasus against the Soviet power, wishing to restore the power of the tsar, the power of the landowners, the power of the capitalists. No. This will not happen.”

Leave a Reply