Lenin meets a gangster and loses his Rolls-Royce in 1919

Lenin himself was not immune to the lawlessness of the period. On 6 January 1919, he, his sister Mariya and his sole bodyguard, Ivan Chabanov, were being driven in his official Rolls-Royce when they were flagged down by men in uniform. Chabanov was wary, but Lenin insisted that they were as subject to the law as any and ordered they stop. These men turned out to be the notorious gangster Yakov Kuznetsov (known as ‘Yakov Purses’) and his associates, who needed a suitable car for a robbery. A long-standing criminal with no fewer than ten convictions under his belt, Kuznetsov was not au fait with the politics of the day and didn’t recognise Lenin’s name. Reportedly, when asked ‘What’s the matter? I am Lenin’, the gangster replied, ‘So what if you’re Levin? I’m Purses, and I’m the boss of this city at night.’ So Kuznetsov simply appropriated the car..

Galeotti, Mark. Vory: Russia’s Super Mafia (Kindle Locations 887-893). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.


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