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POLATSK, Belarus – Five busts of Vladimir Lenin line the sidewalk outside a house in the provincial Belarusian city of Polatsk. And that's only a small taste of what awaits a visitor who steps inside.
"A society without a past is like a man without a shadow," reads an inscription at the door to the Epoch of Lenin private museum.
Nikolai Pankrat, a retired military man, has assembled a collection more than 10,000 pieces of memorabilia commemorating the Bolshevik leader, including 500 busts, jammed into eye-straining rooms in his home.
There's a gold-plated bust of Lenin from Uzbekistan that gives an Asian cast to his features and a portrayal of Lenin as a shyly smiling small boy with curly hair on the head that later became bald. Elsewhere, Lenin reads a newspaper or Lenin listens to Beethoven with his head thrown back.
He bought some of them, bartered for others and found still others in landfills. Some came as gifts.
It is a labor of love and it has cost him love — his wife left him because she couldn't tolerate competing with the dead revolutionary for his affections, Pankrat says. His enthusiasm is so strong that he doesn't charge anyone to visit. Some 14,000 of them have come since the museum opened a decade ago, he says.
The 65-year-old says his interest in Lenin stems from childhood.
"In our house, where I was born, there were no icons. On the walls hung portraits of Lenin, who remains for me both an example and an adviser for life," Pankrat said.