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I have found claims about Vladimir Lenin saying near end of his life:

"I have been mistaken. It was necessary, I suppose, to liberate the multitude of oppressed people, but our method only provoked other oppressions . . . To save our Russia, what we needed--but it is too late now--was ten Francises of Assisi."

This is from Washington Post. I also found minor variations, for example DesiringGod.org:

"I made a mistake. Without doubt, an oppressed multitude had to be liberated. But our method only provoked further oppression and atrocious massacres. My living nightmare is to find myself lost in an ocean of red with the blood of innumerable victims. It is too late now to alter the past, but what was needed to save Russia were ten Francis of Assisi’s" (Letters on Modern Atheism).

and also this variation:

I have deluded myself. Without doubt, it was necessary to free the oppressed masses. However, our methods resulted in other oppressions and gruesome massacres. You know I am deathly ill; I feel lost in an ocean of blood formed by countless victims. This was necessary to save our Russia, but it is too late to turn back. We would need ten Francis of Assisi.

But I did not find any source of this quote. Washington Post article says it was said "in a conversation with a Hungarian priest whom Lenin knew from his boyhood." I also searched for "Letters on Modern Atheism" from DesiringGod.org quote but found nothing. I did not find this quote on Wikiqote. I also searched They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions and found nothing, but I do not own the book so I do not see all quotes.

Did Lenin say this?

  • found this on missiodeo: " In Alexandre Christoyannopoulos, Christian Anarchism: A Political Commentary on the Gospel (Charlottesville, VA: Imprint Academic, 2011), 171. The story itself seems to be a bit apocryphal, as there is no certain source for this quote." – bukwyrm May 23 at 14:47
  • also books.google has it in "franciscan message" of 1966 (? - google is often hilariously wrong about the dates, so take with a grain of salt) in a variation of the quote using "bloodbath" – bukwyrm May 23 at 15:17
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The evidence for this being true is a reprinting of a story from someone who heard it secondhand from the Hungarian priest who allegedly was there. It's not definite proof, but it's more credible than "the internet said so".

The first time this story was printed may have been in The Catholic Boy, October 1938: "a magazine published by the Holy Cross Fathers at Notre Dame, Indiana". But I can't find it online, so I have the next best thing: a magazine, Catholic Digest, that I can only see through snippet view on Google Books that cites The Catholic Boy as its source. Allegedly this issue of Catholic Digest is from 1939. It says:

A story is told by Father Michael D'Herbigny, S.J., who gives it on the authority of a priest who was a former friend of Lenin and who was with him shortly before his death. Father D'Herbigny is a renowned scholar and carefully weighs any statement before it is made, so any story he tells must have a good foundation. This is the story:

A Hungarian priest, a former classmate and confidant of Lenin, had from him, during a lucid interval in his last illness a statement which he repeated verbatim to me.

“It was, I suppose, necessary to liberate a multitude of oppressed people; but our method has provoked other oppressions, frightful massacres. You know that my most awful nightmare is to feel myself drowning in an ocean of the blood of countless victims. To save our Russia, what we needed (but it is too late now) was ten Francis of Assisi. Ten Francis of Assisi and we should have saved Russia."
The Catholic Boy (Oct. '38).

The question then becomes do you trust Father Michael D'Herbigny and his Hungarian friend? I can't say for sure that they're telling the truth, but what I can say is that Father D'Herbingny, according to this newspaper, had been to Russia before the printing of The Catholic Boy. One 1956 book gives another story from D'Herbigny that would have happened around that same time (if true):

[...] Father Michel D'Herbigny, who was consecrated as a Bishop[, ...] made two journeys to Soviet Russia until the Soviet authorities banned him.

[...] Bishop D'Herbigny was a believer in Lenin's sincerity and once told me a story of his last illness, when he was visited by a French priest who, when a young Communist, had become a close friend of Lenin in his exile. He was welcomes by the dying Bolshevik leader, to whom he did not at first disclose his conversion. When he did, Lenin was furious, but at a second or third visit dropped his hostility, and even said that could he have had his time over again his ambition would have been to become the Russian St. Francis of Assisi. "In a hundred years," he said, "there would have been only two forces — Bolshevism and the Catholic Church.

  • 5
    Have you checked for this in other languages? This seems to be popular in English; but Russian, French, German, Polish, Hungarian? I only see chinese whispers variations of quite late hearsay, friend of friend who swears it's true, but no names. On top, given the mental state at the end, Lenin's last words being good dog, when lucid and talkative, being less than that later, my "trust" doesn't reach very far on this. – LangLangC May 23 at 23:36
  • A list of D'Herbigny's writings (in French) is here. It might be worth checking some of them, fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_d%27Herbigny – fdb May 28 at 23:35

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