Russia, early 20th century.
Height: 82.8 cm;
68×68 cm (size of cover)
A chess table for a four-player game, with a secret drawer in which illegal documents were kept.
This table belonged to the family of A.I. Ulyanova-Elizarova. The history of this chess table is preserved in memories. An unusual chess table, where you could play both ordinary and quarter chess. But not only for the love of the chess game, for the game of four this square chess table was in the Ulyanov family, a table on a massive leg with four foots and four drawers, which contained four sets of chess: black, white, red and blue. This table had its own, little-known secret – it had a cache to hide revolutionary documents and literature. The elder sister of V.I. Lenin Anna Ilyinichna recalled: “Ordered according to a drawing of my husband, Mark Timofeevich Elizarov in 1900 in Moscow, it traveled with us all over Russia.” The original idea of the table belonged to Vladimir Ilyich, who since his coming to St. Petersburg in the fall of 1893, at the beginning of his illegal work, developed the idea of the need for everyone to have some kind of secret storage for illegal activities. Such table was ordered and made, it was actively used, but the great inconvenience of its design was the necessity to turn the table upside down every time when you needed to put the manuscripts in it. “And so, my husband contrived another design, which was carried out in the chess table,” Anna Ilyinichna recalled. – “Here we had to take out only one drawer and everything was going so fast that sometimes we put something inside just after the night call announcing the arrival of the “guests”. But usually, without waiting for the night, we cleaned the apartment with the help of the table. And constantly something was kept in a secret drawer …, never, not during any of the searches that our family was subjected to, did the table give itself out… We were asked about the contents of its drawers, we brought keys and, as if for the sake of formality, rummaged through the multicolored chess pieces, that filled them, then pushed them back in and went over to the tables containing books and papers. It happened more than once that the table saved us from serious consequences. And it, one might say, saved me and my sister Maria Ilyinichna from penal servitude in Kiev in 1904, when in its secret box the entire archive of the Central Committee, elected at the party congress in 1903, was kept. Truly, the table earned itself a pension!”