For three days in March 1898, this house hosted the first congress of what would become the Russian Communist Party. The event was held in utmost secrecy in the Minsk, Belarus, home belonging to the railway worker Rumyantsev. All participants knew what would happen if they were caught—the cover story for the meeting was that they were celebrating the name day of Rumyantsev’s wife. No minutes were taken from any of the six sessions held but the resolutions were recorded, and a stove was kept burning in the next room so that participants could quickly destroy any information recorded, if needed.
One of the participants at the First Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party was Vladimir Lenin, who was in his 20s at the time. He smuggled a draft program for the party, which he had drawn up in 1895, to Rumyantsev’s house written in milk between the lines of a book to avoid detection.
Although the meeting was held without being detected by the authorities, five of the nine delegates elected by the Congress were arrested within a month. The First Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party never united the Russian Social Democracy and a wave of police repression followed the meeting. It would take years before the party functioned as intended—its second congress wasn’t held until 1903. Still, the first congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party was the seed of a movement that would forever change the world.