Some background. “For nearly a century – 1826-1905 – the doors of the United Kingdom were wide open to foreigners. The country had no means of stopping them for most of this period, and almost none of expelling them if they misbehaved. (The only exception was extradition.) Most migrants were economic – attracted by the work and opportunities for enterprise Britain offered. Others came not because they liked the country, and certainly not because of the work (they had the reputation of being disinclined to work at all), but because of the absolute and indiscriminate right of asylum Britain offered them. They were safe here. Lenin, who lived in London in the early 20th century, was rescued by a London policeman once, when a meeting turned ugly against him, after Russian police spies sowed a rumour that he was a spy. Political refugees could not even be extradited if they could show that the crimes they were accused of abroad – however terrible – were politically motivated. Looking back on this now, after a century, it seems extraordinary.
‘The British tolerated the political refugees out of principle. They gained little from having them here. Britons did not support their being here because they knew and liked them; still less because they (or most of them) shared their political views. It was a matter of principle. It was the policy of asylum for refugees the British were defending, not the refugees themselves.’
LENIN’S LONDON – THE PRACTICALS
“Seedbed of the Russian Revolution”
The London 1902-1916 – Seedbed of the Russian Revolution walk takes place at 7.15 pm on Saturday, October 12; at 7.15 pm on Saturday, November 9; at 10.45 am on Saturday, December 14; at 10.45 am on Saturday, January 4; at 7.15 pm on Saturday, February 8; and at 10.45 am on Saturday, March 14
Meet Margarita – yes, she’s Russian – just outside the exit of Russell SquareTube.