Vladimir Ulianov "Lenin" (1870-1924) was
a leader of the 1917 Russian Revolution,
organizer of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and founder
of the Soviet state, he continued the revolutionary teaching
of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Lenin's ideas on Marxism
became the basis of modern-day Communism throughout the world.
Born on May 4, 1870 this son of a Russian nobleman was
to have a profound effect on the future of Russia and, indeed,
the world. For better or worse, he singularly shaped the course
of a history.
His interpreters and critics differ. Some see a continuity
between Lenins early ideas and those of Stalin, while
others stress the pluralistic New Economic Policy that he advocated
in the last years of his life. Most observers agree that
Lenin was the foremost revolutionary figure of twentieth century
He was inded an extraordinary person, well educated,
fluent in Latin, German and English. He had a brilliant mind,
his thought, sharply chiseled, grasped the most profound implications
of any subject.
in Lenin's childhood years seemed to point to his revolutionary
destiny. His father had been the son of a serf who had risen
to post of inspector of schools in Simbirsk (later called Ulyanovsk
in his honor). While his mother was the daughter of a physician.
She was an educated woman and was deeply devoted to her children.
In school he proved himself to be very bright though
he suffered alienation because of it. However, he excelled in
his studies. He also enjoyed reading and writings of Goethe
and Turgenev would affect him for the rest of his life.
Two major tragedies occurred which had an acute effect
on the young Lenin (then Ulyanov). In 1886 his father got sick
and died, the following year his eldest brother, Alexander,
was hung for plotting assassination on Tsar Alexander III.
Lenin renounced religion and the political system. Added
to this he was the brother of dead revolutionary and found many
doors closed to him. He finally managed to be accepted in a
Kazan University where he studied law. This was to be shortlived
as he was expelled for attending a peaceful protest some three
months later. He was ostracised from the academic world. He
studied the law on his own and passed the exam, coming first
in a class of 124 in 1891.
moved to St. Petersburg in 1893 where he practised law. While
there he began developing a Marxist underground movement.
He travelled to Switzerland to meet like minded Social
Democrats in 1895. While there he talked with George Plekhanov.
They argued over the means of bringing about change in Russia.
Plekhanov wanted to include the liberal middle class; Lenin
favoured the rise of the proletariat. This disagreement led
to the eventual split of the Social Democratic party into Mensheviks
When Lenin returned to Russia he carried with him illegal
pamphlets, he wanted to start up a revolutionary paper. On the
eve of its publication he and other leaders were arrested. He
served fifteen months in prison. After this term he was exiled
to Siberia and it was there that he and Krupskaya were married.
Having finished their period of exile in 1900 they left for
Switzerland where they finally managed to establish their paper,
Iskra (Spark). During his years in Switzerland he rose to a
position of power in the Social Democratic party. His uncompromising
views were a core cause for the split in the party.
The 1905 St. Petersburg Massacre spurred Lenin to advocate
violent action. The Massacre itself occurred when Cossacks fired
on peaceful protesters led by Father Georgi Gapon. This event
led to several uprisings in Russia. Lenin returned to Russia
for two years but the promised revolution did not happen as
the Tsar made enough concessions to mollify the people. Lenin
went abroad again.
was to finally see the revolution in Russia. In fact two revolutions
occurred in this year. In March steelworkers in St. Petersburg
went on strike. It grew until thousands of people lined the
streets. The Tsars power collapsed and the Duma, led by
Alexander Kerensky, took power. Lenin made a deal with the Germans;
if they could get him safely back to Russia, he would take power
and pull Russia out of the war. Kerensky was to fall over this
same issue. He refused to take Russia out a war in which they
were suffering severe losses and causing brutal hardship at
home. Lenin came to power in October after a nearly bloodless
age forty seven Vladimir Lenin was named president of the Society
of Peoples Commissars (Communist Party). The problems
of the new government were enormous. The war with Germany was
ended immediately (his battle cry had been Bread not War).
Though Russia lost the bread basket of the Ukraine to Germany
this was soon regained when Germany was ultimately defeated
in the war. Land was redistributed, some as collective farms.
Factories, mines, banks and utilities were all taken over by
the state. The Russian Orthodox Church was disestablished.
There was opposition and this led to a civil war in 1918
between the Mensheviks (Whites) and the Bolsheviks (Reds). Despite
being supported by Britain and the U.S.A. the whites were defeated
after a bitter struggle.
From 1919 to 1921 famine and typhus ravaged Russia and left
over 27 million people dead. To counter these disasters
Lenin put into effect the New Economic Plan. This plan embraced
some capital ideas (limited private industry) in order to revitalise
the flagging economy. However he was never to see the full effect
of his measures.
Boris Vladimirsky, Lenin and Stalin
in Kremlin, Oil on Canvas, 1940.
strain of Lenins labors destroyed his health. Previous
assassination attempt that wounded Lenin also added complications
to his health and his activities were severely reduced. In
May 1922 Lenin suffered the first of a series of strokes,
less than a year later he suffered a second one.
his two remaining years he tried to correct some of the excesses
of the regime. He saw that it would be necessary to learn coexistence
with capitalist countries and eliminate the inefficiency of
his bureaucracy. He also tried to ensure that Trotsky and not
Stalin succeeded him. In this endeavour he failed.
Stalin was far too clever and astute even for Lenin.
1923 saw him decline further as he had another stroke which
left him paralysed and speechless. He never fully recovered
and died of a cerebral haemorrhage on January 21, 1924.
leader's coffin was brought to Moscow two days later and placed
in the Kremlin to allow members of
the party to pay their final respects. Despite the objections
of Lenin's widow, Nadezhda Krupskaya, the former leader's party
colleagues saw a way to manipulate Lenin's death to their own
political advantage and decided to attempt the embalming of
|The composite centre of the
Red Square - the Mausoleum - is a monument-tomb, in a Mourning
hall of which there is a crystal sarcophagus with Vladimir
Lenin's body. The mausoleum is a step-pyramid of cubes faced
with red granite and black labradorite. It bears the simple
inscription "Lenin" over its bronze doors, which were
originally flanked by a guard of honor, who changed every hour.
Mausoleum has to be one of Moscow's most curious tourist attractions.
Locals tend to regard it either as an awkward reminder of the
country's communist past or a cherished relic of the good old
days, but for visitors to the city it is not only one of Moscow's
finest examples of Soviet architecture but it holds an endless
Behind the Lenin Mausoleum running along the foot of
the Kremlin wall is an area known as "The Tombs" which
contains the collective or individual tombs of the famous and
infamous of Communism, including: John Reed (American Communist
writer), Felix Dzerzhinsky (the first Soviet Minister of the
Interior and founder of what became the KGB).
Khrushchev, in his turn, fell from favor and was removed from
office in 1964 and, after his death in 1971, was buried in the
Novodyevichi Monastery rather
than the Kremlin wall.
writer John Reed on Lenin, More about Lenin,
of book about Lenin, article
on the 125th Anniversary of Lenin's Birth, about
Lenin's Museum, Lenin
on the class structure of Europe, The
February Revolution and the Provisional Government in Russia,
Bolsheviks Take Over. (in English).