Vladimir Lenin

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
»Ìñ »ñÌñ Ì

In office
8 November 1917– 21 January 1924
Preceded by Position created
Succeeded by Alexei Rykov

In office
17 November 1903– 21 January 1924
Preceded by None
Succeeded by Joseph Stalin
(as General Secretary)

Born 22 April 1870(1870-04-22)
Simbirsk, Russian Empire
Died 21 January 1924 (aged 53)
Gorki, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Nationality Soviet
Political party Bolshevik Party
Spouse(s) Nadezhda Krupskaya (1898-1924)
Profession Politician, Revolutionary, Lawyer
Religion None (atheist)

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (Russian: »ñ »ññ [vlÉdÊimÊÉr ÉlÊjiÊ lÊenÊÉn]; 22 April [O.S. 10 April] 1870 – 21 January 1924), born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Russian: »ñ »ññ »ññ [vlÉdÊimÊÉr ÉlÊjiÊ ÊŠlÊjanÉf]), was a Russian revolutionary and communist politician who led the October Revolution of 1917. As leader of the Bolsheviks, he headed the Soviet state during its initial years (1917–1924), as it fought to establish control of Russia in the Russian Civil War and worked to create a socialist economic system.

As a politician, Vladimir Lenin was a persuasive orator, as a political scientist his extensive theoretic and philosophical developments of Marxism produced Marxism–Leninism, the pragmatic Russian application of Marxism.[1]


Early life and background

V.I. Ulyanov, aged three.
Lenin c. 1887.

Lenin was born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, on 22 April [O.S. 10 April] 1870, to Maria Alexandrovna Blank, a schoolmistress, and Ilya Nikolayevich Ulyanov, a physics instructor, at Simbirsk, a Volga River town in the Russian Empire of the nineteenth century; following family custom, he was baptized into the Russian Orthodox Church.[2][3] Later, the USSR renamed Simbirsk as Ulyanovsk.

In 1869, Ilya Ulyanov became the Inspector of Public Schools, and later the Director of Elementary Schools, for the Simbirsk Gubernia Oblast (province), a successful career in the Imperial Russian public education system. Yet, Tsarist cultural mores defined the Ulyanov family stock as "ethnically mixed" – "Mordovian, Kalmyk, Jewish (cf. Blank family), Volgan German, and Swedish, and possibly others"; nonetheless, being of the intelligentsia, the Ulyanovs educated their children against the ills of their time (violations of human rights, servile psychology, etc.), and instilled readiness to struggle for higher ideals, a free society, and equal rights. Subsequently, excepting Olga (dead at age 19), every Ulyanov child became a revolutionary.[4]

In January 1886, his father died of a cerebral hemorrhage; in May 1887 (when Lenin was 17 years old), his eldest brother Aleksandr Ulyanov was hanged for participating in a terrorist assassination attempt against the Tsar, Alexander III (1881–94).[5] His sister, Anna Ulyanova, with Aleksandr when arrested, was banished to an Ulyanov family estate at Kokushkino, a village some 40 km (25 mi.) from Kazan – those events transformed Lenin into a political radical, which official Soviet biographies represent as central to his assuming the revolutionary track as political life.

Complementing these personal, emotional, and political upheavals was his matriculation, in August 1887, to the Kazan University, where he studied law and read the works of Karl Marx. That Marxism-derived political development involved Lenin in a student riot, and consequent arrest, in December 1887; Kazan University expelled him, the police authorities barred him from other universities, thence was under continuous police surveillance – as the brother of a known terrorist.[6] Nevertheless, he studied independently and earned a law degree; in that time, he first read Das Kapital (1867–94). Three years later, in 1890, he was permitted studies at the University of Saint Petersburg.[7] In January 1892, he was awarded a first class diploma in law;[8] moreover, he was an intellectually distinguished student in the Classical languages of Latin and Greek, and the modern languages of German, French, and English, but had only limited command of the latter two. In the 1917 revolutionary period, he relied upon Inessa Armand to translate an article of his into French and English; and wrote to S. N. Ravich in Geneva, "I am unable to lecture in French".[9]


Police photograph of V. I. Lenin, December 1895.

Lenin practised law in the Volga River port of Samara for a few years, mostly land-ownership cases, from which he derived political insight to the Russian peasants' socio-economic condition;[10] in 1893, he moved to St Petersburg, and practised revolutionary propaganda. In 1895, he founded the League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class, the consolidation of the city's Marxist groups; as an embryonic revolutionary party, the League were active among the Russian labour organisations. On 7 December 1895, Lenin was arrested for plotting against Tsar Alexander III, and was then imprisoned for fourteen months in solitary confinement Cell 193 of the St. Petersburg Remand Prison.[11] In February 1897, he was exiled to eastern Siberia, to the village Shushenskoye in the Minusinsky District, Yenisei Gubernia. There, he met Georgy Plekhanov, the Marxist who introduced socialism to Russia. In July 1898, Lenin married the socialist activist Nadezhda Krupskaya, and, in April 1899, he pseudonymously published the book The Development of Capitalism in Russia (1899), by Vladimir Ilyin, one of the thirty theoretical works he wrote in exile.[11]

Lenin's residence during his exile in Zrich, Switzerland, taken in 1920.

At exile's end in 1900, Lenin travelled Russia and Europe (Munich, Prague, Vienna, Manchester and London, with a memorial plaque at Percy Circus WC1, King's Cross), but resided in Zrich, where he worked as a Geneva University lecturer. He and Julius Martov (later a leading opponent) co-founded the newspaper Iskra (Spark), and published articles and books about revolutionary politics, whilst recruiting for the Social Democrats. In such clandestine political work, Vladimir Ulyanov assumed aliases, and, in 1902, adopted Lenin as his definitive nom de guerre, derived from the Siberian Lena River.[3]

In 1903, the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (¡) ideologically diverged as the Bolshevik and the Menshevik factions; the RSDLP party faction names "Bolshevik" (majority) and "Menshevik" (minority) derive from the narrow Bolshevik electoral defeat of the Mensheviks to the party's newspaper editorial board, and to central committee leadership. The break partly originated from Lenin's book What Is to Be Done? (1901–02), which proposed a smaller party organisation of professional revolutionaries, with Iskra in a primary ideologic role.

"Here resided, from 21 February 1916 to 2 April 1917, Lenin, the leader of the Russian Revolution" (memorial plaque, Lenin's residence, Zrich, 2008)
Lenin's residence in Zrich in 2008.

In November 1905, Lenin returned to Russia to support the 1905 Russian Revolution.[12] In 1906, he was elected to the Presidium of the RSDLP; and shuttled between Finland and Russia, but resumed his exile in December 1907, after the Tsarist defeat of the November Revolution.[12] Until the February and October revolutions of 1917, he lived in Western Europe, where, despite relative poverty, he developed Leninism – urban Marxism adapted to agrarian Russia reversing Karl Marx–s economics–politics prescription to allow for a dynamic revolution led by a vanguard party of professional revolutionaries.[13][14]

In 1909, to disambiguate philosophic doubts about the proper practical course of a socialist revolution, Lenin published Materialism and Empirio-criticism (1909), which became a philosophic foundation of Marxism-Leninism. Throughout exile, Lenin travelled Europe, participated in socialist activities, (the 1912 Prague Party Conference). When Inessa Armand left Russia for Paris, she met Lenin and other exiled Bolsheviks. Rumour has it she was Lenin's lover; yet historian Neil Harding notes that there is a "slender stock of evidence . . . we still have no evidence that they were sexually intimate".[15]

In 1914, when the First World War (1914–18) began, most of the mass Social Democratic parties of Europe supported their homelands' war effort. At first, Lenin disbelieved such political fickleness, especially that the Germans had voted for war credits; the Social Democrats' war-authorising votes broke Lenin's mainstream connection with the Second International (1889–1916). He opposed the Great War, because the peasants and workers would be fighting the bourgeoisie's "imperialist war" – one that ought be transformed to an international civil war, between the classes. At war's start, the Austrians briefly detained him in Poronin, his town of residence; on 5 September 1914, Lenin moved to neutral Switzerland, residing first at Berne, then at Zrich.[16]

In 1915, in Switzerland, at anti-war Zimmerwald Conference, he led the Zimmerwald Left minority, who failed, against the majority pacifists, to achieve conference–s adopting Lenin's proposition of transforming imperialist war to class war. In the next conference (24–30 April 1916), at Kienthal, Lenin and the Zimmerwald Left presented a like resolution; but the conference concorded only a compromise manifesto.[17]

In spring of 1916, in Zrich, Lenin wrote Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916). In this work Lenin synthesised previous works on the subject by Karl Kautsky, John A. Hobson (Imperialism: A Study, 1902), and Rudolf Hilferding (Das Finanzkapital, 1910), and applied them to the new circumstances of the First World War (1914–18) fought between the German and the British empires – which exemplified the imperial capitalist competition, which was the thesis of his book. This thesis posited that the merging of banks and industrial cartels gave rise to finance capital – the basis of imperialism, the zenith of capitalism. To wit, in pursuing greater profits than the home market can offer, business exports capital, which, in turn, leads to the division of the world, among international, monopolist firms, and to European states colonizing large parts of the world, in support of their businesses. Imperialism, thus, is an advanced stage of capitalism based upon the establishment of monopolies, and upon the exportation of capital (rather than goods), managed with a global financial system, of which colonialism is one feature.[18][19][20]

In accordance with this thesis, Lenin believed that Russia was being used as a tool of French and British capitalist imperialism in World War One and that its participation in the conflict was at the behest of those interests.[21]

Viln, Lenin bewigged and clean shaven, Finland, 11 August 1917.

Russian return

Lenin's locomotive to the Finland Station, in April 1917.

After the 1917 February Revolution provoked the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II (1894–17), Lenin decided upon a Russian return; difficult, for he was isolated in neutral Switzerland, surrounded by belligerent countries fighting the Great War, nevertheless, the Swiss Communist Fritz Platten obtained Imperial German permission allowing Lenin (and cohort) to traverse Germany in a diplomatically sealed train. Geopolitically, the Germans expected his return to politically disrupt Imperial Russia – in aid of ending the Eastern front war (17 August 1914 – 3 March 1918), so that Germany could concentrate upon defeating the Western allies. Having traversed Germany, Lenin continued through Sweden, aided by local Communists Otto Grimlund and Ture Nerman.

On 16 April 1917, Lenin arrived at the Finland Station, Petrograd, Russia, to assume command of the Bolsheviks, and published the April Theses (1917), calling for uncompromising opposition to the Provisional Government (March–November 1917).[22][23] Initially, this leftist position isolated the Bolsheviks, yet rendered the Bolshevik party as a pragmatic political refuge for people disillusioned with the vacillating Provisional Government and dissociated them, in particular, with the government's policy of continuing the war with Germany, as manifested in the disastrous Kerensky Offensive of July 1917.[24][25] In Petrograd dissatisfaction with the regime culminated in the spontaneous July Days riots, by industrial workers and soldiers.[26] After being suppressed, these riots were blamed by the government on Lenin and the Bolsheviks.[27] Aleksandr Kerensky, Grigory Aleksinsky, and other opponents, also accused the Bolsheviks, especially Lenin – of being Imperial German agents provocateur; on 17 July, Leon Trotsky defended them:[28]

An intolerable atmosphere has been created, in which you, as well as we, are choking. They are throwing dirty accusations at Lenin and Zinoviev. Lenin has fought thirty years for the revolution. I have fought [for] twenty years against the oppression of the people. And we cannot but cherish a hatred for German militarism . . . I have been sentenced by a German court to eight months' imprisonment for my struggle against German militarism. This everybody knows. Let nobody in this hall say that we are hirelings of Germany.[29]

In the event, the Provisional Government arrested the Bolsheviks and outlawed their Party, prompting Lenin to flee to Finland. In exile again, reflecting on the July Days and its aftermath, Lenin determined that, to prevent the triumph of counter-revolutionary forces, the Provisional Government must be overthrown by an armed uprising.[30] Meanwhile, he published State and Revolution (1917) proposing government by soviets (worker-elected councils).[31]

In late August 1917, after the failed coup d– tat of the General Kornilov affair, popular support for the Provisional Government collapsed, whilst support for the Bolshevik Peace, Land, Bread programme increased; jailed Bolsheviks were freed.[32] In October, Lenin returned from Finland, and inspired the October Revolution with the slogan All Power to the Soviets! From the Smolny Institute for girls, Lenin directed the Provisional Government–s deposition (6–8 November 1917), and the storming (7–8 November) of the Winter Palace to realise the Kerensky capitulation that established Bolshevik government in Russia.

Head of government

Lenin working in the Kremlin, 1918.
If Socialism can only be realized when the intellectual development of all the people permits it, then we shall not see Socialism for at least five hundred years.

– Vladimir Lenin, November 1917 [33]

On 8 November 1917, the Russian Congress of Soviets elected the pragmatic Lenin as Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, as such, declaring that "Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the entire country" in modernising Russia into a twentieth-century country:[34]

We must show the peasants that the organisation of industry on the basis of modern, advanced technology, on electrification, which will provide a link between town and country, will put an end to the division between town and country, will make it possible to raise the level of culture in the countryside and to overcome, even in the most remote corners of land, backwardness, ignorance, poverty, disease, and barbarism.[35]

Yet the Bolshevik Government had to first withdraw Russia from the First World War (1914–18). Facing continuing Imperial German eastward advance, Lenin proposed immediate Russian withdrawal from the West European war; yet, other, doctrinaire Bolshevik leaders (e.g. Nikolai Bukharin) advocated continuing in the war to foment revolution in Germany. Lead peace treaty negotiator Leon Trotsky proposed No War, No Peace, an intermediate-stance Russo–German treaty conditional upon neither belligerent annexing conquered lands; the negotiations collapsed, and the Germans renewed their attack, conquering much of the (agricultural) territory of west Russia. Resultantly, Lenin's withdrawal proposal then gained majority support, and, on 3 March 1918, Russia withdrew from the First World War via the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, losing much of its European territory. Because of the German threat Lenin moved the Soviet Government from Petrograd to Moscow on 10–11 March 1918.[36] [37]

On 19 January 1918, relying upon the soviets, the Bolsheviks, allied with anarchists and the Socialist Revolutionaries, dissolved the Russian Constituent Assembly thereby consolidating the Bolshevik Government–s political power. Yet, that left-wing coalition collapsed consequent to the Social Revolutionaries opposing the territorially expensive Brest-Litovsk treaty the Bolsheviks had concorded with Imperial Germany. The anarchists and the Socialist Revolutionaries then joined other political parties in attempting to depose the Bolshevik Government, who defended themselves with persecution and jail for the anti-Bolsheviks.

Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin), drawing by Nikolai Bukharin, 31 March 1927.

To initiate the Russian economic recovery, on 21 February 1920, he launched the GOELRO plan, the State Commission for Electrification of Russia (ññññññ ñññ ¿ ñ»ñññ„ñ ññ), and also established free universal health care and free education systems, and promulgated the politico-civil rights of women.[38] Moreover, since 1918, in re-establishing the economy, for the productive business administration of each industrial enterprise in Russia, Lenin proposed a government-accountable leader for each enterprise. Workers could request measures resolving problems, but had to abide the leader's ultimate decision. Although contrary to workers' self-management, such pragmatic industrial administration was essential for efficient production and employment of worker expertise. Yet Lenin–s doctrinaire Bolshevik opponents argued that such industrial business management was meant to strengthen State control of labour, and that worker self-management failures were owed to lack of resources, not incompetence. Lenin resolved that problem by licencing (for a month) all workers of most factories; thus historian S.A. Smith's observation: "By the end of the civil war, not much was left of the democratic forms of industrial administration promoted by the factory committees in 1917, but the government argued that this did not matter since industry had passed into the ownership of a workers' state."

Internationally, Lenin–s admiration of the Irish socialist revolutionary James Connolly, led to the USSR–s being the first country to grant diplomatic recognition to the Irish Free State that fought the Irish War of Independence from Britain. In the event, Lenin developed a friendship with Connolly's revolutionary son, Roddy Connolly.

Establishing the Cheka

On December 20, 1917, The Whole-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage (Chrezvychaynaya Komissiya), the Cheka (Extraordinary Commission) was created by a decree issued by Lenin to defend the Russian Revolution.[39] The establishment of the Cheka, secret service, headed by Felix Dzerzhinsky, formally consolidated the censorship established earlier, when on "17 November, the Central Executive Committee passed a decree giving the Bolsheviks control over all newsprint and wide powers of closing down newspapers critical of the rgime. . . .";[40] non-Bolshevik soviets were disbanded; anti-soviet newspapers were closed until Pravda (Truth) and Izvestia (The News) established their communications monopoly. According to Leonard Schapiro the Bolshevik "refusal to come to terms with the [Revolutionary] socialists, and the dispersal of the Constituent assembly, led to the logical result that revolutionary terror would now be directed, not only against traditional enemies, such as the bourgeoisie or right-wing opponents, but against anyone, be he socialist, worker, or peasant, who opposed Bolshevik rule".[41] On December 19, 1918, a year after its creation, a resolution was adopted at Lenin's behest that forbade the Bolshevik's own press from publishing "defamatory articles" about the Cheka.[42] As Lenin put it: "A Good Communist is also a good Chekist."[42]

Combating anti-Semitism

Jewish children killed in a 1905 pogrom in Yekaterinoslav (Dnipropetrovsk). Lenin strongly opposed anti-semitism.

Lenin recognised the value of mass communications technologies for educating Russia–s mostly illiterate, heterogeneous populaces; as Bolshevik leader, he recorded eight speeches to gramophone records in 1919, that went unpublished. During the Khrushchev era (1953–64), seven were published, but, significantly, the suppressed eighth speech delineated Lenin–s opposition to anti-Semitism:[43]

The Tsarist police, in alliance with the landowners and the capitalists, organized pogroms against the Jews. The landowners and capitalists tried to divert the hatred of the workers and peasants, who were tortured by want, against the Jews. . . . Only the most ignorant and down-trodden people can believe the lies and slander that are spread about the Jews. . . . It is not the Jews who are the enemies of the working people. The enemies of the workers are the capitalists of all countries. Among the Jews there are working people, and they form the majority. They are our brothers, who, like us, are oppressed by capital; they are our comrades in the struggle for socialism. Among the Jews there are kulaks, exploiters, and capitalists, just as there are among the Russians, and among people of all nations... Rich Jews, like rich Russians, and the rich in all countries, are in alliance to oppress, crush, rob, and disunite the workers... Shame on accursed Tsarism, which tortured and persecuted the Jews. Shame on those who foment hatred towards the Jews, who foment hatred towards other nations.[44]

Failed assassinations

Comrades under fire' Lenin and Fritz Platten, 1919.

First, on 14 January 1918, in Petrograd, after a speech, assassins ambushed Lenin in his automobile; he and Fritz Platten were in the back seat when assassins began shooting, and "Platten grabbed Lenin by the head and pushed him down... Platten's hand was covered in blood, having been grazed by a bullet as he was shielding Lenin".[45]

Second, on 30 August 1918, the Socialist Revolutionary Fanya Kaplan approached Lenin after a speech; at his automobile, whilst he rested a foot upon the running board, in speaking with a woman, Kaplan called to Lenin, and, as he turned to face her in reply, she shot him three times. The first bullet struck an arm, the second bullet struck his jaw and neck, and the third bullet missed him – and wounded the woman with whom he was speaking; the wounds felled him, unconscious.[46] Fearing in-hospital assassins, Lenin was delivered to his Kremlin apartment; physicians decided against removing the bullets – lest the surgery endanger his recovery, which proved slow.

To the public, Pravda ridiculed Fanya Kaplan as a failed assassin, latter-day Charlotte Corday (a murderess of Jean-Paul Marat) who could not derail the Russian Revolution, reassuring readers that, immediately after surviving the assassination: "Lenin, shot through twice, with pierced lungs spilling blood, refuses help and goes on his own. The next morning, still threatened with death, he reads papers, listens, learns, and observes to see that the engine of the locomotive that carries us towards global revolution has not stopped working..."; despite unharmed lungs, the neck wound did spill blood into a lung.[47]

The Russian public remained ignorant of the true physical gravity of the wounded Soviet Head of State; other than panegyric of immortality (viz. the cult of personality), they knew nothing about either the (second) failed assassination, the assassin, Fanya Kaplan, or of Lenin's health. Historian Richard Pipes reports that "the impression one gains . . . is that the Bolsheviks deliberately underplayed the event to convince the public that, whatever happened to Lenin, they were firmly in control". Moreover, in a letter to his wife (7 September 1918), Leonid Borisovich Krasin, a Tsarist and Soviet rgime diplomat, describes the public atmosphere and social response to the failed assassination on 30 August, and Lenin's survival:

As it happens, the attempt to kill Lenin has made him much more popular than he was. One hears a great many people, who are far from having any sympathy with the Bolsheviks, saying that it would be an absolute disaster if Lenin had succumbed to his wounds, as it was first thought he would. And they are quite right, for, in the midst of all this chaos and confusion, he is the backbone of the new body politic, the main support on which everything rests.[48]

From having survived a second assassination originated the cult of personality, that Lenin, per his intellectual origins and pedigree, disliked and discouraged as superstition revived; nevertheless, his health, as a fifty-three-year-old man, declined from the effects of two bullet wounds, later aggravated by three strokes, culminating in his death.[49]

Red Terror

A manifesto saying: "Comrade Lenin Cleanses the Earth of Filth"

In response to Fanya Kaplan's failed assassination of Lenin on 30 August 1918, and the successful assassination of the Petrograd Cheka chief Moisei Uritsky, Stalin to Lenin proposed "open and systematic mass terror . . . [against] . . . those responsible"; the Bolsheviks instructed Felix Dzerzhinsky to commence a Red Terror, announced in the 1 September 1918 issue of the Krasnaya Gazeta (Red Gazette).[50] To that effect, among other acts, at Moscow, execution lists signed by Lenin authorised the shooting of 25 Tsarist ministers, civil servants, and 765 White Guards in September 1918.[51] In his Diaries in Exile, 1935, Leon Trotsky recollected that Lenin authorised the execution of the Russian Royal Family.[52] However, according to Greg King and Penny Wilson's investigation into the fate of the Romanovs, Trotsky's recollections on this matter, seventeen years after the events described, are unsubstantiated, inaccurate and contradicted by what Trotsky himself said on other occasions.[53]

Earlier, in October, Lev Kamenev and cohort, had warned the Party that terrorist rule was inevitable, given Lenin–s assumption of sole command.[54] In late 1918, when he and Nikolai Bukharin tried curbing Chekist excesses, Lenin over-ruled them; in 1921, via the Politburo, he expanded the Cheka's discretionary death-penalty powers.[55][56]

The foreign-aided White Russian counter-revolution failed for want of popular Russian support, because the Bolshevik proletarian state, protected with "mass terror against enemies of the revolution", was socially organised against the previous capitalist establishment, thus class warfare terrorism in post–Tsarist Russia originated in working class (peasant and worker) anger against the privileged aristocrat classes of the deposed absolute monarchy.[57] During the Russian Civil War, anti-Bolsheviks faced torture and summary execution, and by May 1919, there were some 16,000 enemies of the people imprisoned in the Tsarist katorga labour camps; by September 1921 the prisoner populace exceeded 70,000.[58][59][60][61][62][63]

In pursuing their revolution and counter-revolution the White and the Red Russians committed atrocities, against each other and their supporting populaces, yet contemporary historians disagree about equating the terrorisms – because the Red Terror was Bolshevik Government policy (e.g. Decossackization) against given social classes, whilst the class-based White Terror was racial and political, against Jews, anti-monarchists, and Communists, (cf. White Movement).[64][65]

Professor Christopher Read states that though terror was employed at the height of the Civil War fighting, "from 1920 onwards the resort to terror was much reduced and disappeared from Lenin's mainstream discourses and practices".[66] However, after a clerical insurrection in the town of Shuia, in a 19 March 1922 letter to Vyacheslav Molotov and the Politburo, Lenin delineated action against defiers of the decreed Bolshevik removal of Orthodox Church valuables: "We must... put down all resistance with such brutality that they will not forget it for several decades... The greater the number of representatives of the reactionary clergy and reactionary bourgeoisie we succeed in executing... the better."[67] As a result of this letter, historian Orlando Figes estimates that perhaps 8,000 priests and laymen were executed.[68] And the crushing of the revolts in Kronstadt and Tambov in 1921 resulted in tens of thousands of executions.[69]

Civil War

Trotsky, Lenin and Kamenev at the II Party Congress in 1919.

In 1917, as an anti-imperialist, Lenin said that oppressed peoples had the unconditional right to secede from the Russian Empire; however, at end of the Civil War, the USSR annexed Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, because the White Movement used them as attack bases.[70] Lenin pragmatically defended the annexations as geopolitical protection against capitalist imperial depredations.[71]

To maintain the war-isolated cities and the armies fed, and to avoid economic collapse, the Bolshevik government established war communism, via prodrazvyorstka, food requisitioning from the peasantry, for little payment, which peasants resisted with reduced harvests. The Bolsheviks blamed the kulaks' withholding grain to increase profits; but statistics indicate most such business occurred in the black market economy.[72][73] Nonetheless, the prodrazvyorstka resulted in armed confrontations which the Cheka and Red Army suppressed with shooting hostages, poison gas, and labour-camp deportation; yet Lenin increased the requisitioning.[74][75][76]

The six-year long White–Red civil war, the war communism, the famine of 1921, which killed an estimated 5 million, and foreign military intervention reduced much of Russia to ruin, and provoked rebellion against the Bolsheviks, the greatest being the Tambov rebellion (1919–21). After the March 1921 left-wing Kronstadt Rebellion mutiny, Lenin replaced war communism with the New Economic Policy (NEP), and successfully rebuilt industry and agriculture. The NEP was his pragmatic recognition of the political and economic realities, despite being a tactical, ideological retreat from the socialist ideal; later, the doctrinaire Josef Stalin reversed the NEP in consolidating his control of the Communist Party and the USSR.

Lenin and his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, 1919. (detail)

Later life and death

Kamenev and Lenin, at Gorki, south of Moscow, 1922.

The mental strains of leading a revolution, governing, and fighting a civil war aggravated the physical debilitation consequent to the wounds from the attempted assassinations; Lenin still retained a bullet in his neck, until a German surgeon removed it on 24 April 1922.[77] Among his comrades, Lenin was notable for working almost ceaselessly, fourteen to sixteen hours daily, occupied with minor, major, and routine matters. About the man at his life–s end, Volkogonov said:

Lenin was involved in the challenges of delivering fuel into Ivanovo-Vosnesensk... the provision of clothing for miners, he was solving the question of dynamo construction, drafted dozens of routine documents, orders, trade agreements, was engaged in the allocation of rations, edited books and pamphlets at the request of his comrades, held hearings on the applications of peat, assisted in improving the workings at the –Novii Lessner– factory, clarified in correspondence with the engineer P. A. Kozmin the feasibility of using wind turbines for the electrification of villages... all the while serving as an adviser to party functionaries almost continuously.[78]

When already sick, Lenin remembered that, since 1917, he had only rested twice: once, whilst hiding from the Kerensky Provisional Government (when he wrote The State and Revolution), and whilst recovering from Fanya Kaplan–s failed assassination.[79] In March 1922, when physicians examined him, they found evidence of neither nervous nor organic pathology, but, given his fatigue and the headaches he suffered, they prescribed rest. Upon returning to St. Petersburg in May 1922, Lenin suffered the first of three strokes, which left him dumb for weeks, and severely hampered motion in his right side; by June, he had substantially recovered. By August he resumed limited duties, delivering three long speeches in November. In December 1922, he suffered the second stroke that partly paralyzed his right side, he then withdrew from active politics. In March 1923, he suffered the third stroke that rendered him mute and bed-ridden until his death.

During Lenin–s sickness (1922–23), Stalin used this altered photograph as his bona fides claim to leading the CPSU.[80]

After the first stroke, Lenin dictated government papers to Nadezhda; among them was Lenin's Testament (changing the structure of the soviets), partly inspired by the 1922 Georgian Affair (Russian cultural assimilation of constituent USSR republics), and it criticized high-rank Communists, including Josef Stalin, Grigory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, Nikolai Bukharin, and Leon Trotsky. About the Communist Party's General Secretary (since 1922), Josef Stalin, Lenin reported that the "unlimited authority" concentrated in him was unacceptable, and suggested that "comrades think about a way of removing Stalin from that post." His phrasing, "¡ñ» ñ»ñ ññ", implies –personal rudeness, unnecessary roughness, lack of finesse–, flaws "intolerable in a Secretary-General".

At Lenin's death, Nadezhda mailed his testament to the central committee, to be read aloud to the 13th Party Congress in May 1924, however, to remain in power, the ruling troika – Stalin, Kamenev, Zinoviev – suppressed Lenin's Testament; it was not published until 1925, in the United States, by the American intellectual Max Eastman. In that year, Trotsky published an article minimizing the importance of Lenin's Testament, saying that Lenin's notes should not be perceived as a will, that it had been neither concealed, nor violated;[81] yet he did invoke it in later anti-Stalin polemics.[82][83]

Lenin died at 18.50 hrs, Moscow time, on 21 January 1924, aged 53, at his estate in Gorki Leninskiye. In the four days that the Bolshevik Leader Vladimir Ilyich Lenin lay in state, more than 900,000 mourners viewed his body in the Hall of Columns; among the statesmen who expressed condolences to Russia (the USSR) was Chinese premier Sun Yat-sen, who said:

Lenin in 1923.

Through the ages of world history, thousands of leaders and scholars appeared who spoke eloquent words, but these remained words. You, Lenin, were an exception. You not only spoke and taught us, but translated your words into deeds. You created a new country. You showed us the road of joint struggle... You, great man that you are, will live on in the memories of the oppressed people through the centuries.[84]

Winston Churchill, who encouraged British intervention against the Russian Revolution, in league with the White Movement, to destroy the Bolsheviks and Bolshevism, said:

He alone could have found the way back to the causeway... The Russian people were left floundering in the bog. Their worst misfortune was his birth... their next worst his death.[85]

Three days after his death, Petrograd was renamed Leningrad in his honour, so remaining until 1991, when the USSR dissolved, yet the administrative area remains "Leningrad Oblast". In the early 1920s, the Russian cosmism movement proved so popular that Leonid Krasin and Alexander Bogdanov proposed to cryonically preserve Lenin for future resurrection, yet, despite buying the requisite equipment, that was not done.[86] Instead, the body of V. I. Lenin was embalmed and permanently exhibited in the Lenin Mausoleum, in Moscow, on 27 January 1924. Despite the official diagnosis of death from stroke consequences, the Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov reported that Lenin died of neurosyphilis, according to a publication by V.Lerner and colleagues in the European Journal of Neurology in 2004. The authors also note that 'It is possible that future DNA technology applied to preserved Lenin's brain material ultimately could establish or disprove neurosyphilis as the primary cause of Lenin's death'.[87]


Lenin the icon: A 1929 Laz language newspaper featuring Lenin's writing.

Lenin was a prolific political theoretician and philosopher who wrote about the practical aspects of leading a proletarian revolution; he wrote pamphlets, articles, and books, without a stenographer or secretary, until prevented by illness.[88] He simultaneously corresponded with comrades, allies, and friends, in Russia and world-wide. His known writings compose 54, 650-page volumes; the most influential are:

Soviet censorship of Lenin

After his death, the USSR selectively censored Lenin's writings, to establish the dogma of the infallibility of Lenin, Stalin (his successor), and the Central Committee;[89] thus, the Soviet fifth edition (55 vols., 1958–65) of Lenin's Åuvre deleted the Lenin–Stalin contradictions, and all that is unfavourable to the founder of the USSR.[90] Moreover, the historians Richard Pipes and David Brandenberger published a documentary collection of letters and telegrams excluded from the Soviet fifth edition, that is not notably different from the Collected Works, which does not suggest censorship.[91] They proposed them as proof that the Soviet fifth edition is incomplete, an interpretation dependant upon the notion of –Lenin–s Works–, because the Khrushchev-era edition contains documents considered "not for publication".


Communist shrine: The Lenin Mausoleum, Red Square, Moscow.

Since the dissolution of the USSR in late 1991, reverence for Lenin declined among the post-Soviet generations, yet he remains an important historical figure for the Soviet-era generations.[92] Eastern European countries removed most statues of Lenin, yet Russia retains some; however, his historical importance merited the installation of one such statue, from Poprad, Slovakia, in Seattle, Washington, USA, as a kitsch reminder of the Cold War (1945–91). In 1991, a Lenin statue was placed atop the "Red Square" apartment building, at Essex and Houston streets, in New York City. Furthermore, also in 1991, after a contested vote, between Communists and liberals, the Leningrad government reverted the city's name to St. Petersburg, whilst the surrounding Leningrad Oblast remained so named;[93] like-wise the city of Ulyanovsk (V. I. Lenin's birthplace) remains so named. Gyumri in Armenia was named Leninakan from 1924 to 1990, Khujand in Tajikistan Leninabad from 1936 to 1991.

In popular culture

He was portrayed by Michael Bryant in the 1971 film Nicholas and Alexandra.

See also



  1. ^ ñññ„ ññ - . . ¡ñ»: ¿»ñññ ¿ññññ. (Triumph and Tragedy - I. V. Stalin : A Political Portrait) ññ » (Dmitriy Volkogonov). Book 1, Part 1, PP. 95 - 114. ññ Publications. Moscow. 1989.
  2. ^ Read, Christopher, Lenin (2005) Abingdon: Routledge p. 4.
  3. ^ a b Hill, Christopher, Lenin and the Russian Revolution (1971) Penguin Books:London p. 35.
  4. ^ Volkogonov, Dmitri (1994). Lenin– A New Biography. Free Press. p. 8. ISBN 0-02-933435-7. 
  5. ^ Christopher Read (2005) Lenin: 16
  6. ^ Hill, Christopher, Lenin and the Russian Revolution (1971) Penguin Books:London p. 36.
  7. ^ Service, Robert. Lenin: A Biography. London: Pan. ISBN 0-330-49139-3. 
  8. ^ Read, Christopher Lenin (2005) p. 18.
  9. ^ Danilov, Eugene (Moscow, 2007). Lenin: Secrets of Life and Death. Zebra E. p. 181. ISBN 978-5-17-043866-2. 
  10. ^ J. Brooks and G. Chernyavskiy (2007) Lenin and the Making of the Soviet State. Bedford/St Martin's: Boston and New York
  11. ^ a b Lenin, V.I. (Written in 1896–1899; First printed in book form in March 1899; Published according to the text of the second edition, 1908). "The Development of Capitalism in Russia: The Process of the Formation of a Home Market for Large-Scale Industry". http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1899/devel/index.htm. Retrieved 16 March 2007. 
  12. ^ a b Read, Christopher, Lenin (2005) p. 81.
  13. ^ http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/commandingheights/shared/minitextlo/ess_leninscritique.html
  14. ^ Read, Christopher, Lenin (2005) p. 86.
  15. ^ Harding, Neil, Lenin's Political Thought (1986), p. 250.
  16. ^ Clar, Ronald W. Lenin: the Man Behind the Mask (1988) p. 154.
  17. ^ Read, Christopher, Lenin (2005) pp. 132–4.
  18. ^ Paul Bowles (2007) Capitalism. Pearson: Harlow: 93
  19. ^ Lenin, V. I., Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (2000) New Delhi: LeftWord Books p. 34
  20. ^ Christopher Read (2005) Lenin. London: Routledge: 116-26
  21. ^ Christopher Read (2005) Lenin. London: Routledge: 144
  22. ^ Moorehead, Alan, The Russian Revolution (1958) New York: Harper, pp. 183–87.
  23. ^ "April Theses". http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/apr/04.htm. 
  24. ^ Read, Christopher (1996). From Czar to Soviets: The Russian People and Their Revolution, 1917–21. Oxford University Press. pp. 151–153. ISBN 0-19-521241-X. 
  25. ^ Read, Christopher, Lenin (2005): 157-60
  26. ^ Read, Christopher, Lenin (2005): 158-61
  27. ^ Read, Christopher, Lenin (2005): 160-1
  28. ^ (Russian) Biography of Grigory Aleksinsky at Hrono.ru
  29. ^ Trotsky, Leon. "The Month of The Great Slander". The History of the Russian Revolution; Volume 2,Chapter 27. http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/works/1930-hrr/ch27.htm. 
  30. ^ Read, Christopher, Lenin (2005): 162-3
  31. ^ Lenin, Vladimir (1917). "The State and Revolution". http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/staterev/index.htm. 
  32. ^ Read, Christopher, Lenin (2005) p. 174.
  33. ^ Ten Days That Shook the World, by John Reed, 2007, ISBN 1420930257, pg 165
  34. ^ Lenin "Collected Works", vol. 31, p. 516.
  35. ^ Lenin "Collected Works", vol. 30, p. 335.
  36. ^ Christopher Read (2005) Lenin. London: Routledge: 212
  37. ^ LENINE–S MIGRATION A QUEER SCENE, The New York Times, 16 March 1918
  38. ^ "Archive of Lenin's works". http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/subject/women/index.htm. 
  39. ^ The Impact of Stalin's Leadership in the USSR,1924-1941. Nelson Thornes. 2008. pp. 3. ISBN 978-0-7487-8267-3. 
  40. ^ Leonard Shapiro, The Communist Party of the Soviet Union
  41. ^ Leonard Bertram Schapiro. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1970. ISBN 0413279006 p.183. See also: Lenin and the First Communist Revolutions, V
  42. ^ a b Black Book of Communism, p. 79
  43. ^ Clark, Ronald Clark, Lenin: The Man Behind the Mask (1988) p. 456
  44. ^ Lenin, Vladimir (1919). "Anti-Jewish Pogroms". Speeches On Gramophone Records. http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1919/mar/x10.htm. 
  45. ^ Volkogonov, Dimitri. Lenin– A New Biography. New York: Free Press. p. 229. ISBN 0-02-933435-7. 
  46. ^ Pipes, Richard, The Russian Revolution (Vintage Books, 1990) p.807
  47. ^ Dr. V. Bonch-Bruevich, Lenin's attending physician, Tri Pokusheniia na V. Lenina, 1924.
  48. ^ Krassin, Lubov, Leonid Krassin: His Life and Work, by his wife (1929) Skeffington: London
  49. ^ Clark, Ronald, Lenin: The Man Behind the Mask (1988) p. 373
  50. ^ Red Terror
  51. ^ Gellately, Robert (2007). Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe. Knopf. pp. 57. ISBN 1400040051. 
  52. ^ Trotskii, Dnevniki i pis'ma, 100-1, cited in Figes, Orlando (1997). A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891–1924. Penguin Books. p. 638. ISBN 0198228627. 
  53. ^ Greg King and Penny Wilson (2003) The Fate of the Romanovs. Hoboken, Wiley: 294
  54. ^ Orlando Figes. A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891–1924. Penguin Books, 1997 ISBN 0198228627 p. 630
  55. ^ Figes, Orlando (1998). A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution: 1891–1924. Penguin. pp. 649. ISBN 0-14-024364-X. 
  56. ^ Volkogonov, Dimitri. Lenin– A New Biography. New York: Free Press. p. 238. ISBN 0-02-933435-7. 
  57. ^ Figes, Orlando (1998). A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution: 1891–1924. Penguin. pp. 524–25. ISBN 0-14-024364-X. 
  58. ^ Robert Gellately. Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe. Knopf, 2007 ISBN 1400040051 p. 65
  59. ^ Melgunov, Sergei, Red Terror in Russia (1975) Hyperion Pr, ISBN 0-88355-187-X. See: The Record of the Red Terror
  60. ^ Lincoln, W. Bruce, Red Victory: A History of the Russian Civil War (1999) Da Capo Press.pp. 383-385 ISBN 0-306-80909-5
  61. ^ Leggett, George (1987). The Cheka: Lenin's Political Police. Oxford University Press. pp. 197–198. ISBN 0198228627. 
  62. ^ Orlando Figes. A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891–1924. Penguin Books, 1997 ISBN 0198228627 p. 647
  63. ^ Black Book of Communism, p. 80
  64. ^ "Twentieth Century Atlas– Death Tolls". http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat1.htm#Russian. 
  65. ^ Black Book of Communism, p. 82
  66. ^ Christopher Read (2005) Lenin. London: Routledge: 251
  67. ^ Pipes, Richard (1996). The Unknown Lenin: From the Secret Archive. Yale University Press. pp. 152–154. ISBN 0-300-06919-7. 
  68. ^ Figes, Orlando (27 October 1996). "Censored by His Own Regime". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C04E1DB1230F934A15753C1A960958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=2. 
  69. ^ Donald Rayfield. Stalin and His Hangmen: The Tyrant and Those Who Killed for Him. Random House, 2004. ISBN 0375506322 p. 85
  70. ^ Pipes, Richard (1994). Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime. Vintage. pp. 141–166. ISBN 0679761845. 
  71. ^ Lenin, Vladimir (1915). "The Revolutionary Proletariat and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination". http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1915/oct/16.htm. 
  72. ^ "An exchange of letters on the BBC documentary Lenin's Secret Files". World Socialist Web Site. 6 March 1998. http://wsws.org/correspo/1998/mar1998/leni-m06.shtml. Retrieved 16 March 2007. 
  73. ^ Carr, E.H. (1966). The Bolshevik Revolution 1917–1923, Part 2. pp. 233.  Chase, W.J. (1987). Workers, Society and the Soviet State: Labour and Life in Moscow 1918–1929. pp. 26–27.  Nove, A. (1982). An Economic History of the USSR. pp. 62.  "Flewers, Paul, War Communism in Retrospect". http://www.whatnextjournal.co.uk/Pages/Back/Wnext5/Warcomm.html. 
  74. ^ Black Book of Communism pp. 92–97, 116–121.
  75. ^ "Twentieth Century Atlas– Death Tolls". http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat1.htm#Russian. 
  76. ^ "Lenin and the First Communist Revolutions, VII". http://www.gmu.edu/departments/economics/bcaplan/museum/his1g.htm. 
  77. ^ New York Times
  78. ^ ñññ„ ññ - . . ¡ñ»: ¿»ñññ ¿ññññ. (Triumph and Tragedy - I. V. Stalin : A Political Portrait) ññ » (Dmitriy Volkogonov). Book 1, Part 1, PP. 114. ññ Publications. Moscow. 1989.
  79. ^ ñññ„ ññ - . . ¡ñ»: ¿»ñññ ¿ññññ. (Triumph and Tragedy - I. V. Stalin : A Political Portrait) ññ » (Dmitriy Volkogonov). Book 1, Part 1, PP. 111. ññ Publications. Moscow. 1989.
  80. ^ Gilbert, Felix and Large, David Clay, The End of the European Era: 1890 to the Present, 6th edition, p. 213.
  81. ^ Trotsky, L.D., "Concerning Eastman's Book Since Lenin Died", Bolshevik 16; 1 September 1925; p. 68. Concerning Eastman's Book Since Lenin Died minimizing its significance. "In several parts of his book, Eastman says that the Central Committee concealed from the Party a number of exceptionally important documents written by Lenin in the last period of his life (it is a matter of letters on the national question, the so-called 'will', and others); there can be no other name for this, than slander against the Central Committee of our Party. . . . Vladimir Ilyich did not leave any 'will', and the very character of his attitude towards the Party, as well as the character of the Party, itself, precluded any possibility of such a 'will'. What is usually referred to as a 'will' in the migr and foreign bourgeois and Menshevik press (in a manner garbled beyond recognition) is one of Vladimir Ilyich's letters containing advice on organisational matters. The 13th Congress of the Party paid the closest attention to that letter, as to all of the others, and drew from it the conclusions appropriate to the conditions and circumstances of the time. All talk about concealing or violating a 'will' is a malicious invention."
  82. ^ Trotsky, Leon. My Life (1930) The Marxists Internet Archive
  83. ^ Trotsky, Leon (1932). On the Suppressed Testament of Lenin. The Marxists Internet Archive. http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1932/12/lenin.htm. Retrieved 16 March 2007. 
  84. ^ Gorin, Vadim, Lenin: A Biography (1983) Progress Publishers, pp.469-70
  85. ^ Mauchline Roberts, Elizabeth, Lenin and the Downfall of Tsarist Russia (1966) p. 92.
  86. ^ See the article: .. .. ñ –«žññ ññ ññ–», in the book ñ .. ž ññññ ñññ ñ»ññññ. St. Petersburg: Azbuka, 2003. p. 433.
  87. ^ {V.Lerner, Y.Finkelstein and E.Witztum: The enigma of Lenin's (1870-1924) malady. European Journal of Neurology, 2004, 11: 371-376}
  88. ^ ñññ„ ññ - . . ¡ñ»: ¿»ñññ ¿ññññ. (Triumph and Tragedy - I. V. Stalin : A Political Portrait) ññ » (Dmitri Volkogonov). Book 1, Part 1, PP. 110. ññ Publications. Moscow. 1989.
  89. ^ Trotsky, Leon (1930). Volume Three: The Triumph of the Soviets; Appendix No. 1. 
  90. ^ Figes, Orlando (27 October 1996). "Censored by His Own Regime". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C04E1DB1230F934A15753C1A960958260. 
  91. ^ R Pipes & D Branderberger The Unknown Lenin Yale 1996
  92. ^ Pipes, Richard (May/June 2004). "Flight From Freedom: What Russians Think and Want". Foreign Affairs. http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20040501facomment83302-p20/richard-pipes/flight-from-freedom-what-russians-think-and-want.html. 
  93. ^ Maryland Government, St Petersburg/Leningrad Oblast

Further reading

External links

Selected works

Political offices
Preceded by
Chairman of the RSFSR Council of People's Commissars
Succeeded by
Alexey Rykov
Preceded by
Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR
Military offices
Preceded by
Chairman of the Council of Labour and Defence
1918 – 1920
Succeeded by
as Chair of the Sovnarkom

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