Vladimir Ilyich Lenin:
A Colossal and Obsessed Revolutionary figure of History
When it comes to recollecting the names of some profound and influential political figures in the history of Russia and of the world, one name that invariably tops the list is Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. So much has been heard and said about this man,
yet so much still remains untold. His zeal and his undying spirit made him what he is today. This 20th century revolutionary leader and thinker is the greatest since Marx and with reasons manifold.
The founder of the Russian Communist Party and head of the Bolshevik Revolution, Lenin was a true champion of the people’s welfare and rights. Though one cannot deny the fact that many consider him a highly controversial figure, yet he is simultaneously a man who deserves a lot of accolade for his relentless contribution to the world.
His Childhood Days
Coming from a family of serf background Ilya Nikolayevich Ulyanov, Lenin’s father was a student of maths and physics from Kazan State University. Lenin’s mother was Maria Alexandrovna Blank, the daughter of a Russian Jewish doctor. The couple was blessed with six children, Anna born in 1864, Alexander in 1868, Valdimir Volodya Ilyich in 1870, Olga in 1871, Dmitry in 1874 and Maria in 1878. The couple had another child Nikolai who unfortunately died in infancy. Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov as he was named was the third of the six children and was born in the Simbirsk town of Russia on 22 April 1870. As a child Lenin was baptized in the tradition of the Russian Orthodox.
Lenin grew up in a family of diverse cultures and nationalities. He was particularly close to his sister Olga and was much enthusiastic about sports. When Vladimir was just 16 years of age, his father Ilya Ulyanov expired due to brain haemorrhage and the very next year his elder brother Aleksandr Ulyanov was sentenced to death and executed for being a part of Tsar Alexander’s assassination plot. In the midst of these emotional traumas Vladimir pursued his studies, and came out of school with flying colors, winning a gold medal for his outstanding performance. He decided to continue his study, taking up law at the Kazan University.
His University Days and His Stint as a Revolutionary
Lenin stepped into Kazan University in the year 1887 and influenced by brother’s revolutionary ways and radical ideas he involved himself in student demonstrations. This cut short his university years as he was expelled for his radical policies. He however; continued his studies and completed law as an external student of the University of St. Petersburg, earning his degree in the year 1891.
By this time Lenin had already rooted himself in writings of Karl Marx, and in a number of other radical literatures like the novel “What is to be done?” by Nikolai Chernyshevsky. These books deeply influenced him and he showed immense interest in Marxism. He started his law practice in Samara after moving into the city. He lived in Samara for a couple of years and devoted his time and energy to radical politics/groups and to writing several articles.
Between the years 1893 and 1902, Lenin devoted himself to gain an insight into the problems of revolutionary change and engaged himself in open criticism. His next move was to St Petersburg and by then he became a professional revolutionary. He made connection with other people interested in Marxism. His involvement in radical politics, his creation of St. Petersburg Union for the Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class and development of various ideas from Marxist perspective did not go unnoticed. Lenin along with several other Marxist followers was arrested.
After spending some months in jail, in February 1897 he was finally sentenced to three years of exile in a remote province of Siberia. He was joined by his close colleague and Marxist devotee Nadezhda Krupskaya in Shushenskoye whom he later got married to. During his exile he seeped himself in the study of the Russsian economic development and finished “The Development of Capitalism in Russia” his longest book till date.
Post the Siberian Exile
It was after this Siberian exile that he adopted the pseudonym “Lenin” in 1901. Soon after his exile, he shifted to Pskov. Collaborating with George Plekhanov and several others, Lenin took control of the newspaper ‘Iskra’ (The Spark) with a view to spark the revolutionary movement and to bring together the Russian and European Marxists.
Lenin also started work on his next major piece, a political pamphlet “What is to be Done?” and published it under his pseudonym in the year 1902. Another striking endeavor of Lenin during this phase constitutes the organization of the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP) during the summer of 1903. His motive was to put forth a party vanguard to head the revolution.
Post 1903, Lenin was seen struggling to establish his party vanguard and became a prominent figure owing to his relentless support and intense dedication to the revolution. He fought for a more efficient party leadership that would head a number of lower party groups. As stated by him “Give us an organization of revolutionaries, and we will overturn Russia!”
After the second Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, there surfaced major differences and conflicts regarding the party’s organization and nature leading to the split of the Russian Marxism into Bolsheviks led by Lenin and Mensheviks created by Julius Martov. There continued constant disagreement over various political issues with one party accusing the other in the days that followed the conference. The Bolshevik grew in number and strength, Lenin resigned from ‘Iskra’ and Bolshevik founded the newspaper Vpered (Forward).
Revolution of 1905
1905 saw an uprising in Russia termed as the Revolution of 1905. There was widespread revolt all around against the Russian czar’s government. Lenin could hardly make any impact in the revolution and failed to garner the much needed support from the trade union movement. However, till the last moment he did not give up and continued to persuade his followers to revive their revolutionary zeal and activities.
In the years that followed, Bolsheviks slowly surfaced as an independent party aloof from other Russian Marxists. There were long standing arguments against Mensheviks and against others, who endeavored to reconnect the faction. There were fights and protests all around yet the split between the two schools could not be restored. During the World War I, Lenin was sent to exile and he was residing in Switzerland. Given his unrelenting nature, his mind never wavered away from the revolutionary politics. It was during this period that he penned down Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916) and had it published. It bore a significant message for the future leader. Lenin voraciously read the works of Friedrich Hegel, Georg Wilhelm, Aristotle, and Ludwig Feuerbach. All of these had a major influence on Marx. The knowledge he garnered from their works made him do away with his earlier views of Marxism.
The 1917 Revolution and the aftermath
When the Russians finally overthrew the tsars, Lenin returned home and condemned the newly created Provisional Government. He demanded that a Soviet Government be created in its place that would comprise of peasants, soldiers, and workers. He eventually went on to lead what is today termed as the October Revolution. It was successfully a coup d’etat.
There ensued three years of civil war. Lenin created a Red Army to battle against the White Army led by the tsarist generals and admirals and helped by World War I allies. He founded the Red Terror, a campaign to eradicate and crushed any opposition within the population. Despite the strong opposition, Lenin emerged triumphant.
By this time the economy of Russia was in shambles and peasants and workers were highly dissatisfied. The New Economic Policy was introduced by Lenin when he realized that the Russian economy could not be altered into a socialist model despite his hard work. According to the New Economic Policy, workers were permitted to sell their grains and products in the open market. This policy continued to exist even after his death.
The Assassination Attempt and His Later Years
A nerve-wracking incident, a major turning point in Lenin’s life was when he survived two severe assassination attempts. The first attempt was on 14 January 1918 in Petrograd and the second incident took place on 30 August 1918. In the second failed attempt Lenin was shot two bullets, one on his arm and the other on his jaw and neck leaving him seriously injured.
In May of 1922, Lenin suffered a stroke followed by a second one in December of the same year. Though he did substantially recover from the first stroke, the second stroke left him partially paralyzed on his right side and he had to withdraw from politics. He suffered another blow, a third stroke in March 1923 that left Lenin mute and bed-ridden till his death. The third stroke put an end to his career and to his political activities. He passed away on 21 January 1924 at the age of 53 in a village, Gorki Leninskiye. His body was embalmed and displayed in a mausoleum on Moscow’s Red Square.
Throughout his life, Lenin remained devoted to the one girl with whom he was in a relationship with in his adult life and whom he later married – Nadezhda Krupskaya a fellow Marxist. The couple was sad as they could never have any children.
His personality traits can be best put down in the words of philosopher Bertrand Russell who once said that Lenin was “very friendly, and apparently simple, entirely without a trace of hauteur… I have never met a personage so destitute of self-importance.”
Some of his noted works are:
The April Theses, Materialism, and Empirio-criticism, The State and Revolution, The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, What Is to Be Done?, and others.
|Born As||Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov|
|Date of Birth||22end April 1870|
|Place of Birth||Simbirsk, Russian Empire|
|Died||21 January 1924 (aged 53) Gorki, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union|
|Resting Place||Lenin’s Mausoleum, Moscow, Russian Federation|
|Political Party||Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, Bolsheviks|
|Married to||Nadezhda Krupskaya (1898 -1924)|
|Mother||Maria Alexandrovna Blank|
|Father||Ilya Nikolayevich Ulyanov|
|Siblings||Six brothers and sisters|
|Education||Kazan University, University of St. Petersburg|
|Also known by names as||Lenin, Frei, Petrov, Karpov, Tulin, Mueller, Nikolai, V.I. Lenin, Peterburzhets, Ilyin, Starik.|
|Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Soviet Union (Premier of the Soviet Union)||In Office from:
30 December 1922- 21 January 1924
|Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Russian SFSR||In Office from:8 November 1917 – 21 January 1924|
|Member of the 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th Politburo||In Office from:8 March 1919 – 21 January 1924|