Vladimir Lenin

Vladimir Lenin
Владимир Ленин
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-71043-0003, Wladimir Iljitsch Lenin.jpg
Lenin in July 1920. Photo by Pavel Zhukov.
Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars of the Soviet Union
In office
30 December 1922 – 21 January 1924
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byAlexei Rykov
Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars of the Russian SFSR
In office
8 November 1917 – 21 January 1924
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byAlexei Rykov
Personal details
Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov

(1870-04-22)22 April 1870
Simbirsk, Russian Empire
Died21 January 1924(1924-01-21) (aged 53)
Gorki, Moscow Governorate, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Resting placeLenin's Mausoleum, Moscow, Russian Federation
Political party
Other political
League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class (1895–1898)
Nadezhda Krupskaya (m. 1898–1924)
Alma materSaint Petersburg Imperial University

Leader of the Soviet Union

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov[a] (22 April 1870[1] – 21 January 1924), better known by the alias Lenin,[b] was a Russian revolutionary, politician, and political theorist. He served as head of government of Soviet Russia from 1917 to 1924 and of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1924. Under his administration, Russia and then the wider Soviet Union became a one-party communist state governed by the Russian Communist Party. Ideologically a Marxist and communist, he developed political theories known as Leninism.

Born to a moderately prosperous middle-class family in Simbirsk, Lenin embraced revolutionary socialist politics following his brother's 1887 execution. Expelled from Kazan Imperial University for participating in protests against the Russian Empire's Tsarist government, he devoted the following years to a law degree. He moved to Saint Petersburg in 1893 and became a senior Marxist activist. In 1897, he was arrested for sedition and exiled to Shushenskoye for three years, where he married Nadezhda Krupskaya. After his exile, he moved to Western Europe, where he became a prominent theorist in the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP). In 1903, he took a key role in a RSDLP ideological split, leading the Bolshevik faction against Julius Martov's Mensheviks. Encouraging insurrection during Russia's failed Revolution of 1905, he later campaigned for the First World War to be transformed into a Europe-wide proletarian revolution, which as a Marxist he believed would cause the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement with socialism. After the 1917 February Revolution ousted the Tsar and established a Provisional Government, he returned to Russia to play a leading role in the October Revolution, in which the Bolsheviks overthrew the new regime.

Lenin's Bolshevik government initially shared power with the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, elected soviets, and a multi-party Constituent Assembly, although by 1918 it had centralised power in the new Communist Party. Lenin's administration redistributed land among the peasantry and nationalised banks and large-scale industry. It withdrew from the First World War by signing a treaty with the Central Powers and promoted world revolution through the Communist International. Opponents were suppressed in the Red Terror, a violent campaign administered by the state security services; tens of thousands were killed or interned in concentration camps. His administration defeated right and left-wing anti-Bolshevik armies in the Russian Civil War from 1917 to 1922 and oversaw the Polish–Soviet War of 1919–1921. Responding to wartime devastation, famine, and popular uprisings, in 1921 Lenin encouraged economic growth through the market-oriented New Economic Policy. Several non-Russian nations secured independence after 1917, but three re-united with Russia through the formation of the Soviet Union in 1922. In increasingly poor health, Lenin died at his dacha in Gorki, with Joseph Stalin succeeding him as the pre-eminent figure in the Soviet government.

Widely considered one of the most significant and influential figures of the 20th century, Lenin was the posthumous subject of a pervasive personality cult within the Soviet Union until its dissolution in 1991. He became an ideological figurehead behind Marxism–Leninism and thus a prominent influence over the international communist movement. A controversial and highly divisive individual, Lenin is viewed by supporters as a champion of socialism and the working class, while critics on both the left and right emphasize his role as founder and leader of an authoritarian regime responsible for political repression and mass killings.

Early life

Childhood: 1870–1887

Lenin's childhood home in Simbirsk

Lenin's father, Ilya Nikolayevich Ulyanov, was from a family of serfs; his ethnic origins remain unclear, with suggestions being made that he was Russian, Chuvash, Mordvin, or Kalmyk.[3] Despite this lower-class background he had risen to middle-class status, studying physics and mathematics at Kazan Imperial University before teaching at the Penza Institute for the Nobility.[4] Ilya married Maria Alexandrovna Blank in mid-1863.[5] Well educated and from a relatively prosperous background, she was the daughter of a wealthy GermanSwedish Lutheran mother, and a Russian Jewish father who had converted to Christianity and worked as a physician.[6] It is likely that Lenin was unaware of his mother's half-Jewish ancestry, which was only discovered by his sister Anna after his death.[7] Soon after their wedding, Ilya obtained a job in Nizhny Novgorod, rising to become Director of Primary Schools in the Simbirsk district six years later. Five years after that, he was promoted to Director of Public Schools for the province, overseeing the foundation of over 450 schools as a part of the government's plans for modernisation. His dedication to education earned him the Order of St. Vladimir, which bestowed on him the status of hereditary nobleman.[8]

An image of Lenin at the age of three

Lenin was born in Simbirsk on 22 April 1870[1] and baptised six days later;[9] as a child he was known as "Volodya", a dimunitive of Vladimir.[10] He was one of eight children, having two older siblings, Anna (born 1864) and Alexander (born 1866). They were followed by three more children, Olga (born 1871), Dmitry (born 1874), and Maria (born 1878). Two later siblings died in infancy.[11] Ilya was a devout member of the Russian Orthodox Church and baptised his children into it, although Maria—a Lutheran by upbringing—was largely indifferent to Christianity, a view that influenced her children.[12]

Both parents were monarchists and liberal conservatives, being committed to the emancipation reform of 1861 introduced by the reformist Tsar Alexander II; they avoided political radicals and there is no evidence that the police ever put them under surveillance for subversive thought.[13] Every summer they holidayed at a rural manor in Kokushkino.[14] Among his siblings, Lenin was closest to his sister Olga, whom he often bossed around; he had an extremely competitive nature and could be destructive, but usually admitted his misbehaviour.[15] A keen sportsman, he spent much of his free time outdoors or playing chess, and excelled at school, the disciplinarian and conservative Simbirsk Classical Gimnazia.[16]

In January 1886, when Lenin was 15, his father died of a brain haemorrhage.[17] Subsequently, his behaviour became erratic and confrontational and he renounced his belief in God.[18] At the time, Lenin's elder brother Alexander—whom he affectionately knew as Sasha—was studying at Saint Petersburg University. Involved in political agitation against the absolute monarchy of the reactionary Tsar Alexander III, Alexander Ulyanov studied the writings of banned leftists and organised anti-government protests. He joined a revolutionary cell bent on assassinating the Tsar and was selected to construct a bomb. Before the attack could take place the conspirators were arrested and tried, and in May, Alexander was executed by hanging.[19] Despite the emotional trauma of his father's and brother's deaths, Lenin continued studying, graduated from school at the top of his class with a gold medal for exceptional performance, and decided to study law at Kazan University.[20]

University and political radicalisation: 1887–1893

Upon entering Kazan University in August 1887, Lenin moved into a nearby flat.[21] There, he joined a zemlyachestvo, a form of university society that represented the men of a particular region.[22] This group elected him as its representative to the university's zemlyachestvo council, and in December, he took part in a demonstration against government restrictions that banned student societies. The police arrested Lenin and accused him of being a ringleader in the demonstration; he was expelled from the university, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs exiled him to his family's Kokushkino estate.[23] There, he read voraciously, becoming enamoured with Nikolay Chernyshevsky's 1863 pro-revolutionary novel What Is To Be Done?.[24]

Lenin's mother was concerned by her son's radicalisation, and was instrumental in convincing the Interior Ministry to allow him to return to the city of Kazan, but not the university.[25] On his return, he joined Nikolai Fedoseev's revolutionary circle, through which he discovered Karl Marx's 1867 book Capital. This sparked his interest in Marxism, a socio-political theory that argued that society developed in stages, that this development resulted from class struggle, and that capitalist society would ultimately give way to socialist society and then communist society.[26] Wary of his political views, Lenin's mother bought a country estate in Alakaevka village, Samara Oblast, in the hope that her son would turn his attention to agriculture. He had little interest in farm management, and his mother soon sold the land, keeping the house as a summer home.[27]

Lenin came under the influence of Karl Marx.

In September 1889, the Ulyanov family moved to the city of Samara, where Lenin joined Alexei Sklyarenko's socialist discussion circle.[28] There, Lenin fully embraced Marxism and produced a Russian language translation of Marx and Friedrich Engels's 1848 political pamphlet, The Communist Manifesto.[29] He began to read the works of the Russian Marxist Georgi Plekhanov, agreeing with Plekhanov's argument that Russia was moving from feudalism to capitalism and so socialism would be implemented by the proletariat, or urban working class, rather than the peasantry.[30] This Marxist perspective contrasted with the view of the agrarian-socialist Narodnik movement, which held that the peasantry could establish socialism in Russia by forming peasant communes, thereby bypassing capitalism. This Narodnik view developed in the 1860s with the People's Freedom Party and was then dominant within the Russian revolutionary movement.[31] Lenin rejected the premise of the agrarian-socialist argument, but was influenced by agrarian-socialists like Pyotr Tkachev and Sergei Nechaev, and befriended several Narodniks.[32]

In May 1890, Maria—who retained societal influence as the widow of a nobleman—persuaded the authorities to allow Lenin to take his exams externally at the University of St Petersburg, where he obtained the equivalent of a first-class degree with honours. The graduation celebrations were marred when his sister Olga died of typhoid.[33] Lenin remained in Samara for several years, working first as a legal assistant for a regional court and then for a local lawyer.[34] He devoted much time to radical politics, remaining active in Sklyarenko's group and formulating ideas about how Marxism applied to Russia. Inspired by Plekhanov's work, Lenin collected data on Russian society, using it to support a Marxist interpretation of societal development and counter the claims of the Narodniks.[35] He wrote a paper on peasant economics; it was rejected by the liberal journal Russian Thought.[36]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Wladimir Lenin
Ænglisc: Fladimir Lenin
aragonés: Lenin
asturianu: Lenin
Aymar aru: Lenin
azərbaycanca: Vladimir Lenin
Bân-lâm-gú: Lenin
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Уладзімер Ленін
Bikol Central: Vladimir Lenin
български: Владимир Ленин
Boarisch: Lenin
བོད་ཡིག: ལེ་ཉིན།
bosanski: Vladimir Lenjin
brezhoneg: Vladimir Lenin
català: Lenin
Chavacano de Zamboanga: Vladimir Lenin
corsu: Lenin
dolnoserbski: Wladimir Iljič Lenin
डोटेली: लेनिन
emiliàn e rumagnòl: Vladimir Il'ič Lenin
español: Lenin
Esperanto: Lenin
estremeñu: Vladimir Lenin
Fiji Hindi: Vladimir Lenin
føroyskt: Vladimir Lenin
Gàidhlig: Vladimir Lenin
galego: Lenin
贛語: 列寧
𐌲𐌿𐍄𐌹𐍃𐌺: 𐌻𐌴𐌽𐌴𐌹𐌽
गोंयची कोंकणी / Gõychi Konknni: V.Lenin
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Vladimir Lenin
hornjoserbsce: Wladimir Iljič Lenin
বিষ্ণুপ্রিয়া মণিপুরী: লেনিন
Bahasa Indonesia: Vladimir Lenin
interlingua: Vladimir Lenin
ᐃᓄᒃᑎᑐᑦ/inuktitut: ᐆᓛᑏᒫ ᓖᓃᓐ
Ирон: Ленин
italiano: Lenin
Basa Jawa: Vladimir Lenin
Kabɩyɛ: Vladimir Lenin
कॉशुर / کٲشُر: ولادِیمِیر لینٖن
kernowek: Vladimir Lenin
Kiswahili: Vladimir Lenin
Kreyòl ayisyen: Lenine
kurdî: Lenîn
Кыргызча: Владимир Ленин
Ladino: Lenin
Lëtzebuergesch: Wladimir Iljitsch Lenin
lietuvių: Leninas
Limburgs: Lenin
Lingua Franca Nova: Vladimir Lenin
la .lojban.: lenin
मैथिली: लेनिन
Malagasy: Vladimir Lenin
Malti: Lenin
მარგალური: ვლადიმერ ლენინი
مصرى: لينين
مازِرونی: لنین
Bahasa Melayu: Vladimir Lenin
Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄: Vladimir Lenin
Mirandés: Lenin
မြန်မာဘာသာ: လီနင်
Nederlands: Vladimir Lenin
नेपाल भाषा: भ्लादिमिर लेनिन
norsk nynorsk: Vladimir Lenin
Nouormand: Léninne
occitan: Lenin
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Vladimir Lenin
Papiamentu: Vladimir Lenin
Piemontèis: Lenin
Plattdüütsch: Vladimir Il'ič Ul'janov
português: Lenin
Qaraqalpaqsha: Vladimir Lenin
qırımtatarca: Vladimir Lenin
Runa Simi: Lenin
русиньскый: Володимир Ленін
संस्कृतम्: व्लाडिमिर लेनिन
sicilianu: Vladimir Lenin
Simple English: Vladimir Lenin
ślůnski: Władimir Leńin
Soomaaliga: Faladimir Lenin
српски / srpski: Владимир Лењин
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Vladimir Lenjin
татарча/tatarça: Владимир Ленин
తెలుగు: లెనిన్
Türkçe: Vladimir Lenin
Vahcuengh: Vladimir Lenin
vepsän kel’: Lenin Vladimir
Tiếng Việt: Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
文言: 列寧
吴语: 列寧
Yorùbá: Vladimir Lenin
粵語: 列寧
žemaitėška: Lenėns