Vladimir (Nikolai) Lenin
Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2005


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A lie told often enough becomes the truth.

All our lives we fought against exalting the individual, against the elevation of the single person, and long ago we were over and done with the business of a hero, and here it comes up again: the glorification of one personality. This is not good at all. I am just like everybody else.

Capitalists are no more capable of self-sacrifice than a man is capable of lifting himself up by his own bootstraps.

Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country.

Democracy is indispensable to socialism.

Despair is typical of those who do not understand the causes of evil, see no way out, and are incapable of struggle. The modern industrial proletariat does not belong to the category of such classes.

Fascism is capitalism in decay.

Freedom in capitalist society always remains about the same as it was in ancient Greek republics: Freedom for slave owners.

Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.

It is impossible to predict the time and progress of revolution. It is governed by its own more or less mysterious laws.

It is true that liberty is precious; so precious that it must be carefully rationed.

One man with a gun can control 100 without one.

The goal of socialism is communism.

The history of all countries shows that the working class exclusively by its own effort is able to develop only trade-union consciousness.

The most important thing when ill is to never lose heart.

The way to crush the bourgeoisie is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation.

There are no morals in politics; there is only expedience. A scoundrel may be of use to us just because he is a scoundrel.

Under socialism all will govern in turn and will soon become accustomed to no one governing.

When one makes a Revolution, one cannot mark time; one must always go forward - or go back. He who now talks about the "freedom of the press" goes backward, and halts our headlong course towards Socialism.

While the State exists there can be no freedom; when there is freedom there will be no State.


(: Влади́мир Ильи́ч Ле́нин), original name Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (: Влади́мир Ильи́ч Улья́нов) ( (, ), - , ), a , the leader of the party, the first of the and the founder of the ideology of .

"Lenin" was one of his revolutionary pseudonyms. He is believed to have created it to show his opposition to who used the pseudonym Volgin, after the ; Ulyanov picked the which is longer and flows in the opposite direction. He is sometimes erroneously referred to in the West as "Nikolai Lenin", though he as never been known as such in Russia. Early life

Born in Simbirsk, Russia, Lenin was the son of Ilya Nikolaevich Ulyanov (1831 - 1886), a Russian civil service official who worked for increased democracy and free universal education in Russia, and his liberal wife Maria Alexandrovna Blank (1835 - 1916). Lenin had Jewish ancestry through his maternal grandfather (who later converted to Christianity), although he was himself baptised into the , and also ancestry through his mother, who was a . He distinguished himself in the study of and . In May of his eldest brother was hanged for participation in a plot on the life of . This radicalized Lenin and later that year he was arrested, and expelled from for participating in student protests. He continued to study independently

However, rather than settle into a legal career he became more involved in revolutionary efforts, and the study of , much of it in . On , , he was arrested and held by authorities for an entire year, then exiled to the village of in .

In July of he married socialist activist . In April of , he published the book . In , his exile ended. He travelled in Russia and elsewhere in , and published the paper , as well as other tracts and books related to the revolutionary movement.

He was active in the (), and in he led the faction after a split with the that was partly inspired by his pamphlet What is to be Done?. In he was elected to the Presidium of the RSDLP. In he moved to for security reasons. He continued to travel in Europe and participated in many meetings and activities.

On , he returned to following the overthrow of Tsar , and took a leading role within the Bolshevik movement, publishing the . After a failed workers' uprising in July, Lenin fled to Finland for safety. He returned in October to successfully lead an armed revolution against the led by .

On November 8, Lenin was elected as by the Russian Soviet Congress. Faced with the threat of German invasion, Lenin insisted that Russia sign the proposed harsh peace treaty, though the failure of the Russian delegation to do so resulted in the loss of much of the country's western territory in the eventual (March 1918).

, a member of the , was furious when Lenin shut down the and began to suppress non-Bolshevik political groups, including other socialist groups. On , , she approached Lenin after he'd spoken at a meeting and was on his way to his car. She called out to Lenin, and when he turned to answer, fired three shots, two of which struck him, in the shoulder and lung. Lenin was taken to his private apartment in the , and refused to venture to a hospital, believing other assassins would be waiting there. Doctors were summoned, but decided that it was too dangerous to remove the bullets. Lenin eventually recovered, though his health declined from this point, and it is believed that the incident contributed to his later strokes.

Lenin's Bolshevik faction overcame the remaining factions and renamed itself into RCP(B), or (Bolsheviks), which eventually became the .

Lenin was greatly impressed by the after a demonstration by inventor . He took lessons on the instrument, commissioned 600 of the devices to be made for distribution throughout the Soviet Union, and sent Termen abroad to demonstrate Soviet musical instrument technology to the world.

After the failures of the policy of introduced during the , in March , on Lenin's initiative, the (NEP) was adopted, allowing limited private enterprise, in an attempt to rebuild and especially . But the same month saw the suppression of an uprising among sailors at Kronstadt ("the ").

Nadezhda Krupskaya, Lenin, and American journalist Lincoln Eure in the Kremlin, Feb. 1920

Lenin's health had already been damaged due to the asassination attempt and the intolerable strains of revolution and war. In May , Lenin had his first . He was left partially paralyzed (on his right side) and his role in government declined. After the second stroke in December the ordered that he be kept in isolation. The assassination attempt earlier in his life also added to his health problems. In March he suffered the third stroke and was left bedridden and no longer able to speak. Lenin died of the fourth stroke on January 24, .

The official cause given for Lenin's death was , or a stroke, but out of the 27 physicians who treated him only 8 signed onto that conclusion in his autopsy report. A posthumous diagnosis by two and a recently published in the was that Lenin died a slow and painful death from . This diagnosis was based on documents released after the , , and including Lenin's medical chart, autopsy results and personal notes from physicians who treated him.

The city of was renamed Leningrad in his honor; this remained the name of the city until the collapse of the Soviet Union in , when it reverted to its original name, St Petersburg.

Lenin's preserved body is on permanent display in Moscow.

After his first stroke he published a number of papers indicating future directions for the government. Most famous of these is which criticised , who had been the Communist Party's general secretary since April 1922, claiming that he had "unlimited authority concentrated in his hands" and suggesting that "comrades think about a way of removing Stalin from that post". Many of these papers were suppressed for decades as Stalin and his supporters gained control. After Lenin's death, Stalin gained full control of the Party and leadership of the Soviet Union following a brief power struggle.




Born April 22 in Simbirsk, Russia


Elder brother hanged for plotting to assassinate Tsar Alexander III. Enrols at Kazan University, but expelled for revolutionary activity. Becomes acquainted with works of Marx


Moves to St Petersburg


Helps create St Petersburg Union for the Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class


Imprisoned for involvement with the Union, then exiled in Siberia until 1900. Exile in Europe follows


What is to be Done? lays out his plans for revolution


Russian Social Democratic Labour Party splits-Lenin's is the larger, ''Bolshevik'', faction


Returns to Russia during the Revolution


Backlash against the 1905 Revolution forces him to flee abroad again


Opposes World War I-the grounds for his opposition are given in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1917)


March Revolution overthrows tsarist regime. Returns to Petrograd (St Petersburg) and argues for "All Power to the Soviets". State and Revolution published. November Revolution establishes the world's first socialist state. Elected head of government


Civil War in Russia


Issues the New Economic Policy


Suffers first of three debilitating strokes


Dies January 21

Vladimir Lenin biography

Biography of Vladimir Lenin, leader of Communist experiment in USSR. Read about the man who made theory into reality.

Vladimir Ilich Lenin (1870 - 1924)

Early Life

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. His father had been the son of a serf who had risen to post of inspector of schools in Simbirsk. While his mother was the daughter of land owning physician.

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 died from a cerebral haemorrhage, the following year his brother, Alexander, was hung for plotting to assassinate 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.

Rise to Power

He moved to St. Petersburg in 1893 where he practised law. While there he began developing a Marxist underground movement. He grouped members into six member cells. By this means industrial conditions were investigated, statistics compiled and pamphlets written. It was also through these groups that he met his future wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, who he married in 1898.

He travelled to Switzerland to meet like minded Social Democrats in 1895. While there he talked with Georgi 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 and Bolsheviks.

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.

1917 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 coup.

Lenin in Power

At age forty seven Vladimir Ilich 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

Decline and Death

In May 1922 Lenin suffered the first of a series of strokes, less than a year later he suffered a second one. In his two remaining years he tried 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.


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