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Lenin

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
Born: April 22, 1870
Died: January 21, 1924

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov) was born on April 22, 1870 in Simbirsk, Russia (now Ulyanovsk). His father, Ilya Nikolayevich Ulyanov, was an accomplished teacher, nobleman, and a devout member of the Russian Orthodox Church; Lenin’s mother, Maria Aleksandrovna, was the daughter of a Jewish physician, and although baptized Orthodox Christian, didn’t view Christianity in a favorable way, which had somewhat of an influence on her children. When Ilya passed away in 1887, Vladimir renounced his belief in God and developed an erratic behavior. That same year, his older brother, Alexandr, who was a member of a radical political group that opposed Tsar Alexander III, was executed for conspiring to assassinate the Tsar.

Despite the trauma that Vladimir suffered from the deaths of his brother and father, he kept with his studies and was accepted into Kazan University to study law. Though he was eventually expelled from Kazan University for participating in student protests, he was able to resume his studies at St. Petersburg University, where he passed his bar. He soon started his practice in Samara, and it was around this time that he became interested in his late brothers ideas and the writings of Karl Marx. It didn’t take long for Lenin to get involved with different Marxist groups and publish his own writings, most of which were declared illegal and had to be secretly passed around; this gained him attention with Russian radicals and police. He would go on to form the Union for The Liberation of the Working Class in 1895 and was arrested shortly after. In his exile in Siberia, me met his future life-long companion Nadezhda Krupskaya. He and his wife would end up leaving Russia and launched the newspaper “Iskra” in Munich.

After Russia was embarrassed in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), political rallies and protests rocked Russia, and with revolution on the horizon, Lenin came back to Russia in 1905. He added fuel to the fire by saying:  “Some should kill their shadow-agent, blow up police stations; others will rob a bank…” The eventual uprising was put down by Russian authorities, but Lenin realized where the force he needed was: with the proletariat. Though Lenin would move to Switzerland, he became the “central intelligence” for those working with him. This also became the era where “underground politics” took root in Russia and propaganda was used as much as dynamite. Lenin also started a St. Petersburg newspaper called “Pravda” or “Truth.”

In February of 1917, a revolution shocked the country, from the Tsar down. Lenin hadn’t been in Russia in 17 years except for a few short periods, but when he returned, he was greeted at the Petrograd train station and made a powerful speech on the spot. He didn’t just want to overthrow the Tsar, he wanted an entire socialist revolution. The platform he put forth wasn’t fully supported, even with some of his supporters, but he was able to gain the most important audience he needed: the proletariat. Everyone, even his opposition, recognized that Lenin had an amazing ability to work the crowds. He shocked his allies by calling for an armed revolution when he moved to Finland in June 1917, but he quietly returned in October. When the Provisional Government fell, he was made the head of the new The Soviet (Council) of People’s Commissaries.

Almost immediately, Lenin banned all press by his opponents, saying that allowing free press was the equivalent of suicide.  His promises were harder to execute than he had planned, which led to resentment amongt the people and revolutionaries. Civil War would eventually break out and split the country into separate factions, most notably the Whites and the Reds. It is important to note that in the summer of 1918 the Tsar and his entire family were executed. Lenin’s weakness was that he didn’t have a clear economic plan. The fact that workers controlled the factories practically stopped production and led to large amounts of stealing. Lenin was forced to implement War Communism, which stressed the need to implement order. The Soviet leaders began to demand certain portions of food be given to the government by the peasants. Lenin also ordered that everybody must work or face execution, and helped create the Labor Committee; inflation was a major result.

Constant work had a negative impact on Lenin’s health. In May 1922, Lenin had his first stroke, which led to an immediate power struggle, with Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky being the main opponents. He would publish writings to review the current socialist state, and even called for the removal of Joseph Stalin. In December of the same year, Lenin suffered another stroke, followed by another in March of 1923, which left him a living corpse. On January 21, 1924, Vladimir Lenin passed away. Soviet authorities had his body embalmed and built a mausoleum to have his body on public display.

Sources:

“Prominent Russians: Vladimir Lenin.” Vladimir Lenin – Russiapedia Leaders Prominent Russians. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.

“Vladimir Lenin.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 24 Nov. 2013. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.

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