- who was vladimir lenin?
- Russia in World War I
- russian revolution
- war communism
- red terror
- lenin creates the ussr
- lenin’s death and tomb
Vladimir Lenin was a Russian communist revolutionary and head of the Bolshevik party who rose to prominence during the 1917 Russian Revolution, one of the most explosive political events of the 20th century. The bloody uprising marked the end of the oppressive Romanov dynasty and centuries of imperial rule in Russia. The Bolsheviks would later convert to the Communist Party, making Lenin the leader of the Soviet Union, the world’s first Communist state.
see: vladimir lenin: the voice of the revolution in the vault of history
who was vladimir lenin?
Vladimir Lenin was born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov in 1870 to a middle-class family in Ulyanovsk, Russia. The son of Ilya Ulyanov and Maria Alexandrovna Ulyanova, he was the third of six children in an educated family and would become the top of his class in high school.
but it was exactly their educational level that made the family a government target; Her father, a school inspector, was threatened with early retirement by distrustful public education officials. As a teenager, Lenin became politically radical after his older brother was executed in 1887 for conspiring to assassinate Tsar Alexander III.
Later that year, 17-year-old Lenin, still known as Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, was expelled from Kazan Imperial University, where he was studying law, for participating in an illegal student protest. After his expulsion, Lenin immersed himself in radical political literature, including the writings of the German philosopher and socialist Karl Marx, author of Das Kapital.
in 1889, lenin declared himself a marxist. he later he finished college and got a law degree. Lenin practiced law briefly at St. Petersburg in the mid-1890s.
He was soon arrested for participating in Marxist activities and exiled to Siberia. his fiancée and future wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, accompanied him there. the two would marry on July 22, 1898.
Lenin later moved to Germany and then to Switzerland, where he met other European Marxists. During this time, he adopted the pen name Lenin and established the Bolshevik party.
watch video: death of the romanovs
Russia in the First World War
Russia entered World War I in August 1914 in support of the Serbs and their French and British allies. militarily, imperial russia was no match for modern, industrialized germany. Russia’s involvement in the war was disastrous: Russian casualties were greater than those suffered by any other nation, and food and fuel shortages soon ravaged the vast country.
Lenin advocated the defeat of Russia in World War I, arguing that it would hasten the political revolution he desired. It was during this time that he wrote and published Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916) in which he argued that war was the natural result of international capitalism.
hoping that lenin could further destabilize their enemy, the germans arranged for lenin and other russian revolutionaries living in exile in europe to return to russia. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill later summed up the move by the Germans: “They turned to Russia with the most lurid of weapons. They transported Lenin in a sealed truck like a plague bacillus.”
when lenin returned to russia in april 1917, the russian revolution was already beginning. Strikes over food shortages in March had forced the inept Tsar Nicholas II to abdicate, ending centuries of imperial rule.
Russia came under a provisional government, which opposed violent social reform and continued Russian involvement in World War I.
Lenin began planning to overthrow the provisional government. For Lenin, the provisional government was a “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.” instead, he advocated direct rule by the workers and peasants in a “dictatorship of the proletariat.”
by the fall of 1917, the Russians were even more war-weary. peasants, workers and soldiers demanded immediate change in what became known as the October Revolution.
Lenin, aware of the leadership vacuum that plagues Russia, decided to seize power. he secretly organized factory workers, peasants, soldiers and sailors into Red Guards, a volunteer paramilitary force. On November 7 and 8, 1917, Red Guards captured Provisional Government buildings in a bloodless coup.
The Bolsheviks seized government power and proclaimed Soviet rule, making Lenin the leader of the world’s first communist state. the new soviet government ended russian participation in world war i with the treaty of brest-litovsk.
The Bolshevik revolution plunged Russia into a three-year civil war. The Red Army, backed by Lenin’s newly formed Russian Communist Party, fought against the White Army, a loose coalition of royalists, capitalists, and supporters of democratic socialism.
During this time, Lenin enacted a series of economic policies called “War Communism.” these were temporary measures to help lenin consolidate power and defeat the white army.
Under War Communism, Lenin quickly nationalized all manufacturing and industry in all of Soviet Russia. he requisitioned the peasants’ surplus grain to feed his red army.
These measures proved disastrous. under the new state economy, both industrial and agricultural production plummeted. an estimated five million Russians died of starvation in 1921 and the standard of living across Russia plunged into abject poverty.
Mass riots threatened the Soviet government. As a result, Lenin instituted his new economic policy, a temporary withdrawal from full nationalization of War Communism. the new economic policy created a more market-oriented economic system, “a free market and capitalism, both subject to state control.”
shortly after the bolshevik revolution, lenin established the cheka, russia’s first secret police.
As the economy deteriorated during the Russian civil war, Lenin used the Cheka to silence political opposition, both from his opponents and from rivals within his own political party.
But these measures did not go unchallenged: Fanya Kaplan, a member of a rival socialist party, shot Lenin in the shoulder and neck as he was leaving a Moscow factory in August 1918, seriously wounding him.
After the assassination attempt, the Cheka instituted a period known as the Red Terror, a campaign of mass executions against supporters of the Czarist regime, Russia’s upper classes, and any socialists not loyal to Lenin’s Communist Party.
by some estimates, the Cheka may have executed as many as 100,000 so-called “class enemies” during the Red Terror between September and October 1918.
lenin creates the ussr
lenin’s red army finally won the russian civil war. In 1922, a treaty between Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and the Transcaucasus (now Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan) formed the Union of Soviet Republics (USSR).
lenin became the first head of the ussr, but at that time his health was failing. Between 1922 and his death in 1924, Lenin suffered a series of strokes that compromised his ability to speak, let alone govern.
His absence paved the way for Joseph Stalin, the new General Secretary of the Communist Party, to begin consolidating power. Lenin resented Stalin’s growing political power and saw his ascendancy as a threat to the USSR.
lenin delivered a series of predictive essays on the corruption of power in the communist party while recovering from a stroke in late 1922 and early 1923. the documents, sometimes referred to as lenin’s “testament,” proposed changes in the soviet political system and recommended that stalin be removed from office.
read more: leaders of the soviet union: a timeline
lenin’s death and tomb
lenin died on january 21, 1924 in gorky leninskiye, near moscow. he was 53 years old. at that time, stalin had already come to power; a power he would do anything to maintain, as evidenced by the great purge of 1936-38.
About a million people braved the cold Russian winter to queue for hours before paying their respects to Lenin, who lay in the House of Trade Unions in Moscow.
lenin’s body was moved several times after his death, from a mausoleum in moscow’s red square to the faraway city of tyumen, russia, for safekeeping during world war ii. His embalmed body remains on display at Lenin’s Tomb in Red Square.
Vladimir Lenin; bps. Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924); bbc vladimir lenin’s return trip to russia changed the world forever; smithsonian magazine.