Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Владимир Ильич Ульянов) (April 10 (O.S.) = April 22 (N.S.), 1870 - January 21, 1924) who changed his surname to one of his aliases, Lenin (Ленин) (most likely a reference to the river Lena), was a Russian revolutionary, the first leader of the Soviet Union, and the namesake of Leninism. Although he is sometimes referred to in the West as "Nikolai Lenin", he has never been known as this in Russia.

He was born in Simbirsk and died in Leninskie Gorki; after a series of strokes exacerbated by an attempted assassination. His embalmed body is on permanent exhibition in the Lenin Mausoleum in Moscow.

Table of contents
1 Early life
2 Soviet Union
3 Selected works
4 Further reading
5 External links

Early life

Lenin was a son of a Russian civil service official. He had Jewish ancestry through his maternal grandfather (who later converted to Christianity), although he was himself baptised into the Russian Orthodox Church. He distinguished himself in the study of Latin and Greek. In May of 1887 his eldest brother Alexander was hanged for participation in a plot on the life of Tsar Alexander III. This radicalized Lenin and later that year he was arrested, and expelled from Kazan University for participating in student protests. He continued to study independently and by 1892 had earned a license to practice law.

However, rather than settle into a legal career he became more involved in revolutionary propaganda efforts, and the study of Marxism, much of it in St. Petersburg. On December 7 1895 he was arrested and held by authorities for an entire year, then exiled to Siberia.

In July of 1898 he married N.K. Krupskaya and in April of 1899 he published the book The Development of Capitalism in Russia. In 1900 his exile ended. He travelled in Russia and elsewhere in Europe, and published the paper Iskra as well as other tracts and books related to the revolutionary movement.

He was active in the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP), and in 1903 he led the Bolshevik faction after a split with the Mensheviks that was partly inspired by his pamphlet What is to be Done?. In 1906 he was elected to the Presidium of the RSDLP. In 1907 he moved to Finland for security reasons. He continued to travel in Europe and partipated in many socialist meetings and activities.

In April 1917 he returned to Petrograd following the overthrow of Tsar Nicholas II, and took a leading role within the Bolshevik movement, publishing the April Theses. After a failed Bolshevik insurrection in July, Lenin fled to Finland for hiding. He returned in October to successfully lead an armed coup against the Provisional Government led by Kerensky.

Soviet Union

On November 8, Lenin was elected as Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars by the Russian Soviet Congress. Faced with the threat of German invasion, Lenin urged 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 westerrn territory in the eventual Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (March 1918). In August 1918 he survived an assassination attempt by Fanny Kaplan.

Lenin's bolshevik faction overcame the remaining factions and renamed itself into RCP(B), or Russian Communist Party(Bolsheviks), which has eventually become the CPSU.

After the failures of the policy of War communism introduced during the Russian Civil War, in March 1921, on Lenin's initiative, the New Economic Policy (NEP) was adopted, allowing limited private enterprise, in an attempt to rebuild industry and especially agriculture. But the same month saw the suppression of an uprising among sailors at Kronstadt ("the Kronstadt rebellion").

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

In May 1922 Lenin had his first stroke. He was left partially paralyzed (on his right side) and his role in government declined. After the second stroke in December the Politburo ordered that he be kept in isolation. The assassination attempt earlier in his life also added to his health problems. In March 1923 he suffered the third stroke and was left bedridden and no longer able to speak. Lenin died of the fourth stroke in January of 1924. The city of Petrograd was renamed Leningrad in his honour: this remained the name of the city until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, when it reverted to its original name St Petersburg.

After his first stroke he published a number of papers indicating future directions for the government and criticising Stalin, Party general secretary since April 1922; however, some of these were suppressed for decades and after his death Stalin gained control of the Party.

See also: Russian Revolution, Joseph Stalin, Lenin Peak, Communism

Selected works

  • The Development of Capitalism in Russia
  • What Is To Be Done?
  • One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
  • Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution
  • Materialism and Empirio-Criticism
  • The Right of Nations to Self-Determination
  • Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism
  • The State and Revolution
  • The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky
  • Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder

Further reading


External links

Preceded by:
Aleksandr Kerensky as Head of Government
List of leaders of the Soviet Union Succeeded by:
Josef Stalin