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Vladimir Ilyich Lenin ( ) (10 April 1870 – 21 January 1924), born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov ( ), was the Bolshevik Leader of the 1917 October Revolution, and the first Head of State of the Soviet Unionmarker; in the course of his political career, he used the pseudonyms Lenin, V. I. Lenin, Nikolai Lenin, and N. Lenin. His contribution to political science, Leninism, is his development and interpretation of urban Marxist theory, fitted to the agrarian Russian Empiremarker of 1917, reversing the economics–politics Marxist prescription in allowing for a dynamic revolution led by a professional vanguard party.

Early life and background

Infancy: V.I.
Ulyanov, aged three.
Lenin was born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, on 10 April 1870, to Maria Alexandrovna Blank, a schoolmistress, and Ilya Nikolayevich Ulyanov a physics instructor, at Simbirsk, in the Russian Empiremarker (1721–1917) of the late nineteenth century; per family custom, he was baptized into the Russian Orthodox Church. Later, the USSR renamed Lenin’s Volga River home city, Simbirskmarker, as Ulyanovskmarker.

In 1869, Ilya Nikolayevich Ulyanov became the Inspector of Public Schools, and later the Director of Elementary Schools, for the Simbirsk Gubernia Oblast (province), a successful career in the Imperial Russian public education system. Tsarist cultural mores defined the Ulyanov family stock as “ethnically mixed” — “Mordovian, Kalmyk, Jewish (cf. Blank family), Volgan German, and Swedish, and possibly others”; being of the intelligentsia, the Ulyanovs educated their children against the ills of their time (violations of human rights, servile psychology), and instilled readiness to struggle for higher ideals, a free society, and equal rights. Subsequently, excepting Olga (dead at age 19), every Ulyanov child became a revolutionary;
as such, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, in 1902, adopted the nom de guerre Lenin, derived from the Siberianmarker River Lenamarker, the usage in this biographic article.

In January 1886, his father died of a cerebral hemorrhage; in May 1887 (when Lenin was 17 years old), his eldest brother Aleksandr Ulyanov was hanged for participating in a terrorist assassination attempt against the Tsar, Alexander III (1881–94). His sister, Anna Ulyanova, who was with Aleksandr when arrested, was banished to an Ulyanov family estate at Kokushkinomarker, a village some 40 km (25 mi.) from Kazanmarker — those events transformed Lenin into a political radical, which official Soviet biographies present as central to his assuming the revolutionary track as political life.

Complementing these personal, emotional, and political upheavals was his matriculation, in August 1887, to the Kazan Universitymarker, where he studied law and read the works of Karl Marx. That Marxism-derived political development involved Lenin in a student riot and consequent arrest in December 1887; Kazan University expelled him, the authorities barred him from other universities, and thence was under continuous police surveillance — as the brother of a known terrorist. Nevertheless, he studied independently to earn his law degree; in that time, he first read Das Kapital (1867–94). Three years later, in 1890, he was permitted studies at the University of Saint Petersburg. In January 1892, he was awarded a first class diploma in law; moreover, he was an intellectually-distinguished student in the Classical languages of Latin and Greek, and the modern languages of German, French, and English, but had only limited command of the latter two; later, in the 1917 revolutionary period, he relied on Inessa Armand to translate an article to French and English, later writing to S. N. Ravich in Geneva, "I am unable to lecture in French".


For a few years, Lenin practiced law in the Volga River port of Samaramarker, mostly land ownership cases wherein he derived political insight to the Russian peasants’ socio-economic condition; in 1893, he moved to St Petersburgmarker, and practised revolutionary propaganda. In 1895, he founded the League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class, the consolidation of the city’s Marxist groups; as an embryonic revolutionary party, the League were active among the Russian labour organisations. On 7 December 1895, Lenin was arrested and imprisoned for 14 months of solitary confinement, in Cell 193 of the St Petersburg Remand Prison. In February 1897, he was exiled to eastern Siberia, to the village Shushenskoye, in the Minusinsk district, of the Yenisei Gubernia (Province). There, he met Georgy Plekhanov, the Marxist who introduced socialism to Russia. In July 1898, Lenin married the socialist activist Nadezhda Krupskaya, and in April 1899, and pseudonymously published the book The Development of Capitalism in Russia (1899), by Vladimir Ilyin, one of the thirty theoretical works he wrote in exile.

At exile’s end in 1900, Lenin travelled Russia and Europe (Munichmarker, Praguemarker, Viennamarker, Manchestermarker and Londonmarker, where Percy Circus WC1, King’s Cross, bears a memorial wall plaque), but resided in Zurich, where he worked as a lecturer at the Geneva Universitymarker; he and Julius Martov (later a leading opponent) co-founded the newspaper Iskra (“Spark”), and published articles and books about revolutionary politics, whilst striving to recruit for the Social Democrats. In doing such clandestine political work, he assumed aliases, and, in 1902, settled upon Lenin — “N. Lenin” in full (Eng. “I. Lenin”); NOTE: The Western press mis-identified him as “Nikolai Lenin”, mis-translating the Cyrillic letter “И” (English letter “I”) for the English “N”; thus Ilyich Lenin (Russian) metamorphosed to the (English) “Nikolai Lenin”.

In 1903, the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (РСДРП) ideologically diverged as the Bolshevik and the Menshevik factions; the RSDLP party faction names Bolshevik (majority) and Menshevik (minority) derive from the Bolshevik’s narrow electoral defeat of the Mensheviks to the party’s newspaper editorial board and to the central committee. The break partly originated from Lenin’s book What Is to Be Done? (1901–02) — how to effect a revolution — and because of the disagreements about the Marxist Iskra faction’s role in the RSDLP; reportedly, What Is to Be Done? was a most influential book in pre-revolutionary Tsarist Russia; Lenin claimed that three of five workers had either read it or had it read to them.

In November 1905, Lenin returned to Russia to support the 1905 Russian Revolution. In 1906, he was elected to the Presidium of the RSDLP; and shuttled between Finlandmarker and Russia, but after the Tsarist defeat of the November Revolution, resumed his exile, in December 1907. Until the February and October revolutions of 1917, he lived in Western Europe, where, despite relative poverty, he developed Leninism — urban Marxism adapted to agrarian Russia reversing the economics–politics Marxist prescription, to allow for a dynamic revolution led by a vanguard party of profesional revolutionaries. .

In 1909, to disambiguate philosophic doubts about the proper practical course of a socialist revolution, Lenin published Materialism and Empirio-criticism (1909); which became a philosophic foundation of Marxism-Leninism. Throughout exile, Lenin travelled Europe, participated in socialist activities, (e.g. the Prague Party Conference of 1912). When Inessa Armand left Russia for Parismarker, she met Lenin and other exiled Bolsheviks. Rumour has it she was Lenin’s lover; yet historian Neil Harding notes that there is a “slender stock of evidence . . . we still have no evidence that they were sexually intimate”.

In 1914, when the First World War (1914–18) began, the large Social Democratic parties of Europe (and self-described Marxists), and intellectuals such as Karl Kautsky, each nationalistically supported their homelands’ war effort. At first, Lenin disbelieved such political fickleness, especially that the Germans had voted for war credits; the Social Democrats’ war-authorising votes broke Lenin’s mainstream connection with the Second International (1889–1916). He opposed the Great War, because the peasants and workers would be fighting the bourgeoisie’s “imperialist war” — one that ought be transformed to an international civil war, between the classes. At war’s start, the Austrians briefly detained him in Poroninmarker, his town of residence; on 5 September 1914, Lenin moved to neutral Switzerlandmarker, residing first at Bernemarker, then at Zurich.

In 1915, he attended the anti-war Zimmerwald Conference, at the eponymous Swiss town, wherein he led the Zimmerwald Left minority, who unsuccessfully urged, against the majority pacifists, that the conference adopt Lenin’s proposition of transforming imperialist war to class war. Later, in the next conference, at Kienthal (24–30 April 1916), Switzerland, Lenin and the Zimmerwald Left presented a like resolution; the conference concorded a compromise manifesto.

In spring of 1916, at Zurich, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916), popularized (Lenin opponent) Karl Kautsky’s politico-economic perspective of capitalism’s development in the 1900s — wherein the merging of banks and industrial cartels gives rise to finance capital — the base of imperialism, the zenith of capitalism; to wit, in pursuing greater profits than the home market can offer, business exports capital, which, in turn, leads to the division of the world, among international monopolist firms, and to European states colonizing large parts of the world, in support of their businesses. Imperialism, thus, is an advanced stage of capitalism relying upon the rise of monopolies and on the export of capital (rather than goods), managed with a global financial system, of which colonialism is one feature.

Russian return

Revolutionary alias: Vilén, Lenin bewigged and clean shaven, Finland, 11 August 1917.

After the 1917 February Revolution, provoking the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II (1894–17), Lenin decided upon a Russian return; difficult, for he was isolated in neutral Switzerland, surrounded by belligerent countries fighting the Great War, nevertheless, the Swiss Communist Fritz Platten obtained Imperial German government permission allowing Lenin (and cohort) to traverse Germany in a diplomatically- sealed train. Geopolitically, the Germans expected his return to politically disrupt Imperial Russia — in aid of ending the Eastern front war (17 August 1914–3 March 1918), so that Germany could concentrate upon defeating the Western allies. Having traversed Germany, Lenin continued through Sweden, aided by Swedish Communists Otto Grimlund and Ture Nerman.

On 16 April 1917, Lenin arrived at the Finland Stationmarker, Petrogradmarker, Russia — welcomed by many admirers, and assumed command of the Bolsheviks, and published the April Theses (1917), calling for uncompromising opposition to the Provisional Government (March–November 1917). Initially, that leftist position isolated the Bolsheviks, yet it rendered the Bolshevik party a a practical political refuge for people disillusioned with the Provisional Government; the “luxury of opposition” to Kerensky’s government, exempted them from responsibility for that government’s policies. Meanwhile, Aleksandr Kerensky, Grigory Aleksinsky, and other opponents, accused the Bolsheviks — especially Lenin — of being Imperial German agents provocateur; and, on 17 July, in their defence, Leon Trotsky (a new Bolshevik leader), said:

In the event, after the tumultuous July Days in Petrograd — the Kerensky Government’s violent suppression of spontaneous anti-government demonstrations by industrial workers and soldiers — it arrested the Bolsheviks who had attempted to assume command of the demonstrations; Lenin fled to Finland. Although not the originators of the July Days demonstrations, Lenin said that to realise the revolution, the Bolsheviks needed the peasants’ support, not just that of the urban workers and soldiers. Meanwhile, he finished State and Revolution (1917), which proposed a government based upon the soviets (worker-elected councils revocable at all moments, by the workers). After General Lavr Kornilov’s failed coup d’état against the Kerensky Provisional Government in late August, the people turned to the Bolsheviks and their “Peace, Land, Bread” programme. Imprisoned Bolsheviks were freed, and, in October, Lenin returned to Russia from Finland — inspiring the October Revolution with the slogan “All Power to the Soviets!” From the Smolny Institutemarker school for girls, he directed the deposition (6–8 November 1917) of the Kerensky Provisional Government and the storming (7–8 November) of the Winter Palacemarker to realise the capitulation that established Soviet rule in Russia.

Head of state

Head of State: Lenin at his Kremlin desk, 1918.

On 8 November 1917, the Russian Congress of Soviets elected Lenin as Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, as such, he declared that “Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the entire country” in modernising Russia into a twentieth-century country:

He initiated and supervised the realisation of the GOELRO plan (1920), the first Soviet national economic recovery and development project, establishing a free universal health care system, guaranteeing the rights of women, and educating the illiterate Russian people — yet the Bolshevik government first had to withdraw Russia from the First World War (1914–18).

Facing continuing Imperial German eastward advance, Lenin proposed that Russia immediately sign a peace treaty withdrawing it from the Great War. Yet, other Bolshevik leaders (e.g. Nikolai Bukharin) advocated continuing in the war to foment revolution in Imperial Germany. Leon Trotsky, who led the peace negotiations, proposed the “No War, No Peace” intermediate position requiring a Russo–German peace treaty on condition that neither belligerents’ territorial gains be consolidated. When negotiations collapsed, the Germans renewed their advance into Russia, resulting in the loss of much west Russian territory. Resultantly, Lenin’s proposal — withdrawing from the war — gained the majority support of the Bolshevik leaders, and, on 3 March 1918, Russia withdrew from the First World War via the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, costing much European Russian territory.

On 19 January, relying upon the supporting sovietsmarker, the Bolsheviks dissolved the Russian Constituent Assembly, in alliance with the left-wing Socialist Revolutionaries. Moreover, the coalition collapsed consequent to the Social Revolutionaries opposing the Brest-Litovsk treaty — and then joined other political parties in deposing the Bolshevik government; Lenin responded with political persecution of, and jail for, the anti-Bolsheviks.

From early 1918, Lenin proposed a single leader (accountable to the Bolshevik government), in charge of each enterprise. Workers could request state measures resolving problems, but had to abide the leader’s decisions. Although contrary to workers' self-management, that administrative measure was essential for efficiency and expertise; proponents argued that said management was meant to strengthen state control of labour, and that self-management failures were owed to lack of resources — a problem resolved by licensing (for a month) all workers of most factories; thus S.A. Smith’s observation: “By the end of the civil war, not much was left of the democratic forms of industrial administration promoted by the factory committees in 1917, but the government argued that this did not matter since industry had passed into the ownership of a workers’ state.”

Analogously, Lenin admired the Irish socialist revolutionary James Connolly, thus the USSR was the first country to diplomatically recognise the Irish Free State that fought Irish War of Independence from Britain. In the event, Lenin developed a friendship with Connolly’s revolutionary's son, Roddy Connolly.

National security: the Cheka and the Tsar

In December 1917, the Bolsheviks established the The Whole-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage, the Chrezvychaynaya Komissiya (Cheka) for defending the Russian Revolution. The establishment of the secret police (Cheka) formally consolidated the earlier imposed censorship effected “[on] 17 November, the Central Executive Committee passed a decree giving the Bolsheviks control over all newsprint and wide powers of closing down newspapers critical of the régime. . . .”; non-Bolshevik soviets were disbanded; anti-soviet newspapers were closed until Pravda (“Truth”) and Izvestia (“The News”) established their communications monopoly. The Bolshevik “refusal to come to terms with the socialists, and the dispersal of the Constituent assembly, led to the logical result that revolutionary terror would now be directed, not only against traditional enemies, such as the bourgeoisie or right-wing opponents, but against anyone, be he socialist, worker, or peasant, who opposed Bolshevik rule”.

Moreover, the Bolsheviks had planned to try the deposed Tsar, Nicholas II, but the matter was moot, when, by July 1918, the counter-revolutionary White Army had advanced to Yekaterinburgmarker, where the Romanov royal family lived in house arrest. Hence, rather than risk their rescue, Yakov Sverdlov agreed to the local soviet’s request for permission to kill them forthwith; yet, who authorised the execution of the Tsar and his family — the local (Yekaterinburg) soviet or the central (Moscow) soviet? — remains historically indeterminate.

Attempted assassinations

On 14 January 1918, in Petrogradmarker, after a speech, assassins ambushed Lenin in his automobile; he and Fritz Platten were in the back seat when assassins began shooting — “Platten grabbed Lenin by the head and pushed him down . . . Platten's hand was covered in blood, having been grazed by a bullet as he was shielding Lenin”.

On 30 August 1918, Fanya Kaplan, of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, approached Lenin, again, after a speech, at his automobile; whilst he rested a foot upon the running board, in speaking with a woman, Kaplan called to Lenin, and, as he turned to face her in reply, she shot (at) him three times. The first bullet struck an arm, the second bullet struck his jaw and neck, and the third bullet missed him — and wounded the woman with whom he was speaking; the wounds felled him, unconscious. Fearing in-hospital assassins, Lenin was delivered to his Kremlin apartment; physicians decided against removing the bullets — lest the surgery endanger his survival, which proved slow.

To the public, Pravda ridiculed Fanya Kaplan as a failed, latter-day Charlotte Corday (a murderess of Jean-Paul Marat) who could not derail the Russian Revolution, reassuring readers that, immediately after surviving the assassination: “Lenin, shot through twice, with pierced lungs spilling blood, refuses help and goes on his own. The next morning, still threatened with death, he reads papers, listens, learns, and observes to see that the engine of the locomotive that carries us towards global revolution has not stopped working. . . .”; despite unharmed lungs, the neck wound did spill blood into a lung.

The Russian public remained ignorant of the true physical gravity of the wounded Soviet Head of State; other than panegyric of immortality (viz. the cult of personality), they knew nothing about either the (second) failed assassination, the assassiness, Fanya Kaplan (a Russian revolutionary), or of Lenin’s health. Historian Richard Pipes reports that “the impression one gains . . . is that the Bolsheviks deliberately underplayed the event to convince the public that, whatever happened to Lenin, they were firmly in control”. Moreover, in a letter to his wife (7 September 1918), Leonid Borisovich Krasin, a Tsarist and Soviet régime diplomat, describes the public atmosphere and social response to the failed assassination on 30 August and Lenin’s having survived it:

From having survived a second assassination originated the cult of personality, that Lenin, per his intellectual origins and pedigree, disliked and discouraged as superstition revived; nevertheless, his health, as a fifty-three-year-old man, declined from the effects of two bullet wounds, later aggravated by three strokes, culminating in his death.

Combating anti-Semitism

Modern technologies intrigued Lenin as vehicles for mass communication; as Bolshevik leader, he recorded eight speeches to gramophone records in 1919; later, during the Khrushchev era, seven were put on sale. Significantly, the suppressed eighth speech delineated the Bolshevik leader’s opposition to Christian anti-Semitism:

Social reforms

Alexandra Kollontai and fellow feminist revolutionary Inessa Armand in 1919 together established the Zhenotdel (Женотдел), the first government department for women in the world. Lenin's administration was also one of the first governments to decriminalize homosexuality in 1917. The Russian Communist Party effectively legalized no-fault divorce, abortion, and homosexuality, when they abolished said Tsarist laws. The initial Soviet criminal code retained these liberal sexual policies; but, a decade later, Stalin reversed that legal tolerance, and homosexuality remained illegal, under Article 121, until the Yeltsin era.

Red Terror

Bolshevik poster, 1920: “Comrade Lenin Cleanses the Earth of Filth”.

Once the Bolshevik Revolution was a fait accompli, the vanquished anti-Communist factions loosely united as the counter-revolutionary White Movement to depose the Bolsheviks from outside Russia. To that effect, in 1918, the Allies of World War I, sponsored the Whites in the Russian Civil War (1917–23). Elsewhere, in Russia, in early October, Kamenev and cohort, had warned the greater Bolshevik party that Lenin’s rule by terror was inevitable, given his assumption of command and rejection of party democracy.

In response to Fanya Kaplan’s failed assassination of Lenin on 30 August 1918, and the successful assassination of the Petrograd Cheka chief Moisei Uritsky, Stalin to Lenin proposed “open and systematic mass terror” against “those responsible”. Lenin and the leaders agreed, and instructed Cheka chief Felix Dzerzhinsky to commence a “Red Terror”, announced 1 September 1918, in the Krasnaya Gazeta (“Krasnaya Gazette”); in that respect, Lenin's Hanging Order, requiring the public executions of one hundred kulaks on 11 August 1918 — before the second (30 August) assassination attempt — establishes his Red Terror authoriship.

During the Russian Civil War, anti-Bolsheviks faced torture and summary execution, and, by May 1919, there were some 16,000 enemies of the people imprisoned in the Tsarist katorga labour camps; by September 1921 the prisoner populace exceeded 70,000. After a clerical insurrection in the town of Shuia, in a 19 March 1918 letter to Vyacheslav Molotov and the Politburo, Lenin delineated the action to take against the clergy and followers defying the decreed Bolshevik removal of Orthodox Church valuables: “We must . . . put down all resistance with such brutality that they will not forget it for several decades. . . . The greater the number of representatives of the reactionary clergy and reactionary bourgeoisie we succeed in executing . . . the better.”

Although Lenin protected Bolshevik Russia with “mass terror against enemies of the revolution”, the proletarian state of the USSR was socially organised against the previous capitalist establishment, thus class warfare terrorism in post–Tsarist Russia originated in working class (peasant and worker) anger against the privileged classes of the deposed absolute monarchy. Hence, in September 1918, at Moscow, Lenin-signed execution lists authorised the shooting of class enemies: 25 Tsarist ministers, high civil servants, and 765 so-called White Guards. In late 1918, when Kamenev and Bukharin tried curbing Chekist excesses, Lenin over-ruled them; in 1921, via the Politburo, he expanded the Cheka’s discretionary application of the death penalty.

In fighting the Russian Civil War (1917–23), the Reds and the Whites committed atrocities, against each other and the supporting populaces, in pursuit of their revolution and counter-revolution; contemporary historians disagree about equating the revolutionary and counter-revolutionary terrorisms — because the Red Terror was government policy (e.g. Decossackization) against given social classes, whilst the White Terror was racial and political, against Jews, anti-monarchists, and Communists, (cf. White Movement).

Civil War

Red icon in action: Lenin addressing the folk.

In March 1919, at Moscow, the Bolshevik conferred with the world’s socialists, and established the Communist International (1919–43), (Comintern, aka the Third International), wherein they renamed themselves as the Communist Party, to ideologically distinguish themselves as a revolutionary party, and to break with mainstream socialism; in post–Revolutionary Russia, the Communist Party became the Russian Communist Party, and later the CPSU.

Meanwhile, the Red Army and the White Army continued fighting until the Red Army, commanded by Leon Trotsky, won the Russian Civil War in 1920; yet sporadic fighting continued until 1923. In the event, despite foreign sponsorship and direct military intervention — by France, Britain, the US, and Japan — the White Movement’s anti-Communist counter-revolution failed for want of popular support of their reinstatement to power in Russia via foreign arms, (cf. Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War).

In late 1919, military success against the Whites convinced Lenin to “probe Europe with the bayonets of the Red Army” and propagate proletarian revolution to Western Europe, especially by supporting the German Revolution (November 1918–August 1919), via the Spartacist League. In the event, when the Second Polish Republicmarker (1918–39) secured its eastern lands (annexed by Tsarist Russia in late-eighteenth-century partitionings of Poland), it fought the Polish-Soviet War (1919–21) for them. Poland was the bridge to Germany, and to the other Communists in Western Europe; however the Polish defeat of the Red Army in the Battle of Warsaw (1920) mooted the matter.

As an anti-imperialist, Lenin, in 1917, declared that oppressed peoples had the unconditional right to secede from the Tsarist Russian Empire; however, at Civil War’s end, the USSR militarily annexed Armeniamarker, Georgiamarker, and Azerbaijanmarker, because the White Movement used them as attack bases. Lenin defended the annexations as protecting them against capitalist imperial depredations.

To maintain the cities and the armies fed, and to avoid economic collapse, the Bolshevik government established war communism — via the Prodrazvyorstka, food requisitioning from the peasantry, for little or no payment — which led the peasants to drastically reduce harvests. The Bolsheviks blamed the kulaks’ withholding grain to increase profits; statistics indicate most such business occurred in the black market economy. The resultant armed confrontations, between peasant and Communist, the Cheka and Red Army suppressed via shooting, hostages, poison gas, an deportation to a labour camp; nonetheless, Lenin increased the requisitioning, whilst the Cheka reported the Russian famine of 1921, which killed some 3–10 million people.

The six-year long White–Red civil war, the war communism, the famine of 1921, and foreign military intervention reduced much of Russia to ruin, and provoked rebellion against the Bolsheviks, the greatest being the Tambov rebellionmarker (1919–21). After the March 1921 left-wing Kronstadt Rebellion mutiny, Lenin replaced war communism with the New Economic Policy (NEP), and successfully rebuilt industry and agriculture. The NEP was his pragmatic recognition of the political and economic realities, despite being a tactical, ideologic retreat from the socialist ideal; later, Stalin reversed the NEP in consolidating his control of the Communist Party and the USSR.

Later life and death

The mental strains of leading a revolution, governing, and fighting a civil war aggravated the physical debilitation consequent to the wounds from the attempted assassinations; Lenin still retained a bullet in his neck, until a German surgeon removed it on 24 April 1922. In May 1922, Lenin suffered the first of three strokes, which diminished his governing. In December 1922, he suffered a second stroke that partly paralyzed his right side; he withdrew from active politics. In March 1923, he suffered a third stroke that left him dumb and bed-ridden until he died.

After the first stroke, Lenin dictated government papers to Nadezhda; among them was Lenin's Testament (changing the structure of the soviets), partly inspired by the 1922 Georgian Affair (Russian cultural assimilation of constituent USSR republics), and it criticized high-rank Communists, including Josef Stalin, Grigory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, Nikolai Bukharin, and Leon Trotsky. About the Communist Party’s General Secretary (since 1922), Josef Stalin, Lenin reported that the “unlimited authority” concentrated in him was unacceptable, suggesting that “comrades think about a way of removing Stalin from that post”, because his personal rudeness would be “intolerable in a Secretary-General”.

Upon Lenin’s death, Nadezhda mailed his testament to the central committee, to be read aloud to the 13th Party Congress in May 1924, however, the ruling troika — Stalin, Kamenev, Zinoviev — suppressed Lenin’s Testament to remain in power; it was not published until 1925, in the United States, by the American intellectual Max Eastman. In that year, Trotsky published an article minimizing the importance of Lenin’s Testament, saying that Lenin’s notes should not be perceived as a “will”, that it had been neither concealed, nor violated; yet did invoke it in later polemics against Stalin.

The Bolshevik leader Vladimir Ilyich Lenin died at 18:50 hrs, Moscow time, on 21 January 1924, aged 53, at his estate in Gorki Leninskiyemarker. In the four days that he lay in state, more than 900,000  mourners viewed his body in the Hall of Columns; among the statesmen who expressed condolences to Russia (the USSR) was Chinese premier Sun Yat-sen, who said:

At the end: V.I.
Lenin in 1923.

The end: V.I.
Lenin in 1923.

Winston Churchill, who encouraged British intervention against the Russian Revolution, in league with the White Movement, to destroy the Bolsheviks and Bolshevism, said:

Three days after his death, Petrograd was renamed Leningradmarker in his honour, so remaining until 1991, when the USSR dissolved, yet the administrative area remains “Leningrad Oblast”. In the early 1920s, the Russian cosmism movement proved so popular that Leonid Krasin and Alexander Bogdanov proposed to cryonically preserve Lenin for future resurrection, yet, despite buying the requisite equipment, that was not done. Instead, the body of V. I. Lenin was embalmed and permanently exhibited in the Lenin Mausoleummarker, in Moscow, on 27 January 1924.


Since the dissolution of the USSR in late 1991, reverence for Lenin declined among the post-Soviet generations, yet he remains an important historical figure for the Soviet-era generations.Eastern European countries removed most statues of Lenin from their lands, yet Russia retains some; however, his historical importance merited the installation of one such statuemarker, from Popradmarker, Slovakiamarker, in Seattle, Washington, USA, as a kitsch reminder of the Cold War (1945–91).

In 1991, a Lenin statue was placed atop the "Red Square" apartment building, at Essex and Houston streets, in New York City. Furthermore, also in 1991, after a contested vote, between Communists and liberals, the Leningrad government reverted the city’s name to St. Petersburgmarker, whilst the surrounding Leningrad Oblastmarker remained so named; like-wise the city of Ulyanovskmarker (V. I. Lenin's birthplace) remains so named. Gyumrimarker in Armeniamarker was named Leninakan from 1924 to 1990, Khujandmarker in Tajikistanmarker Leninabad from 1936 to 1991.

Soviet censorship of Lenin

After his death, the USSR selectively censored Lenin’s writings, to establish the dogma of the infallibility of Lenin, Stalin (his successor), and the Central Committee;thus, the Soviet fifth edition (55 vols., 1958–65) of Lenin’s oeuvre deleted the ideological contradictions (between Lenin and Stalin) and all that is unfavourable to the founder of the USSR.

The historians Pipes and Brandenberger published a documentary collection (mostly letters and telegrams), excluded from the Soviet fifth edition, not notably different from the Collected Works, which does not suggest censorship. They proposed them as proof that the Soviet fifth edition is incomplete, an interpretation dependant upon the notion of “Lenin’s works”, because the Khrushchev-era edition contains documents considered “not for publication”.


Lenin’s significant writings are:

See also



  2. Read, Christopher, Lenin (2005) Abingdon: Routledge p. 4.
  3. Hill, Christopher, Lenin and the Russian Revolution (1971) Penguin Books:London p. 35.
  4. Christopher Read (2005) Lenin: 16
  5. Hill, Christopher, Lenin and the Russian Revolution (1971) Penguin Books:London p. 36.
  6. Read, Christopher Lenin (2005) p. 18.
  7. J. Brooks and G. Chernyavskiy (2007) Lenin and the Making of the Soviet State. Bedford/St Martin's: Boston and New York
  8. Read, Christopher, Lenin (2005) p. 81.
  10. Read, Christopher, Lenin (2005) p. 86.
  11. Harding, Neil, Lenin's Political Thought (1986), p. 250.
  12. Clar, Ronald W. Lenin: the Man Behind the Mask (1988) p. 154.
  13. Read, Christopher, Lenin (2005) pp. 132-4.
  14. Lenin, V. I., Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (2000) New Delhi: LeftWord Books p. 34
  15. Paul Bowles (2007) Capitalism. Pearson: Harlow: 93
  16. Moorehead, Alan, The Russian Revolution (1958) New York: Harper, pp.183–87.
  17. Biography of Grigory Aleksinsky at
  18. Read, Christopher, Lenin (2005) p. 174.
  19. Lenin "Collected Works", vol. 31, p. 516.
  20. Christopher Read, Lenin (2005) p. 186
  21. Leonard Shapiro, The Communist Party of the Soviet Union
  22. Pipes, Richard, The Russian Revolution (Vintage Books, 1990) p.807
  23. ibid. p. 809
  24. Dr. V. Bonch-Bruevich, Lenin's attending physician, Tri Pokusheniia na V. Lenina, 1924.
  25. Clark, Ronald, Lenin: The Man Behind the Mask (1988) p. 373
  26. Clark, Ronald Clark, Lenin: The Man Behind the Mask (1988) p. 456
  27. Hazard, John N. Unity and Diversity in Socialist Law
  28. Orlando Figes. A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891 — 1924. Penguin Books, 1997 ISBN 0198228627 p. 630
  29. Red Terror
  30. Robert Gellately. Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe. Knopf, 2007 ISBN 1400040051 p. 65
  31. Melgunov, Sergei, Red Terror in Russia (1975) Hyperion Pr, ISBN 0-88355-187-X. See: The Record of the Red Terror
  32. Lincoln, W. Bruce, Red Victory: A History of the Russian Civil War (1999) Da Capo Press. pp. 383-385 ISBN 0-306-80909-5
  33. Orlando Figes. A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891 — 1924. Penguin Books, 1997 ISBN 0198228627 p. 647
  34. Black Book of Communism, p. 80
  35. Black Book of Communism, p. 82
  36. Black Book of Communism pp. 92–97, 116–121.
  37. New York Times
  38. Trotsky, L.D., “Concerning Eastman’s Book Since Lenin Died”, Bolshevik 16; 1 September 1925; p. 68. Concerning Eastman’s Book Since Lenin Died minimizing its significance. “In several parts of his book, Eastman says that the Central Committee concealed from the Party a number of exceptionally important documents written by Lenin in the last period of his life (it is a matter of letters on the national question, the so-called 'will', and others); there can be no other name for this, than slander against the Central Committee of our Party. . . . Vladimir Ilyich did not leave any ‘will’, and the very character of his attitude towards the Party, as well as the character of the Party, itself, precluded any possibility of such a ‘will’. What is usually referred to as a ‘will’ in the émigré and foreign bourgeois and Menshevik press (in a manner garbled beyond recognition) is one of Vladimir Ilyich's letters containing advice on organisational matters. The 13th Congress of the Party paid the closest attention to that letter, as to all of the others, and drew from it the conclusions appropriate to the conditions and circumstances of the time. All talk about concealing or violating a ‘will’ is a malicious invention.”
  39. Trotsky, Leon. My Life (1930) The Marxists Internet Archive
  40. Gilbert, Felix and Large, David Clay, The End of the European Era: 1890 to the Present, 6th edition, p. 213.
  41. See the article: А.М. и А.А. Панченко «Осьмое чудо света», in the book Панченко А.М. О русской истории и культуре. St. Petersburg: Azbuka, 2003. p. 433.
  42. Maryland Government, St Petersburg/Leningrad Oblast
  43. R Pipes & D Branderberger The Unknown Lenin Yale 1996

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