Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, or Lenin, was born on April 22, 1870, in the sleepy little town of Simbrisk, Russia. Childhood in Simbrisk was serene and pleasant for Lenin, and his father, Ilya Nikolaievich, was highly respected by many of the nobles in this province.
Vladimir took just as much interest in his schoolwork than he did with his extra-curricular activities on the home front. He quickly impressed his teachers with his keen intelligence and his outstanding memory. He mastered his classes so brilliantly, that his father became alarmed and began to wonder if it was harmful for Vladimir to learn everything with such grace and ease. He was on another level from all the other students, and that created a large gap between him and the rest of the class.
Alexander and Anna continued their studies at the U of St. Petersburg, and Alexander won the gold medal for his chemistry experiment on worms. Later, Alexander became involved in politics and he and a group of men formed a terrorist faction. Alexander used his knowledge of chemistry to build several bombs, as the young terrorists planned to assassinate the tsar. Alexander was later arrested for his crimes and went to trial on April 19, 1887 and was hanged with four other conspirators one month later. Upon Alexander’s death, Lenin would become taunted as the brother of the man who tried to kill the tsar.
After being barred from the Kazan University for having the last name of Ulyanov, the name that tried to kill the tsar, Lenin was allowed to take examinations as an external student at the University of St. Petersburg. In just over a year, without help, Lenin progressed through a four-year course and passed his examinations in 1891, and was admitted to the bar at the young age of twenty-one. After attaining such a great thing however, it was impaired with sadness as his sister Olga, a student at the U of St. Petersburg, died of typhus. Lenin then returned to Samara to become a junior attorney with the man who had been a former chess opponent of his.
Lenin went to live in St. Petersburg in the fall of 1893, and that was his period of revolution. By this time he had chosen his career as a revolutionist and spent all of his time with revolutionary matters. His arrival to St. Petersburg was noted as a thunderstorm with life-giving effects. Lenin turned many heads as he proved that Capitalism was already the main economic background in Russia, the same Capitalism that everyone else said could not exist in Russia.
At a pancake party in 1894, which the most important Marxists attended, Lenin met Nadezhda Konstantinova Krupskaya, the daughter of a former Russian soldier. Well just call her Nadya though. She became very interested by Lenin and they began to meet quite often. He was anxious to learn about what she knew about the workers, and he was excited to learn about their lives in factories, and their outlooks and attitudes.
From this information she gave him, Lenin wrote leaflets and distributed them secretly to the workers, telling them all of his revolutionary ideas and plans. Lenin all the time meanwhile was organizing secret worker study circles and dressed in shabby clothes to disguise himself from police. When they wrote messages to each other, it had to be in secret code or invisible ink, for what they were writing had to deal with the overthrow of the current Russian government. Lenin spent several months abroad the western European continent meeting with other leaders and studying revolutionary literature that was not available in Russia.
Lenin returned to Russia in 1895 and his polygraph machine and illegal literature went undetected by the authorities because his trunk had a double bottom. He then met a man named Jules Martov, in St. Petersburg. Martov studied at the U of St. Petersburg and was the grandson of an editor and publisher, and was also a Marxist. These two then formed all the workers study circles into one movement called the League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class. The League was the first body in Russia to relate socialism to the working class movement and also the first body to defend the workers against tsarism.
Lenin had been closely watched and then finally backstabbed by Dr. N. Mikhailov, a trusted dentist. Lenin was then arrested along with several other leaders of the League. Mikhailov was murdered not long after Lenins arrest. Even from prison, Lenin still had great influence on the League. Revolutionary pamphlets were written in invisible ink and smuggled out. On some occasions, Lenin would receive letters written in milk, and the writing would turn yellow when held over a flame. He had been imprisoned for 14 months, and in that time he had sent and received many books; some that contained hidden messages in the spines.
After his imprisonment and after being exiled for 3 years without trial in northern Siberia, Lenin was released from detention and given considerable freedom. He stayed with his family in Moscow for a few days and then set off to Krasnoyarsk, where he studied all the time in a private library. Two months after his release, on April 16, 1897, a train arrived bringing Martov and other prisoners. Disguised as a luggage attendant, Lenin snuck by the police and met up with his comrades.
Over the next couple of years, Lenin continued to study and enrich his knowledge as he was being exiled in Shushenskoye. He wrote one particular pamphlet in order to wake up the proletariat, or working class. He told them that only they could throw out tsarism, only they had the power. This pamphlet was smuggled out of Russia and printed in Switzerland and this was the first time that Vladimir Ulyanov had signed himself as Lenin.
8 months after Lenins arrest, Nadya was also arrested and sentenced to three years banishment at Ufa. She told the authorities that she was Lenins fiance and begged them to let her join him. They said yes, but if they were not married immediately after her arrival in Shushenskoye, she would be sent to Ufa. They were married on July 22, 1898, when Lenin was 28 years old. Now Lenin not only had a wife, but a secretary, a housekeeper, and a collaborator.
Lenin grew impatient in his last few months of exile. He had been an exile for the past few years and now he must start planning a very large campaign to win over the proletariat for a revolution. He had written to two other colleagues about his plans and all three men would complete their exile at about the same time. When all three were released, they would form the editor board for the new paper; Lenin was released on January 29, 1900.
While trying to set up a network of supporters of the newspaper, Lenin traveled to many cities. Even though he was banned from the capital, he entered St. Petersburg twice and on the second time, he and a colleague were arrested. They were released after two weeks in a detention hall and sent to Podolsk, where Lenins mom lived. The newspaper received enough donations to get underway, and they called it Iskra (The Spark), and the first issue was published on December 24, 1900.
Change came about in the spring of 1902. In fear of being arrested, the Munich printing quarters decided to end its association with Iskra. Against the wishes of others, Lenin decided to take up new quarters in London. While in London, he wrote a book entitled What Is to Be Done? in March, 1902 and clearly defined himself as a theoretician. In this book, he stated that in order for the workers to win a revolution, they need several intellectual leaders to guide them there, which disagreed with Marx, who said the responsibility of the workers was for the workers themselves. Lenin hoped that once the proletariat won a revolution against tsarism, it would spark revolution over the whole world.
After writing the book, Lenin earned the respect of Joseph Stalin, who now saw him as a man of extraordinary caliber. Many differences arose between the opinions of Lenin and other publishers of Iskra, and many of his comrades saw the dictatorial character emerge from within him. At the second meeting of the Russian Social Democrats in July, 1903, 43 members voted and named the Iskra group in charge of the party. Lenin then reduced the number of Iskra editors to three, but shortly after, one of Lenins rivals and an active editor, restored the other three editors. Lenin then resigned from the board on November 18, 1903.
During the Russo-Japan war in 1905, thousands of men, women, and children marched peacefully down the streets of St. Petersburg in devastatingly cold weather. They wanted to petition the tsar to allow for reforms such as: eight-hour workdays, habeus corpus, a progressive income tax, and an ending of the Russo-Japan war. Instead of being welcomed by Tsar Nicholas, they were welcomed by a giant fleet of bullets. No one knows how many were killed but this event was to result in the downfall of tsarist rule.
At the third Russian Social Democratic congress, attended solely by Lenin and his Bolsheviks, Lenin began preparations for an armed uprising. Lenin stated that using force was the only way to undermine tsarism and to entice the masses to action.
To make about five pages of summarizing into a paragraph, the first attempt at revolution failed. The Cadets kept most of the power after the next election and the revolutionaries became disheartened, which was very hard for Lenin.
During World War I, the time was right and Lenin was the man. Czar Nicholas II remained totally focused on winning the war, and did not hesitate before committing more men and supplies to the war effort. But for an already starving country, every train that brought supplies to the front could not also be bringing food to peasants. With public judgment and even the Czars own army against him, Nicholas lost the throne in March, 1917. A government by soviets was instated, but did not last long. After that, Alexander Kerensky seized power. In November, Lenin and his Bolsheviks, with help from armed citizens, stopped the revolving door. They took over St. Petersburg and later captured Moscow, meeting little resistance along the way. Lenin took over the government and signed a treaty with Germany to take Russia out of the war. Immediately thereafter, civil war broke out between the Communists, called Reds, and the anti-Communists, called Whites, who had help from Western nations. This help from outside Russia actually helped Lenin, as it drove public opinion against the Whites. Russian troops, scattered and dispirited, had just been through World War I. Somehow, though, Lenin and his good friend Leon Trotsky organized these troops into the Red Army and won the war. It was now Lenins country.
Once he was fully in power, Lenin set up a true Communist government. Russia became sixteen republics divided all the way from districts down to soviets representing the workers, soldiers, and peasants in that area. The country would be ruled from the bottom up rather than the usual top down. Lenin wanted a society where the working class was the ruling class; a society where there is one social class, everyone has the same rights, and, eventually, there is no private property. For a short time, peasants were allowed to simply seize their former landlords land and workers to control factories, but later all industry was nationalized.
To jump-start the economy, Lenin instituted his New Economic Policy, which began to bring the economy back to life by permitting small industries to operate under their own control. It also let farmers keep or sell more of their products while the government retained control of heavy industries such as metalworking. Lenin had earlier gained support with the simple promise Bread, peace, land, and he had begun to make good. Lenins goals were becoming reality. All of his planning, dedication, and hard work were finally coming into a much clearer picture.
Lenin had suffered his first stroke on May 26, 1922, partly paralyzing his right arm and leg and impairing speech. Nursed by his sister Maria, and taught by Nadya to write with his left hand, Lenin made a sufficient recovery. It was that year that Lenin and Stalin began to have differences and Stalin began making his grab at power.
And then on January 21, 1924 . . . At eleven oclock in the morning, as usual, Volkov took Lenin his second breakfast. There was no one in his room. As soon as Volkov appeared, Lenin made an effort to rise and extend both his hands, uttering unintelligible sounds. Volkov rushed over to him and Lenin slipped a note into his hands.
Lenins personal physician ran into the room from all the noise and gave Lenin an injection to calm him. Lenin quieted down and closed his eyes. He never opened them again. The note was scratched in a nervous fashion, and it read: Gavrilushka, Ive been poisoned . . . go fetch Nadya at once . . . tell Trotsky . . . tell everyone you can.
His body lay for four days in the Hall of Columns of the House of Trade Unions. Bonfires burned in the streets in order to provide some heat for the thousands that lined up to see him. This was a crucial time for all of Russia, as she had just adopted a new government and economy, now what was to be done? Who would take power now?
Unfortunately for Russians, Stalin beat Trotsky and became Secretary of the Communist Party upon Lenins death, a position as good as dictator. Stalin, who was probably mentally unstable, trashed the ideals of Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky in his own thirst for power. Marx had held the view that The key to Communism is education, and the working class must be educated. As dictator, Stalin resorted to censorship of all media to consolidate his power. Had Lenin lived longer, he could have seen Communism through to its ideal state.
Lenin was a great leader and a model human being. It wasnt just that he wanted power for the mere fact of being powerful, he wanted to make Russia a great nation and wanted the rest of the world to follow along. Russia was in a bad fix, and Lenins dedication and revolutionary attitude helped Russia overcome lots of trouble. He made the blueprints for what is now a world superpower. Many of Lenins actions on his way to power were highly illegal and to some, maybe immoral, but it was all for his plan to achieve national greatness and prosperity. In my mind Lenin was more of a great person rather than a great leader. His ideas and policies reeked of failure, but his qualities and traits as a person just astound me. Had he a better government and country to suit his ideas and political policies, perhaps then he would have been a better leader.
All in all, Lenin saved Russia from complete collapse and gave himself a place in history in the process. It would be very interesting if Lenin existed today in the world, and to see what he would have to say or do about our government and society here in the U.S. After reading this book, I admire Lenin much more after learning about his whole life and not just the stuff I heard about him in the classroom.