Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
Lenin was born on April 22, 1870. He was born as Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. Lenin was raised in the provincial city of Simbursk on the Volga River. His father was Ilya Nikoleavich Ulyanov. Ilya Ulyanov was a secondary school teacher. Lenin s mother, Maria Aleksandrovna Blank, was a teacher as well. She was the daughter of a doctor. Lenin has two brothers and three sisters.
Lenin learned to read at the age of 5. He entered school at the age of 9 in 1879.
In 1886, Lenin s father died. Shortly after that in 1887, his older brother, Alexander, was arrested in St. Petersburg for plotting against the czar, Alexander III. Alexander was soon convicted and hanged. Soon, after Alexander s death, Lenin immersed himself in radical writings, especially those by Karl Marx. In the fall of 1887, he enrolled in the law school at University of Kazan. Lenin studied the problem of revolutionary change in Russia from a Marxist perspective. Lenin received a law degree from St. Petersburg University in 1891 and joined a law firm in Samara. Lenin soon became a leader of a Marxist revolutionary group. He traveled through France, Germany, and Switzerland to other Marxists.
In 1895, Lenin was arrested in St. Petersburg while preparing a revolutionary newspaper, The Worker s Cause and was sent into exile to Siberia in 1897.
On July 22, 1898, Lenin met and married Nadezhda Konstantinovna Krupskaya in Siberia. They had no children. While in Siberia, Lenin wrote one of his major works, The Development of Capitalism in Russia in 1899. During his exile, a number of Marxist groups joined and formed the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party.
In 1902, Lenin wrote What is to be Done? A year later, the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party split into two groups, the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. Lenin became the leader of the Bolsheviks. After 1903, Lenin became widely known for his unwavering support of and dedication to revolution.
By the early 1900s, a spirit of revolt against the czar, Nicholas II, had developed. On January 22, 1905, Father George Gapon, a Russian Orthodox Priest, organized some people for a peaceful march on the winter palace in St. Petersburg. The guards had open fire on the citizens and caused more revolts. These revolts led the czar to grant citizens an elected Duma and basic rights such as freedom of speech and right to vote.
From 1906 to 1908, Lenin spent most of his time writing revolutionary pamphlets. His main purpose was to keep the Bolsheviks together. In 1912, the Bolsheviks had established Pravada, a revolutionary newspaper sold to the public. World War I had started during the summer of 1914. Germany had declared war on Russia. Although many people wanted victory, Lenin didn t. He said that the lost of the war would bring about a revolution in that country.
By 1917, Russia had lost many battles in the war. During that year, Lenin published Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism. In this work he denounced the Great War as a battle among the capitalist powers for control of markets, raw materials and cheap labor. Since neither the Allies nor the Central Powers offered any benefits to the working classes, he urged all socialists to withhold their support from the war effort.
Lenin had sought to return to Russia. The Germans were willing to allow Lenin to travel through Germany on his way back to Russia. On April 16, 1917, Lenin arrived in Petrograd and received a hero s welcome from the people. He immediately issued his April Theses.
While in Petrograd, Lenin called for the overthrow of the Lvov Government. Unsuccessful, Lenin was ordered arrest under Alexander Kerensky. Lenin fled to Finland. While there, he wrote The State and Revolution, one of his most important works. He told how to organize a revolution and what kind of government to establish after the power had been seized. In September 1917, Lenin wrote the leaders of the Bolsheviks and declared that the time for speechmaking was over. It was time for action. "History will not forgive us if we do not assume power now," Lenin said.
In October 1917, Lenin returned to Petrograd. He urged the Central Committee to begin a revolt immediately. Kerensky's government and leadership were weak. Leon Trotsky, the Bolshevik president of the Petrograd soviet, got control over some government troops. Naval crews also agreed to support the revolt. The Bolsheviks decided to act, and with little violence, the Bolsheviks seized Petrograd on November 7. Kerensky fled. By November 15, the Bolsheviks were able to obtain Moscow. With a simple slogan, the Bolsheviks came into power in Russia. The slogan had little to do with the theories of Marx. But it had real meaning to starving housewives and their families, soldiers sick of war, and peasants hungry for land.
The Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets opened in November 8, 1917. The Bolsheviks controlled the congress. They appointed the Council of People s Commissars. Lenin was chairman of the council and became head of the new Russia. At Lenin's first appearance before the congress, he requested permission to ask Germany for a three-month truce. Lenin hardly had time to begin nationalizing industry, banks, and private business, when he found himself battling to stay in power. The Russian Army had fallen apart, the Germans were advancing into Russia, and forces that opposed the Bolsheviks were gathering in many parts of the country.
Lenin moved quickly to consolidate Bolshevik power. He reorganized the various party factions into the Russian Communist Party and reconstituted the Russian economy along Marxist guidelines. In order to bring the country out of war he negotiated a peace treaty with Germany at Brest-Litovsk in 1918. The same year, civil war broke out and he was forced to put a Red Army into the field to do battle with the White Army. By that time the economy was in shambles and discontent among peasants and urban workers was high. Lenin issued the New Economic Policy as a way of shoring up the sagging economy. NEP granted concessions to foreign capitalists in order to encourage trade and he permitted peasants to sell their produce on the open market. In 1918, at Lenin's suggestion, the Bolsheviks changed the name of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party to the Russian Communist Party. In July 1918, the Bolsheviks murdered Czar Nicholas II and his family. Lenin described his dictatorship as "power, based directly upon force, and unrestricted by any laws." By 1920, the Bolsheviks had won the civil war.
On August 20, 1918, Lenin was shot after talking to the workers at a Moscow factory. Dora Kaplan, a member of the Social Revolutionary Party, was the one who shot him. In a several weeks, Lenin recovered and Dora was executed. The Bolsheviks had executed other people to discourage attempts of murder. The Russian economy had collapsed. Industrial output was at the vanishing point. Agricultural production had fallen disastrously. People in the cities were starving. Millions of Russians had died or had fled abroad. But the Communist government survived. Even during the civil war, Lenin did not lose sight of his goal of Communist world revolution. In 1919, he had organized the Comintern to run Communist parties in all parts of the world. The organization also helped gain international support for the Bolsheviks during the civil war. In 1920, Lenin tried to export the revolution by military means by way of Poland to central Europe.
Before 1921, Lenin had asked Britain, France, Germany, and the United States for credit, trade, and diplomatic recognition, but these nations were unwilling to deal with the Bolshevik government. By 1919, no major country maintained diplomatic relations with the Russian government, but after the New Economic Policy was begun, most European states resumed diplomatic relations.
Lenin s health had been shattered by the strain of revolution and war. On May 25, 1922, Lenin suffered a stroke. Lenin was concerned about the direction that the revolution was taking. He began to challenge some basic ideas of the Bolshevik government. Lenin opposed the concentration of power in government bureaus. He also feared Russian nationalism. Shortly before his stroke, he had appointed Joseph Stalin general secretary of the party. Now, Lenin had serious doubts about Stalin.
On December 1922, the Bolshevik government had established the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In that same month, Lenin suffered from another stroke. In January 1923, Lenin had warned Stalin about his rudeness and won t be able to be a good leader. Lenin planned to remove Stalin from the party, but had suffered from a third stroke.
On January 21, 1924, Lenin had died of brain hemorrhage. Lenin s body was preserved and placed in display. His tomb was displayed in Red Square and became one of Russia s most honorable monuments. In December, the Soviet Union had broken up into many independent states. Lenin s body and tomb was removed and buried next to his mother s grave, where he had requested. Despite these serious concessions, Lenin remained a committed Bolshevik revolutionary.