10 Fascinating Facts About Russian Communist Revolutionary Vladimir Lenin
Arguably the most influential man of the 20th Century, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was responsible for the establishment of the first ever communist regime. Taking advantage of the political turmoil unleashed by the First World War the middle class Lenin rode the wave of instability to head what he liked to call the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Often seen as more pleasant and reasonable leader than his successor, Stalin, Lenin was, nevertheless a ruthlessly unpleasant totalitarian despot. Here are 10 fascinating facts about this pivotal character.
10. Lenin was inspired by the actions of his older brother Alexander Ulyanov
Lenin grew up in a fairly ordinary middle class family. While his parents were fairly unremarkable, however, his older brother and sister were interested in the growing anti-tsarist, revolutionary societies that were springing up all over Russia. His sister, Anna was sent to live under house arrest on the family’s country estate after suspicious activity brought her to the attention of the authorities. Lenin’s older brother, Alexander Ulyanov was desperate to change Russia and do away with the rule of the Tsars. Alexander joined the ‘Terrorist Faction of the People’s Will’ with the aim of assassinating the hated Tsar Alexander III. The terrorist group was not, however, well led or managed and were arrested by the police before they were able to attempt the assassination. Despite his family’s pleas to the Tsar for clemency Alexander was hanged in 1887 for his part in the conspiracy. The death of his brother had a great impact on the young Lenin, his family were ostracized as their friends did not want to be associated with a revolutionary family. Lenin himself was, shortly after, expelled from university in Kazan for inciting student riots.
He vowed that he would make people pay for his brother’s death Lenin was, many years later, able to revenge his brother’s death when he ordered the assassination of the Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, son and daughters, destroying the family who had caused his own so much pain. Lenin’s mother’s pleas for clemency had gone unheard prior to Alexander’s hanging so the pleas of the last of the Romanovs were ignored as the Tsar, his wife, his five children and some devoted servants were taken down into a basement and shot prior to being dismembered, burned in acid and buried in the local woods. Lenin’s revenge s complete, he had not only destroyed the family that had hurt his but had annihilated everything they had ever stood for and any hope they could possibly have for the future.
9. Lenin Was Not His Real Name
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was born in 1870 as Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. As he grew up he became increasingly involved in the revolutionary movement of the late 1800s. Many of his revolutionary colleagues used pseudonyms in an attempt to protect their families and confuse the police and Tsarist authorities. He tried out a number of different pseudonyms before finding one that he liked, adopting the name Lenin inspired by the Siberian River Lena.
Under this new pseudonym he published a number of influential works and the revolutionary paper Iskra (Spark) which was published abroad and then smuggled into Russia.
8. Lenin was exiled for Revolutionary Activities by the Tsarist Authorities
After being kicked out of Kazan university it took Lenin until 1892 to complete his law degree and yb the 1890s he had moved to live in the Tsarist capital of St Petersburg where he represented peasants who struggled with a legal system that still had an incredible bias against the poor. Through his work Lenin became involved with other Marxists and in 1895h was arrested and sent to Siberia together with his wife Nadezhda. Lenin spent three years in exile in Siberia which was the perfect place to become more involved in revolutionary organizations. Upon his release he left Russia and moved to Munich so that he could continue his revolutionary activities unopposed by the Tsarist police.
Lenin returned to Russia in1903 in order to speak at the Second Congress of the Social Democratic Labor Party with the aim of fermenting revolution and where he emerged as the leader of the Bolshevik faction (supporters of the proletariat) opposed to the Mensheviks who supported the rule of the bourgeoisie. A revolution started in 1905 when palace guards killed a delegation of people who were hoping to petition the Tsar. The nascent revolution petered out, however, much to Lenin’s frustration and he was forced, once again, to leave Russia in order to continue his revolutionary activities. The experience of 1905 persuaded Lenin that the use of extreme force was necessary in order to secure and advance the revolution.
The revolution of 1917 gave Lenin the chance to return. He fermented dissatisfaction with the provisional government and, in October, led a coup that installed him as leader of the country and gave him the opportunity to impose his Marxist beliefs on the largest nation on earth and parachuting it into a brutal civil war. He had spent 17 of his 47 years, the majority of his adult life and of the 20th century, away from Russia.
7. Lenin Wanted Russia To Lose WWI
While Lenin devoted his time abroad to working to support the proletariat of Russia he was anything but a patriot.
When Russia mobilized its armed forces and entered into the First World War every single political faction stood behind the Tsar and supported the country. Lenin, on the other hand, was convinced that the war would provide the catalyst (just as he Russo-Japanese War had provided the catalyst for the 1905 revolution) for the end of Tsarist rule. He instructed his Bolshevik party and its supporters to do all they could to undermine the war effort. It was, he instructed his followers, the perfect opportunity to turn the guns of the army, not on the Germans and Austrians but on the rulers of Russia.
Lenin aligned himself with the German’s who, seeing the opportunity to obtain peace on their eastern front, did all they could to support him. When the Tsar abdicated in 1917 Lenin rushed back to Russia and started to do all he could to undermine the Provisional Government aided by the German government who arranged safe and uninterrupted passage through war torn Europe. Lenin’s position was well known in Russia and many of his enemies called him a German Agent.
As soon as he became the leader of the Country he declared peace with Germany (the treaty of Brest-Litovsk was very pro-German and disastrous for Russia). Showing that Lenin was willing to side with whomever could give him the best deal he repudiated the treaty when the Germans lost to the allies in 1918.
6. Lenin Was Originally Interested In Taking Power Through Democracy
While Lenin had, since 1905, spoken in favor of the replacement of the ruing regime with a government of the proletariat not the bourgeoisie he was originally interested in obtaining power through democracy in order to achieve some level of legitimacy and to differentiate his rule from that of the autocratic tsars. As the years went by, however, Lenin started to reject the democratic process and his Bolshevik faction split from the Mensheviks (who supported a democratic change) in 1912.
Lenin had rushed back to Russia as soon as he could following the overthrow of the tsar. He arrived in April and immediately realized that the Bolsheviks were and always would be in a minority. He did everything he could to destabilize the Provisional Government. He inspired his followers by claiming that the first revolution had replaced the aristocracy with the bourgeoisie and now a second revolution was required to replace them with the proletariat. These actions resulted in the Provisional Government banning the Bolsheviks and Lenin fled to Finland. He returned a few months later after the Provisional Government had to rely on the support of the Petrograd Soviet to remain in power in the wake of a military coup. Lenin took control of the Petrograd Soviet and deposed the Provisional Government in October 1917.
One of the complaints the Bolsheviks had levied against the Provisional Government was their delay in calling the elections to the new Constituent Assembly. Following the October Revolution, therefore, they had to hold elections. These took place in November 1917 and the Bolsheviks, despite enjoying strong support in industrial areas or among the military, failed to gain more than ¼ of the seats. The Bolsheviks now did everything they could to delay the convocation of the assembly. It finally sat in January 1918 for one day only as, when delegates elected a chairman opposed to the Bolsheviks and refused to ratify the decrees of the Congress of Soviets Lenin arranged for the building to be blocked the next day, preventing the delegates from entering. Lenin announced that the soviets had taken all power unto themselves.
As Lenin controlled the Congress of Soviets he became the defacto leader of Soviet Russia. Lenin’s brush with democracy was over. It was never very likely to succeed in any event, his attitude was summed up by the slogan ‘the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry’, ie he was only interested in democracy if the elected representatives came from his desired groups (which he, of course, did not).