Famous Russian Leader in History Nikolai Lenin Part 2

About the famous Russian leader Nikolai Lenin, biography and history of his early life and rise to power.

NIKOLAI LENIN

In 1885 the first of two major tragedies struck the family. Vladimir's father died of heart failure. Vladimir was so stricken that 20 years later, he said, "I was 16 when I gave up religion."

Vladimir was particularly close to his older brother, Alexander, who was the one, according to townspeople, bound to succeed in life, the golden boy of the family. That summer after their father died, the two often played chess together. A neighbor girl who saw them doing so through a window said, "Why, they are like prisoners behind bars." Her words were prophetic; both brothers wound up in prison. (In fact, all five of the surviving Ulyanov children became revolutionaries, working against czarist law.) On May 20, 1887, Alexander was hanged for participating in a conspiracy to assassinate Czar Alexander III. Vladimir's pragmatic response was: "We must find another way."

He tried to get on with his life, but it proved to be impossible. Because he was branded the brother of a revolutionary, doors were closed to him. Only with the help of his high school principal was he accepted as a law student at Kazan University, and he had been there only three months when he was expelled for attending a peaceful protest meeting. Thenceforth no school would accept him.

So he tried gentleman farming ("The moment I started, I knew it wouldn't work out. My relations with the peasants became abnormal."), read Das Kapital (by 1889 he was a committed Marxist), and studied law on his own. Given permission to take the law examination, he passed first in a group of 124 in November, 1891.

Rise to Power: It can be said that any emphasis on a personal life ended for Lenin when he moved to St. Petersburg in 1893. True, he had relationships with women, but his wife was as much--maybe more--co-worker than lover, and his two mistresses took second place to his revolutionary activities. He was only 23 years old when he made the move, but he was already bald and lined, middle-aged in behavior as well as appearance, so his fellow revolutionaries nicknamed him Starik ("Old Man"). They lived undercover, shadowed by the secret police, sending messages in codes and invisible ink, wearing disguises, operating under aliases. Their discussion groups were euphemistically known as pancake teas.

Lenin gathered Marxist workers into six-member cells, investigated industrial conditions and compiled statistical facts about them, and wrote inflammatory pamphlets full of phrases like "pillars of reaction" and "pack of little Judases" (the bureaucracy). At a Marxist study circle, he met his future wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, then a feminine, white-skinned woman (she later ran to fat).

In 1895 he took the first of many trips abroad, where, in Switzerland, he first met tall, elegant Georgi Plekhanov, leader of the Social Democrats. Plekhanov believed in takeover of the government by the liberal bourgeoisie, while Lenin felt that only violent overthrow by an armed proletariat would do. Plekhanov said, after reading Lenin's pamphlets, "You show the bourgeoisie your behind. We, on the contrary, look them in the face." It was a graphic description of a basic disagreement between them, which eventually split the party into two factions.

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