Famous Russian Leader in History Nikolai Lenin Part 3

About the famous Russian leader Nikolai Lenin, biography and history of his rise to power and Russian history including Bloody Sunday.


When Lenin returned to Russia later that year, he carried a printing machine and illegal literature under the false bottom of his trunk; in his head were plans for a revolutionary newspaper. On the eve of its publication, he, with other leaders including Julius Martov, was arrested. During his 15 months in jail, in a comfortable cell with a table and chair, he read innumerable books and communicated with the outside world through messages written in milk, which turned yellow when held over a candle flame. He kept milk in hollow bread pellets, which he swallowed when the peephole to his cell opened. Once he wrote, "Today I have eaten six inkpots."

His three-year exile in southern Siberia (known as "Siberian Italy") was a vacation compared to the exiles of more unfortunate political prisoners who landed in the ice-bound north. Krupskaya, also exiled, was able to get permission to join him as his fiancee. They were married in 1898.

When he was released, Lenin left for Switzerland again. With Plekhanov and others he started the newspaper Iskra ("Spark") and the magazine Zarya ("Dawn"). The magazine, in which he first used the name N. Lenin, folded after three issues; the newspaper, which was smuggled into Russia, sometimes wrapped around bales of fish, was highly successful.

During those expatriate years, he rose to a position of power among the Social Democrats, who split into the Bolsheviks (the majority, his faction) and the Mensheviks (the minority). His ideas were uncompromising and radical: outlawing of freedom of criticism in order to uphold party discipline, establishment of a terrorist intellectual elite to infiltrate institutions and destroy the aristocracy, merciless takeover of the government by an armed proletariat, abolition of the market system and of private ownership of the means of production, membership in the party given only to those who were active revolutionaries (no fellow travelers). The Mensheviks, on the other hand, took a much milder view of things.

The 1905 massacre known as Bloody Sunday, in which Cossacks in St. Petersburg fired on peaceful protesters led by Father Gapon, presaged uprisings in Russia. Lenin jettisoned theory for activism and began to make battle plans and draw up lists of weapons, including brass knuckles, barbed wire, and kerosene-soaked rags. He wrote: "Put Europe to the flames!" (he always saw the revolution as international) and sent a message to the Social Democratic party in St. Petersburg: "I am appalled, absolutely appalled, to know that for more than half a year you have been talking about bombs--and not a single bomb has been made. . . ." Undercover, he returned to Russia for two years, but the promised revolution did not occur, for the czar made enough concessions, among them the election of a relatively powerless Duma (Parliament), to quiet unrest at least for a while.

Lenin went abroad again and eventually settled in Berne. When W.W. I broke out in 1914, many Socialists, to his disgust, betrayed one of the basic tenets of the party--to resist or overthrow governments which became involved in imperialist wars. He saw the cause of the war as colonialist expansion, encouraged by the desire of banks for superprofits and backed by workers who wanted a piece of the pie.

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