** Lenin Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov -- Lenin (Russia, 1870-1924)

Figure 1.--This is Lenin in 1887 when he was 17 years old. He was in the "eighth form" of his gymnasium (secondary school). This was the same year that his brother was hanged. Note the military-style uniform. I believe Russian secondary schools had these uniforms. I'm not sure about primary schools.

Lenin had promissed that the suspension of bourgeois freedoms was to be temprary during the Revolution and Civil War. He promissed the Russians that they were creating a state which would allow greater freedoms than anything experienced in the Western bourgeois democracies. It was bourgeois freedoms that allowed Lenion to live and write in Switerland during World War I. He may have actually believed his pledge of future freedoms. In sharp contrast to what he promosed, however, Lenin played a part in creating the foundation for a police state. Here the Bolshevicks can not be uniqueky faulted. They at first simply recreated their version of Tsarists institutiins which included a secret police (the Olcrana). arbitrary arrest and courts, and Siberian exiles at hard labor. Under Lenin and especially Stalin, however, the Soviets created a much more efficent police states than the Tsars ever imagined.


Lenin's father had some Tatar ancestry. You can see that Vladimir Ilyitch who had slightly had slanted "Mongolian" eyes. His mother was of German-Russian descent. She was a Lutheran. Her maiden name was Blank. Lenin's father was a school and civil service official which suggests a loyalty to the regime. Two of his sons, however, became ardent revolutionaries.


Lenin's older brother Aleksandr I. Ulyanov, was executed for his participation in a plot to kill Tsar Alexander III (1887). Russia at the time was raging a war on terrorism after the assination of Alexander II. The execution of his brother had a great influence on the young Lenin and drew him into the world of Russian revolutionary politics.

The Okhrana (1881-1917)

The infamous Tsarist secret police force was the Okhrana. The Okhrana became the most feared secret police force in Europe. In the aftermath of the assasination of Tsar Alexandet II, the Okhrana was created to protect the Tsar. The assisanation was a turning pont in Russian history. It arrested the graduat move toward democratic rule under Alexander II who was about to grant a coinstitution to Russia. Alexander II came to power and he believed in absolutism. Alexander III became a prisoner in his imperial palaces, afraid to venture out among the people. To ensure his security, Alexander created the Okharana withe sole purpose of protecting the Tsar, his family, and important imperial officials. . Okharana in Russian maeans "Guard". st secret police in Russia, was to protect the Czar. (The word "Okhrana" means "guard.") A secret police force was not new to Russia. Ivan the Terrible layed the ground work with his ???. Enormous resources were put at the disposal of the Okharaa. This gave the organization the ability to infiltrate eveny sector of Russian life, including the peasantry, workers, priests, and others. No one could be sure if another person was not a paid informer. Many believe that Stalin wasan Okhrana informer. Having infiltrated radical groups, the Okhrana was able to identify and arrest leaders before they could organize action against the Tsar or his government. Punishments varied. Many were executed. Some like Lenin were exiled to Siberia. Stalin was confined to a Siberian labor camps. Some, like Leo Tolstoy, were harassed and surveiled. It was not just plots against the Tsar or revolutionary activities that attracted the influence of the Okharana. Those who expressed liberal (democratic) opinions might be investigated. The Okharana also operated in foreign countries. Here they monitored the activities of Russian disisdents and in some cases took actions against them. They also spied on foreign counties that posed a military threat to Russia. The Russian working class in the early 20th century was desperately poor. There were political means foer workers in Western Europe to seek relief, but this option was not available to Russian workers and peasants as the Tsarist Government was absolutist. Thus even those beleving in democratic reforms were targeted by the Okharan. Despite the disent among workers, Okhrana chiefs and chief spymasters like Yevno Azev proved effective in supressing revolutionary group. One Okhara tactic was to have their operatives form revolutionary groups. This of course enabled the Okhrna to monor activities and membership. Other revolutionaries that failed were lured into becoming informers by Okharana threats and bribes, men like Father George Gapon and Roman Malinovsky (an associate of Lenin). It was only the horror of World War I that defeated the Okharan. The huge loss of life and famine turned the people against the Tsar. When the Army proved unreliable, the Okhara could no longer enforce its will and the Okhrana fell apart when revolutionaries seized control of the government, first Kekensky and then Lenin (1917). Okhara leaders became targets. They were relentlessly hunted. Only those escaping Russia survived. The Communists after the November Revolution seized Okhara files. They published Okhanra records and identifed agents. For all its notariety, Lenin felt that the Okhrana was not sufficently effective. He replaced the Okhrana with the Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counterrevolution and Espionage (Cheka) to protect the Bolshevik regime. This was the forerunner of the KGB. Many authorsasessing the Soviet Union ascribe most of the horrors and crimes to Stalin. It is probably true that the Staliist mass murder and he level of cult of personality would not have occurred under Lenin. It is also true, however, that Lenin was not oppsed to killing or the use of terror. It is also true that Lenin created the institutions and tools that would beso ruthlessly employed by Stalin. The Cheka immediately upon its creation initiated repressive actions against those believed to be hostile to the regime.


Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov was born in Simbirsk which in the Soviet era was remamed Ulyanovsk to honor Lenin.

Childhood Clothing

We have little information as to the clothes Lenin wore as a boy. We note Lenin wearing the military-style secondary school uniform as a teen-age student in the gymnasium.


We have no information as to Lenin's early education at this time. I'm sure this information exists, we have just not found it yet. We do not know where he attended primary school or what children in primary schools wore at the time. Russian secondary schools required military style uniforms and there are some pictures of him wearing that uniform. Lenin studied law at the University of Kazan. Before he received his degree, he was banished for revolutionary activities. He studied on his own and in St. Pertersburg to obtain is law credentials. He open a law practice, but after a short period gave up his practice.

Revolutionary Activities

Lenin emersed himself in the study of Karl Marx's writings and other socialist authors. He began working among with workers in St. Petersburg to promote socialist thought. Lenin founded the "League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class" in an effort to unify several poorly organized Marxist groups in St. Petersburg. Lenin's "League of Struggle" was the beginning of the Bolshevik Party. As a result of this work, the Government arrested him (1895). Lenin was held in cell No 193 in St. Petersburg Prison. He was subjested to solitary confinment for 14 months. He was exiled to Siberia.


It was in Shushenskoye that Lenin met his wife, Petrova. She was a peasant woman. Her actual name was Nadezhda K. Krupskaya. She came to Shushenskoye in May 1898. The two remained together until Lenin's death. The was both a soul mate and revolutionary supporter.


The Government exiled Lenin to Shushenskoye, a small village in the Minusinsk district of the Yenisei Gubernia (Province) in Eastern SiberiaIn (February 1897). The was an extrodinarily remote area of Tsarist Russia. The idea of exile was that light was difficult in these remote areas and revolutionaries were in villages with small populations and unable to communicate with groups in larger cities where they could cause real trouble. Shushenskoye was hundreds of miles from a railroad. (At the time the railroad was the only realistic method of traveling long distances east to west in Russia.) While commuication was difficult, Lenin did not cease working for a revolution. Together with Petrova they translated foreign socialist books into Russia that Lenin wanted for his work. Perova would copy Lenin's work as printing presses were unavailable to them. Siberia was a new excperience for Lenin. He had led a privlidged life, mostly in cities. Exile acquainted him with the force of nature. He and Petrova enjoyed the outdoors, spending idelic days in the thick forest, at the river, or in the fields. Lenin was tranfixked by the majesty of Siberian nature and the Yenisei River. He and Petrova loved to watch the sunset over the river. He also pursued athletics while in Shushenskoye. He reasoned that the life of a revolutionary was of necesity difficult. Thus it was necessary to devop a constitution that was tenacious--meaning a strong fit body. Lenin's term of his exile ended (1900), but he decided to leave Russia, realising that if he continued to promote revolution the Okhrana would arrest him again. Thus he decided to work on the revolution abroad.

Social Democrats

The primary revolutionary part in Russia was the Social Democrats. Lenin in London succeeded in spliting the part into Mensheviks and Volsheviks (1903).

The Duma

Lenin led the Bolsheviks in the shirt-lived Imperial Duma (1905-07).

World War I: Refuge in Switerland.

Russia's massive army was the major force preventing the German's from achieving victory on the Western Front. The two-front war prevented the German's from concentrating their forces. Lenin at the outset of the War fled Austria for refuge in neutral Switerland where free speech and and the lack of censorship allowed him to write and coninue his work in revolutionary politics. He described the war as the result of imperialism. He saw imperialism as the final stage of capitalism and called for workers round the world to oppose the War. He was stunned that socialist prties in bligerant countries support the vrious national war effotys nd ha peasants abd workers fought each other in what he saw as bourgeois, imperalist wars.

German Gambit: Finland Station (April 1917)

The Germans in a gambit to disrupt the Russian Government and war effort, transported Lenin across Germany in a sealed railway car (1917). The poorly organized and led Russian Army suffered enormous losses. The Russian tied down large German armies in the Eastern Front, making it impossible for the Germans to concentrate their strength against the French and British on the Western Front. Terrible battle loses and food shortahes led to rvolution(February 1917). The Tsar was forced to abdigate (March 1917). Lenin wanted to to return to Russia, but had no way of getting there. The new Provisional Government decided to continue the War. The Germans seeing that they were not going to win a war of attrition were desperate to force the Russians to quit the War so they could concentrate theor forces on the Western Front. They decided to transport Lenin, a staunch critic of the War, from neutral Switerland through Germany and Sweden to Russia. Lenin rejoined his Bolshevik conrds at St. Petersburg Finland Station.

Bolshevik Revolution (November 1917)

Revolution broke out in Russia with the losses at the front and famine on the home front. Lenin and the Bolsheviks with "Peace and Bread" their rallying cry succeeded in overthrowing the moderate Kerensky government when they insisted in honoring commitments to the Allies and keeping Russia in the War. Lenin became Chairman of the Council of People's Commisars and launched the dictatorship of the proleteriat.

The Cheka

Treaty of Brest-Livtovsk (March 1918)

The Russian people were starving and deperate. The Bolsheviks who had pledged bread and peace had no alternative but to seek terms. The Bolsheviks asked the German's for an armistace. The Germans were thus able to force a humiliating peace on the Bolsheviks. The German demands were so punative that an actual peace treaty was not signed for several months. The Bolsheviks had to ceede the Ukraine, its Polish territories, the Baltics (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia), and Finland. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed in 1918 between the new Soviet government and the Central Powers. Russia gave up land for peace. This thus allowed the Russians to withdraw from the war, although at enormous cost. This allowed the Germans to concentrate their force on the Western Front for a finally offensuve. Fortunately for the Allies, German naval policy had brought Americ into the War (1917). By the time the Germans launched their offensive, the Americans were in France in force. The Brest-Litovsk Treaty was after the collapse of the German Western Front in 1918 was annulled by the terms of the Armistice betwewwn Germany and he Western Allies.

Civil War (1918-20)

Lenin and the Bolsheviks emerged victorious in the Civil War that followed the November Revolution.

Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

Lenin oversaw the founding of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Lenin ruled the new state as a virtual dictator.

The New Economic Policy (1921)

Bolshevik leader Vladamir Lenin adopted the Новая экономическая политика (New Economic Policy -- NEP) to get Russian economy functioning again (1921). The economy was in tatters adter the the Civil War and application of War Communism. A terrible famine set in killing millions. American food relief had prevented famine in Europe after World War I. Lenin refused American food aid until the famine in Russia reached such proportions that in could no longr be ignored. With great reluctancee, he finally allowed the Americans to deliver food relief to his starving people. Throuhout history famines have been primarily the result of weather, mostly drought. This changed in the 20th century with the rise of the great totalitarian regimes. Communism and Fascism (both Socilist variants) became the primary causeof famines. Food aid fronCapitalist countries led by America became the primary source of food for famine stricken countries. American food deliveries as in the rest of Eutope saved millions of starving people in Russia. American food aid did not reinvigotate the economy. The Russian famine was in large measure the result of War Comminism. The Bolsheviks crased food from the peasantry. he peasantry resonded by reducing their oamtings and harvests. Lenin decided on adesperate measure -- turn to capitalism. The NEP was a series of market neasures (i.e. market reforms meaning capitalism) designed as a temporaily reintroduce limited private owenership back into the Russian economy. One might ask, if socailism was such an effective economic system, why were market reforms needed. (The answer of course as the Chinese Communists discovered in the 1970s that socialism destroys wealth and capitalism crerates wealth.) The NEP was designed to attract the capital needed for economic activity. Lenin's plan was to partly restore the capitalist economy at the lowest level until the Russian economy was strong enough to sustain socialism. This of course meant that capitalism was a stronger economic systems as the Asian Tigers and China would would eventually realize. The 10th Congress of the All-Russian Communist Party approved the NEP (March 21, 1921). Here Lenin's support was vital. There was, however, opposition. This came from the left-wing of the Party which was opposed to any reappearance of capitalism which they bfought so hard to destroy. Lenin initated the NEP with the within a month by intriducing the Tax In Kind policy (April 25, 1921). It repalaced the 'surplus-food appropriation' with a fixed tax that would be announced in advance. The tax would be small and affordable. This was vital becaise the economy was primarily based on agriculture. The rural peasantry made up the vast proprtion of the Russian population, but the Revolution had been largely led by the urban proletariat. The NEP allowed small-scale private econoimic activity, but only at the lowest level of economy--small shops and local markets. Foreign trade,and the leasing of enterprises were also permitted. The NEP was a considerable success. The НЭПман (NEPman) was born. This coiuld be a person involved in any kevel of capitalist activity. This could be peasant selling on the local market and little shop owner up to larger merchant activirt in the cities. They became the subject of desire and envy. Lenin died (1924) He had been the chief propnent and support for the NEP. The fact that the NEP resulted in increased production and relative prosperity does not seem to have entered into Stalin's thinking. Stalin who was gaining control of the Party and Soviet state had other goals in mind, namely the absolute control of the Soviet economy and rapid industrialization.


Lenin and Petrova appear to have had four children. There were two boys and a two girls. We know nothing at this time about Lenin as a father or what became of the children. Hopefully our Russian readers can provide more information about the family. Bolshevik leaders became very secretive about even family affairs. I do not know if this began with Lenin. Petrova was active in Revolutionary activities. This does not seem to have been the case for other Bolshevik leaders.

Death (1924)

Lenin was assasinated and eventually died from his wounds.


Lenin's death initiated a struggle for succession. Stalin by the late 1920s emerged as the dominant force in the new Soviet state. Stalin had not played a major role in the Revolution. He had become after the Civil War to be of increasing concerbn to Lenin. Had he lived, Lenin would almost certainlt have engineered a different successor.


Lenin's legassy was essentially the USSR and Stalin. He also added Lenism to Marxist dogma. He focused on imperialism as the final stage in capitalism. Lennin had, however, a basic doctrinal problem. According to his theories, revolution would come about when the workers rose up in capitalist counties. Instead the Revolution had occurred in Russia--the most backward European country which was in actuality more feudal than capitalustic. Lenin also argued that revolution required organized and disciplined Communist Party to guide the proleterit. Lenin was very oportunistic. Cooperating with the Germans and the NEP are examples of this. He rejected, however, ant revision of


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Created: March 31, 2004
Last updated: 10:00 AM 4/11/2021