How did Vladimir Lenin Rise To Power?
In 1917, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (alias Lenin) seized Russia's control in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, created the Soviet Union, and ruled it until his death in 1924. Lenin was one of the leading political figures in the 20th century. He was the revolutionary thinker behind the USSR idea (a.k.a. The Great Soviet Union), fought to materialize it, and masterminded the Bolshevik bloody takeover of power in Russia after Russia's withdrawal from World War One. Lenin's reign as the head of the newly created Soviet Union was brief, but his influence stretched throughout the 20th century.
Lenin’s Early Life
Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov was born on 22 April 1870 in Simbirsk on the Volga River into a well-educated family. He excelled at school and chose to pursue law studies and a career. However, while he was at university, Aleksandr Ulyanov was involved with “Narodovoltsy” – a revolutionary terrorist society. In 1891, he was arrested and executed for taking part in an assassination plot against Tsar Alexander III. His brother's execution radicalized Vladimir. He turned his anger towards =the ruling Tsarist regime. His brother's execution, along with his father’s death, marked a turning point in his life and shaped his path in the future.
Soon after his brother's execution, Lenin was expelled from the university to participate in student protests against the Tsarist regime. He was forced to continue his law studies as an external student at St. Petersburg University. Around this time, he also became passionately interested in Karl Marx’s works. He joined Marxist groups when he was 21 and, in essence, became a professional revolutionary. Lenin became involved with various Marxist societies and radical groups and published his writings on politics and Marxism.
Almost all of his writing was immediately banned and restricted by the Tsarist regime. The only way to get a hold of his writings was to pass them by hand from person to person. His writings quickly caught the eye of other Russian radicals, and he was declared an “enemy of the state” by the Russian police. Tsarists police arrested him in St. Petersburg and imprisoned him for a year for sedition. After his release, he was again arrested in 1897 for his radical views and ideas and sent to exile in Siberia for three years. Lenin and their family were sent to Siberia, where he lived in Shushenskoye. During his Siberian exile, Vladimir adopted the famous moniker “Lenin.” While in Siberia, Lenin regularly wrote with his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya. His exile did little to damper his revolutionary zeal.
Lenin - the Young Revolutionary
Once Lenin was released, he continued to work on his views regarding social imbalance passionately and formed the Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks would become the preeminent party of Russian Marxists shaped the future Communist Party. The synthesis of Lenin’s views combined with those of Karl Marx created what we now know as “Marxism-Leninism” or the basis of whole Communist doctrine throughout the 20th century.
Away from Russia, he continued to publish and won more followers on his side. He published his newspaper “Iskra” (“Spark”) in Munich with the motto “From Spark to Flame!” Aided by foreign funds, Lenin actively challenged the ruling Tsarist regimes' doctrine, policy, and institution.
World War I Fatigue
In 1917, exhausted by World War One, Tsarist Russia was a wreck. It was the perfect chaos moment for Lenin to return home. Germany, in an attempt to destabilize Russia, sent Lenin back to Russia. They hoped Lenin would undermine the Russian war efforts. Instead of being arrested and exiled again, Lenin was welcomed home and supported by other radical thinkers such as Leon Trotsky. He quickly became the Marxist movement leader and led the Bolsheviks in the bloody, violent Red October Revolution. Lenin, much to his surprise, effectively ended the Russian Empire rather easily and established the Soviet state. The Romanov Dynasty had become brittle and incredibly unpopular and Russians were willing to embrace Lenin's revolution.
Lenin proved decisive and ruthless from the very beginning. He neglected his fellow countrymen's sufferings because he was focused on crushing any internal opposition or riots. The Red Army or as it was also commonly referred to - The Great Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army - was raised by Lenin’s Bolsheviks to oppose the various military collectively known as the White army during the Russian Civil War. After 1922, the Red Army was transformed into the Army of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics by the new regime.
Lenin’s Cult of Personality
Lenin was a powerful and gifted orator. From an early age, Vladimir was capable of effectively communicating complicated concepts and ideas to his audience. Lenin could effectively communicate with Russians who had limited education. Unfortunately, Lenin was more interested in building a country around his persona instead of improving Russian citizens' lives. Lenin was fairly ruthless with any opposition to his rule. Millions of free-will poets, philosophers, or priests lost their lives or were forced to emigrate. The orthodox church was almost entirely banned.
Lenin’s authoritarian regime generated opposition, and he narrowly survived a few assassination attempts. In one of these attempts, Lenin was severely wounded, and his long term health was affected. Lenin's injury and workaholic nature eroded his health. In May 1922, he suffered a stroke from which he never fully recovered. He lost his power of speech, and his right arm and leg were paralyzed. In December, he had another stroke. The third followed in March 1923 and turned him into a living corpse. Lenin died on 24 January 1924. His body was embalmed and emblematically placed in a mausoleum on Moscow's Red Square. St Petersburg was renamed Leningrad in his honor.
Lenin transformed himself from an imprisoned radical to an absolute ruler in three decades. Lenin's shadow hung over the Soviet Union and Europe for another 70 years. While Lenin was a remarkable orator and writer, his takeover of Russia was a fluke. In 1917, the Russian Empire was a disaster. It was led by the Romanov's who were unpopular, foolish, and incompetent. World War I had also fatally weakened the Russian Empire. Lenin's revolution would have been quickly snuffed out if it had occurred at any other time in Russian history. Lenin's timing could not have been better. Lenin's luck allowed him to become the first revolutionary dictator of the century with influence globally.
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- Initially establishing the so-called Russian Social Democratic Worker's Party and later – Communist Party.
- A.k.a. Red October or Bolshevik Revolution
Updated November 30, 2020