Pseudonym of Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov, founder of the Russian Bolshevik party, first head of the Soviet Union; b. Simbirsk (now Ulyanovsk), April 22 (N.S.), 1870; d. Gorki, near Moscow, Jan. 21, 1924. The talents of young Vladimir, son of a school inspector, were recognized early by the director of his gymnasium, F. M. Kerensky, father of Alexander Kerensky, who became head of the provisional government after the revolution of 1917. In May of 1887, an older brother, Alexander, was executed for participation in a populist attempt to assassinate Czar Alexander III. In June of 1887, the family moved to Kazan, where Vladimir entered the university law school. He joined an illegal student circle and, to avoid arrest, left the university. The czarist police soon took him into custody, however, and he was exiled to the village of Kokuschkino. In the fall of 1888 he was allowed to return to Kazan, where he joined the Marxist circle under the leadership of Fedoseev. In 1891 he took his bar examination in St. Petersburg and returned to practice law in Samara (now Kuibyshev), where the family had moved in 1889. He founded the first Marxian circle in the city in 1892, demanding from the members unquestioning subordination to his dictates. In August of 1893, he returned to the capital.
Lenin's first monograph, circulated privately in 1894, was entitled "Who Are the 'Friends of the People' and How Do They Fight Against Social Democrats?" It was directed against the populist organization. In April of 1895, he traveled for the first time to Western Europe
to make contacts with emigré Marxists who had established themselves in Geneva as the "Liberation of Labor" group. He returned to Russia in September of 1895 and united most of the existing Marxist groups in St. Petersburg into one organization, the "Union for the Struggle for the Liberation of the Working Class." In December of that year he was arrested and jailed, and in February of 1897 he was exiled for three years to Eastern Siberia. There he continued to write and to discuss the problems of the Russian Marxists with other exiled revolutionaries. He wrote pamphlets for his followers at home and prepared a monumental work, The Development of Capitalism in Russia (1897). To hide his identity he adopted in 1900 the pseudonym N. Lenin.
Foundation of the Bolshevik Party. After emigrating to Western Europe in July 1900, Lenin began in December the publication in Germany of his first newspaper, Iskra (The Spark), which was smuggled to the Russian empire. It was at his insistence that the second congress of the Russian Socialist Democratic Labor Party was convened in Brussels and London during the summer of 1903 (the founding congress had been held at Minsk in 1898). A bitter discussion about the structure of the party led to a split between the Bolshinstvo, (i.e., majority, hence Bolsheviks, ) and the Menshinstvo, (i.e., minority, hence, Mensheviks). The next year Lenin started his own Bolshevik newspaper, Vperyod (Forward). The Bolsheviks played only a very small role during the Russian revolution of 1905. Lenin returned to the Russian capital in November of that year but, realizing the weakness of the Marxists, he eventually fled again to Switzerland and later moved to Paris. His main preoccupation from 1907 to 1912 was with polemics against the Mensheviks and all other elements that opposed his views. In 1912, the Bolshevik party was formed as an independent political organization at a conference in Prague. Later in the year Lenin moved to Cracow, Poland, where he convened the Bolshevik Central Committee. It was at this meeting that he decided to utilize the national enmity between the Russians and the non-Russians for revolutionary Bolshevik strategy. At the outbreak of World War I he was arrested by the Austrian police but managed to return to Switzerland where, together with G. Zinoviev, he established the headquarters of Bolshevik agitation.
The Soviet Revolution. When the czarist empire collapsed, during the revolution of February and March of 1917, Lenin returned to Russia and immediately demanded "All Power to the Soviets." He called for an immediate end to the war, distribution of land to the peasants, and the right of all nations of the former Russian empire to self-determination, including secession from Russia. In July he provoked a revolt against the provisional government, but the Bolsheviks were quickly defeated. Lenin went into hiding in Finland. By September, however, the St. Petersburg Soviet (elected council) was under Bolshevik control. Trotsky, who had joined Lenin's forces early in 1917, became its chairman. During the night of November 7–8, the Bolsheviks gained control of St. Petersburg and forced the provisional government to capitulate.
The first Soviet government was formed on November 8. Its cabinet was called the Council of People's Commissars, and Lenin was its chairman. The secret police, the Cheka, was organized. Lenin ordered the nationalization of property. In January of 1918, he dispersed the constituent assembly. In March he signed the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty with the Central Powers. When the non-Russian nations proclaimed their independence, Lenin ordered the Red Army to invade and conquer them. In March of 1921, however, he reversed his policy of integral socialism ("war communism") and initiated the New Economic Policy, interpreted by many as a retreat from Marxist principles and a return to partial private ownership. On May 26, 1922, he suffered a stroke, and only temporarily regained his health. One of his last major concerns was the role of Joseph Stalin, whom he wanted removed from his position as general secretary of the Party.
Bibliography: v. i. lenin, Selected Works, 2 v. in 4 (Moscow 1952). d. shub, Lenin (New York 1950). d. w. treadgold, Lenin and His Rivals (New York 1955). b. d. wolfe, Three Who Made a Revolution (New York 1948).
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