There are two absolutes that can be said of Lenin he certain changed world events, and his ideals were perverted by lesser men.
Trying to find the real Lenin is much like finding a single coin tossed into a vast sea. There is much written about Lenin and what a reader finds is two trains of thought, one being Lenin was a butcher, a man who would be king, and the other is that what he started was corrupted by those around him. But he still remains the intellectual that tried to form a better Russia than what the Tsar had left.
I am not going to take sides in the debate about Lenin. I will not sing his praises, nor curse his memory.
IN 1870, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, was born the son of a school and civil service official. A gifted student, in a family of more than reasonable means, he excelled at his studies, although outspoken.
Tragedy struck the young Vladimir when his father died in 1886. Only to have more tragedy heaped upon his already saddened shoulders in 1887. His brother, Alexander was arrested in 1887, tried and hanged on the accusation that he plotted to assassinate the Tsar. Alexander had gotten involved politics and eventually joined the People's Will, a group of radicals that had been responsible for the assassination of Alexander II. In a trial that seemed completely one sided, Alexander was guilty by association.
Alexander did not deny any of the charges placed before him at the trial. The court would not take into account there is a difference between words and deeds. The court quickly found Alexander guilty and executed him right there.
Anarchy was not confined to just Russia alone, there were anarchists in most countries and it was a sign of the times. People wanted change but were powerless to invoke those changes. So they resorted to bombs and guns.
With two major blows within two years, Vladimir became an embittered man. He swore to avenge his brother s death at all costs. He also wanted to understand his brother s zeal, and what might seem radical, beliefs that led to Alexander s demise. Vladimir took his brother s books and dug into the writings of Nikolai Chernyshevsky and Dmitri Pisarev. Vladimir s grief and bitterness were further fueled when his neighbors, people being what they are, refused to have anything to do with the Ulyanov family. Socially isolated and branded as outcasts, Vladimir was left with only his readings to comfort him.
Nikolai Chernyshevsky and Dmitri Pisarev were political writers who inspired young Russian "Populist" intellectuals to take a stand in doing away with the monarchy and establishing a society firmly based in the equality of all people. American s should not find this concept so alien for our own constitution says that all men are created equal.
Vladimir enrolled at the University of Kazan to study law. As the brother of a now-famous revolutionary martyr, he was greeted warmly by members of the revolutionary underground and watched very closely by the secret police. Things took a nasty turn for Vladimir in December 1887 when he started a student demonstration and the university was left with no other choice but to expel him. He returned home in further disgrace.
Vladimir Ilyich once again returned to the comforts of his books and his readings. The writings of Karl Marx drew the young mans attention. In Marx, he saw his noble cause and his calling. In the words and sentences, Vladimir saw what he thought would be utopia for the common man. Work to your ability and receive to your needs. Vladimir Ilyich became a man with a mission.
1895 found Vladimir Ilyich wandering through Europe and in his travels, he started collecting and reading everything he could on a young movement called the Communists - the orthodoxy adherents to the writings of Karl Marx. It spoke of a socialist, classless state, ruled by the proletariat.
Soon, the young man was heading back to St. Petersburg. He once again established his ties with the revolutionary underground. He also became more active and vocal. In 1897, he was arrested for distributing communist literature which was forbidden in Russia. The court took a more lenient attitude towards the young man than it had with his brother, and rather than hang him, they sent him to Siberia.
Siberia was not all that unkind to Vladimir, for he was able spend time on his writings, and he met Nadezhda Krupskaya, another socialist. Soon, Vladimir and Nadezhda were married. He also changed his name he was now Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.
1900 saw Lenin s completion of the terms of his banishment and he was free to return to society. The group he had left in St. Petersburg was in disarray, political squabbles, and disorganization plagued the group. Lenin and his wife instead went to Geneva, Switzerland, and made contact with Georgi Plekhanov who is considered to be the father of Russian communism.
The news journal The Spark was born and the Lenins co-authored with Plekhanov, Vera Zasulich, Pavel Akselrod, Iulius Martov, and Leon Trotsky. But once again political ideology drove a wedge within the ranks. The party headquarters moved about trying to stay one step ahead of the police until the outbreak of world war one. As eyes focused on the war, the various socialist movements got caught up in the patriotic calling and left to their homelands defense. Lenin denounced the war as a conflict of competing imperialist powers, and he called on the working peoples of all nations to turn their weapons and overthrow their capitalist governments.
The continuous staggering loses suffer by the Russian army, civil unrest, strikes, and a people with a searing inflammatory frustration created a volatile mixture. The Russian Duma made it very clear Russia was going to stay engaged in the war inspite of the losses and the civil unrest at home. The time bomb of titanic proportions was now ticking.
Germany approached Lenin with a deal they d fund him and return him to Russia if he d get Russia out of the war. An over simplification, yes. But still it was the bottom line deal to which Lenin said yes. Trotsky joined Lenin and they were spirited back into Russia. The collapse of the Russian counter offensive, in which Russia suffered over 200,000 casualties, was what Lenin needed to start pressing for a withdrawal from the war, and people started listening.
1917 also saw people turning to the streets. Wholesale and violent riots were breaking out demanding an end of the current government and turning control over to the socialists. Because of Lenin s outspoken nature, he was singled out and an arrest warrant was issued for him. He fled the country to Finland.
November 1917 brought the turning point and Trotsky leading the Red Army took total control of Petrograd. One city after another fell to the red army and soon, the Bolsheviks controlled the entire infrastructure of Russian government.
Lenin made good his promise he had made to Germany, and he sued for peace.
Bitter fighting continued within Russia until 1921 and Lenin s health paid a bitter price. He succumbed to a stroke in 1924.
In one of his last letters to the new communist government, Lenin warned of Stalin s ambitions, his nature, and his brutal methods. A warning that fell on deaf ears.
Too many questions remain unanswered, even to this day about Lenin. Did Lenin actually order the execution of the Tsar? Did Lenin bring about the red terror that left hundreds of thousands of Russians dead? Or were those orders issued behind and underneath Lenin. There are no documents surviving, that we know of, and such questions might have been left unanswered had it not been for the actions of Stalin after Lenin s death.
Lenin embraced an ideology that was popular at the time in many corners of the world. The high minded and lofty goals failed to take into account one thing, and that is man s human nature. Marx wrote of a paradise all based upon the assumption that everything would fall into place with absolute perfection. Lenin probably didn t see beyond that and the bitter reality cost him his life.
The Russian revolution laid waste to Russia in its entirety and Russia is still trying to understand and come to grips with it all. Who directly brought this savage tear in the fabric of the Russian soul and the Russian people, and to the land of the Tsars is not known. Were Lenin and Trotsky forced to defend, and accept responsibility for deeds they did not order or condone? Some blame Lenin, some blame Stalin. History is still not an exact science.
Lenin s body still lies in his tomb next to the Kremlin in Red Square. His body is brought up from the vault, but the viewing lines of people that used to extend for blocks are no longer there. Lenin s remains are greeted now only by the flutter of birds wings and the laughter of children walking through Red Square.
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