Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
(22 April 1870 â€“ 21 January 1924)
was a Russian communist revolutionary, politician and political theorist who served as the leader of the Russian SFSR from 1917, and then concurrently as Premier of the Soviet Union from 1922, until 1924.
Born into a wealthy middle-class family in Simbirsk, Lenin gained an interest in revolutionary leftist politics following the execution of his brother in 1887. Briefly attending the University of Kazan, where he was ejected for his involvement in anti-Tsarist protests, he devoted the next few years to gaining a degree in law and to radical politics, becoming a Marxist. In 1893 he moved to Russia's capital at St. Petersburg, where he continued with his political agitation, becoming a senior figure within the League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class. Arrested and exiled to Siberia for three years, he subsequently fled to Western Europe, living in Germany, England and then Switzerland. Following the February Revolution of 1917, in which the Tsar was overthrown and a provisional government took power, he decided to return home.
Lenin's father, Ilya Nikolayevich Ulyanov (1831â€“1886), had been born the fourth and final child of a couple living in Astrakhan. Ilya's father, a poor tailor named Nikolai Vassilievich Ulyanov, had been born a serf of either Kalmyk or Tatar descent, before marrying a far younger illiterate Kalmyk girl named Anna Alexeevna Smirnova when in his fifties. Ilya had escaped the poverty of his family by gaining admittance to the University of Kazan, where he studied mathematics and physics, before gaining employment teaching those subjects at the Penza Institute for the Nobility in 1854. Introduced through a mutual friend to a woman named Maria Alexandrovna Blank (1835â€“1916), they fell in love, and were married in the summer of 1863. Having been born into a relatively prosperous background, Mariya was the daughter of a Russian Jewish physician named Alexander Dmitrievich Blank, and his German-Swedish wife, Anna Ivanovna Grosschopf. An eccentric, Dr Blank had insisted on providing his children with a good education, ensuring that Mariya learned English and French alongside Russian and German and that she was well versed in Russian literature. Soon after their wedding, Ilya obtained a job teaching in Nizhni Novgorod, before being appointed to the position of director of primary schools in the Simbirsk district six years later. Five years after that, he was promoted to Director of Public Schools for the province, overseeing the foundation of over 450 schools as a part of the government's plans for modernisation. As a result, he was awarded the Order of St. Vladimir and given the position of an hereditary nobleman.
As the leader of the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, he took a senior role in orchestrating the October Revolution in 1917, which led to the overthrow of the Russian Provisional Government and the establishment of the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, the world's first constitutionally socialist state. Immediately afterwards, Lenin proceeded to implement socialist reforms, including the transfer of estates and crown lands to workers' soviets. Faced with the threat of German invasion, he argued that Russia should immediately sign a peace treatyâ€”which led to Russia's exit from the First World War. In 1921 Lenin proposed the New Economic Policy, a system of state capitalism which started the process of industrialisation and recovery from the Russian Civil War. In 1922, the Russian SFSR joined former territories of the Russian Empire in becoming the Soviet Union. The Bolshevik faction later became the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which acted as a vanguard party presiding over a single-party dictatorship of the proletariat.
As a politician, Lenin was a persuasive and charismatic orator. As an intellectual his extensive theoretic and philosophical developments of Marxism produced Marxismâ€“Leninism, a pragmatic Russian application of Marxism that emphasized the critical role played by a committed and disciplined political vanguard in the revolutionary process, while defending the possibility of a socialist revolution in less advanced capitalist countries through an alliance of the proletarians with the rural peasantry. Lenin remains a controversial and highly divisive world figure. Critics labeled him a dictator whose administration oversaw multiple human rights abuses, but supporters countered this criticism citing the limitations on his power and promoted him heroically as a champion of the working class. He has had a significant influence on the Marxistâ€“Leninist movement, which since his death had developed into a variety of schools of thought, namely Stalinism, Trotskyism and Maoism.