Vladimir Ilich Lenin – First Leader of Soviet Russia


Vladimir Ilich Lenin was Chairman of the People’s Council of Commissars. He became famous for organizing the revolutionary movement that overthrew the Russian imperial leadership and he contributed to the movement’s ideological foundation, which was based on Marxist theory. He developed techniques for recruiting and training a disciplined professional revolutionary party and creating a model that influenced revolutions in China and Cuba.

Lenin’s Education and Political Career

Lenin was expelled from Kazan’ University for participating in a student demonstration in 1887. He was jailed for his involvement in organizing Marxist activities; after 15 months in prison, was sentenced to three years of exile in 1985. He published the development of Capitalism in Russia, which he wrote while exiled in Siberia in 1899.

Lenin published a pamphlet titled What Is To Be Done?, outlining the need for highly trained professional revolutionaries in 1902. He created a rift at the Second Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party by insisting that membership be limited to a small core in 1903; his supporters were thereafter known as Bolsheviks, his opponents known as Mensheviks. He published Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, attributing the First World War to capitalist nations’ need to constantly expand in 1916. He convinced a majority of the Bolsheviks to seize power from the provisional government; founded the Socialist state, and formed a coalition government with the Left Socialist Revolutionaries in 1917. He Split with the Left Social Revolutionaries and renamed the Bolsheviks the Russian Communist Party in 1918; launched the Red Terror, a campaign to eliminate political opponents among the civilian population; he survived an assassination attempt.

Lenin organized the Third International, popularly known as the Communist International or Comintern, to promote world revolution according to the Russian Communist model in 1919. He introduced a policy of economic liberalization known as the New Economic Policy in 1921. He experienced declining health after suffering a stroke; authored his “testament,” which included criticism of Joseph Stalin, then general secretary of the Communist Party, from 1922 to 1923. “Liberty is precious, so precious that it must be rationed.” These words were attributed to Lenin in Soviet Communism by Sidney and Beatrice Webb, 1936.

Lenin’s Legacy

Although Lenin and Stalin were political enemies by the end of Lenin’s life, Stalin created a personality cult around Lenin after his death to glorify the history of the revolution. Saint Petersburg was known as Leningrad from 1924 to 1991, when it was renamed after the collapse of the Communist government.