Vladimir Lenin: Everything You Didn't Know About The Russian Revolutionary

By | October 19, 2020

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Embalmed body of Lenin at Red Square. (Getty Images)

Becoming Vladimir Lenin

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov was born to a middle-class, well-educated family in Simbirsk, Russia on April 22, 1870. His father, Ilya, was a mathematician who had worked his way up from serfdom to eventually becoming the director of schools, and so the Ulyanov children were expected to use this privileged status to gain an education and do great things with their lives. However, Vladimir's elder brother, Alexander, may have mucked things up a bit by trying to blow up Russian Emperor Alexander III with a homemade bomb as his carriage passed them by in St. Petersburg and managed to get himself executed a few months later.

Although Ulyanov thought little of his brother's actions, the suspicion around this possibly radicalized family was enough to get him kicked out of law school when he showed even the slightest signs of political dissent. This expulsion only served to turn him into an autodidact, and he quickly devoured the writings of Communist legend Karl Marx. He joined an intelligentsia-style political book club, so to speak, and became enamored with the idea of a Marxist revolution.

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The Bolshevik. (Tretyakov Gallery/Wikimedia Commons)

Famine And Exile

Meanwhile, things were looking particularly bad for Russia as a famine spread along the Volga River due to the dreadfully cold and dry winter of 1891, resulting in over 400,000 deaths, most of which were from the peasant class. Needless to say, the people were not impressed with the government's inability to handle such an important crisis. This despair emboldened the Marxists and Ulyanov in their belief that there was definitely a better alternative to be found in a system like Communism.

However, Ulyanov's attempt to unionize factory workers by spreading the Bolshevik "Union for the Struggle for the Liberation of the Working Class" pamphlets, which touted extremist notions like eight-hour workdays and secured pensions, was met with a swift kick to Siberia, where he was sentenced to three years of exile. Once again, trying to push Ulyanov out only served him better, as he had more time to write and influence the Russian people toward his own unique version of Communism. It is here that he tried on different writer's pseudonyms and finally landed on the name of Vladimir Lenin, as he is still called today.