Vladimir Lenin

By: Mick Yates

Lenin, born Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov in 1870, is one of the best known political figures of the 20th century.  He masterminded the Bolshevik takeover of power in Russia in 1917, known as the October Revolution.

His ability to lead was rooted in his strong political beliefs, developed at university and deepened by the execution of his brother, a member of the revolutionary group. 

As a professional revolutionary, Lenin and others were exiled to Siberia but later, whilst living in Western Europe, his oratory skills and passion saw him rise to become leader of the Bolshevik revolutionary fraction.  Driven by oppression and exploitation of the working classes he was totally dedicated to the cause, even ending friendships that obstructed the movement’s progress.

During the First World War Russia was suffering and in chaos and Lenin took his chance to overthrow the provisional government and founded the first Socialist state in the world.  In power the Bolshevik Party became known as the Communist Party and the realities of governing such a huge and diverse country, brought to its knees by war, famine and disease, quickly displaced the aspirations and optimism of the people’s revolution.  After miraculously surviving an assassination attempt, Lenin became increasingly ruthless, driven by paranoia fuelled by the threat of counter-revolutionaries and those loyal to the old Tsarist regime.  Rather than the multi-party democracy advocated by Lenin and his party prior to the revolution, Russia drifted towards a one-party state.

Before his death in 1922, Lenin showed a more pragmatic leadership style and tried to correct some of the excesses of the regime, realising that co-existence with capitalist countries and reduced bureaucracy were necessary.  His successor, Stalin, disagreed.

By Melanie Smith