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Main Dictionary V

Vladimir Lenin

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, known as Lenin, was the Soviet statesman and politician, theorist of Marxism, as well as the leader of Russia’s October Revolution in 1917. He became the first guiding figure of the state, subsequently called the USSR.

Lenin set up a system of Marxist socialism, which was the initial stage of communism, in order to incorporate cooperative control over production facilities, redistribute fortune, eliminate the upper class concept, and come up with a more equitable society.

Youth and background

Vladimir Ulyanov was born in 1870 in Simbirsk (currently known as Ulyanovsk) in a well-off household. Actually, his family was quite prosperous back in those days. And it had a direct influence on Lenin’s personality. His older brother, Alexander, was put to death for an attempted assassination of the Russian Tsar. Another event that formed his revolutionary views was a provocative act of students’ revolt.

Having become a Marxist in the 1890s, Lenin requested to pass the examination so that he later received a degree of St. Petersburg University. He acted as a social defender, endorsing at the same time transformative notions. 

As a result, Vladimir Ulyanov was exiled due to his groundbreaking political views to a remote area of Siberia. Thereafter, he assumed a pseudonym (“Lenin”), and relocated to Europe, upon returning to Russia in 1905 for further endorsement of revolutionary beliefs.

At the beginning of the First World War, while being present on the territory of Austria-Hungary, Lenin was arrested on suspicion of espionage for the Russian government. Thanks to the Social Democrats, he was released. 

Russian revolution of 1917

In fact, Vladimir Lenin returned to Russia in 1917. The day after arriving in Petrograd, he delivered the so-called "April Theses", the program, where he outlined the transition from the bourgeois-democratic revolution to the socialist one. The advocates of Marxism also began preparations for an armed uprising and overthrow of the Provisional government, in which ordinary workers and peasants exercised control.

From April 1917, Lenin became one of the principal leaders of the October armed revolt, and established the power of the Soviets. The reason for such a quick takeover is quite simple. The country was exhausted by the aftereffects of war.

Russian Civil War

During the Civil War, Lenin initiated the policy of "war communism". Actually, the policy anticipated a manufacturing sector to be nationalized, in order to subsidize authorities and provide supplies to the national troops. He also approved the creation of the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage (known as Cheka, or the Bolshevik secret police), which generally used repression methods for conducting the Red Terror. 

Note: socialism refers to the transitional phase from capitalism to communism. The first term includes absolute control over economic resources on a state level. The second notion, in contrast, contemplates that residents of the country divide all economic potentials equally that are, in turn, allocated by a democratic government.

With the end of the Civil War, the process of restoring the national economy has begun. In this regard, at Lenin’s request, a policy of "war communism" was abolished, and the food appropriation was replaced by a food tax.

Uprise of the USSR

In fact, the policy of “war communism” affected the economic standing of the country. Following the famine of 1921 that claimed the lives of more than 5 million people, Vladimir Lenin presented another economic course, known as the New Economic Policy. It touched upon establishing some private enterprises, implementing the system of wages, as well as allowing free trade for individuals. The last one included a tax payment from all revenues. Notably, state-owned enterprises functioned in a commercial setting.

In subsequent years, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin suffered several strokes that affected his speaking and governing abilities. On January 21, 1924, the leader passed away at his residence in Gorki. His body was embalmed and placed in the Mausoleum on Red Square in Moscow. Back at that time, the establishment of the USSR had already taken place through the direct influence of Lenin and Bolsheviks. As a result, Stalin was appointed as his successor.

Lenin’s legacy

Being an internationally acclaimed politician, Vladimir Ilyich determined the development vector of world history, and, in particular, a trajectory for the 20th century. 

There is no doubt that Lenin was the key figure of the Russian Revolution, promoting an overthrow of the autocracy. He organized the Bolshevik Party, which was able to come to power in a short-term. So that the country had undergone numerous changes in political and economic relations. Thanks to Lenin, Russia turned from an Empire into a socialist state based on the ideas of communism and the working class rule.

Lenin's ideas of industrialization, cultural revolution, and universal literacy were the strongest in his political arsenal. The Bolsheviks opened unprecedented social elevators for millions of people.

The state created by Vladimir Ilyich had existed for the entire 20th century. It was touted as one of the strongest countries in the international arena. Lenin's personality is still controversial in historical circles, but it goes without saying that he is considered the greatest world leader.

Criticism

Some historians, on the contrary, condemn Leninism as a phenomenon and, on the whole, negatively evaluate the results of Lenin's practical activities. Proponents blame Vladimir Ilyich for the country's slide towards communist totalitarianism that caused millions of deaths. 

In addition, the years of Lenin's rule, in terms of statistics, were the most destructive in the history of Russia, as there was a strong decline in major economic indicators.

Negative sides of Lenin's rule include the fact that with the advent of the Bolsheviks, a civil war broke out in Russia. Vladimir Ilyich also paid more attention to the working class, not placing emphasis on other social groups.

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