Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, AKA Lenin was a Russian communist revolutionary, politician, and political theorist. He served as head of government of the Russian Republic from 1917 to 1918, of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic from 1918 to 1924, and of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1924. Under his administration, Russia and then the wider Soviet Union became a one-party communist state governed by the Russian Communist Party. Ideologically a Marxist, he developed political theories known as Leninism.
Born to a wealthy middle-class family in Simbirsk, Lenin embraced revolutionary socialist politics following his brother’s execution in 1887. Expelled from Kazan Imperial University for participating in protests against the Russian Empire’s Tsarist government, he devoted the following years to a law degree. He moved to Saint Petersburg in 1893 and became a senior figure in the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP). In 1897, he was arrested for sedition and exiled to Shushenskoye for three years, where he married Nadezhda Krupskaya. After his exile, he moved to Western Europe, where he became a prominent party theorist through his publications. In 1903, he took a key role in a RSDLP ideological split, leading the Bolshevik faction against Julius Martov’s Mensheviks. Encouraging insurrection during Russia’s failed Revolution of 1905, he later campaigned for the First World War to be transformed into a Europe-wide proletarian revolution, which as a Marxist he believed would cause the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement with socialism. After the 1917 February Revolution ousted the Tsar and established a Provisional Government, he returned to Russia to play a leading role in the October Revolution, in which the Bolsheviks overthrew the new regime.
Lenin’s government was led by the Bolsheviks, now renamed the Communist Party. Additional powers were initially held by elected soviets, while the government called elections for the Constituent Assembly before abolishing it. Lenin’s administration redistributed land among the peasantry and nationalised banks and large-scale industry. It withdrew from the First World War by signing a treaty with the Central Powers and promoted world revolution through the Communist International. Opponents were suppressed in the Red Terror, a violent campaign administered by the state security services; tens of thousands were killed or interned in concentration camps. His administration defeated right and left-wing anti-Bolshevik armies in the Russian Civil War from 1917 to 1922 and oversaw the Polish-Soviet War of 1919–1921. Responding to wartime devastation, famine, and popular uprisings, in 1921 Lenin encouraged economic growth through the market-orientated New Economic Policy. Several non-Russian nations secured independence after 1917, but three re-united with Russia through the formation of the Soviet Union in 1922. In increasingly poor health, Lenin expressed opposition to the growing power of his successor, Joseph Stalin, before dying at his dacha in Gorki.
Widely considered one of the most significant and influential figures of the 20th century, Lenin was the posthumous subject of a pervasive personality cult within the Soviet Union until its dissolution in 1991. He became an ideological figurehead behind Marxism-Leninism and thus a prominent influence over the international communist movement. A controversial and highly divisive individual, Lenin is viewed by supporters as a champion of socialism and the working class, while critics on both the left and right emphasize his role as founder of an authoritarian regime responsible for political repression and mass killings.
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