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V.I. Lenin

Lenin, V.I. (1870–1924), Russian revolutionary, founder of the Bolshevik (later Communist) Party, leader of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, and founder of the Soviet state. Born Vladimir llyich Ulyanov, Lenin became a revolutionary after his older brother was executed (1887) on charges of plotting to assassinate the tsar. By then a follower of the ideas of Karl Marx, Lenin was arrested and exiled to Siberia in 1895. In 1900 he and his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, went into exile in western Europe. In 1902 he published his famous pamphlet What is to Be Done? arguing that only a highly disciplined party of revolutionaries could cause the overthrow of the tsar. In 1903 the Russian Social Democratic Workers Party, meeting in London, split over this and related issues. Lenin's supporters became known as the Bolsheviks (from the Russian word for “majority”); his opponents were called Mensheviks (from “minority”). Lenin and his fellow Marxists returned briefly to Russia during the unsuccessful revolution of 1905. In 1907 he went into exile again. When the tsar was overthrown by the Feb. 1917 revolution, in the midst of World War I, Lenin returned to Russia. Reacting against the rush of Socialist parties in Europe to support their own governments in World War I, he issued a call for the formation of a new revolutionary international organization. In Oct. 1917 the Bolshevik Party, under the leadership of Lenin and Leon Trotsky, seized power in Russia at the head of a popular insurrection, and Lenin became the head of the new, Soviet state. The revolutionary organization he had called for came into being as well, as the Communist International.Lenin led the revolutionary state for its first 6 years, aperiodthat saw the civil war and the nationalization of industry. With the end of the civil war in 1921 he turned to a more liberal economic approach, known as the New Economic Policy. This allowed some development of private enterprises, especially in the countryside. At the same time, however, his government banned all opposition parties. Considerable state resources were devoted to the Communist International and to attempts to foster other revolutions in other countries, especially in Europe. In the late months of 1923 Lenin began warning about the rising bureaucratization of the state and about the growing ambition of Stalin. In Jan. 1924, however, before any of those warnings would be acted on, he died from a series of strokes. Lenin had a greater influence on communism than anyone else except Karl Marx. In fact, after his death the theory of communism came to be called Marxist-Leninism. His major contribution to the political doctrine was his concept of the revolutionary party, and he was the first to implement that concept successfully. In that sense he was one of history's greatest revolutionaries and one of the most influential political leaders of the 20th century.

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