Vladimir Lenin (1870–1924,) born Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov was one of the most important revolutionary thinkers of the twentieth century. He masterminded the 1917 October Revolution, and, after the overthrow of the tsar, became the architect and the first premier of the Soviet Union.
Born in Simbirsk, western Russia, Lenin lived in Switzerland from 1900. He returned to Russia in 1917 and led the Bolsheviks during the October Revolution. After three years of civil war, the Bolsheviks triumphed and took total control of the country. During this period of revolution, war, and famine, Lenin exhibited a frightening indifference for the sufferings of his compatriots and ruthlessly crushed all political opposition.
As the Soviet leader from 1918 until 1924, Lenin became the first political leader to put Marxist principles into practice. This resulted in the rise of Communism in the former Russian Empire and elsewhere. Lenin’s creation of Soviet Russia’s militant socialist establishment endangered other political and social systems. Leninism, which was characterized by the influence of political principles over unstructured economic and social forces, laid the foundation for Stalin’s rule and influenced many other militant, party-led regimes controlled by a single leader.
Lenin was a prolific writer; his collected works on his sociopolitical and economical theories amounted to fifty-five volumes. His most notable works include What Is To Be Done (1902,) Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916) and State and Revolution (1917.) During the last years of his life, he denounced the bureaucratization of the Soviet regime, but was unable to prevent the concentration of power in the hands of his eventual successor, Joseph Stalin.
Lenin was venerated as a national icon and the architect of the Soviet Union until the fall of communism in 1990. In 1991, Leningrad, Russia’s second-largest city that had been named in his honor, changed its name back to St Petersburg. Many of the world’s formerly communist states have since discarded Marxist-Leninism in favor of free-market capitalism.