141 Facts About Lenin


Lenin served as the first and founding head of government of Soviet Russia from 1917 to 1924 and of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1924.

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Lenin moved to Saint Petersburg in 1893 and became a senior Marxist activist.

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Lenin's administration redistributed land among the peasantry and nationalised banks and large-scale industry.

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Lenin's health failing, Lenin died in Gorki, with Joseph Stalin succeeding him as the pre-eminent figure in the Soviet government.

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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.

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Meanwhile, Lenin's critics accuse him of establishing a totalitarian dictatorship which oversaw mass killings and political repression.

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Lenin was born in Streletskaya Ulitsa, Simbirsk, now Ulyanovsk, on 22 April 1870, and baptised six days later; as a child, he was known as Volodya, a diminutive of Vladimir.

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Lenin joined a revolutionary cell bent on assassinating the Tsar and was selected to construct a bomb.

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The police arrested Lenin and accused him of being a ringleader in the demonstration; he was expelled from the university, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs exiled him to his family's Kokushkino estate.

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Lenin's mother was concerned by her son's radicalisation, and was instrumental in convincing the Interior Ministry to allow him to return to the city of Kazan, but not the university.

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Wary of his political views, Lenin's mother bought a country estate in Alakaevka village, Samara Oblast, in the hope that her son would turn his attention to agriculture.

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Lenin had little interest in farm management, and his mother soon sold the land, keeping the house as a summer home.

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In September 1889, the Ulyanov family moved to the city of Samara, where Lenin joined Alexei Sklyarenko's socialist discussion circle.

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Lenin began to read the works of the Russian Marxist Georgi Plekhanov, agreeing with Plekhanov's argument that Russia was moving from feudalism to capitalism and so socialism would be implemented by the proletariat, or urban working class, rather than the peasantry.

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Lenin rejected the premise of the agrarian-socialist argument, but was influenced by agrarian-socialists like Pyotr Tkachev and Sergei Nechaev, and befriended several Narodniks.

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In May 1890, Maria, who retained societal influence as the widow of a nobleman, persuaded the authorities to allow Lenin to take his exams externally at the University of St Petersburg, where he obtained the equivalent of a first-class degree with honours.

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Lenin remained in Samara for several years, working first as a legal assistant for a regional court and then for a local lawyer.

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Lenin devoted much time to radical politics, remaining active in Sklyarenko's group and formulating ideas about how Marxism applied to Russia.

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Lenin wrote a paper on peasant economics; it was rejected by the liberal journal Russian Thought.

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Lenin began a romantic relationship with Nadezhda "Nadya" Krupskaya, a Marxist schoolteacher.

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Lenin authored the political tract What the "Friends of the People" Are and How They Fight the Social-Democrats criticising the Narodnik agrarian-socialists, based largely on his experiences in Samara; around 200 copies were illegally printed in 1894.

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Lenin proceeded to Paris to meet Marx's son-in-law Paul Lafargue and to research the Paris Commune of 1871, which he considered an early prototype for a proletarian government.

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From his Marxist perspective, Lenin argued that this Russian proletariat would develop class consciousness, which would in turn lead them to violently overthrow tsarism, the aristocracy, and the bourgeoisie and to establish a proletariat state that would move toward socialism.

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In February 1897, Lenin was sentenced without trial to three years' exile in eastern Siberia.

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Lenin was granted a few days in Saint Petersburg to put his affairs in order and used this time to meet with the Social-Democrats, who had renamed themselves the League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class.

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Lenin was initially posted to Ufa, but persuaded the authorities to move her to Shushenskoye, claiming that she and Lenin were engaged; they married in a church on 10 July 1898.

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Keen to keep up with developments in German Marxism, where there had been an ideological split, with revisionists like Eduard Bernstein advocating a peaceful, electoral path to socialism, Lenin remained devoted to violent revolution, attacking revisionist arguments in A Protest by Russian Social-Democrats.

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Lenin finished The Development of Capitalism in Russia, his longest book to date, which criticised the agrarian-socialists and promoted a Marxist analysis of Russian economic development.

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In July 1900, Lenin left Russia for Western Europe; in Switzerland he met other Russian Marxists, and at a Corsier conference they agreed to launch the paper from Munich, where Lenin relocated in September.

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Lenin fell ill with erysipelas and was unable to take such a leading role on the Iskra editorial board; in his absence, the board moved its base of operations to Geneva.

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Martov argued that party members should be able to express themselves independently of the party leadership; Lenin disagreed, emphasising the need for a strong leadership with complete control over the party.

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Lenin's supporters were in the majority, and he termed them the "majoritarians" ; in response, Martov termed his followers the "minoritarians".

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Lenin urged Bolsheviks to take a greater role in the events, encouraging violent insurrection.

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Lenin presented many of his ideas in the pamphlet Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution, published in August 1905.

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Lenin encouraged the party to seek out a much wider membership, and advocated the continual escalation of violent confrontation, believing both to be necessary for a successful revolution.

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Lenin was involved in setting up a Bolshevik Centre in Kuokkala, Grand Duchy of Finland, which was at the time a semi-autonomous part of the Russian Empire, before the Bolsheviks regained dominance of the RSDLP at its Fifth Congress, held in London in May 1907.

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Lenin disliked Paris, lambasting it as "a foul hole", and while there he sued a motorist who knocked him off his bike.

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Lenin became very critical of Bogdanov's view that Russia's proletariat had to develop a socialist culture in order to become a successful revolutionary vehicle.

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Furthermore, Bogdanov, influenced by Ernest Mach, believed that all concepts of the world were relative, whereas Lenin stuck to the orthodox Marxist view that there was an objective reality independent of human observation.

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Bogdanov and Lenin holidayed together at Maxim Gorky's villa in Capri in April 1908; on returning to Paris, Lenin encouraged a split within the Bolshevik faction between his and Bogdanov's followers, accusing the latter of deviating from Marxism.

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In May 1908, Lenin lived briefly in London, where he used the British Museum Reading Room to write Materialism and Empirio-criticism, an attack on what he described as the "bourgeois-reactionary falsehood" of Bogdanov's relativism.

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Lenin's factionalism began to alienate increasing numbers of Bolsheviks, including his former close supporters Alexei Rykov and Lev Kamenev.

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Lenin stayed in close contact with the RSDLP, which was operating in the Russian Empire, convincing the Duma's Bolshevik members to split from their parliamentary alliance with the Mensheviks.

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In January 1913, Stalin, whom Lenin referred to as the "wonderful Georgian", visited him, and they discussed the future of non-Russian ethnic groups in the Empire.

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The war pitted the Russian Empire against the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and due to his Russian citizenship, Lenin was arrested and briefly imprisoned until his anti-Tsarist credentials were explained.

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Lenin was angry that the German Social-Democratic Party was supporting the German war effort, which was a direct contravention of the Second International's Stuttgart resolution that socialist parties would oppose the conflict, and saw the Second International as defunct.

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Lenin attended the Zimmerwald Conference in September 1915 and the Kienthal Conference in April 1916, urging socialists across the continent to convert the "imperialist war" into a continent-wide "civil war" with the proletariat pitted against the bourgeoisie and aristocracy.

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In July 1916, Lenin's mother died, but he was unable to attend her funeral.

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In September 1917, Lenin published Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, which argued that imperialism was a product of monopoly capitalism, as capitalists sought to increase their profits by extending into new territories where wages were lower and raw materials cheaper.

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Lenin believed that competition and conflict would increase and that war between the imperialist powers would continue until they were overthrown by proletariat revolution and socialism established.

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Lenin spent much of this time reading the works of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Ludwig Feuerbach, and Aristotle, all of whom had been key influences on Marx.

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Lenin still perceived himself as an orthodox Marxist, but he began to diverge from some of Marx's predictions about societal development; whereas Marx had believed that a "bourgeoisie-democratic revolution" of the middle-classes had to take place before a "socialist revolution" of the proletariat, Lenin believed that in Russia the proletariat could overthrow the Tsarist regime without an intermediate revolution.

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When Lenin learned of this from his base in Switzerland, he celebrated with other dissidents.

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Lenin decided to return to Russia to take charge of the Bolsheviks but found that most passages into the country were blocked due to the ongoing conflict.

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Lenin organised a plan with other dissidents to negotiate a passage for them through Germany, with whom Russia was then at war.

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Lenin publicly condemned both the Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionaries, who dominated the influential Petrograd Soviet, for supporting the Provisional Government, denouncing them as traitors to socialism.

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Lenin began arguing for a Bolshevik-led armed insurrection to topple the government, but at a clandestine meeting of the party's central committee this idea was rejected.

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Lenin initially turned down the leading position of Chairman, suggesting Trotsky for the job, but other Bolsheviks insisted and ultimately Lenin relented.

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Lenin argued that the election was not a fair reflection of the people's will, that the electorate had not had time to learn the Bolsheviks' political programme, and that the candidacy lists had been drawn up before the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries split from the Socialist-Revolutionaries.

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Lenin rejected repeated calls, including from some Bolsheviks, to establish a coalition government with other socialist parties.

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At their 7th Congress in March 1918, the Bolsheviks changed their official name from the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party to the Russian Communist Party, as Lenin wanted to both distance his group from the increasingly reformist German Social Democratic Party and to emphasise its ultimate goal, that of a communist society.

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Lenin was the most significant figure in this governance structure as well as being the Chairman of Sovnarkom and sitting on the Council of Labour and Defence, and on the Central Committee and Politburo of the Communist Party.

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Lenin disliked Moscow, but rarely left the city centre during the rest of his life.

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Lenin survived a second assassination attempt, in Moscow in August 1918; he was shot following a public speech and injured badly.

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In November 1917, Lenin issued the Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia, which stated that non-Russian ethnic groups living inside the Republic had the right to secede from Russian authority and establish their own independent nation-states.

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In October 1917, Lenin issued a decree limiting work for everyone in Russia to eight hours per day.

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Lenin issued the Decree on Popular Education that stipulated that the government would guarantee free, secular education for all children in Russia, and a decree establishing a system of state orphanages.

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Under Lenin, Russia became the first country to legalize abortion on demand in the first trimester.

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In November 1917, Lenin issued the Decree on Workers' Control, which called on the workers of each enterprise to establish an elected committee to monitor their enterprise's management.

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Lenin believed that this was impractical at that stage and that the government should only nationalise Russia's large-scale capitalist enterprises, such as the banks, railways, larger landed estates, and larger factories and mines, allowing smaller businesses to operate privately until they grew large enough to be successfully nationalised.

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Lenin disagreed with the Left Communists about the economic organisation; in June 1918, he argued that centralised economic control of industry was needed, whereas Left Communists wanted each factory to be controlled by its workers, a syndicalist approach that Lenin considered detrimental to the cause of socialism.

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Lenin believed that ongoing war would create resentment among war-weary Russian troops, to whom he had promised peace, and that these troops and the advancing German Army threatened both his own government and the cause of international socialism.

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Lenin proposed a three-month armistice in his Decree on Peace of November 1917, which was approved by the Second Congress of Soviets and presented to the German and Austro-Hungarian governments.

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Lenin argued that the territorial losses were acceptable if it ensured the survival of the Bolshevik-led government.

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At this point, Lenin finally convinced a small majority of the Bolshevik Central Committee to accept the Central Powers' demands.

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Lenin blamed this on the kulaks, or wealthier peasants, who allegedly hoarded the grain that they had produced to increase its financial value.

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Lenin repeatedly emphasised the need for terror and violence in overthrowing the old order and ensuring the success of the revolution.

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Lenin never witnessed this violence or participated in it first-hand, and publicly distanced himself from it.

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Lenin's published articles and speeches rarely called for executions, but he regularly did so in his coded telegrams and confidential notes.

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From July 1922, intellectuals deemed to be opposing the Bolshevik government were exiled to inhospitable regions or deported from Russia altogether; Lenin personally scrutinised the lists of those to be dealt with in this manner.

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In May 1922, Lenin issued a decree calling for the execution of anti-Bolshevik priests, causing between 14,000 and 20,000 deaths.

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Lenin expected Russia's aristocracy and bourgeoisie to oppose his government, but he believed that the numerical superiority of the lower classes, coupled with the Bolsheviks' ability to effectively organise them, guaranteed a swift victory in any conflict.

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Lenin tasked Trotsky with establishing a Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, and with his support, Trotsky organised a Revolutionary Military Council in September 1918, remaining its chairman until 1925.

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Whether Lenin sanctioned it or not, he still regarded it as necessary, highlighting the precedent set by the execution of Louis XVI in the French Revolution.

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Various senior Bolsheviks wanted these absorbed into the Russian state; Lenin insisted that national sensibilities should be respected, but reassured his comrades that these nations' new Communist Party administrations were under the de facto authority of Sovnarkom.

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Lenin saw this as a revival of the Second International, which he had despised, and formulated his own rival international socialist conference to offset its impact.

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Accordingly, the Bolsheviks dominated proceedings, with Lenin subsequently authoring a series of regulations that meant that only socialist parties endorsing the Bolsheviks' views were permitted to join Comintern.

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Lenin's predicted world revolution did not materialise, as the Hungarian communist government was overthrown and the German Marxist uprisings suppressed.

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Lenin declared that the mutineers had been misled by the Socialist-Revolutionaries and foreign imperialists, calling for violent reprisals.

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In February 1921, Lenin introduced a New Economic Policy to the Politburo; he convinced most senior Bolsheviks of its necessity and it passed into law in April.

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Lenin explained the policy in a booklet, On the Food Tax, in which he stated that the NEP represented a return to the original Bolshevik economic plans; he claimed that these had been derailed by the civil war, in which Sovnarkom had been forced to resort to the economic policies of war communism.

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Lenin termed this "state capitalism", and many Bolsheviks thought it to be a betrayal of socialist principles.

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Lenin biographers have often characterised the introduction of the NEP as one of his most significant achievements and some believe that had it not been implemented then Sovnarkom would have been quickly overthrown by popular uprisings.

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Lenin called for a mass electrification project, the GOELRO plan, which began in February 1920; Lenin's declaration that "communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country" was widely cited in later years.

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Lenin hoped that by allowing foreign corporations to invest in Russia, Sovnarkom would exacerbate rivalries between the capitalist nations and hasten their downfall; he tried to rent the oil fields of Kamchatka to an American corporation to heighten tensions between the US and Japan, who desired Kamchatka for their empire.

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Between 1920 and 1926, twenty volumes of Lenin's Collected Works were published; some material was omitted.

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Lenin was visited at the Kremlin by Armand, who was in increasingly poor health.

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Lenin sent her to a sanatorium in Kislovodsk in the Northern Caucasus to recover, but she died there in September 1920 during a cholera epidemic.

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Lenin's body was transported to Moscow, where a visibly grief-stricken Lenin oversaw her burial beneath the Kremlin Wall.

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Lenin was seriously ill by the latter half of 1921, experiencing hyperacusis, insomnia, and regular headaches.

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Lenin began to contemplate the possibility of suicide, asking both Krupskaya and Stalin to acquire potassium cyanide for him.

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The symptoms continued after this, with Lenin's doctors unsure of the cause; some suggested that he had neurasthenia or cerebral arteriosclerosis; others believed that he had syphilis, an idea endorsed in a 2004 report by a team of neuroscientists, who suggested that this was later deliberately concealed by the government.

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Lenin was concerned by the survival of the Tsarist bureaucratic system in Soviet Russia, particularly during his final years.

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Lenin recommended that Stalin be removed from the position of General Secretary of the Communist Party, deeming him ill-suited for the position.

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In December 1922, Stalin took responsibility for Lenin's regimen, being tasked by the Politburo with controlling who had access to him.

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Lenin was increasingly critical of Stalin; while Lenin was insisting that the state should retain its monopoly on international trade during mid-1922, Stalin was leading other Bolsheviks in unsuccessfully opposing this.

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Lenin saw this as an expression of Great Russian ethnic chauvinism by Stalin and his supporters, instead calling for these nation-states to join Russia as semi-independent parts of a greater union, which he suggested be called the Union of Soviet Republics of Europe and Asia.

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In March 1923, Lenin had a third stroke and lost his ability to speak; that month, he experienced partial paralysis on his right side and began exhibiting sensory aphasia.

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Lenin's funeral took place the following day, when his body was carried to Red Square, accompanied by martial music, where assembled crowds listened to a series of speeches before the corpse was placed into the vault of a specially erected mausoleum.

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Against Krupskaya's protestations, Lenin's body was embalmed to preserve it for long-term public display in the Red Square mausoleum.

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Lenin's sarcophagus was replaced in 1940 and again in 1970.

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Lenin defined socialism as "an order of civilized co-operators in which the means of production are socially owned", and believed that this economic system had to be expanded until it could create a society of abundance.

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Lenin believed that all workers throughout the country would voluntarily join to enable the state's economic and political centralisation.

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Lenin adapted his ideas according to changing circumstances, including the pragmatic realities of governing Russia amid war, famine, and economic collapse.

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Lenin believed that although Russia's economy was dominated by the peasantry, the presence of monopoly capitalism in Russia meant that the country was sufficiently materially developed to move to socialism.

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Lenin thought a proposition could be proved by quoting a text in Marx.

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Lenin did not question old Marxist scripture, he merely commented, and the comments have become a new scripture.

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Lenin opposed liberalism, exhibiting a general antipathy toward liberty as a value, and believing that liberalism's freedoms were fraudulent because it did not free labourers from capitalist exploitation.

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Lenin was an internationalist and a keen supporter of world revolution, deeming national borders to be an outdated concept and nationalism a distraction from class struggle.

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Lenin believed that in a socialist society, the world's nations would inevitably merge and result in a single world government.

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Lenin believed that this socialist state would need to be a centralised, unitary one, and regarded federalism as a bourgeois concept.

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Lenin was willing to use military force to ensure this unity, resulting in armed incursions into the independent states that formed in Ukraine, Georgia, Poland, Finland, and the Baltic states.

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Lenin saw himself as a man of destiny and firmly believed in the righteousness of his cause and his own ability as a revolutionary leader.

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Historian and biographer Robert Service asserted that Lenin had been an intensely emotional young man, who exhibited strong hatred for the Tsarist authorities.

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In Volkogonov's view, Lenin accepted Marxism as "absolute truth", and accordingly acted like "a religious fanatic".

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Similarly, Bertrand Russell felt that Lenin exhibited "unwavering faith—religious faith in the Marxian gospel".

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Biographer Christopher Read suggested that Lenin was "a secular equivalent of theocratic leaders who derive their legitimacy from the [perceived] truth of their doctrines, not popular mandates".

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Lenin was nevertheless an atheist and a critic of religion, believing that socialism was inherently atheistic; he thus considered Christian socialism a contradiction in terms.

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Service stated that Lenin could be "moody and volatile", and Pipes deemed him to be "a thoroughgoing misanthrope", a view rejected by Read, who highlighted many instances in which Lenin displayed kindness, particularly toward children.

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Lenin could be "venomous in his critique of others", exhibiting a propensity for mockery, ridicule, and ad hominem attacks on those who disagreed with him.

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Lenin ignored facts that did not suit his argument, abhorred compromise, and very rarely admitted his own errors.

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Lenin refused to change his opinions, until he rejected them completely, after which he would treat the new view as if it was just as unchangeable.

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Lenin showed no sign of sadism or of personally desiring to commit violent acts, but he endorsed the violent actions of others and exhibited no remorse for those killed for the revolutionary cause.

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Lenin who seemed externally so gentle and good-natured, who enjoyed a laugh, who loved animals and was prone to sentimental reminiscences, was transformed when class or political questions arose.

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Lenin was annoyed at what he perceived as a lack of conscientiousness and discipline among the Russian people, and from his youth had wanted Russia to become more culturally European and Western.

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Conversely, various Marxist observers, including Western historians Hill and John Rees, argued against the view that Lenin's government was a dictatorship, viewing it instead as an imperfect way of preserving elements of democracy without some of the processes found in liberal democratic states.

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Busts or statues of Lenin were erected in almost every village, and his face adorned postage stamps, crockery, posters, and the front pages of Soviet newspapers Pravda and Izvestia.

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The Order of Lenin was established as one of the country's highest decorations.

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Under Stalin's regime, Lenin was actively portrayed as a close friend of Stalin's who had supported Stalin's bid to be the next Soviet leader.

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In late 1991, amid the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russian President Boris Yeltsin ordered the Lenin archive be removed from Communist Party control and placed under the control of a state organ, the Russian Centre for the Preservation and Study of Documents of Recent History, at which it was revealed that over 6,000 of Lenin's writings had gone unpublished.

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Yeltsin did not dismantle the Lenin mausoleum, recognising that Lenin was too popular and well respected among the Russian populace for this to be viable.

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