Creator of the former Soviet Union, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (family name Ulianov) was born on April 10, 1870 in Simbirsk (later Ulianovsk), Russia, the son of a schools inspector. Lenin received upper class education and obtained a law degree in 1891, but he was moved to oppose the czarist Russian government, partly due to the execution of his brother, Alexander, who had participated in a plot to assassinate the Russian emperor. For taking part in revolutionary activities, Lenin was eventually imprisoned, publishing his work, The Development of Capitalism in Russia, from prison in 1899. Three years later, his pamphlet "What Is to Be Done" became the model for Communist philosophy. Lenin helped the Bolshevist movement that overthrew the czarist government and brought an end to Russia's war against Germany. As head of the new government, he put land in the hands of the peasants and brought industry under government control. An assassination attempt in 1918 wounded him, and two strokes in 1922 forced him to severely curtail government duty. He retreated to his country home in Gorki, where he died on January 21, 1924.
Translated and edited with an introduction by Robert Service
GREAT IDEAS. Throughout history, some books have changed the world. They have transformed the way we see ourselves - and each other. They have inspired debate, dissent, war and revolution. They have enlightened, outraged, provoked and comforted. They have enriched lives - and destroyed them. Now Penguin brings you the works of the great thinkers, pioneers, radicals and visionaries whose ideas shook civilization and helped make us who we are.
This biography simultaneously provides an account of one of the greatest turning points in modern history. Through the prism of Lenin's career, Service examines events such as the October Revolution and the ideas of Marxism-Leninism, the one-party state, economic modernisation, dictatorship, and the politics of inter-war Europe. In discovering the origins of the USSR, he casts light on the nature of the state and society which Lenin left behind and which have not entirely disappeared after the collapse of the Soviet regime in 1991.
'Immensely scholarly but also vivid and readable. This is a splendid book, much the best that I have ever read about Lenin ...I was overwhelmed by the power and vividness of this portrait.' Dominic Lieven, Sunday Telegraph
'He has managed skilfully to depict the surreal life of an obsessive, brilliant and stubborn individual' Guardian
'Lenin's life was politics, but Service has succeeded in keeping Lenin the man in focus throughout . . . This book deserves a place among the best studies of one of the most fascinating figures in modern history' Harold Shukman, The Times