Nothing personal, I'm sure you're nice folks, but I have to take issue with both of you. You guys should read the excellent node The Russian Revolution. Meanwhile here are my responses to what you said.

Full name, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. Major figure in the Bolshevik party who pushed for the successful November coup against the democratically elected provisional government in 1917. The Czar had already abdicated in February of that year, so you can hardly say that the Bolsheviks overthrew him. Lenin persecuted anyone who threatened the Bolshevik's extreme, radical centralization of power using the paramilitary Petrograd Revolutionary Military Committee (PRMC), ultimately a predecessor of the KGB several times removed. Trotsky was politically inept but succeeded in the party in part because he had Lenin's favor. However, the much more politically astute Stalin wound up becoming de facto boss of things instead. (To be complete I should mention that Lenin took Stalin under his wing more than he did anyone else - although it appears that in his dying last days he changed his mind and wanted to set out to destroy Stalin). The Trotsky witch hunt didn't start until years later.

Lenin may have pulled Russia out of WWI- in fits and starts- but he did throw them into other needless conflicts, such as the basically unprovoked invasion of Poland in 1919 (Russians tend not to like Poles) and another unprovoked, failed invasion of Lithuania. "Sit tight, guys, we'll be back for both of you when WWII comes along." The Bolsheviks did not initially redistribute land - that had already happened during the popular revolution which was taking place before the November coup. What progressive things they may have done I don't know, the peasants absolutely hated them once they actually took power. I'm sure you're not referring to the famine of 1922, which Lenin instigated in order to break the resistance of the most troublesome towns and regions in Russia and the other states which it subjugated.

Before communism, Russia was considered backwards by European standards but they were making many advances in the liberal direction. Sadly things only got worse after the revolution. By all evidence, the average Russian was much poorer by 1930.

The current Russian government is just another third world kleptocracy which merges seamlessly with the criminal class. Not surprising considering that much of the modern Russian mafia is an offshoot of the KGB and even the state factories.

Background
Born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov on 22 April 1870 in the Volga town of Sibirsk, Lenin was the grandson of a liberated serf. His father was a staunch supporter of the Tsarist rule, and a successful government official. In 1887, Lenin's elder brother was arrested and hanged by the okhrana (secret police) for plotting to assassinate the Tsar Alexander III. Lenin enrolled in the Kazan' University the same year but was soon expelled as an excessive troublemaker and exiled to the village of Kokushkino where his grandfather's estate was located.

Whilst in kokushkino, Lenin became interested the classics of Euorpean revolutionary thought, particularly Karl Marx's Das Kapital. After a year of exile Lenin considered himself a Marxist, and in 1891 passed his law examinations and was admitted to the bar. Before moving to Saint Petersburg in 1893, Lenin worked as a lawyer for the poor in the town of Samara, on the Volga.

History as a Bolshevik In 1900 Lenin, along with Plekhanov and Martov, founded an illegal newspaper, Iskra ("The Spark"), which they smuggled into Russia. The core of the Russian Social Democratic party, formed in 1903, was made up of the network of agents this publication employed. Almost immediately there was disagreement over the degree of discipline and professionalism to be demanded by party members, and so the group split into two factions, the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks. Lenin led the Bolsheviks, who stressed that the only way to have any chance of surviving against the Tsarist police agents was to build the party around a disciplined core of professionals.

The Populist group that assassinated Alexander II, Narodnaya Volga was Lenin's basis for the the organisation of the party, though he did not agree with their ideals or tactics of terror. He also argued that relations within the party should be governed by the principle of "democratic centralism", a view with which the Mensheviks agreed. Eventually, however, both Plekhanov and Martov found Lenin too dictorial and sided with the Mensheviks, and what was originally considered a temporary rift within the Russian Social Democratic Party became permanent. Over the years Lenin built the Bolshevik Party into a large and complex organisation, which believed in the proletariats (working classes) opposing both the bourgeoisie (middle classes) and chinovniks (landowners).

Opposition to the Tsar
For most of his life under Tsarist rule, Lenin was in exile. From a young age he promoted opposition towards the Tsar, evident from his illegal anti-Tsar newspaper. He also wrote the masterpiece organisational theory, What Is To Be Done? Through his very disciplined approach to party operation Lenin succeeded in making the Bolshevik Party very popular and successful. A natural leader, Lenin united the proletariats against the other classes and eventually founded the first Russian socialist government.
Many historians today like to gloss over Vladimir Lenin's atrocities and concentrate on Josef Stalin instead, to a point that most people associate Stalin to dictator but see Lenin is some kind of benevolent father figure who died too early. Seattle even put up an old statue of Lenin downtown. The city might as well pay homage to Hitler, because Lenin is personally responsible for the massacre of millions of Russians.

The Bolshevik Revolution was in reality not much more than an opportunistic grab for power in a time of chaos by a small group of radicals. At the end of the October 1917 the Bolshevik Party numbered less than 2000 members. But their promise of immediate property redistribution and violent action against the "oppressive classes" appealed to workers displaced by war. The Bolsheviks realized that their position was shaky and saw terror as the only way to cement their hold on power. Lenin did not give the opposition any time to organize their forces. The Bolsheviks began to openly incite civil war.

Lenin ordered the creation of a device to enforce the "iron fist of the dictatorship of the proletariat", or Lenin's whim. The term "dictatorship of the proletariat" was an obscure reference used by Karl Marx in a few of his letters; most historians agree that he meant to use the term as an analogy. Lenin thought it was catchy, so he applied it in all his decrees. He ordered Feliks Dzershinsky to oversee an extraordinary committee to "liquidate any counterrevolutionary activities". This organization eventually became the Cheka, the feared Bolshevik secret police.

The Cheka were highly active during the Russian civil war, from 1918 to 1920. During this period the Cheka carried out massive deportations and executions of any "suspect elements". This included political groups such as the Mensheviks, Social Democrats, anarchists, but it also included many others: striking workers, merchants, peasants resisting the Bolshevik theft of their crops, and the kulaks, a vague term that meant all non-poor peasants but was also a codeword for a Menshevik. Lenin was paranoid; he saw any dissent as proof of a "massive Menshevik conspiracy". Here is a telegram to the head of the Penza soviet on 10 August 1918, following a peasant riot against Red Army conscription:


Comrades! The kulak uprising in your five districts must be crushed without pity. The interests of the whole revolution demand such actions, for the final struggle with the kulaks have now begun. You must make an example of these people. (1) Hang (I mean hang publicly, so people can see it) at least 100 kulaks, rich bastards, and known bloodsuckers. (2) Publish their names. (3) Seize all their grain. (4) Single out the hostages per my instruction in yesterday's telegram. Do all this so that for miles around people can see it all, understand it, tremble, and tell themselves that we are killing the bloodthirsty kulaks and that we will continue to do so. Reply saying that you have received and carried out these instructions.

Yours, Lenin.

P.S. Find tougher people.


Thus began the Red Terror, Lenin's reign of terror. On September 5 1918 Lenin legalized cheka terror with a decree titled "On Red Terror". With the Cheka and the Red Army under his command Lenin massacred millions of Russians suspected of "treason" against the Bolshevik dictators. Their methods were brutal. The Red Army would sometimes simply surround a village in a pro-Menshevik area and shoot everyone. Most of the time entire families with suspect backgrounds would be sent to concentration camps in Eastern Russia. In areas with Menshevik partisans, the Cheka would gather hostages from families and execute them in an effort to draw out the rebels. People would also be arrested for simply "belonging to an enemy class" or being "socially undesirable", and executed. Stalin learned well; he used the same methods for his own purges.

For comparison's sake, one can look at the stark differences between the Tsarist regime and the first year of Bolshevik rule. Official records show that from 1825 to 1917 the number of political executions totaled to 6321. The highest yearly figure was 1310 executions in 1906, the year of reaction against the 1905 revolution. The Ezhenedelnik VChK, the Cheka's weekly periodical, reported that over 10000 people have been executed in the last 4 months of 1918 alone.

The Cossacks living near the Don and the Kuban were farmer-warriors with a strong streak of independence. When they refused to give up their land to the Bolsheviks, Lenin ordered the wholesale massacre of the Cossacks. He justified this genocide, known later as "De-Cossackization", with these words: "In view of the experiences of the civil war against the Cossacks, we must recognize as the only politically correct measure massive terror and a merciless fight against the rich Cossacks, who must be exterminated and physically disposed of, down to the last man." In February 1919 alone the Cheka reported the executions of over 8000 Cossacks and twice as many deportations to the East. The rich farming lands of the Don were emptied to make way for collective farms. Recent estimations guess at between 300000 to 500000 deaths out of a population of no more than 3 million.

Even with the end of the civil war Lenin continued his murderous rampage. The most notable example was the "pacification" of the miners in the Tambov province that revolted against inhumane working hours and the unreasonable rationing of food. Order No. 171, dated 11 June 1921 and signed by Lenin, Dzershinsky and other cheka notables, stipulated:


  1. Shoot on sight any citizens who refuse to give their names.
  2. District and Regional Political Commissions are hereby authorized to pronounce sentence on any village where arms are being hidden, and to arrest hostages and shoot them if the whereabouts of the arms are not revealed.
  3. Wherever arms are found, execute immediately the eldest son of the family.
  4. Any family that has harbored a bandit is to be arrested and deported from the province, their possessions are to be seized, and the eldest son is to be immediately executed.
  5. Any families sheltering other families who have harbored bandits are to be punished in the same manner, and their eldest son is to be shot.
  6. In the event that bandit families have fled, their possessions are to be redistributed among peasants who are loyal to the Soviet regime, and their houses are to be burned or demolished.
  7. These orders are to be carried out rigorously and without mercy.


Thousands died. There was never any solid popular support for the Bolsheviks, through the use of mass terror Lenin beat Russia into submission. By 1923 most resistance has been crushed, and there was a pause in the war between the Bolsheviks and Russian society. Lenin died in 1924, leaving a power vacuum and setting the stage for a second bloodbath.

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