Timeline Description: Vladimir Lenin (1870 – 1924) was a leading political thinker of the 20th century. He founded the Russian Communist party and led the Bolshevik Revolution, which overthrew centuries of czarist rule in 1917. Both the architect and first leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), his ideas became the source of Leninism, one of the foundational belief systems of the Communist worldview.
|April 22, 1870||Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov is born.
Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov is born on April 22, 1870 in Simbirsk, Russia. The town is later renamed Ulyanovsk in his honor, and he changes his own surname to Lenin in 1901. He is the third of six children in a close-knit, well-educated family. He displays an early passion for learning and graduates first in his class from high school.
|May 8, 1887||Lenin's oldest brother is executed.
Accused of conspiring with a terrorist group to assassinate Emperor Alexander III, Lenin's beloved older brother Aleksandr is executed in 1887. Lenin, who is only 17 at the time, becomes the head of the family, as his father was already dead. This episode marks a turning point in Lenin's life, as it turns him towards revolutionary action.
|August 1887||Lenin enrolls in Kazan University to study law.
Shortly after his brother's death, Lenin enrolls in the imperial Kazan University to study law. However, he is expelled after three months for participating in a student assembly. He spends the next year on his grandfather's estate with his exiled older sister, where he meets older revolutionaries and studies political literature, including Marx's Das Kapital.
|November 1891||Lenin receives his degree and begins practicing law.
After studying in Samara, Lenin passes his examinations with a first in all subjects and receives his law degree. He begins practicing law in Samara, working primarily with peasants and artisans. This experience sparks his loathing for the legal system's class bias. He continues to practice law after moving to St. Petersburg, but his work serves as a cover for his growing involvement with revolutionary Marxist circles.
|December 1895||Lenin is arrested and exiled to Siberia.
Lenin and other Marxists unite various groups in the Union for the Struggle for the Liberation of the Working Class, meant to support workers and educate them in Marxism. In December 1895, Lenin and the other leaders of the Union are arrested. Lenin is later exiled to Siberia, where he marries his fiancée, Nadezhda Krupskaya.
|December 1, 1900||Lenin launches Iskra.
After his release from exile in Siberia, Lenin moves to Munich in January 1900 and is later joined by his wife. He and several other editors launch the newspaper Iskra ("The Spark"), hoping to unify the Russian Marxist groups scattered around Europe into one Social-Democratic party. Lenin then returns to St. Petersburg to continue to work with the revolutionary movement.
|January 9, 1905||The Russian Revolution of 1905 fails to overturn the czar.
Frustrated with Russia's political structure and war with Japan, citizens call for reform. However, an unintentional massacre on January 9, 1905 sets the Russian Revolution of 1905 in motion. The czar responds with limited reforms, but Lenin argues that the workers must lead Russia in a true Socialist revolution to truly transform the nation.
|January 17, 1912||The Russian Marxist party splits into two groups.
After arguing for years over the methods with which to bring about a Socialist revolution, the Russian Marxist party splits into two groups at a party conference in Prague. Lenin's Bolsheviks believe the workers, as the true proletariat, must lead the revolution, while the Mensheviks believe the bourgeoisie should be in control.
|June 1917||Lenin writes Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism.
When World War I breaks out, Lenin passionately argues to transform the war into a civil war from his exile in Switzerland. He sets out his beliefs in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, which he publishes in 1917. In it he argues that only revolution can bring about a democratic peace. The text later becomes a key document of the Communist worldview.
|November 8, 1917||Lenin leads the Bolsheviks in deposing the Provisional Government.
In 1917, Russia deposes the czar, and leaders of the bourgeois liberal parties set up a Provisional Government. On November 8, 1917, Lenin leads the Bolsheviks in deposing the Provisional Government in what is later called the October Revolution. Lenin is made Chairman of the new Soviet state, but counterrevolutionaries plunge Russia into civil war.
|August 1918||Lenin is nearly assassinated.
Soon after civil war breaks out between Lenin's Soviet government (known as Reds) and anti-Soviet forces (known as Whites), an assassin fires two bullets at Lenin as he leaves a speech. He quickly recovers from the attempted assassination. Commanded by Lenin's colleague Leon Trotsky, the Worker's and Peasants' Red Army (representing Soviet forces) finally defeats the anti-Soviet White Army within Russia in 1920. However, the war continues in neighboring regions until 1922.
|March 21, 1921||The Soviet government issues the New Economic Policy.
Following the defeat of the Whites within Russia, peasants refused to surrender their grain to the government, a necessary action to implement communism in the new Soviet state. In March 1921 Lenin issues the New Economic Policy (NEP), which allows peasants to sell their grain on an open market. While this marks a moderate return to capitalism, Lenin feels the policy is necessary to maintain peasant support.
|December 30, 1922||The Union of Socialist Soviet Republics is formally established.
The Union of Socialist Soviet Republics (USSR) is formally established on December 30, 1922, after years of civil war within Russia and its neighboring regions, now part of the USSR. Lenin has achieved his dream, but the party is beginning to stray from his Socialist vision.
|January 4, 1923||Lenin finishes his political "Testament."
Despite suffering from semi-paralysis, Lenin dictates a series of articles and his political "Testament" to his secretary, finishing on January 4, 1923. The "Testament" describes his fear that the party will destabilize under the leadership of Trotsky and Joseph Stalin, who is rapidly consolidating power as general secretary.
|January 21, 1924||Lenin dies.
After suffering a series of strokes and illnesses, some stemming from the attempted assassination of 1918, Lenin dies on January 21, 1924. Despite his attempts to reverse Stalin's consolidation of power, the Soviet state continues to move farther away from Lenin's dream of Socialism after his death.