Prologue: The Enigma Of Lenin

  • Robert Service


Vladimir-Ilich Lenin died on 21 January 1924. The state funeral followed on a cold winter’s day in Moscow, and his corpse was embalmed and laid out in a mausoleum built outside the Kremlin’s walls. His rise to international fame had been meteoric. Less than seven years had elapsed since his Bolshevik party had seized power through the October Revolution. He had not been a nonentity before 1917; but his celebrity had grown inside the confines of Russia’s clandestine political groups. His emergence as premier of the Soviet government changed his fortunes almost overnight. He moved to the centre of the stage. He stood forth in the general estimation as the embodiment of the Revolution. His reputation rested upon his leading role in the Bolshevik attempt to found a socialist society and extend its example to the four corners of the earth. The endeavour was fraught with problems of gigantic magnitude. The Bolsheviks were over-optimistic in their general ideas. And, in their practical assessments, they also overestimated the likelihood of imminent revolution in Europe and North America. They underrated Russian economic backwardness. They resorted too easily and too massively to violence in implementing their political programme. Nonetheless the October Revolution is the crucial event in our modern times. It transformed Russia and led to a re-shaping of politics across the European continent; its repercussions are still being registered around the globe today.


Political Life Socialist Society Soviet Government October Revolution International Fame 
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© Robert Service 1985

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  • Robert Service

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