The political life of Vladimir Ilich Lenin was avidly scrutinised by the subjects of the former Russian empire from 1917, and foreign politicians and commentators strove to stay abreast of his career. Few statesmen had attracted an examination of this intensity. Not since the days of Napoleon Bonaparte had an individual so deeply intrigued and exercised world opinion. This extraordinary fascination was evoked by the nature of the new regime’s projects. The first socialist state had been born. The objective of pan-European revolution was triumphantly proclaimed. The natural reflex of contemporaries was to enquire what sort of man had led the Bolshevik march on power. Faulty communications inside Russia and the disruption caused in Europe by the battles on the Western and Eastern fronts made it difficult to gather information on him; but his articles in Pravda provided much material. Many decrees of the new Soviet government were written by him; he also granted occasional interviews. Books which he had written before the First World War were republished with large print-runs. Diplomats reported back to their governments from Petrograd. Few observers doubted that the main inspirer of the October Revolution was Lenin. His declaration that the era of European socialist revolution was imminent, and that the Bolsheviks of Russia would inaugurate it, caused ubiquitous frissons of excitement.
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