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File:Lenin 8123.jpg

" His aim is to save the world. His method to blow it up."

The ethnically-mixed leader of the Bolsheviks, known for his stylish goatee and powerful forehead. Lenin (real name Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, 1870-1924) was, according to most accounts, actually rather uninterested in politics until one day when his brother was executed for participating in a failed plot to kill the Tsar. This was a breaking point in Lenin's life, and he quite literally devoted his life to the communist cause (he was known to work 14 hours a day or more). Of course, the authorities did not tolerate his agitation and anti-monarchist activity and he soon ended up in jail, then in Siberia, before finally fleeing the country and ending up living in Switzerland. His chance would finally come in 1917, when the Germans, hoping he'd cause havoc (but not thinking he'd actually succeed) allowed him to return to Russia.

During Red October, Lenin led the overthrow of the government that overthrew Tsarist Russia, pulled Russia out of World War One and formed the world's first (allegedly--many Marxist theorists have denounced the USSR) socialist state (excluding the short-lived Paris Commune). This was not received well by many other rulers and governments and a lot of people in USSR itself, which led to foreign intervention and the Russian Civil War. As a result of this, most of Lenin's time as leader was spent at war. An assassination attempt resulted in his health deteriorating rapidly, until he was finally paralyzed by a series of strokes and forced to withdraw from politics. He died shortly after and was, against his wishes and that of his wife, mummified and interred in a mausoleum.

Although devastated by wars, coups, assassinations, famine, foreign intervention and a host of other ills, the Soviet Union nonetheless managed to recover near the end of Lenin's reign, and would grow into a superpower under his eventual successor, Stalin. Lenin did not want Stalin to be his successor (or rather, he eventually came to oppose the idea), considering Stalin to be vulgar, chauvinistic and power-hungry, and considering Leon Trotsky to be a more worthy successor (though he was critical of all potential successors, just not nearly as much as he was critical of Stalin). Note that Lenin didn't actually want Stalin removed from the party as a whole, but only from its Central Committee.

Today, he has been somewhat overshadowed by his successors, and in media he usually doesn't appear personally; instead, one can often see his image on statues, posters, banners etc. in just about any communist setting. Incidentally, Lenin led a rather spartan life and was against any sort of Personality Cult being formed around him. Stalin, however, had different ideas and had Lenin's body mummified and put in a mausoleum and his image on just about everything related to the Communist Party or state.

Lenin was a prolific author, and his collected works consist of more than 40 volumes, each one a Doorstopper. The most famous one include What is to be Done?, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, The State and the Revolution and the April Theses. For Those interested in learning more about Lenin's political ideas, the basics can be found here.

It's possible to draw quite a few parallels between Lenin and Maximilien Robespierre, the (in)famous leader of the French Revolution.

Provides examples of:

  • Aristocrats Are Evil: One of his favourite tropes, along with Corrupt Corporate Executive and Morally-Bankrupt Banker. Since his family was minor nobility (very minor, but still nobles, though the Russian monarchy handed out titles like Christmas presents) and were reasonably well-off you can debate about whether he fits this too.
  • A-Team Firing: Lenin tried his hand at hunting, but proved to be a horrible shot.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty: He never used the term "useful idiots (of the West)". In fact, the earliest known usage in Western media is in a 1948 article in the social-democratic Italian paper L'Umanita - more than 20 years after Lenin's death.
    • Debatable. The claim that he never uttered those words came from research performed in 1987, before the fall of the Berlin Wall and thus before the Soviet archives became widely (though temporally) available to scholars and historians. Many modern historical works continue to quote him using the term, including works by historians who has seen those archives.
  • The Chessmaster: Let's just say that Lenin was a very skilled - and ruthless - politician. He didn't sacrifice other Bolshevik leaders, though - unlike Stalin.
    • He was fully prepared to, and Trotsky actually executed a couple during the Russian Civil War. The only reason neither he nor Trotsky killed more is that the rest of the Old Bolsheviks were furious when they got the news and forced them to make sure it never happened again.
  • Compelling Voice: He was reportedly a great orator (see Rousing Speech), although there are only a few surviving recordings of his speeches.
  • Cunning Linguist: He could speak Russian, German, English, French and possibly a few other languages (probably Finnish, since he spent some time posing as a Finnish worker in order to evade the Tsarist secret police).
  • Dark Messiah: Despite the questionable (to say the least) things he did to achieve his goals, Lenin was and still is a hero to many people throughout the world, and particularly in Russia. Before The Great Politics Mess-Up he was even more popular, and became an almost Christ-like figure to most revolutionary leftists.
  • Day of the Jackboot: The overthrow of the Provisional Government, if it wasn't this at the time, soon turned into this.
  • Deader Than Disco: All attempts to build a communist society (as described by Marx) in the 20th century ultimately failed. The vast majority were based on the Marxist-Leninist model. Therefore, it's not surprising that Lenin's popularity plummeted after the fall of the USSR, particularly in Eastern Europe.
  • Dead Guy on Display: As mentioned before, Lenin's body was preserved via a secret chemical process and put on display at Red Square in Moscow.
  • Dead Little Sister: Or in his case, dead older brother.
  • Dirty Communists: Arguably the Trope Maker.
  • Egopolis: As mentioned above, Lenin's personality cult was implemented by Stalin. Lenin himself was strictly against all forms of hero-worship.
  • Friend to All Children: Lenin genuinely liked kids (in a non-perverted way) and would sometimes spend hours playing with them. Some people believe this is because he regretted never having any children of his own.
    • Didn't stop him ending countless young lives though, either through direct orders, indirect orders, or the atmosphere of violence that he created. Not to mention all the parents he had shot, imprisoned, or forced into hard labour, along with the effects of many of his policies on families in general. So, not exactly friend to all children.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: Sort of. Lenin's regime ended up creating a new ruling class, and a police state that was in many (though not all) ways even more repressive than the Tsarist one (and the short-lived Provisional government). For this reason, some scholars see the USSR as a bizarre continuation of Tsarist Russia. On the other hand, there were many changes in the country's culture, economic system, foreign policy etc. - it certainly developed its own cultural identity. One thing's for sure, though: Lenin's actions ultimately failed to create a communist society as described by Marx and Engels.
  • He Who Fights Monsters/Cycle of Revenge: The Bolsheviks abolished the death penalty soon after they came to power, but as soon as the civil war broke out, it was reinstated. Soon after their enemies began the White Terror, the Bolsheviks answered with a Red Terror (at least that's how they justified it). As time went on, the Bolshevik regime became more and more despotic. Finally, Lenin's government ended up fighting rebelling peasants and sailors - the very people they were supposed to represent.
    • The death penalty had already been abolished by the February government, though they allowed it for soldiers at the front. The Bolsheviks merely confirmed that position (since they declared an armistice, the soldiers thing was irrelevant), but abolished it shortly after over much protest. Lenin had publicly opposed the death penalty throughout his career, but he had also consistently advocated violent revolution, so along with how quickly he reimplemented it, he was probably against it only as long as the other side were the ones using it.
      • It's a complicated matter. The death penalty was abolished again in 1920, except in those areas under martial law. Over the next several decades, the death penalty in the USSR was alternately permitted and prohibited, sometimes in very quick succession (interestingly, Stalin abolished it from 1947-1950).
  • Historical Domain Character
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: In Soviet media.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: In most non-Soviet media.
  • I Have Many Names: His real name is Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov; "Lenin" was just one of several aliases he used. When he was a kid, Lenin was called Volodya (approximately "little Vladimir").
  • Just Friends: Lenin's relationship with Inessa Armand, a French communist and feminist, is still unclear. There were rumors of an affair, but nothing is known for certain.
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: Lenin was an avid cat fan.
  • King on His Deathbed: He ended up like this eventually. As Lenin was what held the Bolshevik leaders together, a power struggle soon ensued. Stalin, being the most ruthless and manipulative among them, eventually won.
  • Knight Templar
  • Magnificent Bastard/Guile Hero: Whether you think he was a hero or not, you must admit that Lenin was one hell of a smart guy.
  • Manipulative Bastard: He demanded that all socialist parties and workers in every country should protest against their governments and demand they cease hostilities during World War One, even declaring those didn't were enemies of the revolution, and eventually plotted to have the Russian ones executed. But he didn't do this because he was a pacifist, or even because he was against the war; he believed, instead, that the governments - being corrupt, capitalist bourgeois types - would never agree to such demands, and eventually take violent repressive measures against the protesters. His hope was that each country would devolve into civil war and violent revolution, but he spun it like he thought the protesters he was appealing to wouldn't be brutally martyred, as he hoped they would.
  • Meaningful Rename: His nom de guerre was derived from the river Lena in Siberia (where he was once exiled).
  • Momma's Boy: He was very fond of and devoted to his mother (and his sister, for that matter).
  • Necessarily Evil: How he saw his own policies.
  • Nice Hat: Sometimes seen wearing a fur ushanka.
  • Occupiers Out of Our Country!: The Germans especially, but all Western "imperialist" democracies (many of whom did indeed send troops to fight in the Russian Civil War).
  • Posthumous Character: Although he only lived for seven years of the USSR's existence, he became the dominant figure in its propaganda for decades (only briefly being overshadowed by Stalin).
  • Pragmatic Villainy: The New Economic Policy, which he instituted to save the Russian economy from utter collapse, involved a certain degree of freedom for private enterprise and other concessions to capitalism.
  • Prison Episode: Was exiled and imprisoned several times, to the point where the Tsar put him on a train just to get rid of him.
  • Red October: Obviously.
  • Reign of Terror: The Red Terror, which began towards the end of 1918. It officially lasted less than two months, but large-scale repressions continued up to 1922. Many, many people were shot without proper trial, sent to labor camps, imprisoned or forcibly deported. The Whites, being a collection of loosely allied, and even rival, monarchist generals conducting their own insurrections, also organized a number of terror campaigns individually smaller than the Red one, with varying motives and degrees of ruthlessness. These campaigns usually targeted ethnic and religious minorities, particularly Jews. Smaller-scale mass killings were also conducted by foreign intervention troops, and the Finnish government carried out mass reprisals against the Bolsheviks' allies in Finland. It's important to stress that most of these terror campaigns (white or red) were premeditated and systematic.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Interestingly, the revolution itself was almost bloodless, to the point that some historians call it a coup. The civil war and terrors that came after it, however, was anything but civilized.
    • Lenin would have argued that said terrors and civil war were part and parcel of the revolution, since the point was to transform the country and not simply a change of leadership.
  • Rousing Speech: "All power to the Soviets!" being his most famous slogan.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: This was how the Russian people came to feel about World War One, and Lenin's promise to get Russia out of it was a major factor in his rise to power.
  • Team Dad: Lenin managed to keep the other Bolshevik leaders - many of whom were ruthless, backstabbing and/or domineering types (Stalin and Trotsky are prime examples) - working towards a common goal, most of the time. By contrast, the White movement lacked such a figure and thus often suffered due to internal bickering.
  • Tough Act to Follow: The figure to whom every Communist leader is inevitably compared, for better or worse.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Unlike Stalin, Lenin was never interested in power for its own sake, and never strayed from his ideals. This does not mean he didn't allow temporary retreats and concessions in order to cut losses, and by no means excuses the atrocities he directly ordered or were the results of his government's policies.
  • Violence Is the Only Option:

 We must not depict socialism as if socialists will bring it to us on a plate all nicely dressed. That will never happen. Not a single problem of the class struggle has ever been solved in history except by violence. When violence is exercised by the working people, by the mass of exploited against the exploiters — then we are for it!

 "Communism means Soviet power plus the electrification of the entire country."

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