Today in History: Jan 21, 1924, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin dies
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was a Russian communist revolutionary, politician and political theorist. He served as the leader of the Russian SFSR from 1917, and then concurrently as Premier of the Soviet Union from 1922, until 1924.
Influenced early on by Karl Marx’s seminal text Das Kapital, Lenin was radicalized further by the execution of his older brother, Alexander, for conspiring to kill Czar Alexander III in 1887. The brooding, fiercely intellectual Lenin married the principles of Marxist thought to his own theory of organization and the reality of Russian demographics, envisioning a group of elite professional revolutionaries, or a “vanguard of the proletariat,” who would first lead the agrarian masses of Russia to victory over the tyrannical czarist regime and eventually incite a worldwide revolution.
After the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Lenin urged his Bolshevik supporters in Russia to turn the “imperialist” conflict into a civil war that would liberate the working classes from the yoke of the bourgeoisie and monarchy. With the success of the February Revolution and the abdication of Czar Nicholas II in March 1917, Lenin managed, with German help, to travel back to Russia, where he worked with his deputy, Leon Trotsky, to orchestrate the Bolshevik seizure of power from the unsteady provisional government that November.
In his six years in power, Lenin struggled with the difficulty of implementing his utopian vision within the borders of the Soviet state. Together, with the help of his advisers, the Communist Party worked to ruthlessly and systematically destroy all opposition to Communist policies within the new USSR. Instruments in this repression included a newly created secret police, the Cheka, and the first of the gulags, or concentration camps, that Stalin would later put to even more deadly use. Lenin remains a controversial and highly divisive world figure. Detractors have labelled him a dictator whose administration oversaw multiple human rights abuses, but supporters have countered this criticism citing the limitations on his power and have promoted him as a champion of the working class.
Lenin suffered a stroke in May 1922; a second one, more debilitating, came in March of the following year, leaving him mute and effectively ending his political career. By January 1924 Lenin suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage and died.
Sources: 1, 2, 3