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Lenin: A Biography

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Lenin is a colossal figure whose influence on 20th-century history cannot be underestimated. This biography makes use of archive material to piece together his private as well as public life in an effort to give a complete picture of Lenin in all his different roles. Through the prism of Lenin's career, the author examines events such as the October Revolution and the Lenin is a colossal figure whose influence on 20th-century history cannot be underestimated. This biography makes use of archive material to piece together his private as well as public life in an effort to give a complete picture of Lenin in all his different roles. Through the prism of Lenin's career, the author examines events such as the October Revolution and the ideas of Marxism-Leninism, the one-party state, economic modernization, dictatorship and the politics of inter-war Europe. He casts light on the nature of the state and society left behind by Lenin, a state and society which has not entirely disappeared after the collapse of the Soviet regime in 1991.


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Lenin is a colossal figure whose influence on 20th-century history cannot be underestimated. This biography makes use of archive material to piece together his private as well as public life in an effort to give a complete picture of Lenin in all his different roles. Through the prism of Lenin's career, the author examines events such as the October Revolution and the Lenin is a colossal figure whose influence on 20th-century history cannot be underestimated. This biography makes use of archive material to piece together his private as well as public life in an effort to give a complete picture of Lenin in all his different roles. Through the prism of Lenin's career, the author examines events such as the October Revolution and the ideas of Marxism-Leninism, the one-party state, economic modernization, dictatorship and the politics of inter-war Europe. He casts light on the nature of the state and society left behind by Lenin, a state and society which has not entirely disappeared after the collapse of the Soviet regime in 1991.

30 review for Lenin: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Maciek

    Robert Service's Lenin is another effort at presenting the life and figure of the world's greatest revolutionary. Lenin's colossus has been written about before, both by sympathizers and detractors, who arrived at two totally different - and extreme - conclusions. This biography aims to present Lenin without making him a saint or a demon - which is an admirable and immensely difficult effort, if not downright impossible: Service himself isn't able to entirely extricate his own personal views on Robert Service's Lenin is another effort at presenting the life and figure of the world's greatest revolutionary. Lenin's colossus has been written about before, both by sympathizers and detractors, who arrived at two totally different - and extreme - conclusions. This biography aims to present Lenin without making him a saint or a demon - which is an admirable and immensely difficult effort, if not downright impossible: Service himself isn't able to entirely extricate his own personal views on Lenin from the book, and has been both praised by the mainstream press and critiqued by left-leaning and Marxist organizations. Until recently biographers of Lenin suffered from severe limitations - much of the necessary information was classified and kept in the secret archives of the USSR. Soviet historians have produced a picture of Lenin as according to state ideology: Lenin was a selfless man, who restlessly worked for the Cause, the Great October Socialist Revolution, and the establishment of the people's utopia; In the Soviet Union Lenin has been immortalized in the national anthem and state anthems of all Soviet republics. Statues of Lenin stood in many Soviet cities, his portrait was printed on posters, banners and decorated the Soviet currency. Statues of Lenin still stand inside Russia and in some post-soviet countries and abroad (there's also one in Seattle and one on the roof of a building in New York). This Lenin has been taught across the communist block, with all the necessary panache - my mom was genuinely moved to tears. The lack of information didn't bother Lenin's critics, who had only the story propagated by the state supplemented by unproven rumors and hearsay, but were dedicated to opposing communism and saw discrediting of Lenin, the first Soviet leader, as an important another step on the road to victory. With the Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of glasnost (openness) implemented in the late 80's, a portion of the secret Soviet archive has been declassified for the first time in history - and for a short time opened for the inquiring scholars, among whom Robert Service was apparently among the first admitted. The result is a thick book - running up to almost 600 pages in paperback - which focuses on Lenin almost entirely. This is both a good and bad thing. The good things is that Service spends a significant amount of space recounting Lenin's early childhood and upbringing. Most of biographers focused on Lenin's later years - his exile in Siberia, life in exile in Switzerland, Germany and the UK. Service quotes from Lenin's private correspondence and the memoirs of those close to him - information I take was previously restricted to create an image of Lenin as seen from different perspectives and illustrate the nature of his relationship with those who observed him. At the same time, Service observes Lenin with a degree of speculation that has little - if any - evidence to back it up: he writes that when presented with a papier mâché horse at the age of three his instinct was to tear it apart: he cites his sister's memoir as a source of young Lenin's boisterousness, stating that there was a degree of malice to his character which his family didn't like. This paragraph is immediately followed by one describing his as being very charismatic and well-liked (and owning up quickly to his misbehaving). All this is coupled with Service's speculations that Lenin's intense hatred for the imperial family could have be a result of the execution of his older brother, Aleksandr, as a result of him being involved in a plot to assassinate the emperor Alexander III. Service actually writes that Lenin enjoyed letting himself loose against the Romanovs and other figure from the old regime as a form of revenge for killing his brother, and the subsequent ostracism that his family faced after Alexandr's execution. These kind of speculations are not backed by evidence and sound very sensationalistic in tone - as if aiming to present Lenin as a child with malevolent tendencies, who was pushed to become a evil figure by a single devastating event which involved a loss of a close relative, as if wanting to simplify this complex man for his audience. And where is great Russia in all this? Service covers Lenin's life year by year, providing the dates and places and describing the events, but the broader historical context is just skimmed upon. The Russian Civil War barely features, and the removal of the Romanov Dynasty and their subsequent execution get little more than a side mention. The Russo-Japanese war and the First World War also should have received more space than they did. While much space is devoted to Lenin's letters and relationships with women important to him - his mother and sisters, Nadezhda Krupskaya - his wife, Inessa Armand - his supposed mistress. Service devotes a significant amount of space to presenting and analyzing the rumored affair between Lenin and Armand, space which I think would be far better used to present the social and political conditions and simple life in revolutionary Russia. Lenin's relationship with people of crucial political importance are barely mentioned. Figures come and go without being properly introduced and established; it's as if Service presupposed that his readers have a certain amount of knowledge about the period that he is describing, which defeats the purpose of writing a biography for the lay reader largely unfamiliar with the subject. Important figures such as Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev are only minor characters, with few details about them presented to the reader; the role of Leon Trotksy, the founded and first leader of the Red Army who organized a partisan force to defend the revolution from internal and external threats - the Red Guard - is barely mentioned; Joseph Stalin's career and rise to power is basically ignored. Stalin gets only a few mentions late in Lenin's life, when the two men began disagreeing about the political structure of the USSR: Lenin wanted to construct a union of autonomous republics on equal terms, advocating the right of the nations to self-determination, while Stalin wanted to simply incorporate the new Soviet republics back into Soviet Russia, fearing that attempts at allowing them even a pretense of autonomy (Lenin admitted that all republics would have only one local communist party, which would still be subservient to the Kremlin) could result in a dangerous resurgence of nationalism, as it happened in the civil war (his words proved true 70 years later). Service notes how Lenin realized that he has underestimated Stalin's intelligence and cunning, and wanted to remove him from power in his political testament - turning away from a man he once called "the marvelous Georgian" - but the beginning and middle of their relationship are simply not mentioned, and from the book we only get a part of the picture of how it degraded to the point of actual hostility between the two. While Service chronicles Lenin's life abroad in many western countries, he never makes clear how exactly he achieved such important and powerful position - and all the prestige - while living in exile. While Lenin is presented as a person willing to take the most extreme position to achieve his goal, it is never made clear how he has managed to win a series of debates with his various opponents to achieve that goal - how did Lenin became the leader of the October Revolution and managed to convince a movement dedicated to overthrowing an autocracy of the necessity of using dictatorship and terror? Why was there a universal agreement about Lenin and why did people follow him? This is a fascinating question which is simply not answered. Service is not the most engaging of writers but is saved by one of the most engaging of subjects, Lenin himself. Still, the book would have benefited greatly by a firmer editorial hand - and possibly even a co-author, who would help to set up the historical context and gave the book a more narrative tone, which would make it much more readable, interesting and informative. The book would also have to be much longer, perhaps split into several volumes to accommodate all the important events and discuss the relevant philosophies and political fractions. Such an essential and definitive work on Lenin still needs to be written, and I will be awaiting its publication.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    When I first read this book for A-Level History I thought it quite good. Coming back at it with more knowledge, I find Service's political and personal bias seeping through at every turn. The research is also not of the highest quality or depth, despite the advantages of historical perspective and access to the Russian archives. Better than Pipes, certainly, but to be taken with copious pinches of salt.

  3. 5 out of 5

    howl of minerva

    Well-paced, well-balanced, fair, judicious. Unlike the man himself. One of the most significant figures of the 20th century (and beyond?). A very worthwhile read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kshitiz Goliya

    Lenin, from distance, is assumed to be a great humanist crusader of communasim - a champion of workers and peasents. He is considered to be the founder of a socialist state which Stalin led astray. On the contrary, he was a well to do upper middle class intellectual who spent most of his life away from Russia writing and debating and was never a famous personality till 1917 revolution. Besides being a boastful theorist who thought that only his interpretation of Marx was right, he was no friend Lenin, from distance, is assumed to be a great humanist crusader of communasim - a champion of workers and peasents. He is considered to be the founder of a socialist state which Stalin led astray. On the contrary, he was a well to do upper middle class intellectual who spent most of his life away from Russia writing and debating and was never a famous personality till 1917 revolution. Besides being a boastful theorist who thought that only his interpretation of Marx was right, he was no friend of peasents and considered them an obstruction to his vision. Finally and most importantly, Lenin was the founder of the ideology of terror and dictatorship in strengthening communism. Stalin just followed the path shown by lenin, albeit, with greater brutality. Notwithstanding all his flaws, he was a brilliant intellectual and a forceful politician who knew how to get his way and there is no doubt that USSR wouldn't have survived without his unflinching leadership. This book, relying on newly accessable archives on Lenin, is brilliant as instead of being a hagiography it gives a holistic view of Lenin's personality, highlighting all his flaws and strengths thus presenting as another although influential human being (which all great men are). It will disappoint hero worshippers but delight curious students. This book sets the history right and thus has to be read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Ryan

    Robert Service is both a dull writer and certifiable jackass.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl Astern

    After reading this biography by Robert Service, I would read anything he wrote. He is currently a professor of Russian history at the University of Oxford, a Fellow of St Antony's College, Oxford, and a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. As an author Service is known for his 2000, 2004, and 2009 biographies of Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Leon Trotsky, respectively. A real awakening, going way beyond the news media propaganda of my youth in the 1950-1960's. The book After reading this biography by Robert Service, I would read anything he wrote. He is currently a professor of Russian history at the University of Oxford, a Fellow of St Antony's College, Oxford, and a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. As an author Service is known for his 2000, 2004, and 2009 biographies of Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Leon Trotsky, respectively. A real awakening, going way beyond the news media propaganda of my youth in the 1950-1960's. The book covers the wonderful family stories of his youth and siblings, his education and desire to create a better Russia, to his manipulation of those around him, sacrificing a "better" Russia, toward his quest for power. It was a great starting point for me, before going on the read about Stalin and then The Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder. I must say that after reading these three books, I was left wondering where God was in all of this. (Not up for idle discussion, with the exception of Episcopal Priests).

  7. 4 out of 5

    Fred Klein

    For the most part, I found this book readable and interesting. Thankfully, the publisher provided some nice maps showing Lenin's travels, and I truly wish maps like these were included in all history books. I will be admit to feeling lost sometimes when the author described Lenin's theories and philosophies, mostly because Lenin was -- as the author advises -- inconsistent. I also found it hard to understand why the different socialist factions were at odds about what seemed to me to be small For the most part, I found this book readable and interesting. Thankfully, the publisher provided some nice maps showing Lenin's travels, and I truly wish maps like these were included in all history books. I will be admit to feeling lost sometimes when the author described Lenin's theories and philosophies, mostly because Lenin was -- as the author advises -- inconsistent. I also found it hard to understand why the different socialist factions were at odds about what seemed to me to be small details. But it is clear that Lenin could not stand the smallest disagreement with him, and, if you did disagree with him, to him it was a character flaw. Much of what many of us have come to believe about Lenin is not accurate. This book helped me understand better how he came to power in the second Russian Revolution, and that he was a virtual unknown in his country when he returned as an opportunist from abroad after the first Russian Revolution. The legend about him is that he wanted to create a Utopian society, that he saw what Stalin was, and that he tried to warn the other leaders not to put Stalin in power but was unable because he was debilitated by a stroke. What is more clear from this book is that Lenin was in favor of dictatorship and terror to create a communist country with international goals. Lenin was a horrible man, and this world would have been better if he had never been born or died before he came to power. Nonetheless, he is interesting and important, and it is worth learning about him, and, for that, I recommend this book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bubba

    Service makes Lenin a real person. As the first great western biographer of Lenin, i.e. the first westerner to have access to previously suppressed archival materials, he vividly describes Lenin the person, Lenin the leader, Lenin the conniving politician. At times his analysis does seem to dwell for far too long on psycho-babble (e.g. how did the death of Lenin's father and brother effect him?, etc.) but the overall effect is to describe Lenin as a human. Lenin was a product of his upbringing. Service makes Lenin a real person. As the first great western biographer of Lenin, i.e. the first westerner to have access to previously suppressed archival materials, he vividly describes Lenin the person, Lenin the leader, Lenin the conniving politician. At times his analysis does seem to dwell for far too long on psycho-babble (e.g. how did the death of Lenin's father and brother effect him?, etc.) but the overall effect is to describe Lenin as a human. Lenin was a product of his upbringing. Though he was an geneological microcosm of the ethnic diversity of the Russian Empire, he always identified as a Russian...a European Russian. He came from an up and coming provincial noble family who provided him with an excellent classical education. His training in Latin, Greek, German and French prepared him for an emigre's life, and sharpened his mind for a lifetime of engaging in doctrinal hair-splitting. Some of the best anecdotes are about Lenin as a hypochondriac who enjoyed being babied by his mother, sisters and wife. Yet, he was also a very physical person who enjoyed cycling, hiking and showing off his ice-skating chops (the guy grew up on the Volga after all). Besides being extremely passionate about politics, he loved classical music and chess, though he famously denied himself of all these pleasures so that nothing would interrupt his revolutionary work. He most likely had an affair with fellow revolutionary Inessa Armand, but, again, did not allow this dalliance to get in the way of his revolutionary goals. In fact, according to Service, Lenin had an almost romantic love of Marx and Marxist theory, which satisfied him more than an conventional relationship could have. Yet, he was in many ways a warm human being. He was obsessed with the health of his fellow comrades, and he loved children. It was a great regret to him that he and Nadezhda Konstantinova were never able to have children. He had to satisfy himself with spoiling his nephew and the children of friends. In fact, Lenin was apparently a great rough-houser who resisted familial attempts to shoo the children outside. Most importantly, Service does much to dispel the myth, perpetuated by Khrushchev and his successors for ideological reasons, that all the ills of the Soviet system were instituted by Stalin. In fact, Lenin was completely ruthless when it came to those whom he deemed enemies of the revolution. He penned many a note urging military and political authorities to engage in witch-hunts, massacres, etc. He created the CHEKA. He did not care that peasants were dropping like flies from famine as long as he ensured the existence of the revolution. For him, political terror was a necessary tool. Dictatorship was also necessary. He latched onto the notion of the "dictatorship of the proletariat" and never let go. Of course, his party was the only organ that could legitimately represent the proletariat, and he was it's star. While he lived, only he could correctly interpret Marxist doctrine. Nevermind that he, as a pragmatic politician, often needed to abandon Marx (such as Marx's notion of a two-stage revolution: first capitalism then socialism). This obstinate attitude put him constantly at odds with sections of his own party, Social Revolutionaries, Mensheviks and other socialists, let alone followers of right-wing political ideologies. Despite this, Lenin was a consumate politician, switching positions when it suited him, stabbing political allies in the back to gain advantage. Besides his powerful, yet doctrinally questionable writing, it was this moving and shaking that kept him on top of the heap. Yet, his most important attribute was his leadership skill. He cajoled the other Bolsheviks into making the October Revolution. He fought for the Brest-Litovsk Treaty and the NEP. He established the USSR. His leadership won the Civil War. That is not to say that he didn't make any bone-headed decision. He made plenty. Yet, like all good politicians, he had a knack for deflecting the blame onto his comrades. Though, his word was not absolute in the party either before or after the revolution. That's where his stubborness and political gamesmanship came into play.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ushan

    Vladimir Ulyanov was born in 1870 in Simbirsk, a town in the Volga valley, to Ilya Ulyanov, a school inspector who had possibly Russian, possibly ethnic minority roots, and his wife Maria, who had Jewish and Swedish roots (her grandfather converted from Judaism to Orthodox Christianity with his two sons, and became an anti-Semite). Almost nothing was known about his early life until recently; for the fact that the young Vladimir liked Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin to be uncovered, Vladimir Ulyanov was born in 1870 in Simbirsk, a town in the Volga valley, to Ilya Ulyanov, a school inspector who had possibly Russian, possibly ethnic minority roots, and his wife Maria, who had Jewish and Swedish roots (her grandfather converted from Judaism to Orthodox Christianity with his two sons, and became an anti-Semite). Almost nothing was known about his early life until recently; for the fact that the young Vladimir liked Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin to be uncovered, the Soviet Union had to fall. The school inspector was a very intelligent, hard-working and ambitious man, who opened Russian-language schools for Russian children and Chuvash-language schools for Chuvash children and earned a rank of hereditary nobility, and he passed these qualities to his six children. Soon after the school inspector's death in 1886, his oldest son Alexander, a biology student at the University of St. Petersburg, became involved in a plot to assassinate Tsar Alexander III, and was tried and hanged. Despite his father's death and his brother's execution, Vladimir graduated from a gymnasium with a gold medal (the gymnasium's principal Fedor Kerensky was the father of another famous Russian revolutionary politician) and went on to study at the University of Kazan, one of only eight universities in the Russian Empire. However, he also became involved with radical-minded students, being a famous terrorist's younger brother, and was expelled from the university after taking part in student protests. Although he took the bar examination and became a licensed lawyer, Vladimir did not care to have a career: after the expulsion from the university and before he came to rule Russia, Lenin lived as a rentier and a professional revolutionary activist. Vladimir loved humanity in the abstract: during the famine of 1891-1892, he insisted that the peasants pay his agent as much as they did in non-famine years, and even argued that the famine was "progressive" and that famine relief effors slowed the development of capitalism and its eventual destruction. After meeting more radicals in St. Petersburg, Vladimir was exiled to the "Siberian Italy", where he married Nadezhda Krupskaya. Afterwards Vladimir emigrated and lived in England, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Switzerland, where he organized exiled Russian revolutionaries into a party, read hundreds of books and wrote a few; he seems to have had an affair with Inessa Armand; in 1916 he was in Zurich at the same time as Tristan Tzara and James Joyce, but probably never met them. Only once was Vladimir's life in danger: in 1908 he escaped from Tsarist police by walking on ice from mainland Finland to an island, in the company of two less-than-sober Finnish peasants, leaping from floe to floe, and at one point almost fell into icy water. I didn't feel like reading the second part of the book, which talks about how Lenin seized power and what he did once in power, since I already know the story. Something like a revolution had to happen in Russia; two pieces of the Russian Empire that broke off, Latvia and Estonia, were fiercely anti-Communist, yet they carried out land reforms that were unthinkable in Imperial Russia. Yet I don't believe that the revolution had to be headed by a lover of superhuman music. Perhaps I should re-read Suetonius's The Twelve Caesars.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    There are very few characters that have left quite as large a crater in the story of humanity as Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. The revolution that he spearheaded towards the start of the 20th century would set the whole world onto a different course after his death, the reverberations of which still being felt today. Opinions surrounding the man couldn’t be more divided. A popular opinion amongst those with more left-wing inclinations (an opinion that I, being ignorant of the matter, used to assume to There are very few characters that have left quite as large a crater in the story of humanity as Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. The revolution that he spearheaded towards the start of the 20th century would set the whole world onto a different course after his death, the reverberations of which still being felt today. Opinions surrounding the man couldn’t be more divided. A popular opinion amongst those with more left-wing inclinations (an opinion that I, being ignorant of the matter, used to assume to be accurate before I read this book) is that Lenin was a great idealist whose dream of a communist utopia became corrupted only after he died, under the hands of Joseph Stalin. However, Robert Service, the Oxford University scholar behind this biography, convincingly shows that this is far from the case. But nor does he portray Lenin as the power-crazed sociopath that many others believe him to have been. Service introduces us to Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, later to rename himself “Lenin”, a brilliant young polymath whose life took an unexpected turn when his elder brother was executed by the tsarist monarchy. The young Vladimir, forever scarred by the incident, would channel every ounce of his uncanny genius into taking revenge on monarchy and continuing in his brother’s footsteps to bring about a Russian revolutionary transformation. Lenin is presented as a human, dependent on the unwavering love and support of his mother and the other women who surrounded him throughout his life. He is shown to be a lover of life, a dutiful son and husband, and a paranoid obsessive with little to no regard for the suffering of others. Lenin would never pull the trigger himself, always insisting on taking a scholarly approach to revolution from the safety of his armchair, and yet the atrocities sanctioned by him could only have come from the mind of a demented human being. Robert Service’s account of Lenin’s life is by no means flattering, and the author has been accused of having an anti-Soviet agenda (particularly with regards to his biography on Trotsky, which has been heavily criticised for its heavy bias), but this biography seems to be honest and informative. This is an interesting and mostly enjoyable biography on a fascinating individual living through a critical period of world history. Read it and gain a unique insight, and a better understanding of the world today.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Adrian

    One cannot understate the scholarly nature of Robert Service's Lenin. Here we have one of the most mythologized characters of the 20th century presented to us in entirely human form. Service traces every aspect of Lenin's life, including some interesting background information on his father and grandfather, which can seem like a digression at times. However, what we have is a complete portrait, including events that shaped his early life such as the execution of his elder brother Alexander and the One cannot understate the scholarly nature of Robert Service's Lenin. Here we have one of the most mythologized characters of the 20th century presented to us in entirely human form. Service traces every aspect of Lenin's life, including some interesting background information on his father and grandfather, which can seem like a digression at times. However, what we have is a complete portrait, including events that shaped his early life such as the execution of his elder brother Alexander and the early death of his father. Around two thirds of the book takes place prior to the October Revolution, and Lenin's travels and correspondences shape who he was considerably. There are no attempts by Service to airbrush out any of Lenin's faults. We learn that he believed zealously in the use of state terror on Bourgeoisie, Kulaks and other reactionaries, he sought Europe wide revolution, and believed wholeheartedly in the violent seizure of power. Lenin was very principled, but also very rigid and zealous in the prosecution of his ideology. Service not only tracks the intimate details of Lenin's life, but he also chronicles Lenin's intellectual development. Therefore this book serves as more than just a biography, but an aide to anyone studying Marxism-Leninism. In short a scholarly, and very compelling biography.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Babak Fakhamzadeh

    More scholarly and not as readable as Service's Trotski, this book is still very much worth the time. Written after the Kremlin archives opened up on the more salient points of Lenin's life, the more interesting parts of the book are on Lenin's early life and his last years. Specifically, Service pulls the saint Lenin from his pedestal, showing that Lenin, like Stalin, or Trotski for that matter, had no qualms about terrorizing millions, if needed. If anything, what differed between Stalin on one More scholarly and not as readable as Service's Trotski, this book is still very much worth the time. Written after the Kremlin archives opened up on the more salient points of Lenin's life, the more interesting parts of the book are on Lenin's early life and his last years. Specifically, Service pulls the saint Lenin from his pedestal, showing that Lenin, like Stalin, or Trotski for that matter, had no qualms about terrorizing millions, if needed. If anything, what differed between Stalin on one side and Trotski and Lenin on the other was that the latter believed in the necessity of terror to achieve an ideal, even if this meant large scale murder of many, whereas Stalin was primarily an opportune dictator, using terror as a tool to keep himself in power.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Furger

    I haven't read anything by Robert Service before this biography, and I must say that I will devour his other books. His biography of Lenin did what so many others failed to do. It took a polarizing, political, ideologue and made him a man. A man, with hopes, and dreams, and failures and feelings. I am a Marxist myself, and I found Lenin's conception of the vanguard convincing even before this book. If you're at all interested in the life of V. I. Lenin, please read!

  14. 4 out of 5

    P.H.

    I hated Lenin until I read this book. I never have read his actual work, but I enjoyed reading about his very bourgeous existence and feeling justified for having disowned him as a noble man for so long--but at the end of the day, cowards have run this world for a millennia anyway.

  15. 4 out of 5

    David Alexander

    Poorly written and poorly organized. Fails to elaborate on any details of how Lenin interacted within the Bolshevik organization. Also fails to provide any real insight into Lenin's ideological development or theories. May as well read a Wikipedia entry with a timeline. Very disappointing.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Emin Kiraz

    Took a long time to finish, but I thinks it worths. Well-written and detailed biography, ending with a rather short but critical analysis on the evolution and use of Leninism after his life.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Spencer Brown

    Lenin created a whole new world moviment that caused wars and global war. The book goes into deeper about who Lenin exactly was and how he influenced and created communism. And how he lead to the Cold War and the Russian US conflict.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mingjun Sun

    Great

  19. 5 out of 5

    Chris Green

    This is a biography of Vladimir Lenin, the father of modern communism. He is arguably the most important political figure of the 20th century. His achievements are largely felt in the world today. The governments of China, North Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba have evolved from his life. At its height, communism ruled over the population of one-third of the entire world. Lenin came to this infamy from an unsuspecting childhood, until the death of his father and eldest brother. Lenin's life is a This is a biography of Vladimir Lenin, the father of modern communism. He is arguably the most important political figure of the 20th century. His achievements are largely felt in the world today. The governments of China, North Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba have evolved from his life. At its height, communism ruled over the population of one-third of the entire world. Lenin came to this infamy from an unsuspecting childhood, until the death of his father and eldest brother. Lenin's life is a complicated maze of politcal ideologies that he bends and interprets to meet the demands of attaining his current political ambitions. He was a staunch Marxist, who evolved to become a Leninist. On his deathbed, he would tell one that he adhered only to the true meaning of Marxism, but the truth is that he did indeed bend and shape his principled action to whatever was the quickest solution to the very grave problems that were at hand. The thing that I find most interesting is, like so many of the important figures in history, Lenin only came to be known to history thru a series of events that was the equivalent to "winning the powerball" several times. If he would have only missed one of these numbers, we would not know that he ever even lived. Lenin was probably the best politician of the century, through the fact that he always seemed to attain the implementation of the policies that he sought. We may think of Lenin as an absolute dictator, but he had to persuade and get the support and vote of many of the numerous personalities of the communist party. Lenin's successor, Iosef Stalin, is the one who came to absolute tyrannical power. Lenin warned against this very thing on his deathbed. I would recommend this read to anyone that was interested in political ideology of the Soviet Republics and current communist powers. The peoples Republic of China is the main power wielding this form of government currently. I do believe that they are currently progressing to a form of communism that Lenin perceived upon his deathbed. They are introducing capitalism slowly, within the bounds of communism. This is the only way that they perceive that their form of communism can survive. Time and history have proven that communism can only run its course and die, unless that government can accept the fact that it will be so far behind the capitalists, most advanced and evolving, governments in the world, thus, through time, dooming them to be non-factors in the world's heirarchy of governments. I do think that Lenin probably was brilliant enough to finally see this in his own mind. Communist governments can only evolve to become a capitalist government to compete with capitalist nations who are at the pinnacle of technology and advancement, through the sole principle of free enterprise. The advancement in free enterprise cannot ultimately be passed by extreme socialism, without the neglect and decline of the quality of life of its ordinary citizens. At that point, only can revolution be conceived.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Czarny Pies

    This book is a must read for anyone wishing to learn how the Communists came to power in Russia, consolidated their position and then successfully promoted Soviet Communism through-out the world. Service presents a compelling picture of Lenin during his childhood and adolescent years. Lenin was born into the lower aristocracy. His father was an estate manager. Lenin's experiences from his youth left him with a lasting dislike and distrust of Russia's agricultural classes. Lenin's views in this This book is a must read for anyone wishing to learn how the Communists came to power in Russia, consolidated their position and then successfully promoted Soviet Communism through-out the world. Service presents a compelling picture of Lenin during his childhood and adolescent years. Lenin was born into the lower aristocracy. His father was an estate manager. Lenin's experiences from his youth left him with a lasting dislike and distrust of Russia's agricultural classes. Lenin's views in this area lead to huge tragedies. Lenin believed that peasants hid crops in order to obtain higher prices. Thus whenever harvests failed the Soviet response was to seize crops resulting in great rural famines. Millions subsequently died in the Ukraine, Russia, China and North Korea because of Lenin's nasty misconceptions about peasants. Another key incident in Lenin's life was the Tsar's execution of his older brother for revolutionary activity. For Lenin this converted the Tsar from being the leader of an enemy class to be being a personal enemy. Service feels that this one reason why the Tsar, his wife and children were executed when initial attempts to obtain ransoms for them failed. In other words Lenin was a brutal and vindictive man. Stalin, Mao and Kim Il Sung never deviated from the path he laid out but followed it religiously.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mihai Popa

    Such a book is highly important first of all as a... service for the historical truth, whatever the historical truth may be, and I understand it here as a succession of real facts and characters recorded and explained objectively and accurately, as they happened. The biography of Lenin written by Robert Service refers to and benefits also from the Soviet secret archives; accessing them enabled the author to write about real events and facts, far from the traditional Soviet hagiographical Such a book is highly important first of all as a... service for the historical truth, whatever the historical truth may be, and I understand it here as a succession of real facts and characters recorded and explained objectively and accurately, as they happened. The biography of Lenin written by Robert Service refers to and benefits also from the Soviet secret archives; accessing them enabled the author to write about real events and facts, far from the traditional Soviet hagiographical literature on the subject. From this point of view, it is an iconoclastic piece of work. Accessing the secret archives in early nineties was a real step forward after the fall of the Iron Curtain, not only for understanding properly the key figures of the Soviet adventure, but also to the Soviet experiment as a whole. Service writes wonderfully, he is a true story-teller, his style is captivating, and the outstanding character of Lenin and the events he witnessed and managed to produce are wonderfully told, not only for the historian scholar, but also for the general, educated public. Certainly, Service's study on Lenin is a must of anyone interested in modern history, scholar or any other type of reader in Soviet studies and in Communism.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Vern

    Interesting biography, but a real slog. A bit too much irrelevant detail (I don't care that Lenin's bicycle was stolen outside a library in France), and long on speculation. What I concluded by the end of the book, was that to understand Lenin is to NOT understand Lenin. Was he exceedingly complex, or alarming simple. I am not sure. Without a doubt he considered himself the smartest guy in the room, or perhaps the whole world. I am dumbfounded how someone could conclude that without working a Interesting biography, but a real slog. A bit too much irrelevant detail (I don't care that Lenin's bicycle was stolen outside a library in France), and long on speculation. What I concluded by the end of the book, was that to understand Lenin is to NOT understand Lenin. Was he exceedingly complex, or alarming simple. I am not sure. Without a doubt he considered himself the smartest guy in the room, or perhaps the whole world. I am dumbfounded how someone could conclude that without working a day in his life, that he knew what was best for the "working class". Did he really want a world of equality, or was he merely a megalomaniac that wanted to single handedly rule the world. More of the megalomaniac in my opinion, but by espousing utopia (but only after educating the masses through terror and coercion) he justified his obsession of socialist domination; and I have a sneaking suspicion that his obsession with socialism was an excuse to overthrow the hated Romanovs. Lenin was long on theory, short on common sense, politically cunning, ruthless and amoral, and totally lacking in personal courage. But I am perhaps sugar coating it. Glad I got through it. It is, in the end, worth the read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    George Parks

    Well done, a biography that shows the drive behind Lenin's passion, and the unusual pathway this intellectual elite took to create the "dictatorship of the proletariat." It is important to undestand that the man's intent in the sense of what he dreamed it would accomplish was not necessarily evil, but rather it was unrealistic. And in the end his ideology became so important that his hypothetical ends (never achieved) justified the means. The means were, chaos to create order, classism, Well done, a biography that shows the drive behind Lenin's passion, and the unusual pathway this intellectual elite took to create the "dictatorship of the proletariat." It is important to undestand that the man's intent in the sense of what he dreamed it would accomplish was not necessarily evil, but rather it was unrealistic. And in the end his ideology became so important that his hypothetical ends (never achieved) justified the means. The means were, chaos to create order, classism, collectivism, and implementation of a strong, centralized government to protect and provide for the people. It humanizes him, and that is important. We see Lenin, Stalin and the like as villains, rather than imperfect, flawed, visionaries and ideologues that they were. And sadly we do not believe that we are capable of the same mistakes, or lapses in logic and judgement. I would gladly pick up another Robert Service work in the future.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ramsey

    Service's biography of Lenin is excellent. It gives a clear picture of Lenin's personality as well as his political thought and machinations over time. The book is, however, narrowly concerned with Lenin; do not expect a history of Russia in the first quarter of the 20th century. The context provided by Service is thin. For example, in one chapter he emphasizes Lenin's marginal status, even among emigre revolutionaries; in subsequent chapters, we learn of Bolshevik activism in Russia and the Service's biography of Lenin is excellent. It gives a clear picture of Lenin's personality as well as his political thought and machinations over time. The book is, however, narrowly concerned with Lenin; do not expect a history of Russia in the first quarter of the 20th century. The context provided by Service is thin. For example, in one chapter he emphasizes Lenin's marginal status, even among emigre revolutionaries; in subsequent chapters, we learn of Bolshevik activism in Russia and the emergence of the Red Army. It is never made clear how Lenin's faction went from one with dozens of supporters to thousands. Service would probably defend the scope of his book by noting that Lenin was always concerned with grand strategy and mobilizing the Bolshevik party leadership, not with grassroots recruitment. For readers with a background understanding of the Russian Revolution, the biography superbly completes the portrait of its most central participant.

  25. 5 out of 5

    George

    This is an excellent biography. Well researched, and well argued when the author questions some of the prevailing myths about Lenin. The picture of Lenin as a person as well as a politician and ideologue is especially well done. A sobering portrait of a dedicated, ruthless revolutionary.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Debi Robertson

    An excellent read. Service is a little repetitive when it comes to family/names. I got it after the third time! This man and Churchill had a lot of similar personality traits. If you like Russian history this is definitly a good one.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Frank Stein

    One can make a fair case that Lenin was the most consequential figure of the 20th century. Without his combination of ideological vision and cynical pragmatism, the Bolsheviks never could have taken over Russia, and then gone on to spread Lenin's totalitarian system to a third of the population of the Earth. The 100 years since the October 25th 1917 revolution testify to Lenin's imprint, which imposed itself on all facets of modern life. Yet just a few months before the October Revolution, few One can make a fair case that Lenin was the most consequential figure of the 20th century. Without his combination of ideological vision and cynical pragmatism, the Bolsheviks never could have taken over Russia, and then gone on to spread Lenin's totalitarian system to a third of the population of the Earth. The 100 years since the October 25th 1917 revolution testify to Lenin's imprint, which imposed itself on all facets of modern life. Yet just a few months before the October Revolution, few people would seem less likely to change the world. In late 1916 Lenin was still frequenting Geneva cafes, meeting with a few dozen Marxist emigres, and denouncing opponents for picayune matters of ideological divergence. He spent as much time attacking his co-members of the Russia Social Democratic Party, the Mensheviks, as he did the Romanovs. Ideological struggle, in fact, was Lenin's permanent mode. Even after taking over the largest country on Earth, Lenin spent time writing "The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky," denouncing a pamphlet by a second-tier German Marxist, citing chapter and verse of Kautsky and Marx to show Kautsky's "un-Marxist" stance. This was the mind of a true pedant and a true fanatic. So how did the pedant win the battle for supremacy in Russia? Most importantly, Lenin's uncompromising stance that the Bolsheviks keep themselves apart from their supposed socialist brethren when they joined the democratic Alexander Kerensky government in July 1917, meant they were the only party not tarred with the continuing disaster of the war. Lenin's demand for peace at any cost also attracted enough soldiers to form a Bolshevik Military Opposition Council, which, in October, was turned against the government the soldiers were supposed to defend. Few of his former Marxist associates thought Lenin would be so violent and ruthless, and so they didn't act to suppress him when they could. This even though Lenin had long ago "joked" that he would hang them if he ever came to power. In the end, Lenin's ability to combine ideological purity with pragmatic tactical maneuvers gave him the necessary edge to win against all the odds. This book is a bit difficult to read, however, because Lenin the man was hard to read. As the book keeps emphasizing, Lenin had only one true love, revolution, and everything in his life was secondary to that. Surely his anger at the execution of his brother for plotting the assassination of Alexander III inspired his hatred of the Romanovs, but mostly his mind was fired with a rigorous need for intellectual and social order at any cost (he was fastidious in all things). At the same time, his life's work of Marxist exegesis often seems so abstruse as to be hard to endure, and the author here only tries to glance at the few significant issues. Despite its 600 pages, then, the reader gets just some of Lenin's personal life and some of his intellectual life, leaving precious little else except a fair amount of little factoids and thematic repetition. Still, this book was Lenin's first major biography written after the fall of the Soviet Union. It used the new archives to paint a new, surprising portrait of Lenin, warts and all. On the whole, the book only increases one's wonderment at the fact that billions of people were forced to live in a world that this man dreamed, a world rigorous, violent, and devoid of love.

  28. 5 out of 5

    tomsyak

    Summary of Argument: In his book, Robert Service paints a picture of Lenin that strikes the balance between the Soviet image of a kind grandfather and the totalitarian school's power-hungry bloodsucker from hell. Service's ultimate goal was to bring together the private and the public aspects of Lenin's life, connecting Lenin the revolutionary with Lenin the man (indeed, he argues that one cannot be explained without the other), which could only be possible after the opening of the archives in Summary of Argument: In his book, Robert Service paints a picture of Lenin that strikes the balance between the Soviet image of a kind grandfather and the totalitarian school's power-hungry bloodsucker from hell. Service's ultimate goal was to bring together the private and the public aspects of Lenin's life, connecting Lenin the revolutionary with Lenin the man (indeed, he argues that one cannot be explained without the other), which could only be possible after the opening of the archives in 1991, since sources on Lenin's private life were heavily censored by subsequent Soviet rulers. Lenin grew up in a family that was not quite a part of Russian society, and this isolation increased to the point of ostracism after the execution of his older brother Alexander for an attempt at Alexander III's life. Lenin grew up having very little contact with people around him, as a theoretician he was not interested in meeting the objects of his studies (peasants, the bourgeoisie, etc.) and in general regarded them as instruments toward a goal. He believed that as a result of the 1861 reforms, Russia has already entered the capitalist stage and was ready for a socialist revolution - the kulaks were the bourgeoisie and the bedniaks were the proletariat (this in contradiction to agrarian socialists, who believed that Russia could skip capitalism), and was opposed to 1890-92 famine relief because it would artificially prolong capitalism. In "What is to be done?" Lenin argued for the need of a vanguard party to bring the workers who lacked sufficient consciousness to communism and also for the need of terrorism as a means of getting there. In general, Service argues successfully that "Bolsheviks were a ruthless bunch," and Lenin was a worthy representative - returning to Russia in 1917 to get revenge for his family's ostracism, he began a conscious campaign against universal civic freedoms and oppression of people based on their economic standing (i.e. capitalists, rich peasants) - this is a picture drastically different from the "good" Lenin who worked himself up because a Communist struck a Communist (painted by Lewin; Deutscher also seems to hold and idealized opinion of Lenin). Lenin's ultimate philosophy was that ends justify the means, and because holding power in face of wide popular dissatisfaction and external threats proved difficult, he did not hesitate to intensify the dictatorship of the proletariat. However, Service also points out that although Lenin was responsible for the outbreak of violence, he was not the sole person responsible for sustaining it. Also, Service maintains that Lenin was not just interested in power for power's sake (like Daniels or Pipes try to assert); instead, he was driven by the ultimate goal of achieving communism, a time when life would be better (for the worthy classes). So there is this tension between cynicism and idealism. Lenin as a person seems to be quite unpleasant. He believes strongly that he holds the monopoly on Marxism and the truth and that he is indispensable to the socialist movement because of this. He enjoys (abstract) violence. He reads Darwin and Machiavelli and cherry picks facts to fit his preconceived notions. Lenin was so successful at breaking up the Social Democrats and then alienating even the Bolsheviks, that the Okhrana actually supported his activities, unknown to him. He was also never willing to put himself in danger for the causes of the revolution (this changed somewhat once the revolution was accomplished). Service also points out how little known Lenin was even after 1917, and how his widespread popularity was a myth created after his death. Service's Lenin also likes hiking and skating, sharpened pencils, silence when he works, is in poor health, has a love affair, is quite affluent in his youth, and is strongly supported by his mother, sisters, and wife - a picture very different from those represented in the Soviet hagiographies of him. Service argues that Lenin was consistent in basic thinking and only modified specific policies, for example, Service believes that the foundation of the USSR was not accidental, even though many decisions were not thought through. Similarly, Lenin abandoned the policy of nationalization of land in favor of its socialization, the latter actually being an SR policy (this goes against Harding's view that Lenin was an orthodox Marxist). I think that here Service would have done well to outline which, exactly, of Lenin's beliefs remained fixed throughout his life, because in his book he seems to demonstrate that they were few, if any. In his "April Theses," Lenin proclaimed that the bourgeois revolution has happened and it is time to overthrow the Provisional Government (= bourgeois), with which other socialists were happy to collaborate. Subsequent poor performance of the Provisional Government turns the public toward extreme far left solutions, which Lenin is happy to provide. Because of Kerensky's backlash after the July days, Lenin's view becomes very black and white - he believes that there is no third option between the dictatorship of the proletariat and that of the bourgeoisie, and that power has to be taken in a an armed uprising, and not through the soviets ("State and Revolution"). Service argues against those scholars (E. H. Carr, Adam Ulam, and Orlando Figes) who believe that Lenin abandoned the goal of world revolution - he views the Soviet invasion of Poland as an act directed toward that goal. Service rejects Lewin and Cohen's claim that before his death Lenin demanded an overhaul of the Soviet system toward greater democratization and lesser bureaucratization. Instead, the disagreement at the root of "Lenin's last struggle" was a minor one, blown out of proportion by Lenin's deteriorating health and Stalin's eventual rule (and I agree that it is ridiculous to think that in 1923 Lenin could have predicted that Stalin would unleash the great terror and that he would care to stop him even if he had). The Lenin cult established after his death was a matter of political necessity; because it was Lenin's infallibility that justified the creation of USSR and October Revolution (it will be interesting to compare this view with that of Tumarkin in her book). Even though in the beginning I was skeptical about this book because the choice of the biographical form is in itself a claim that the role of Lenin's personality was crucial, I was eventually convinced that even though environment and chance were important, and that the Provisional Government would have collapsed no matter what, Lenin's political talent and strong belief in own infallibility first brought about the establishment of communist order and then sustained it through the dictatorship of the proletariat, NEP, and the conclusion of the Brest-Litovsk treaty (how worthy of saving this system was lays beyond the scope of Service's study) - this is an argument against Fitzpatrick and Suny, who emphasize the systemic factors in the establishment of the Soviet power to the detriment of those of personality. Critique: This book is fascinating and very readable, and not because Service is simplifying matters. One minor point that I found irritating is Service's debunking of some anti-semitic works on Lenin - I think a more dignified solution would be to ignore such "scholarship" entirely. Also, Lenin comes through as such an unpleasant person in this work that I am not sure what to think about all the memoirs that emphasize his exceptional charisma (and of course I understand that they were written after his cult was firmly established, but still). Service argues at one point that if the Great War had not happened, no October Revolution would have been possible - I wonder what Haimson would have to say to that. In general, I think Lenin's views are described much better in the first half of the book and much more detail could be paid to Lenin's political thought once the revolution was accomplished, as well as to the context in which he was now operating (and Gill also pointed this out in his review) - after 1917, I just felt that the book trailed off somehow. I am still not clear about some of Lenin's actions during and after the Revolution - for example, why did Lenin not lead the soldiers during the July days? The reviews of the volume were overwhelmingly positive, except for Pomper's, who is unable to convincingly justify his criticism.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    A serviceable (pardon the pun) biography of one of the most important personages of modern times. Stalin, of whom there is several acclaimed recent biographies, stood as a sort of colossus. Lenin was more of a enigma. You can learn rather a bit about the Soviet Union and indeed Europe reading a Stalin biography. But if you would like to learn about the October Revolution, you would be wise to get a book on the October Revolution, so to really get a understanding of the context surrounding it. A serviceable (pardon the pun) biography of one of the most important personages of modern times. Stalin, of whom there is several acclaimed recent biographies, stood as a sort of colossus. Lenin was more of a enigma. You can learn rather a bit about the Soviet Union and indeed Europe reading a Stalin biography. But if you would like to learn about the October Revolution, you would be wise to get a book on the October Revolution, so to really get a understanding of the context surrounding it. While it is true the Bolsheviks would never have risen to power without Lenin's key influence in the days before the rising, it is difficult to understand either how the Bolsheviks were able to make their moves without an enormous amount of understanding about the war, the Russian political, and economic situation, as well as that of the revolutionary left. Service tries to do this, but Lenin is often isolated, and outside of Russia, jockeying for positioning, and engaging in theoretical and disputes with other socialists and Marxists. He was often wrong in his predictions, and was inconsistent, but never as to his ultimate goal. The positions he took where sometimes tactical, but he had placed his party well to take advantage of the chaos after the fall of the Monarchy. Lenin went from Germany to Russia, although not concealed in a secret train, and the rest is history. Lenin was a cold individual. In some respects, he comes off as more so then even Stalin, who could be boyish and joking to the men who would soon ordered murdered. Lenin lived in the theoretical word. Like the Nazis, he was against what would be called "bourgeois mentality." Both socialist and rightist critics have called him a cynic, and implied he was interested solely in power. After all, he went back in his word about keeping the persecutions limited. He was criticized by extreme communists for reversing war communism and proceeding with the New Economic Policy. These critics missed the point. Lenin was a dedicated fanatic who was sure of himself. He was willing to readjust accordingly, and that lying was justified to achieve his ends. He was being inconsistent, since (presumably) he believed his lies were necessary to help achieve his ends (total communism). Lenin had to lie, and he admitted this, so as to lull others (especially other socialists, and the peasants) into a false sense of security. Lenin had contempt for the democratic socialists-he wrote of Karl Kautsky, "It's natural for a liberal to talk generally about 'democracy'. Marxist will never forget to pose the question: 'for which class?' Lenin could adjust but he lacked the ability to look at his failed predictions and policies and consider the possibility that his ideas, at their core, might be flawed. He thinking was in purely Marxist terms, although whether his thinking was accurate was and continues to be debated. If he compromised, he believed it was justified in a way that comported with science and reason and he believed Marxism was part of that. When he ordered savage barbarities, it is no different. He was in the Vanguard, and would lead the way to a better world. Lenin, as a war leader, must be judged a success. Partly this is doubtlessly the luck of being head of the government willing to almost anything to stay in power compared to softer" previous government. The enemy was divided and incompetent. But this is not totally a positive. The Bolsheviks repressive policies were in large measure responsible for the massive revolts that rose against them. They were not a rulership based on popular representation. Despite this, Lenin administrated his subordinates performed well, and his decision for peace with Germany granted the regime valuable time to breath. Lenin's thinking of European revolution was foolishness, but in truth few of his colleagues thought with much more sense of realism. Lenin suffered from myriad health problems and was the target of multiple assassin attempts. He was shot by the Socialist Revolutionary Fanny Kaplan, but as usually the case with these things, this simply made it even easier to crack down (not that the Bolsheviks had any sympathy for the SR). Lenin was severely wounded by this attack, but he already had a myriad of medical problems. He had a further series of strokes and heart attacks and was gradually partially sidelined although he remained immensely powerful inside the Soviet State. He has supported Stalin's appointment as General Secretary, but very late turned on him, and tried to help Trotsky. In truth, Lenin didn't much get along with Trotsky for a long time. He was a late joiner, and often loudly critical of Lenin's decisions. Stalin had been more willing to keep his opinions to himself, but now as General Secretary felt able to make a name for himself. He bucked the line and supported the creation of more unitary state. Lenin had also felt that, if only within the party, there should be an element of decorum. Stalin had sent a guy to beat up a rival (foreshadowing). Passionate disagreement was aloud but this was too much. Lenin also thought Stalin had insulted his wife. The split from Stalin, so, was a personal and not just a political matter. Lenin though was actually powerful enough to get Stalin to back down on the regions question, but he soon died. Lenin's his last political testament would be suppressed, and Trotsky would eventually be expelled. Lenin was then deified as the Soviet's unrisen Christ, his words carefully edited to provide justification to Stalin's dictatorship. Trotsky blasted back from exile, claiming to to be the true heir apparent, only to be assassinated in Mexico in 1940 by Stalin's agents (and in a silly movie in 1972). While the communist party keeps the world's most populous county on the captivity of one-party dictatorship, the Leninist ideology is only followed by a few retread nations just hanging on. His statues have mostly been torn down. One is in now Seattle, a capital of the ultra-progressive left, but it is not really treated with the reverence from by those genuinely captivated, or those who felt urged on by the secret police. During Christmas season sometimes they added lights. During the gay pride parade, they've dressed him in drag. A ignoble end for one of the most significant personages of modern times. 3(.5)/5

  30. 5 out of 5

    Humphrey J

    Good bio overall, however stunted it is by over psychologising and fairly innane repetition. The main issues arise from how the focus is purely on Lenin (with cursory discussions of Nadya Konstantinova, Inessa Armand and Stalin) with little attention payed to [or context provided for] those he interacted with (Trotsky, the other lesding Bolsheviks (Kamenev, Bukjarin and all leaders of opposition parties stand out) - this, paired with a lack of in-depth discussion of context leaves this encounter Good bio overall, however stunted it is by over psychologising and fairly innane repetition. The main issues arise from how the focus is purely on Lenin (with cursory discussions of Nadya Konstantinova, Inessa Armand and Stalin) with little attention payed to [or context provided for] those he interacted with (Trotsky, the other lesding Bolsheviks (Kamenev, Bukjarin and all leaders of opposition parties stand out) - this, paired with a lack of in-depth discussion of context leaves this encounter with Lenin taking place in a vaccum, despite attempts at discussing wider Russia and some further context in "Lenin: The Afterlife". The discussion of Marxism was also skeletal, but it did not bill itself as a "Critical Biography", so the complaint isn't worth much- it just would have been more rewarding than the repetitious psychological speculation (with a particular fixation on the execution of Alexander Ulyanov by the Romanov Tsar). Overall probably closer to a 3.5-3.75/5 than a 4. As someone interested in left wing politics and Communist theory, this was undeniably worth the £3 I spent on it and the time poured into reading it.

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