Vladimir Lenin

(1870 - 1924)

In his 1902 essay “What Is to Be Done?” Vladimir Lenin rejected the assumption that workers would inevitably come to revolutionary socialism, proposing a political party that was the “vanguard of the proletariat.” The following year, he founded the Bolsheviks. After his November 1917 seizure of power, Lenin at the age of forty-seven confessed, “It makes one’s head spin.” His tomb is now a tourist attraction in a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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In an 1899 treatise written while in exile, Vladimir Lenin critiqued the capitalist growth of Russian industries in which factory workers had replaced skilled craftsmen. Among his concerns was a shift toward the mass production of cheap accordions, which, he complained, “have nearly everywhere displaced the primitive string folk instrument, the balalaika.”

Give us the child for eight years and it will be a Bolshevist forever.

—Vladimir Lenin, 1923

Revolution can never be forecast; it cannot be foretold; it comes of itself. Revolution is brewing and is bound to flare up.

—Vladimir Lenin, 1918


In Moscow in 1921, a group of actors formed the Blue Blouses, a theater company that acted out scenarios from the news. Their success inspired the creation of many similar amateur troupes. One joke that emerged from the movement went: Bim and Bom were the most popular clowns in revolutionary Moscow. Bim came out with a picture of Lenin and one of Trotsky. “I’ve got two beautiful portraits,” he announced, “I’m going to take them home with me!” Bom asked, “What will you do with them when you get home?” “Oh, I’ll hang Lenin and put Trotsky against the wall.”

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