The Rise of Communism & Vladimir Lenin

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  • 0:07 Who Was Vladimir Lenin?
  • 1:00 Marx and Lenin
  • 2:08 Russian Revolution & Communism
  • 4:56 The Impact of Vladimir Lenin
  • 5:39 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nate Sullivan

Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.

In this lesson, we will examine the role Vladimir Lenin played as a leading architect of the communist system. We will explore his involvement in the Russian Revolution and the establishment of Soviet Russia.

Who Was Vladimir Lenin?

Who was Vladimir Lenin, and why is he important? That is what we will be discussing in this lesson. Vladimir Lenin was a communist revolutionary who helped orchestrate the Russian Revolution and emerged as the first Premier of the Soviet Union. Lenin played a senior role in a number of revolutions, leading up to the overthrow of Russia's Tsar Nicholas II in 1917.

He formed the world's first communist state, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic in 1917, which a few years later, would be the basis for the greater Soviet Union. He was also instrumental in getting Russia out of World War I (don't worry; we'll talk about some of this in more detail later on).

Marx and Lenin

Lenin was heavily influenced by another figure: Karl Marx. Marx was a German philosopher who set the theoretical foundation for modern communism. He also had a pretty epic beard. He was essentially the 'father of communism.' Marx, along with another intellectual named Friedrich Engels, authored The Communist Manifesto in 1848. Marx is widely regarded as one of the most influential thinkers in modern history. His ideas affected a host of disciplines, including philosophy, history, politics and economics.

But this lesson is more about Lenin than it is about Marx. So, where does Lenin come in? Well, Lenin basically took the theories of Marx and implemented them in a practical form. Because of this, Marx and Lenin are considered the 'founding fathers' of the communist system. In fact, the political theory behind communism is often called 'Marxism-Leninism.'

The Russian Revolution and the Rise of Communism

Tsar Nicholas II came to power in Russia in 1894. He proved to be unpopular with the Russian people. Many saw him as haughty and aloof. By the early 1900s, discontentment with the monarchy swelled to the point of revolution. During the Revolution of 1905, the Tsar's Imperial Guard opened fire on a crowd of protestors, killing hundreds, possibly thousands. This event, known as 'Bloody Sunday,' further fanned the flames of radical revolution.

In the early 1900s, Lenin emerged as the leader of a radical political group called the Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks were composed primarily of working class citizens and were committed to Lenin's brand of communist ideology. Bolsheviks differed from their more moderate counterpart, the Mensheviks. Lenin's radicalism got him in trouble with the monarchy. At various times throughout the early 1900s, he was imprisoned, exiled to Siberia and forced to live abroad.

When World War I broke out, Lenin hoped to transform the war into a worldwide war against capitalism. Of course, the war didn't quite take the turn he had hoped. With World War I still going on, revolution broke out in 1917. The February Revolution, as it has been called, resulted in the overthrow of Tsar Nicholas II and the installation of a new, leftist provisional government. The new provisional government was divided between various factions, including Lenin's Bolsheviks and the moderate Mensheviks.

During the October Revolution (of 1917, of course), the Bolsheviks overthrew the provisional government and formed a communist government. Lenin then moved quickly to withdraw Russia from World War I.

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