Vladimir Lenin was born on May 4, 1870 in Simbirsk, Russia. His father was a school inspector in the area and his mother was the daughter of a wealthy physician. Vladimir was an intelligent student in school, but was often alienated by his fellow students as a result. He read many books, although his favorites were the works of Goethe and Turgenev.
In 1886, his father died of a cerebral hemorrhage and his brother was hanged after plotting an attempt to assassinate Tsar Alexander III. Vladimir immediately renounced the political system and all forms of religion. He was accepted into the Kazan University, where he began studying law. However, he was expelled after a short time for attending a protest and abandoned by Russia's academia. He continued studying law independently and managed to pass the bar exam in 1891, getting the highest score out of over one hundred law students.
Vladimir moved to St. Petersburg in 1893 and began to practice law. In his spare time, he found others that liked the ideas of Karl Marx and formed an underground revolutionary movement. Members of his group were put into six person cells, which carried out investigations of weak points in the government and wrote pamphlets. He met a woman named Nadezhda Krupskaya, who would later become his wife, in one of the groups.
In 1895, Vladimir traveled to Switzerland, where he met with other Marxists. He met with Georgi Plekhanov and they discussed proper methods of revolution in Russia. Georgi wanted to include the liberal middle class in the revolution, while Vladimir wanted to allow the proletariat to rise to power. Their argument was the beginning of the split of the revolutionaries into the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks.
Vladimir returned to Russia with Marxist pamphlets, which were illegal in Russia, and intended to create an underground newspaper. However, the day of the first publication, he was arrested along with other leaders in the movement. He was released from prison after fifteen months and exiled to Siberia. There, he married his longtime lover Nadezhda, a fellow revolutionary. In 1900, they were allowed to return from exile and moved to Switzerland, where they successfully established their Marxist newspaper, which was called Iskra. He became a leading member of the Social Democratic party there and made a name for himself throughout Europe.
In 1905, the St. Petersburg Massacre occurred, in which Russian Cosacks fired their rifles at a march of peaceful protesters. Vladimir was horrified and moved back to Russia, attempting to spur the revolution. Although several uprisings occurred, the Tsar was able to quell the people and Vladimir moved back to Europe.
In 1917, political tensions finally came to a head in Russia. In St. Petersburg, thousands of steelworkers went on strike and the uprising spread, causing the Tsar's government to collapse. The Duma, led by revolutionary Alexander Kerensky, seized power and Russia became under the control of the Communist Party. Vladimir made a deal with the German government that he would remove Russian forces from World War I if they allowed him to return to Russia, which they did.
Kerensky, the leader of the government at that time, refused to pull out Russian forces from the war, proving to be his downfall. Vladimir seized power with a bloodless coup in October. However, the new Communist government had many problems to face. Land was distributed and all businesses were taken by the government, but opposition developed, resulting in a war between the Mensheviks and Bolsheviks. The Mensheviks, who had the support of the United States and Great Britain, were finally defeated after a long struggle, leaving the Bolsheviks in control of Russia.
Unfortunately, other forces would cripple Russia in the next few years. A massive famine took place, causing food shortages, while typhus killed thousands of people a day. Over a two year period, twenty seven million people were killed by the combination and Vladimir initiated the New Economic Plan. The plan allowed limited private industries, which would help revitalize the crumbling economy.
In May of 1922, Vladimir suffered his first stroke and had another after a year. Despite his ailments, he worked to help the situation in Russia by making sure that Leo Trotsky succeeded him as president instead of Josef Stalin. In 1923, his health deteriorated rapidly after a third stroke paralyzed him and left him unable to speak. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage, just like his father, on January 21, 1924. His body was preserved and placed on display for all to see in a special shrine. Unfortunately, his efforts to keep Stalin out of power were futile, and Stalin seized power shortly after his death.