Vladimir Lenin (22 April 1870 – 21 January 1924), born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov and known by the names Lenin , was a revolutionary, bolshevik communist politician, principal leader of the October Revolution and the first head of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, better known as the Soviet Union. In 1998, he was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. His contributions to Marxist theory are commonly referred to as Leninism.
Born in Simbirsk – later renamed Ulyanovsk after its most famous son – beside the Volga River in the Russian Empire, Lenin was the son of Ilya Nikolaevich Ulyanov and Maria Alexandrovna Ulyanova.
His father was a successful Russian official in public education who wanted democracy. The family was of mixed ethnicity, his ancestry being “Russian, Mordovian, Kalmyk, Jewish (see Blank family), Volgan German, and Swedish, and possibly others” according to biographer Dmitri Volkogonov. Lenin was baptized into the Russian Orthodox Church. In January 1886, Lenin’s father, a schoolmaster, died of a cerebral hemorrhage, and, in May 1887, when Lenin was 17 years old, his eldest brother Alexander was arrested and hanged for participating in a terrorist bomb plot threatening the life of Tsar Alexander III.
His sister Anna, who was with Alexander at the time of his arrest, was banished to his family estate in the village of Kokushkino, about 40 km (25 mi.) from Kazan.
These events radicalized Lenin, and his official Soviet biographies describe them as being central to the revolutionary track of his life. It is also significant, perhaps, that this emotional upheaval transpired in the same year he enrolled at the Kazan State University.
As Lenin became interested in Marxism, he was involved in student protests and was subsequently arrested. He was then expelled from Kazan University for his political ideals. He continued to study independently, however, and it was during this period of exile that he first familiarized himself with Karl Marx’s Das Kapital.
Lenin was later permitted to continue his studies, this time at the University of Saint Petersburg, and, by 1891, had been admitted to the Bar.
In January 1892, Lenin was awarded a first class degree in law by the University.He also distinguished himself in Latin and Greek, and learned German, French and English, although his knowledge of the latter two languages was limited: he relied on Inessa Armand to translate an article into French and into English in 1917. In the same year he also wrote to S. N. Ravich in Geneva, “I am unable to lecture in French.”