Lenin: A Biography / Edition 1

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Overview

Lenin's politics continue to reverberate around the world even after the end of the USSR. His name elicits revulsion and reverence, yet Lenin the man remains largely a mystery. This biography shows us Lenin as we have never seen him, in his full complexity as revolutionary, political leader, thinker, and private person.

Born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov in 1870, the son of a schools inspector and a doctor's daughter, Lenin was to become the greatest single force in the Soviet revolution--and perhaps the most influential politician of the twentieth century. Drawing on sources only recently discovered, Robert Service explores the social, cultural, and political catalysts for Lenin's explosion into global prominence. His book gives us the vast panorama of Russia in that awesome vortex of change from tsarism's collapse to the establishment of the communist one-party state. Through the prism of Lenin's career, Service focuses on dictatorship, the Marxist revolutionary dream, civil war, and interwar European politics. And we are shown how Lenin, despite the hardships he inflicted, was widely mourned upon his death in 1924.

Service's Lenin is a political colossus but also a believable human being. This biography stresses the importance of his supportive family and of its ethnic and cultural background. The author examines his education, upbringing, and the troubles of his early life to explain the emergence of a rebel whose devotion to destruction proved greater than his love for the "proletariat" he supposedly served. We see how his intellectual preoccupations and inner rage underwent volatile interaction and propelled his career from young Marxist activist to founder of the communist party and the Soviet state--and how he bequeathed to Russia a legacy of political oppression and social intimidation that has yet to be expunged.

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Editorial Reviews

The Guardian
With the help of previously unpublished documents recently released from central party archives, [Service] has managed to skillfully depict the surreal life of an obsessive, brilliant and stubborn individual who usually found himself the champion of the minority opinion within a minority of just a small number of revolutionaries--who, for most of their lives, did not have a revolution in sight.
Sunday Herald

In this thorough biography, Robert Service uses the abundant new archival evidence to describe Lenin's personal idiosyncracies, and also to underline, once again, his many ideological contradictions...Service then goes on to show how Lenin betrayed, in practice, virtually all of his paper principles, which had themselves changed several times in any case: far from creating a state in which ordinary workers took decisions about the running of society, Lenin created a totalitarian dictatorship.
— Anne Applebaum

Booklist

[A] significant addition...Without doubt, Service's life-of should answer all curiosities about Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin)—about his personality, attitudes, intellect, ruthlessness, and significance...As Service notes, but for contingencies that pushed history his way, Lenin might have remained an anonymous exile; why it was otherwise is adroitly argued throughout this superb biography.
— Gilbert Taylor

Wall Street Journal

The wonder of this particular account is that Service succeeds in explaining how Lenin came to [his] determined confidence and the complex and ultimately tragic circumstances that led to the triumph of his ambitions...The most significant contribution of this book is the wealth of personal information that makes Lenin a far more accessible, if not appealing, individual...Such details make Lenin all the more human and so all the more vivid and frightening...Service never allows his narrative to slip into sentimentality or forgets whom he is dealing with.
— Joshua Rubenstein

Washington Post
A comprehensive and intimate biography of the Russian revolutionary.
Washington Times

In Lenin: A Biography, Robert Service argues that Lenin's importance evolved from three major achievements: He led the October Revolution, he founded the Soviet Union, and he laid out the rudiments of Marxism-Leninism...This is a fascinating and engaging book, not the least because it is the first comprehensive Lenin biography to appear since crucial Soviet archives have been opened.
— Amos Perlmutter

Central Europe Review

Throughout this massive and exhaustive biography of Lenin, British historian Robert Service does not lose sight of his subject's stature as the father of the twentieth century's feast of horrors. What interests Service more, however, is an exploration of the person behind the political persona...Service has diligently incorporated his archival findings into this work, which has enabled him to take issue with the many biographies that tend to portray Lenin as either a sociopath or savior...This lucidly written, insightful biography will no doubt come to be regarded as a definitive interpretation of Lenin.
— Rob Stout

Boston Globe

Lenin was the one essential personality of the communist movement that shook the world for most of the twentieth century. In this marvelous synthesis of previously known history and information newly available since the dissolution of the Soviet Union that Lenin founded, Robert Service lays out how that came to be...Service is able to humanize Lenin without suggesting that in that humanity lies any explanation of or excuse for the excesses of the revolution he led.
— Charles Radin

Houston Chronicle

In his massive, all-encompassing biography, British historian Robert Service does not lose track of his subject's stature...but what interests Service more is the person as opposed to the persona...The reader is left with a personality rooted in paradox: a coldly calculating individual capable of deep emotion; a man who possessed little empathy yet became outraged by the slightest injustice...This lucidly written, sharply observed biography will no doubt come to be regarded as a definitive portrait of Lenin for some time.
— Rob Stout

World and I

The demise of the country and the ideology its elite professed (at least externally) to the very end requires a new evaluation of the founder of the Soviet state. The opening of the Russian archives provided an additional incentive for such work. In a new biography, Robert Service...provides fresh material as well as an original vision of Lenin. Readers will enjoy his information and observations, even if they do not share his views...Readers will find a lot of details about Lenin's Jewish ancestral links, his supportive family, his love affairs, and the last hours of his life. At the same time, Service presents him as a calculating yet compulsive politician obsessed to the point of mania with his vision of history and the future...One should read Service's excellent book not so much to ponder the problems of the past but of the present and future.
— Dmitri Shlapentokh

New York Review of Books

The best place to begin assessing Boshevism's founder is the work of the British historian Robert Service. The present volume, Lenin: A Biography, is the fourth the author has devoted to his lifelong subject, its three predecessors, published between 1985 and 1995, being a meticulous chronicle of Lenin's political life. Yet the past decade has produced sufficient archival material to make possible a biography of Lenin the man, and this is the new volume's task. It may also serve as a summary of the preceding trilogy, to which readers can refer back for fuller details at any point...Even in Russia, historians prefer Service's nuanced and judicious account to the more sensational work of the late Dmitri Volkogonov, as well as to the standard Western treatments. Indeed, Service is consciously writing against the predominant Lenin canon in both East and West...[He] seeks to reconstruct Lenin's motives historically, decision by decision, as the settings of his action changed. Moreover, his analysis has been refined by the vicissitudes of time.
— Martin Malia

Abbott Gleason
Service knows as much about Lenin's life as anybody around. What he has done is to write a more personal biography of Lenin than has ever been written before. A great deal of new material has come out since 1991 or even a bit earlier, especially on Lenin's personal life--on his health, physical and psychic. The book enriches Lenin's life with detail and should be made widely available.
Martin Malia
The best place to begin assessing Boshevism's founder is the work of the British historian Robert Service. The present volume, Lenin: A Biography, is the fourth the author has devoted to his lifelong subject, its three predecessors, published between 1985 and 1995, being a meticulous chronicle of Lenin's political life. Yet the past decade has produced sufficient archival material to make possible a biography of Lenin the man, and this is the new volume's task. It may also serve as a summary of the preceding trilogy, to which readers can refer back for fuller details at any point...Even in Russia, historians prefer Service's nuanced and judicious account to the more sensational work of the late Dmitri Volkogonov, as well as to the standard Western treatments. Indeed, Service is consciously writing against the predominant Lenin canon in both East and West...[He] seeks to reconstruct Lenin's motives historically, decision by decision, as the settings of his action changed. Moreover, his analysis has been refined by the vicissitudes of time.
Sunday Herald - Anne Applebaum
In this thorough biography, Robert Service uses the abundant new archival evidence to describe Lenin's personal idiosyncracies, and also to underline, once again, his many ideological contradictions...Service then goes on to show how Lenin betrayed, in practice, virtually all of his paper principles, which had themselves changed several times in any case: far from creating a state in which ordinary workers took decisions about the running of society, Lenin created a totalitarian dictatorship.
Booklist - Gilbert Taylor
[A] significant addition...Without doubt, Service's life-of should answer all curiosities about Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin)--about his personality, attitudes, intellect, ruthlessness, and significance...As Service notes, but for contingencies that pushed history his way, Lenin might have remained an anonymous exile; why it was otherwise is adroitly argued throughout this superb biography.
Wall Street Journal - Joshua Rubenstein
The wonder of this particular account is that Service succeeds in explaining how Lenin came to [his] determined confidence and the complex and ultimately tragic circumstances that led to the triumph of his ambitions...The most significant contribution of this book is the wealth of personal information that makes Lenin a far more accessible, if not appealing, individual...Such details make Lenin all the more human and so all the more vivid and frightening...Service never allows his narrative to slip into sentimentality or forgets whom he is dealing with.
Washington Times - Amos Perlmutter
In Lenin: A Biography, Robert Service argues that Lenin's importance evolved from three major achievements: He led the October Revolution, he founded the Soviet Union, and he laid out the rudiments of Marxism-Leninism...This is a fascinating and engaging book, not the least because it is the first comprehensive Lenin biography to appear since crucial Soviet archives have been opened.
Central Europe Review - Rob Stout
In his massive, all-encompassing biography, British historian Robert Service does not lose track of his subject's stature...but what interests Service more is the person as opposed to the persona...The reader is left with a personality rooted in paradox: a coldly calculating individual capable of deep emotion; a man who possessed little empathy yet became outraged by the slightest injustice...This lucidly written, sharply observed biography will no doubt come to be regarded as a definitive portrait of Lenin for some time.
Boston Globe - Charles Radin
Lenin was the one essential personality of the communist movement that shook the world for most of the twentieth century. In this marvelous synthesis of previously known history and information newly available since the dissolution of the Soviet Union that Lenin founded, Robert Service lays out how that came to be...Service is able to humanize Lenin without suggesting that in that humanity lies any explanation of or excuse for the excesses of the revolution he led.
World and I - Dmitri Shlapentokh
The demise of the country and the ideology its elite professed (at least externally) to the very end requires a new evaluation of the founder of the Soviet state. The opening of the Russian archives provided an additional incentive for such work. In a new biography, Robert Service...provides fresh material as well as an original vision of Lenin. Readers will enjoy his information and observations, even if they do not share his views...Readers will find a lot of details about Lenin's Jewish ancestral links, his supportive family, his love affairs, and the last hours of his life. At the same time, Service presents him as a calculating yet compulsive politician obsessed to the point of mania with his vision of history and the future...One should read Service's excellent book not so much to ponder the problems of the past but of the present and future.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674008281
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2002
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 592
  • Sales rank: 615,386
  • Product dimensions: 6.02 (w) x 8.96 (h) x 1.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Service is a Fellow of the British Academy and Professor of Russian History at Oxford University.
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Table of Contents

Preface

Note on Transliteration and Calendars

List of Illustrations

Glossary of Names of Lenin and his Family

Maps

Introduction

Part One: The Rebel Emerges

1. The Ulyanovs and the Blanks

2. Childhood in Simbirsk

1870-1885

3. Deaths in the Family

1886-1887

4. The Ploughing of the Mind

1887-1888

5. Paths to Revolution

1889-1893

6. St Petersburg

1893-1895

7. To Siberian Italy

1895-1900

Part Two: Lenin and the Party

8. An Organization of Revolutionaries

1900-1902

9. 'Holy Fire'

1902-1904

10. Russia from Far and Near

1905-1907

11. The Second Emigration

1908-1911

12. Almost Russia!

1912-1914

13. Fighting for Defeat

1914-1915

14. Lasting Out

1915-1916

Part Three: Seizing Power

15. Another Country

February to April 1917

16. The Russian Cockpit

May to July 1917

17. Power for the Taking

July to October 1917

18. The October Revolution

October to December 1917

19. Dictatorship Under Siege

Winter 1917-1918

20. Brest-Litovsk

January to May 1918

21. At Gunpoint

May to August 1918

Part Four: Defense of the Revolution

22. War Leader

1918-1919

23. Expanding the Revolution

April 1919 to April 1920

24. Defeat in the West

1920

25. The New Economic Policy

January to June 1921

26. A Question of Survival

July 1921 to July 1922

27. Disputing to the Last

September to December 1922

28. Death in the Big House

1923-1924

Lenin: The Afterlife

Notes

Select Bibliography

Index

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 14, 2011

    Very Thorough - I'd Recommend it

    As a student majoring in Russian Studies, I honestly think this is one of the most thorough, unbiased, well-rounded studies you're likely to find on Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov-Lenin. I orignally rented this book from the library, and now have my own copy, since I find it a good resource not only on Lenin, but the October Revolution and its consequences as well. Both his professional life and his personal life are given attention which gives a good portrait of the real man, unlike the skewed version often found among general knowledge. Whether you think you like Lenin or not, you'll end up with a lot of information that wasn't available until recently.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted April 14, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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