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Associated Press

On This Day: Lenin Returns From Exile

April 16, 2011 06:00 AM
by Denis Cummings
On April 16, 1917, Lenin returned to the Russian capital of Petrograd after a decade in self-imposed exile. Within a year, he would overthrow the government and take control of the country.

Lenin Returns to Russia to Lead Revolution

Lenin had been part of Russia’s leftist revolutionary movement since he was a teenager, and had spent time exiled in Siberia for his Marxist beliefs. He took part in the Russian Revolution of 1905, but went into exiled two year later, spending the next 10 years in Europe publishing Marxist literature and organizing Bolshevik revolutionary groups.

In March 1917, a revolutionary coalition overthrew Czar Nicholas II and replaced him with the Russian provisional government, an alliance of the legislature and workers’ party. The government was weak, and Lenin recognized an opportunity for his Bolshevik movement to gain power.

Seeking a rapid return to Russia, Lenin received the help of the German government, which hoped that he could further destabilize the political situation in Russia. Lenin was aware that accepting German aid would damage his credibility—his enemies in the provisional government would accuse him of being a German spy—but he felt it was his only option to reach Russia and further the Bolshevik movement.

Lenin traveled through Germany covertly in a “sealed” train. He then took a ferry to Sweden and a train through Sweden and Finland to the Russian capital of Petrograd (St. Petersburg).
Upon arriving in Petrograd on April 16, Lenin published his “April Theses” in the Bolshevik newspaper Pravda and read it aloud at two workers’ meetings. In it, he called for workers to give no support to the provisional government, declaring that the February Revolution was only the beginning.

“The country is passing from the first stage of the revolution—which, owing to the insufficient class-consciousness and organization of the proletariat, placed power in the hands of the bourgeoisie—to its second stage, which must place power in the hands of the proletariat and the poorest sections of the peasants,” he wrote.

The Bolshevik Revolution

The provisional government was disorganized, ineffective and insistent on remaining in World War I over the objections of the Russian public. Lenin’s Bolsheviks represented the most significant opposition to the government and gained the support of the workers.

Lenin and the Bolsheviks clashed with the increasingly unpopular provisional government during the summer. In July, Petrograd’s workers and soldiers rioted and, in response, the government ordered the arrest of Bolshevik leaders. Lenin fled to Finland.

In October 1917, Lenin returned to Petrograd to lead what is known as the Bolshevik Revolution or October Revolution. On the night of Nov. 7, the Bolsheviks seized the imperial Winter Palace and overthrew the provisional government. They instituted socialist rule, placing the country’s banks, factories and farms under government control.

As Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, Lenin became the head of the new state, which would become the Soviet Union the following year.

Reference: Lenin’s Life and Works


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