Brothers in Arms
It sometimes seems to me that an inordinante amount of books have been written about the Russian Revolution: its causes, its personalities, its historical importance.
But at the heart of these discussions are three main figures: Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin.
Stalin, the paranoid psycho-bully smiling while he stabs his friends in the back, Trotsky the crazy intellegent organizer, everywhere at once, his enthusiasm and energy inexhaustible.
But for me Lenin is a mystery figure. Who was he and why did he decide to take on the whole Russian infrastructure? Why did he twice leave Russian just at a crucial moment in the revolution? Didn't he realize how easily it could have slipped through his fingers?
Author Phillip Pomper thinks he might have the answer.
In his book Lenin’s Brother: the origins of the October Revolution, Pomper explores the life of Lenin’s oldest brother, Alexsandr, who played a part in an earlier plot to assasinate the Tsar. He failed and was hung despite his mother’s desperate pleas for a repreve. Alexsandr was the favorite son, the studious, quiet son, the hope of his family. Lenin was intelligent but a lazy student. with none of the focus and zeal of his older brother. But that changed when Alexandr was executed. Suddenly Lenin's personality seemed to change; he had to fill his brother’s shoes, had to finish what Alexandr begun.
Lenin became mysterious and withdrawn. He began to read revolutionary literature. He set about making his brother’s purpose HIS purpose.
I knew Lenin had a brother who was executed for revolutionary activities, but Pomper’s book made me think and wonder about Lenin’s motivation. Brothers compete with each other- even revolutionary-minded ones.
It also made me wonder what would have happened if Alixsandr’s repreve had come through from the Tsar-
Would Alexander and Lenin have banded together to overthrow the government or maybe Lenin would have left Russia and never come back at all?