Lenin's Brother: The Origins of the October Revolution


Lenin's Brother: The Origins of the October Revolution



In 1886, Alexander Ulyanov, a brilliant biology student, joined a small group of students at St. Petersburg University to plot the assassination of Russia’s tsar. Known as “Second First March” for the date of their action, this group failed disastrously in their mission, and its leaders, Alexander included, were executed. History has largely forgotten Alexander, but for the most important consequence of his execution: his younger brother, Vladimir, went on to lead the October Revolution of 1917 and head the new Soviet government under his revolutionary pseudonym “Lenin.” Probing the Ulyanov family archives, historian Philip Pomper uncovers Alexander’s transformation from ascetic student to terrorist, and the impact his fate had on Lenin. Vividly portraying the psychological dynamics of a family that would change history, Lenin’s Brother is a perspective-changing glimpse into Lenin’s formative years—and his subsequent behavior as a revolutionary. 11 black-and-white illustrations



Publication Date



W. W. Norton & Company


New York, NY


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1887, the future leader of the Russian revolution, Vladimir Ulyanov (later Lenin), was 17 when his 21-year-old brother was hanged for his role in a bungled attempt to assassinate Czar Alexander III. Historians consider this the seminal event that launched Lenin's career as a revolutionary. Wesleyan history professor Pomper (The Russian Intelligentsia) delivers an absorbing and surprisingly detailed account of Alexander Ulyanov's short life and even shorter career (four months) as a terrorist. Although a small minority among Russia's many reformers, violent revolutionaries hit the jackpot in 1881 by assassinating Czar Alexander II. This produced not the hoped-for reform but the opposite: mass arrests, informers, and oppressive laws. Yet plots to kill his successor flourished. Pomper describes half a dozen fanatic students at St. Petersburg University who recruited Alexander, assembled bombs, printed literature, and laid plans until the police, informed of the plot, arrived. Lenin never mentioned his brother, but others did, and Pomper delivers a spirited account of this obscure figure, skillfully interweaving a vivid portrait of 19th-century Russian culture and revolutionary ferment. 16 pages of illus. (Jan.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Implicated in a conspiracy to assassinate Czar Alexander III, Alexander Ulyanov was executed in 1887, which traumatized his family and ruined their name. In this fascinating portrait of the Ulyanovs, historian Pomper recounts the family’s social ascent amid the restlessness of nineteenth-century Russia that caused many socially privileged young men, such as Alexander and his younger brother, Vladimir (the future Lenin), to rebel. Outlining the actions and ideas of the period’s revolutionaries, such as the People’s Will terrorists who assassinated Alexander II in 1881, Pomper strives to discover why and when Alexander became convinced to pursue such drastic action himself. A stellar student, he was radicalized at St. Petersburg University, and Pomper reconstructs Alexander’s life and contacts in the capital city and his eventual plunge into the conspiracy. On the family crisis provoked by Alexander’s arrest, Pomper writes with great insight, sensitive to the psychological dynamics reflected in the mother’s plea for mercy, Alexander’s reluctance to beg for it, and Vladimir’s understanding of his older brother. Excellent historical work, Pomper’s family biography will inform all future Lenin biographies. --Gilbert Taylor See all Editorial Reviews

Lenin's Brother: The Origins of the October Revolution