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Review of Vladlen Loginov “Vladimir Lenin – How to Become a Leader” – for SCRSS Digest

09/30/2020

Vladlen Loginov (translation by Lewis White); Vladimir Lenin – How to Become a Leader; Glagolit Publications, 2019; 328 pp, Introduction by Professor Geoffrey Swain pages 7-18; £19 paperback

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this new book, in its excellent and highly readable translation by Lewis White.

But I have to start by arguing with the translation of its title. The book was published in 2005 in Russia, with the title Выбор пути: Биография (Vybor puti: Biografiya), which may be literally translated as “Choosing a path: Biography”, which gives a much better idea of the content of the book. This is not at all an instruction manual for would-be leaders, nor does it explain how Lenin became a leader. Instead, it is a detailed and well-researched chronological account of Lenin’s early life from his birth as Vladimir Ulyanov in 1870, to 1900, when he was 30 years old. In 1901 he began to sign his works with a new pseudonym – Lenin. There were 24 momentous years before his death aged 54.

Vladlen Loginov was born in 1929, now 91 years old. In the course of his long life he has published over 400 books and articles, many on Lenin, and his latest book was published in 2018, Ленин. Сим победиши (Lenin. Sim pobedishi), as an electronic book, free access at https://leninism.su/images/PDF/loginov.pdf, covering the last years of Lenin’s life, from the end of the Civil War, to his conflicts with Stalin and his Testament.

Loginov certainly knows his subject-matter, and every page is thoroughly referenced to many sources. The reader will find much fascinating detail as to Lenin’s immediate ancestors, and his early life. I thought I knew a lot about Lenin, who is one of my own special subjects, but I learned a great deal, and with pleasure. For example, details of Lenin’s practice as a criminal defence advocate in Samara, from 1892 to 1893 (pages 126-128); and of his life with Nadezhda Krupskaya in Shushenskoye (pages 228 to 237).

What was the task Loginov actually set himself? His own Introduction is entitled “What colour were Lenin’s eyes?”, that is, the various descriptions of Lenin’s short stature, and his “agreeable, swarthy face with a touch of the Asiatic to it”, but in particular his force of personality. But Lenin, still lying in the Mausoleum (contrary to his own wishes) has become the subject of myth upon myth, especially in the Soviet period, when he became “a kind of symbol of the “new faith”… For millions, an object of near religious veneration.” In Loginov’s view, “… searching for the roots of modern problems in Lenin’s past deeds is at the very least unfair, since it has now become a wholly separate narrative: it is akin to blaming Christ for the Crusades and the bonfires of the Inquisition…”

Loginov’s aim is very modest: “… not to offer an explanation, but to present some material for consideration, a few details of his biography hitherto unknown…”

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