What Role Did Lenin Play in the Russian Revolution?

Vladimir Lenin led the Russian Bolsheviks in a successful takeover of the provisional government that had been created when Nicholas II abdicated the throne a few months earlier in the face of mass protests and riots against his rule. Known as the “October Revolution,” the 1917 change of government that occurred when Lenin and the Bolsheviks stormed the Winter Palace on the night of October 26 led to the creation of the first socialist state with Lenin as its head. Lenin went on to survive two assassination attempts, and he remained the leader of the Communist Party and Premier of the Soviet Union until his death from a stroke in 1924.

The October Revolution was not the first Bolshevik attempt to gain control of the Russian government. Lenin and his supporters attempted to take power earlier that same year in July, but the attempt failed. Lenin was forced to flee to Finland as a result of the failed takeover, but continued to direct and encourage the Bolshevik uprising while remaining in hiding across the Finnish border. Lenin returned to Russia in October and directed the successful Bolshevik takeover of the government from a hidden base of operations within the Smolny Institute in St. Petersburg.

Under Lenin’s administration, the former Russian Empire was transformed into the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic in 1917 and became the Soviet Union in 1922. In addition to his role as a political leader, Lenin was also known as a political theorist. Although based on Marxism, Lenin’s political theories are commonly referred to as “Leninism.”