The gripping untold story of a terrorist leader whose death would catapult his brother—Lenin—to 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.
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.