cover image Lenin’s Brother: The Origins of the October Revolution

Lenin’s Brother: The Origins of the October Revolution

Philip Pomper, . . Norton, $24.95 (276pp) ISBN 978-0-393-07079-8

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.)