Lenin On The Train

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by Catherine Merridale

A compelling narrative of Lenin's disastrous 1917 train voyage from Zurich to Petrograd, where he started the Russian Revolution and irrevocably altered the course of history.

Vladimir Lenin, the future leader of the Bolshevik revolution, was exiled in Zurich in April 1917, when the abdication of the Russian Tsar Nicholas II shocked a war-torn Europe. Lenin decided right away to head back to Petrograd and lead the uprising after learning about it. But in order to get there, he would have to cross Germany, which required enlisting the aid of Russia's worst foe. Accepting German assistance—or even safe passage—would be betraying his motherland because the German assault had caused millions of Russians to suffer at home. By permitting Lenin and his tiny band of revolutionaries to return, Germany saw a chance to further destabilize Russia.

Now, in Lenin on the Train, renowned historian Catherine Merridale offers a gripping, nuanced account of this enormously significant journey—the train ride that changed the world—as well as the covert conspiracy and deceit that helped make it happen. Merridale draws on a bewildering array of sources and never-before-seen archival material. She creates a world of counter-espionage and intrigue, wartime desperation, illicit money, and misplaced utopianism in her writing with the same insight and tremendous brilliance that set her earlier works apart.

Lenin gave an explosive speech to the fervent masses when he arrived in Petrograd's now-famous Finland Station. The content of this speech has been likened to important writings like Martin Luther's ninety-five theses and Constantine's decree of Milan because it is straightforward and extreme. It was the turning point in the Russian revolution's transformation into the Soviet Union, the beginning of a tyrannical and religious order that altered the course of Russian history irrevocably and altered the global political landscape.

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— Catherine Merridale, Lenin On The Train