Lenin Collected Works: Volume 37: Preface to Letters to Relatives (1930 Edition), by M. Ulyanova

Lenin Collected Works:
Volume 37

Preface to Letters To Relatives (1930 Edition)

By M. Ulyanova

First Published: 1930
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Volume 37 (pp. 24-45)
Original Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala and D. Walters
Re-Marked up & Proofread by: Kevin Goins (2008)
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2003). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


The letters in this collection are addressed mainly to Lenin’s mother, Maria Alexandrovna Ulyanova, and to me[1] and cover the period from 1894 to 1917,[2] i.e., they begin from the first years of Lenin’s revolutionary activities and continue up to his return to Russia after the February Revolution. It was in this period, almost a quarter of a century, that our Party emerged and took shape. Through out this remarkable period of twenty-five years, Vladimir Ilyich stood at the head of the Party, guiding and nurturing it. His entire life was one of revolutionary struggle and his private life was part of that struggle, part of his labour on behalf of the cause of the proletariat.

We have a complete edition of Lenin’s Collected Works and a fairly extensive literature on Leninism (works of scientific research and popular writings) but Lenin the man, with his brilliant, all-round individuality, has been but little described or, rather, has scarcely been described at all.

The letters here offered to the reader to some extent fill this gap. They enable the reader to form to some extent a picture of Lenin’s life, his habits, inclinations, attitude to people, etc. We say here “to some extent”, mainly because the collection of letters to his relatives in this period is far from complete. During the frequent moves from town to town, the numerous house searches and arrests to which first one, then another member of our family was subjected, many of the letters fell into the hands of the police and were not returned[3] or were lost in some other way. There were also frequent cases of letters going astray in the post, especially during the imperialist war. For this reason one and the same question is repeated in a number of successive letters. These letters, furthermore, bear the imprint of police conditions in tsarist times. It is true that all our official correspondence (all communications concerning revolutionary events, party life, etc.) was conducted secretly, in invisible ink and usually in books and journals, sent through other, “clean” addresses.[4] Our personal lives were so closely bound up with revolutionary work that our legal, personal correspondence no doubt suffered badly and we cut it down because of police conditions. Vladimir Ilyich had good reason to write to me, when I was in exile in Vologda, that “as far as letter-writing is concerned—At is very difficult in our situation (in yours and mine especially) to carry on the correspondence one would like”.[Letter No. 252.—Ed.]

This applied equally to all our family and not only to me, because Vladimir Ilyich was not only a blood relation but was related to us by his views and convictions. All the family (including Anna’s husband, Mark Yelizarov) were at that time Social-Democrats, supported the revolutionary wing of the Party, took a greater or lesser part in revolutionary activities, were keenly interested in the life of the Party and were delighted at its successes and grieved by its failures. Even our mother, who was born in 1835 and who was over sixty at the end of the century, when house searches and arrests became particularly frequent, showed full sympathy for our revolutionary activities. All the legal correspondence of revolutionaries was examined by the police and recourse had to be made to various hints, secret signs, etc., in some way to touch upon questions that interested us, confirm the receipt of some illegal letter, make enquiries about acquaintances and so on.

The reader will notice that letters sent by Vladimir Ilyich to his mother, sisters or brother contain scarcely any names, because the use of names might involve those mentioned in unpleasantness. It stands to reason that we had not the slightest desire to do anything that would, at best, make things unpleasant for someone. The names and surnames that do, on rare occasions, occur in Vladimir Ilyich’s letters are those of comrades and friends whose connection with us was in any case known to the police owing to various circumstances (exile together on the same charge, attendance at the same educational establishment, etc.) or had to do with purely business matters (names of publishers, booksellers, etc.). To avoid mentioning the names of any body living in more or less legal conditions about whom Vladimir Ilyich wanted to tell us something, to whom he wanted to send regards, etc., he made frequent use in his letters of nicknames and explanations connected with facts or events known to us. Vladimir Ilyich called Ivan Skvortsov-Stepanov, for instance, “the historian” (in view of his writings on history); at one time he carried on a lively correspondence with him through my sister and me.[5]

When he sent greetings to V. V. Vorovsky, who was in exile in Vologda at the same time as I, Vladimir Ilyich wrote “Greetings to Polish friends, and I hope they help you in every way.”[Letter No. 237.—Ed.] By “China traveller” he meant A. P. Sklyarenko, who was employed on the railway in Manchuria at the time, and “the gentleman we went boating with last year"[Letters Nos. 114 and 130.—Ed.] was V. A. Levitsky, etc.

The despatch of underground publications, secret correspondence, books containing letters in invisible ink, etc., had to be referred to in Aesopian language, etc.

At the end of December 1900 I gave G. B. Krasin, who was going abroad, the Manifesto of the Party of Socialist-Revolutionaries to take to Vladimir Ilyich; for purposes of secrecy I concealed it in an album of photographs. Vladimir Ilyich was very pleased with this package and wrote in a letter dated January 16, 1901, “many thanks to Manyasha for the books she sent, and especially for the unusually beautiful and interesting photographs from our cousin in Vienna; I should like to receive such gifts more often”.[Letter No. 120.—Ed.]

Iskra and other underground publications were sent to Russia in envelopes to “clean”, legal addresses. We also used these addresses to obtain literature for ourselves. Information concerning such packages was sometimes contained in legal letters to enable us to make enquiries of the addressee in good time. Information of this kind seems to be contained in Vladimir Ilyich’s statement (letter of December 14, 1900), “I remember that I sent you the things that interested you on the ninth.” And in her letter of February 8, 1916, Nadezhda Konstantinovna wrote, “Volodya was very pleased with your big letter. Perhaps you will write again.”[Letter No. 117 and Krupskaya’s Letter No. 54.—Ed.] Since our legal letters were never exceptionally long and during the imperialist war, when this letter was written, we corresponded mainly by postcard, even registered postcards, and since many letters were lost in transit, the words quoted apparently refer to an illegal letter concealed in a book.

When Vladimir Ilyich was first living abroad in 1900 and still did not know whether his stay would be more or less permanent, he did not give us his private address; when he was living in Switzerland or in Munich we wrote to him in Paris or Prague for reasons of secrecy. In his letter of March 2, 1901, for instance, he sent us his new address, adding “I have moved together with my landlord”.[Letter No. 125.—Ed.] Franz Modráček, to whose address we sent our letters, actually did move at that time to a new apartment, but Vladimir Ilyich remained in Munich in the old one.


Characteristic of Vladimir Ilyich were his great punctuality and thoroughness and his strict economy in spending money, especially on himself. Vladimir Ilyich probably inherited these qualities from our mother, whom he resembled in many ways. Our mother was of German descent on her mother’s side and these qualities were deeply ingrained in her character.

Vladimir Ilyich’s carefulness with money and his frugality in spending it on himself can be seen from his letter of October 5, 1895.[6]

“I am now, for the first time in St. Petersburg, keeping a cash-book to see how much I actually spend. It turned out that for the month August 28 to September 27 I spent altogether 54 rubles 30 kopeks, not including payment for things (about 10 rubles) and expenses for a court case (also about 10 rubles) which I shall probably conduct. It is true that part of this 54 rubles was spent on things that do not have to be bought every month (galoshes, clothes, books, an abacus, etc.), but even discounting that (16 rubles), the expenditure is still excessive—38 rubles in a month. Obviously I have not been living carefully; in one month I have spent a ruble and 36 kopeks on the horse trains, for instance. When I get used to the place I shall probably spend less.”

He really did live economically, especially when he was not earning anything and had recourse to “philanthropy”, as he called his mother’s financial aid. He economised to such an extent that he did not even subscribe to Russkiye Vedomosti[7] for himself when he was living in St. Peters burg in 1893, but read the paper in the Public Library when it was “two weeks old”. “When I get a job here perhaps I will subscribe to it,” he wrote to me.[Letter No. 2.—Ed.]

Vladimir Ilyich retained this trait all his life and it made itself felt, not only in Russia when he was not earning anything and when he was abroad and could not find a publisher for his literary works (one has only to recall that The Agrarian Question was lying about for ten whole years and saw the light of day only in 1917) and was thus in a critical position (see, for instance, his letter to Comrade Shlyapnikov of September 1916[Collected Works, Vol. 35, p. 236.—Ed.]), but also when he was materially well provided for, i.e., after the 1917 Revolution.

There was one thing, however, that Vladimir Ilyich found it difficult to economise on—books. He needed them for his work, so that he could keep himself up-to-date on foreign and Russian politics, economics, etc.

“To my great horror,” he wrote in a letter to his mother, sent from Berlin August 29, 1895, “I see that I am again in financial ’difficulties‘; the ’temptation’ to buy books, etc., is so great that the devil alone knows where the money goes.”[Letter No. 10.—Ed.] Even in this, however, he tried to cut down, mainly by going to work in libraries, especially as they provided him with a quieter working atmosphere when he was abroad—there was none of the hubbub and endless, wearisome talk that was so typical of the exiles, who were bored by surroundings unusual and alien to them, and who liked to unburden themselves in conversation.

Vladimir Ilyich used libraries not only when he was living abroad but also in Russia. In a letter to his mother from St. Petersburg he wrote that he was satisfied with his new room, which was “not far from the centre (only some 15 minutes’ walk from the library)”.[Letter No. 1.—Ed.] Passing through Moscow on his way to his place of exile he even made use of the few days he was in the city to work in the library of the Rumyantsev Museum. When he was living in Krasnoyarsk and had to await the start of the navigation season to continue his way to Minusinsk Uyezd, he worked in Yudin’s library, and had to walk about 5 versts every day to do so.

During the period of banishment, when there was no possibility of using a library, Vladimir Ilyich tried to make up for this by asking us to arrange for library books to be sent him by post. A few experiments of this sort were made but too much time was wasted (about a month there and back) and library books were issued for a restricted period.

Vladimir Ilyich resorted to this method at a later date, too. In a letter to his sister Anna dated February 11, 1914,[8] he wrote: “With regard to the summaries of crime statistics for 1905-1908, I would ask you not to buy them (there is no need, they are expensive) but to get them from a library (either the Bar Council or the Duma Library) and send them for a month.”

When he was living abroad Vladimir Ilyich also made constant use of libraries. In Berlin he worked in the Imperial Library. In Geneva there was his favourite “club” (Société de lecture), where he had to become a member and pay certain dues—very small ones, to be sure—in order to work in the “club’s” library. In Paris he worked in the Bibliothéque nationale, although he complained that it was “badly organised”; in London he worked in the British Museum. And only when he was living in Munich did he complain that “there is no library here”; in Krakow, too, he made but little use of the library. In his letter to me of April 22, 1914 he wrote that “here (in Krakow. — M.U.) the library is a bad one and extremely inconvenient, although I scarcely ever have to go there....” His work for the newspaper (Pravda), all sorts of dealings with comrades, who came to Krakow in greater numbers than to France or Switzerland, his guidance of the activities of the Social-Democratic group in the Duma, Party conferences and meetings, etc., required so much effort that there was little time left for scientific studies. Even then, however, Vladimir Ilyich “often thought of Geneva, where work went better, the library was convenient, and life was less nerve-racking and time-wasting”.[Letter No. 252.—Ed.]

After his arrest in Galicia at the beginning of the imperialist war Vladimir Ilyich again went to Switzerland; from there he wrote “the libraries here are good, and I have made quite decent arrangements as far as the use of books is concerned. It is even pleasant to read after my daily news paper work”.[Letter No. 254.—Ed.] Later he went with his wife from Berne to Zurich in order, among other things, “to work in the libraries here” (continuing, however, the same intensive Party political work, as his correspondence in that period with Comrades Karpinsky and Ravich, just published in Lenin Miscellany XI, clearly illustrates[9]) which, according to him, were “much better than those in Berne”. But although Vladimir Ilyich was better off abroad as regards the reading of foreign books, journals and newspapers— he visited libraries for this purpose—the shortage of Russian books made itself sharply felt. “I can easily get German books here, there is no shortage of them-. But there is a shortage of Russian books,” he wrote in a letter dated April 2, 1902.[Letter No. 137.—Ed.] “I see very few new books”, he wrote on April 6, 1900. There is no doubt that Vladimir Ilyich’s work was greatly hampered by his frequently not having the necessary book to hand when he lived abroad. This is why his letters to his relatives frequently contained requests for certain books that he needed for his work (statistics, books on the agrarian question, on philosophy, etc.) and also new publications, journals and fiction. And again, it is possible to judge, to some extent, what branches of knowledge he was interested in and needed literature about at any given time, and for which writings he used them.

Among this literature considerable attention was paid to various statistical returns.

From his works, and from the rough copies, notes and calculations that preceded those works we see clearly what great importance Vladimir Ilyich attached to statistics, to “precise facts, indisputable facts”.[Collected Works, Vol. 23, p. 272.—Ed.] His unfinished and as yet unpublished article “Statistics and Sociology” by P. Piryuchev (a new pen-name that Vladimir Ilyich adopted to facilitate the publication of this work) is typical in this respect; it is devoted to the question of “the role and significance of national movements, the relationship between the national and the international”.[Ibid., p. 271.—Ed.]

The following passage is from this article: “The most widely used, and most fallacious, method in the realm of social phenomena is to tear out individual minor facts and juggle with examples. Selecting chance examples presents no difficulty at all, but is of no value, or of purely negative value, for in each individual case everything hinges on the historically concrete situation. Facts, if we take them in their totality, in their interconnection, are not only stub born things, but undoubtedly proof-bearing things. Minor facts, if taken out of their totality, out of their interconnection, if they are arbitrarily selected and torn out of context, are merely things for juggling with, or even worse.... We must seek to build a reliable foundation of precise and indisputable facts that can be set against any of the general’ or ’example-based’ arguments now so grossly misused in certain countries. And if it is to be a real foundation, we must take not individual facts, but the sum total of facts, without a single exception, relating to the question under discussion. Otherwise there will be the inevitable, and fully justified, suspicion that the facts were selected or compiled arbitrarily, that instead of historical phenomena being presented in objective interconnection and inter dependence and treated as a whole, we are presenting a ’subjective’ concoction to justify what might prove to be a dirty business. This does happen ... and more often than one might think.”[Ibid., pp. 272-73.—Ed.]

In 1902, Vladimir Ilyich asked for “all the statistics”,[10] from among the books he had had with him in Siberia, to be sent to him abroad, for, as he said in a letter dated April 2, 1902, “I am beginning to miss these things”. Later, in order to get statistical material from various towns and to get it more regularly, Vladimir Ilyich wrote a special appeal[11] to statisticians participating in the Congress of Doctors and Naturalists (there was a sub-section for statisticians at this congress) held in Moscow in the winter of 1909. A number of provincial statisticians responded and in a letter dated January 2, 1910, Vladimir Ilyich wrote, “I have also received a letter about statistics from Ryazan—it is splendid that I shall probably be getting help from many people."[Letter No. 200.—Ed.]

In 1908, when Vladimir Ilyich was working on his Materialism and Empirio-criticism, he ordered a book by Professor Chelpanov about Avenarius and his school, the book Immanent Philosophy and others. He wrote to me about this work of his, “I have been doing a lot of work on the Machists and I think I have sorted out all their inexpressible vulgarities (and those of ’empirio-monism’ as well).”[Letter No. 166.—Ed.]

When Vladimir Ilyich inquired whether his manuscript about the latest form of capitalism (Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism)[Collected Works, Vol. 22, pp. 185-304.—Ed.] had been received he wrote, “I regard this work on economics as being of exceptionally great importance and would especially like to see it in print in full” (letter of October 22, 1916).[Letter No. 260.—Ed.] As we know, this wish was not fulfilled (although Vladimir Ilyich “did his utmost to adapt himself to the ’restrictions‘”, as he wrote in a letter to M. N. Pokrovskyon July 2, 1916);[Collected Works, Vol. 35, p. 227.—Ed.] Vladimir Ilyich’s work underwent a large number of changes and many cuts were made, and only ten years later was it published in its original form.

From Vladimir Ilyich’s letters to his relatives we see in what connection he set about writing his (as yet unpublished) article “The Capitalist System of Modern Agriculture”.[Collected Works, Vol. 46, pp. 423-46.—Ed.] In a letter dated October 22, 1916, he wrote to me, “You write that the publisher wants to put out The Agrarian Question as a book and not as a pamphlet. I under stand that to mean that I must send him the continuation (i.e., in addition to what I have written about America I must write what I have promised about Germany). I will start on this as soon as I have finished what I have to write to cover the advance received from the old publisher.”[Letter No. 260.—Ed.] The manuscript of this work, which is now in the possession of the Institute, is unfinished; apparently the revolution “hindered” Vladimir Ilyich and he could not finish it.

The letters here presented to the reader give something of a picture of the conditions under which Vladimir Ilyich carried on his literary work, and also of those trials he had to undergo to publish the results of that work. I am refer ring here to what he published legally. Vladimir Ilyich worked in unfavourable conditions throughout the entire pre-revolutionary period (with the exception of the period of the first revolution and the Zvezda and Pravda period— 1912-14—when he was able to contribute to the legal press and when we had, for a short time, at least, our own legal publishers); this was while he was abroad and experienced, for instance, a great shortage of Russian books and other material needed for his work.

Censorship conditions also created considerable difficulty; Vladimir Ilyich’s articles were cut and distorted (like his article “Uncritical Criticism”, for instance) or were confiscated (The Agrarian Question, Vol. II), and so on and so forth. Great difficulties were also caused by lack of contact with Russia, because of which it was frequently impossible to establish direct communications with publishers, etc. Typical of the situation are his frequent attempts to obtain work for Granat’s Encyclopaedic Dictionary. “I would like to get some work for the Encyclopaedic Dictionary,” he wrote to me in his letter of December 22, 1914, “but it is probably not easy to arrange unless you have an opportunity to meet the secretary of the editorial board."[Letter No. 254.—Ed.] Vladimir Ilyich had no such opportunity, and when he applied directly to the Granat office he either received no answer at all, or received one only after a considerable delay. “Is it possible to obtain some more work for the Encyclopaedic Dictionary?” he wrote to me in 1915. “I have written to the secretary about this but he has not answered me.”[12] “In this place, unfortunately, I am cut off from all contact with publishers,” he wrote in 1912.[Letter No. 230.—Ed.]

If it had not been for the great help from comrades and relatives in seeking publishers, reading the proofs of his works, etc., there would have been even greater difficulties in getting his writings published. But we, his sisters and brother, were not always in a position to help him in these matters, especially when we were in prison or in exile. In 1904, for instance, he asked mother to give him the address of Anna’s husband, Mark Timofeyevich, for whom he had some “literary business” (letter of January 20, 1904).[Letter No. 150.—Ed.]

Vladimir Ilyich, however, not only had the ability to work systematically, persistently and fruitfully, he also had the ability to rest—when the opportunity offered. For him the best form of rest was out in the open, close to nature and away from people. “Here (in Stjernsund in Finland, where he was resting after returning “terribly tired” from the Fifth Party Congress.—M.U.) you can have a wonderful rest, swimming, walking, no people and no work. No people and no work—that is the best thing for me.”[Letter No. 155.—Ed.] He enjoyed a really excellent rest there, where Lidiya Mikhailovna Knipovich surrounded him with exceptional care and attention, and he recalled it in a letter to me when I had just got over a bad attack of enteric fever. “Now would be the time to send you to Stjernsund,” he wrote.[Letter No. 164.—Ed.]

Vladimir Ilyich was extremely fond of nature and in his letters one constantly comes across references to the beauties of nature, no matter where he happens to be. “The scenery here is splendid, I am enjoying it all the time. The Alps began immediately after the little German station I wrote to you from; then came the lakes and I could not tear myself away from the window of the railway carriage,” he wrote to mother when he was on his way to Switzerland in 1895. And again he wrote to mother, “I take walks— walking is not at all bad here at present and, it seems, there are plenty of nice places in Pskov (and also in its environs).” From abroad he wrote, “I saw Anyuta a few days ago, took a trip on a very beautiful lake with her and enjoyed the wonderful views and the good weather.” “A few days ago I had a wonderful outing to Salève with Nadya and a friend. Down below in Geneva it was all mist and gloom, but up on the mountain (about 4,000 feet above sea level) there was glorious sunshine, snow, tobogganing— altogether a good Russian winter’s day. And at the foot of the mountain—la mer du brouillard, a veritable sea of mist and clouds, concealing everything except the mountains jutting up through it, and only the highest at that. Even little Salève (nearly 3,000 feet) was wrapped in mist.” “Nadya and I have travelled and walked round a great deal of the surrounding country and have found some very nice places,” we read in a letter dated September 27, 1902. Vladimir Ilyich was probably right when he wrote, “We are the only people among the comrades here who are exploring every bit of the surrounding country. We discover various ’rural’ paths, we know all the places nearby and intend to go further afield.”[Letters Nos. 6,103, 110, 149, 142, 148.—Ed.]

If they were unable to get out of town for the summer and drop straight into “rural life” (“we get up early and go to bed almost with the roosters”),[Letter No. 237.—Ed.] Vladimir Ilyich and Nadezhda Konstantinovna, when they were living in Switzerland, sometimes went walking in the mountains. There is a description of one such journey in a letter Nadezhda Konstantinovna wrote to my mother on July 2, 1904. “It is already a week since we got away from Geneva and are now resting in the full sense of the word. We have left our work and our worries in Geneva and here we sleep ten hours a day, and go swimming and walking—Volodya does not even read the newspapers properly; we took a minimum of books with us, and even those we are sending back to Geneva tomorrow, unread, while we ourselves shall don our rucksacks at four in the morning and set out for a two weeks’ walking tour in the mountains. We shall go to Interlaken and from there to Lucerne. We are reading Baedeker and planning our journey carefully.... Volodya and I have made an agreement not to talk about our work—work, he says, is not a bear and will not escape to the woods—not even to mention it, and, as far as possible, not to think about it.”[Letter No. 151.—Ed.]

Such journeys, however, were rare and were undertaken only when work and the factional squabbling had had too bad an effect on health and on nerves, as was the case in the winter of 1903-04 after the Second Party Congress and the split. As a rule, if Vladimir Ilyich went to the country for the summer, he continued his work there, whenever it was possible, after a few days’ complete rest. If it was impossible to get out of town, or if such trips were too short, they made excursions to the country, sometimes to the mountains, on foot or on their bicycles, usually on Sundays. “Quite unintentionally we are taking to foreign ways and arrange our outings on Sundays of all days, though that is the worst time because everywhere is crowded,” Lenin wrote in a letter to his mother (March 29, 1903).[Letter No. 148.—Ed.] On such outings they usually took sandwiches with them instead? of having lunch and set off for the whole day. No wonder Vladimir Ilyich and Nadezhda Konstantinovna belonged to the “excursionist” party while other comrades formed the “cinemist” party (those who liked the cinema), as they jokingly called themselves.

Vladimir Ilyich was, indeed, not very fond of the different amusements in which other comrades found relaxation after hard work. I do not think he ever went to the cinema, especially when he was living abroad, and he visited theatres only on rare occasions. He went to see The Weavers when he was in Berlin on his first trip abroad, and he went to the theatre when he was living abroad in exile, mostly, however, when he was living there “somewhat alone” (i.e., without his family), or when he happened to be in a big city on business after a period of intensive work and he took advantage of the trip to “snap out of himself”. The theatres abroad gave Vladimir Ilyich little satisfaction (at times he and Nadezhda Konstantinovna left the theatre after the first act , on which occasions their comrades jokingly accused them of wasting money), and of the plays he saw in the later period, only The Living Corpse created an impression on him. He liked the Moscow Art Theatre very much, however; he had been there with Lalayants (“Columbus”) before he went abroad, when he was staying in Moscow, and in a letter to his mother in February 1901 he said that “he still remembers with pleasure” that visit to the theatre. But what we would like would be to visit the Russian Art Theatre and see The Lower Depths,”[Letter No. 146.—Ed.] we read in his letter of February 4, 1903. He did not manage to see The Lower Depths until many years later, when he was living in Moscow after the revolution.

His visits to concerts were also relatively rare, although he loved music. “We recently went to our first concert this winter”, we read in the same letter, “and were very pleased with it—especially Chaikovsky’s latest symphony (Symphonie pathetique).” “I was at the opera a few days ago and heard La Juive with the greatest pleasure; I had heard it once in Kazan (when Zakrzhevsky sang)—that must be thirteen years ago, and some of the tunes have remained in my memory,” he wrote to mother on February 9, 19O1.[Letter No. 422.—Ed.] After wards he often whistled those tunes (he had his own peculiar way of whistling through his teeth). Later, during his life abroad, Vladimir Ilyich rarely visited concerts or operas. Music had too powerful an effect on his nerves, and when they were upset, as was often the case in the turmoil of life among the émigrés abroad, it affected him badly. Vladimir Ilyich was always very busy and his budget was a modest one and this had its effect on his secluded (as far as amusements were concerned) way of life.

Vladimir Ilyich paid relatively little attention to the various sights: “I have little taste for such things in general and in most cases have seen them only by accident. In general, I much prefer Wandering around and seeing the evening amusements and pastimes of the people to visiting museums, theatres, shopping centres, etc.”[Letter No. 40.—Ed.] Vladimir Ilyich usually did his “wandering around” in the evenings when he was living in Berlin in 1895, and this enabled him to study “the Berlin mores and listen to German speech”.[Ibid.] It was not, however, only when he was in Berlin on his first trip abroad that he made a study of customs; there are quite a number of passages in his letters to his relatives which show that when he was living in Paris, or was there on a short trip, he found pleasure in examining the local way of life and he remarked the free and easy manner of the public in the streets and on the boulevards. “Paris is a very inconvenient town for a man of modest means to live in, and very tiring,” he wrote after spending a few days in that city. “But there is no better and more lively town to stay in for a short time, just for a visit, for an outing.”[Letter No. 249.—Ed.] Vladimir Ilyich also studied Czech life when he was passing through Czechoslovakia and was sorry that he had not learned the Czech language; he gave a lively description of the manners and customs of the Galician peasants that he had an opportunity of observing when he was living in Galicia, and of the carnival in the Munich streets with its battles of confetti and streamers, etc. He loved life in all its forms and had a rare talent for observing and studying it on a broad scale.

The letters published here give a picture of Vladimir Ilyich’s attitude towards his relatives and, to some extent, his feelings for people in general. How, much care and attention is displayed in those letters! Vladimir Ilyich was greatly attached to his relatives, especially to mother, and in all his letters, in those addressed to other members of our family as well as to mother, there is always a note of solicitude for her, the wish that things should go better for her and that she should have a more peaceful and comfortable life. His letters are full of questions about health, whether good arrangements have been made for an apartment, whether it is not cold. “I am worried that your apartment is so cold; what will it be like in winter if the temperature is only 12° now? You must not catch cold.... Is there nothing you can do? Perhaps you should put in a small stove,” he wrote in a letter to his mother in 1909.[Letter No. 198.—Ed.] These letters contain a great deal of advice to “have a good rest in sum mer”, “run about less, rest more and keep well”, etc.

Vladimir Ilyich was particularly attentive to his mother at those times when some misfortune overtook her, and misfortunes were many in her life. First one, then another member of our family was arrested and exiled, sometimes several of us were arrested at the same time and she, though advanced in years, had to go again and again to prisons to visit her family and take things to them, to sit for hours in the waiting-rooms of the gendarmerie and the secret police, and was often left completely alone with her heart aching for her children who had been deprived of their liberty. How worried Vladimir Ilyich was at such times, and how heavily the lack of personal contact with his mother weighed upon him, can be seen from his letter of September 1, 1901. At that time my brother-in-law, Mark Yelizarov, and I were in prison, my sister Anna was abroad and could not return to Russia because she would have been arrested on the same charge, and our brother Dmitry could not remain with mother because he had to graduate from the University of Yuriev. She was left alone in the same way in a strange town in 1904 when my sister, my brother Dmitry and I were arrested on charges connected with the Kiev Party Committee and the Central Committee.

Vladimir Ilyich always wanted mother to live with him, and he frequently invited her to do so. This was difficult to arrange, however, because mother was always with those of her children who were particularly in need of her help, and in Russia that help was needed almost always by those who had fallen into the hands of the police. And so it turned out that each time Vladimir Ilyich was living in exile abroad, both the first and the second time, she was able to stay abroad only for a very short while to see him. In 1902, she lived for about a month with Vladimir Ilyich and our sister Anna at Loguivy in the north of France. The second time, and this was the last time she was to see her son, was in Stockholm, where she and I went in 1910 specially to visit him. Vladimir Ilyich always provided her with detailed itineraries for such trips and advised her to stop the night in hotels in order not to overtire herself with the journey. It was also in Stockholm that mother for the first and last time heard Vladimir Ilyich speak in public; it was at a meeting of worker exiles. When we left, Vladimir Ilyich accompanied us to the boat—he could not go aboard the vessel because it belonged to a Russian company and he might have been arrested on it—and I still remember the expression on his face as he stood there looking at mother. How much pain there was in his face! He seemed to feel that this was the last time he would see her. And so it was. Vladimir Ilyich did not see any of his relatives again until he came to Russia after the February Revolution, and mother died shortly before it, in July 1916. We did not receive the first letter Vladimir Ilyich wrote when he had news of mother’s death. The next letter has not survived either, but from what I remember of it it showed what a heavy loss it was to him, how much pain it caused him, and how tender he was to all of us, who were also distressed by our loss.

Vladimir Ilyich also devoted considerable attention to us, his sisters and brother, and to Mark Yelizarov; he was always interested to know how we were getting on, whether we were earning anything, whether we had had good holidays, etc. He tried to get books for us to translate and sometimes sent foreign books to us for that purpose, showed an interest in what we read and studied, invited us to stay with him, and so on. Vladimir Ilyich also displayed a great interest in his comrades, inquired how they were getting on and tried to help them materially as well. He undertook to write prefaces for his comrades’ translations, so as to make it easier for them to get the books published and thus have an opportunity of earning something.

Comrades who are unacquainted with life in exile abroad and with the way legal correspondence was carried on under tsarism may think it strange that Vladimir Ilyich frequently says in his letters that he is “living very quietly”, “peacefully”, “modestly” and so on in periods such as that of the imperialist war, for instance, when it is obvious from literature and from his underground correspondence that he was displaying tremendous energy in the struggle against the chauvinism that was influencing most of the Social-Democratic parties. It must not be forgotten that at that time Vladimir Ilyich could only make his voice heard in the press, and then only in a publication that appeared once in several weeks or even in several months, and which (like pamphlets) it was difficult to send from place to place; he could also speak at small meetings of exiles abroad or at small study circles for foreign workers. It stands to reason that such opportunities were far too little for Vladimir Ilyich; Nadezhda Krupskaya said that at the beginning of the revolution in Russia he created the impression of a lion trying to break out of its cage—was not his former life in exile abroad and out of contact with Russia, and especially during the imperialist war, a cage that greatly restricted him, that did not permit him to branch out and could not satisfy him, the natural leader, the voice of the people? He was eager for work on a broader scale, his was truly the eagerness of the caged lion, and he had to work hard at persuading two or three comrades to obtain access to broader masses. And for a nature like his was not “sleepy Berne” really too “quiet” and movement there too “gradual”?...

In his legal correspondence there are only occasional glimpses of his fury against “disgusting opportunists of the most dangerous type” and against “extreme vulgarities about voting for credits”, etc. Here he was hampered by the censor and one has only to see which phrases from his letters (see Appendix, pp. 553-54) “attracted the attention” of the gendarmes and secret police and which became “material evidence”, to understand that both he and his relatives were at that time in a situation in which it .was very difficult “to carry on the correspondence one would like”.[Letter No. 252.—Ed.]

We had good reason to make the proviso at the beginning of this preface that Vladimir Ilyich’s letters to his relatives are of significance and interest mainly because they provide a picture of him as a man (of course that picture is far from complete and, owing to conditions of police surveillance, somewhat one-sided). In this respect, it seems to me, they constitute a valuable contribution to the literature on Vladimir Ilyich, and one can only regret that so many letters to relatives and to comrades have been lost. There are other documents, especially his rich literary legacy, which speak of Lenin as the leader, the politician, the scholar.

Vladimir Ilyich’s second period of exile abroad was particularly burdensome to him. When he arrived in Geneva after having lived in and near St. Petersburg, it was especially painful to return to the old ash-heap. “We have been hanging about this damned Geneva for several days now,” he said in a letter to me on January 14, 1908. “It is an awful hole, but there is nothing we can do. We shall get used to it.”[Letter No. 158.—Ed.] With his customary persistence and energy he got down to work, because he could “get used to” any conditions. “The only unpleasant thing was the actual moving, which was a change for the worse. That, however, was inevitable,” he wrote in the next letter to mother.[Letter No. 159.—Ed.] And this change from better to worse, this absence of the literature he needed for his work and of new books and newspapers made itself particularly felt at this time because in St. Petersburg he had been able to read all the newspapers and journals and keep up-to-date on books. And he asked us to obtain for him “the minutes of the Third Duma (the officially published verbatim reports and also the announcements, questions and bills brought before the Duma)”, and to “send them all, missing nothing”. He was also interested in the “programmes, announcements and leaflets of the Octobrists, the Rights, the Cossack group, etc.” He was deprived of these necessary documents, whereas in the Duma “all these ’bits of paper’ probably lie about on the floor and nobody picks them up”. He also asked us to send him “everything new that the Mensheviks publish”,[Letters Nos. 158, 162, 158.—Ed.] trade union journals that had survived the debacle, etc.

During his life in exile abroad Vladimir Ilyich felt the shortage, not only of books (although we tried to provide him with at least the most interesting books that appeared on the market), but also of Russian newspapers. Things were particularly bad in this respect during the imperialist war when at times Vladimir Ilyich had no Russian papers at all. “Please send Russian newspapers once a week after you have read them, because I have none at all,” he wrote in a letter dated September 20, 1916.[Letter No. 259.—Ed.]

Vladimir Ilyich was also in dire need of an income, especially during his last years abroad. “There will soon be an end to all our old sources of subsistence and the question of earning something is becoming acute,” wrote Nadezhda Krupskaya on December 14, 1915. She said that Vladimir Ilyich was “seriously troubled” because he was very conscientious where money was concerned or in accepting help from anybody, whoever it might be. “I shall get down to writing something or other, because prices have risen so hellishly that life has become devilishly difficult,” he wrote on September 20, 1916.[13]

Just a few months before the February Revolution, in the autumn of 1916, Vladimir Ilyich had to look for books to translate and to correspond with publishers about getting them published. How unproductive a use for his labour it would have been if he had been compelled to spend his time translating, but this, too, was eventually “hindered” by the revolution.

Such were the conditions under which he lived abroad shortly before the revolution: lack of contact with Russia and the masses of working people, whom he was always trying so hard to exercise a direct influence over, the difficult living conditions in exile abroad—although energy and persistence were never lacking—so it is no wonder that his “nerves were on edge” and his whole organism seriously undermined.

His reporting of Nadezhda Konstantinovna’s joke that he “must have been ’pensioned off‘”[Letter No. 262.—Ed.] touches a bitter note in the letter of February 15, 1917.

After this letter in which the difficult conditions in which Vladimir Ilyich was forced to live in pre-revolutionary times could be seen behind the jokes, came the glad tidings by telegraph, “Arriving Monday 11 p.m. inform Pravda”.[Telegram No. 264.—Ed.]

That was the end of his period of exile, and also the end of his correspondence with his relatives.

I received only two tiny notes from Vladimir Ilyich after this,[Letters Nos. 265 and 266.—Ed.] they were as short as his underground existence in Finland in the days of Kerensky and Kornilov on the eve of the Great October Revolution.

M. Ulyanova


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[1] What was in the letters, however, was usually intended for the whole family, or at least for those members who were living together at the time, “so as not to repeat myself”, as Lenin put it.

[2] The collection does not include the correspondence between Lenin and his relatives during his period of exile (for which see Proletarskaya Revolyutsiya Nos. 2-3, 4, 5, 6 and 8 for 1929), or that of 1896, when he was in the remand prison in St. Petersburg (December 9, 1895 to January 29, 1897, 0.8.) and was frequently visited by his mother and sisters, so that his personal correspondence with them was insignificant (see the article by A. I. Ulyanova-Yelizarova “Vladimir Ilyich in Prison” in Proletarskaya Revolyutsiya No. 3 for 1924 and the two letters of Lenin written in 4896 that are appended to the article). Between November 1905 and December 1907, Lenin lived in St. Petersburg or in Finland, saw his relatives frequently and wrote to them rarely. There are also many letters addressed to his sister Anna and his mother, especially at the time when I was living abroad. These letters will be published separately. (All the letters indicated by Maria Ulyanova as being omitted from the 1930 collection have been incorporated in the present volume.—Ed.)

[3] In the Central Archives, for instance, we found extracts from six of Lenin’s letters that had been placed in the files of the Moscow Gendarmerie as “material evidence”. These extracts are published as an appendix to this volume (see pp. 553-54).—Ed.

[4] It was, of course, impossible to keep them in Russia and only a few have been preserved in copies made abroad.

[5] Unfortunately only one letter from this correspondence has survived, the one dated December 16, :1909. See Lenin’s Works, Second (Russian) Edition, Vol. XIV, pp. 212-16. (Two letters from the correspondence of Lenin and Skvortsov-Stepanov have survived—December 2 and 16, 1909. See Collected Works, Vol. 34, pp. 407-10 and Vol. 16, pp. 117-22.)—Ed.

[6] The letter referred to is that of October 5, 1893 (Letter No. 1). —Ed.

[7] At that time Russkiye Vedomosti was the most decent and interesting of all bourgeois papers.

[8] The letter has been lost and the extract quoted here has been taken from the files of the Police Department (see Letter No. 247).—Ed.

[9] Part of this correspondence was included in the Collected Works, Vol. 36.—Ed.

[10] These statistics which Vladimir Ilyich used for his hook The Development of Capitalism in Russia, together with other books of his, were returned from abroad in 1929, and by the extracts he made and the marginal notes in the books it will be possible to draw a number of valuable conclusions on the way he worked.(Some of this material was published in Lenin Miscellany XXXIII in 1940.—Ed.)

[11] For the publication of this Letter we are once again indebted to the Moscow Gendarmerie, who kept it in their files.

[12] Letter No. 255. As regards replies from publishers at this lime, things were no better in other houses for Vladimir Ilyich. With reference to this see Letter No. 3 (dated November 27, 1901) from Lenin to L. I. Axelrod, published in Lenin Miscellany XI, p. 326 (Collected Works. Vol. 36, p. 100),—Ed.

[13] Krupskaya’s Letter No. 53, Lenin’s Letter No. 259.—Ed.

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