At the age of three with his sister, Olga
Lenin was born in Streletskaya Ulitsa, Simbirsk, nowUlyanovsk, on 22 April 1870, andbaptisedsix days later;as a child, he was known asVolodya, a diminutive of Vladimir.He was the third of eight children, having two older siblings,Anna(born 1864) andAlexander(born 1866). They were followed by three more children,Olga(born 1871),Dmitry(born 1874), andMaria(born 1878). Two later siblings died in infancy.Ilya was a devout member of theRussian Orthodox Churchand baptised his children into it, although Maria, a Lutheran by upbringing, was largely indifferent toChristianity, a view that influenced her children.
Both of his parents weremonarchistsandliberal conservatives, being committed to theemancipation reform of 1861introduced by the reformistTsarAlexander II; they avoided political radicals and there is no evidence that the police ever put them under surveillance for subversive thought.Every summer they holidayed at a rural manor inKokushkino.Among his siblings, Lenin was closest to his sisterOlga, whom he often bossed around; he had an extremely competitive nature and could be destructive, but usually admitted his misbehaviour.A keen sportsman, he spent much of his free time outdoors or playing chess, and excelled at school, the disciplinarian and conservative Simbirsk Classical Gymnasium.
In January 1886, when Lenin was 15, his father died of abrain haemorrhage.Subsequently, his behaviour became erratic and confrontational and he renounced his belief in God.At the time, Lenin's elder brother Alexander, whom he affectionately knew as Sasha, was studying atSaint Petersburg University. Involved in political agitation against theabsolute monarchyof thereactionaryTsarAlexander III, Alexander studied the writings of banned leftists and organised anti-government protests. He joined a revolutionary cell bent on assassinating the Tsar and was selected to construct a bomb. Before the attack could take place, the conspirators were arrested and tried, and Alexander was executed by hanging in May.Despite the emotional trauma of his father's and brother's deaths, Lenin continued studying, graduated from school at the top of his class with a gold medal for exceptional performance, and decided to study law at Kazan University.
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