Lenin

Lenin

Lenin

Lenin

Excerpt

Scarcely a month had passed since Vladimir Ilyitch Ulianov left school at Simbirsk, furnished with all the certificates needed for admittance to a university, when his brother Alexander was sentenced by the courts of the "Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias, Tsar of Poland, Grand Duke of Finland, etc., etc.," to death by hanging.

Before St. Petersburg awoke on the bitterly cold morning of March 8, 1887, five youths were passing along the banks of the Neva, under lock and key, escorted by a party of soldiers on horseback, on the final journey of their life. They were charged with attempted assassination of the Tsar. Their cage on wheels, constructed to hold a number of prisoners, was flung open like a cupboard at a forgotten and disused landing-stage. A small steamer awaited them. Soon it left the shore, conveying its freight of sinners to that realm in which, it is supposed, knowledge and truth are attained without effort and sacrifice. It bore the friends to the outlet of Lake Ladoga into the Neva. Here the greenish and iridescent water reminds the visitor of the lagoons of Venice. After four hours the journey's end was reached. The five friends— Alexander Ulianov, Genieralov, Osipanov, Andreyushkin and Shivyerev—could see, on the topmost spire of a white tower that broke the walled monotony, a gilded key. It was the oldest prison in Russia—Schlüsselburg. The first inmates of this fortress had stood in intimate touch with the throne.

There were two dozen political prisoners in this fortress when the five comrades arrived. The twenty-four had, under the orders of the Tsar Alexander III, thirty warders: each prisoner cost the State over five thousand roubles a year. From their barred windows they would be able to see the doomed boys in the prison courtyard. If they would weep at the spectacle of the gallows they would rejoice at the knowledge that outside in the giant empire, where holy mother Russia lazily stretched herself, "a vodka flask in her coarse fist, her head bumping the icy North Pole, and her feet kicking the Caucasus," there were men driven by privation, by ideals, or by fanaticism, who at one point or another rebelled. The prison officials told no secrets. The prisoners could only watch the latest arrivals and their escort—the judges and their servants the hangmen.

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