THE writings of Marx were known in Russia by legal publication from the year 1872, when the first volume of Das Kapital appeared in a Russian translation. It got past the Russian censorship because it was classified as a treatise on economics and could not therefore be politically dangerous as were the works of John Stuart Mill and other exponents of democratic thought.
Even before 1872 Russian revolutionary theorists had been acquainted with Marxism and had been influenced by it, but it appeared to be inapplicable in so essentially an agrarian country as Russia was until after 1880. The Populists were, as we have seen, the main element in the Russian revolutionary movement between 1872 and 1881, but they lost ground rapidly after the assassination of the Tsar Alexander II in the latter year, and by the year 1887 when Vladimir Ulyanov, later to be known as Lenin, became a student in the University of Kazan, Marxism had already begun to sway the minds of the avant-garde of the Russian intelligentsia.
Lenin was born in 1870 at Simbirsk on the Volga in eastern Russia of a curiously mixed ancestry. His paternal grandfather was a Russian tailor in Astrakhan who married a Kalmuk woman—whence came probably his markedly "mongoloid" features; his maternal grandmother was German and his maternal grandfather, who bore the name of Blank, was according to one version a converted Jew from Odessa— though this has been strongly denied. It seems to have been