Falkirk author lifts the lid on Lenin’s life in London

Just what made Vladimir Ulyanov Lenin tick, as he plotted global revolution and the destruction of world capitalism from a shabby rented room in London?

Saturday, 8th February 2020, 3:28 pm
Updated Saturday, 8th February 2020, 4:16 pm

Falkirk author and historian Bob Henderson has a better idea than most of what may really have motivated the man who played a central role in the stupendous convulsion popularly known as the Russian Revolution.

As an academic who is a former Curator of Russian at the British Library in London he has scoured archives in London, Russia, France and the USA in his determination to get closer to the truth - and in his latest book has some real surprises in store for anyone familiar with the conventional perspectives.

Bob began his love affair with Russian history and culture after learning Russian at Falkirk High (which he had taken on at least partly in the hope that his sister Sheila, also doing Russian, would help him out) and now, many years later - as an academic skilled at unearthing new material from primary sources - is bringing new light to bear on people and events that changed the world beyond recognition.

In a previous book he told the story of Vladimir Burtsev, a campaigning journalist who exposed the knout-wielding casual brutality of the Tsarist regime in Russia – and who Bob has memorably described as “the Julian Assange of the 19th century”.

His latest work, “The Spark That Lit the Revolution”, takes the reader to the seamy twilight world of Edwardian London’s East End, which (particularly after the failed Russian revolution of 1905) was seething with foreign anarchists, would-be revolutionaries and secret service spies.

The politics of the era can be bewildering to the amateur reader, with its plethora of splinter groups and factions, but beyond all that Bob considers the human side of the story can often be the most difficult to pin down.

“Lenin’s life was detailed in nine volumes of Soviet records which tell us practically everything he was doing every single day”, he says, “but new information continues to emerge”.

Bob’s publisher, Bloomsbury, says the book sheds new light on Lenin‘s world view and that its amounts to the first full exploration of his formative influences - and promises “stunning archival discoveries”, published for the first time.

These include an account of Lenin’s relationship with Apollinariya Yakubova – “a revolutionary known to her comrades as the ‘primeval force of the Black Earth’”(as Bloomsbury notes).

The book will be a must-read for anyone interested in the sometimes strange forces which have underpinned some of the most momentous events of world history.