After peasant uprisings toppled Tsar Nicolas II, Vladimir Lenin returned to Russia from exile in 1917 to stage the greatest coup of the 20th century. Inspired by the writings of Marx and Engels and a desire to be at the "vanguard of the proletariat," Lenin spearheaded the Bolshevik Revolution, ousting the Provisional Government that had replaced the monarchy to establish what would eventually become the Soviet Union the progenitor of modern day Communist states. By the end of his rule, Lenin had become the ruthless leader he'd once detested, ignoring starving, impoverished workers and crushing any political opposition. In 1921, faced with the same kind of peasant revolt that brought him to power, Lenin introduced the New Economic Policy, ending requisitioning and allowing workers to sell their grain in an open market. Lenin didn't seek to just remake Russia, however, but spread his communist transformation to all the far corners of the earth. And while he never saw those dreams come to fruition in his lifetime, Lenin's political theories were evoked by generations of rebels and guerrillas. For decades, Marxist-Leninist rebellions shook the world while Lenin's embalmed corpse lay in repose in the Red Square.
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