The Passing of Lenin and Revolutionary Culture

When a revolution takes over a country, the every day lifestyle begins to change. Revolution needs morale. To topple a government, the people have to be inspired to support the cause. The Bolsheviks had to maintain this revolutionary day to day lifestyle for their followers to support them. The Bolshevik was tough, eager for equality, radical, and strong. The Bolsheviks engraved this new image into the new Russian Culture inspired by the revolution. Times had changed, and so had people.

But something critical happened to the Bolshevik party in 1924. Vladimir Lenin had passed away after dealing with a declining health over the past couple of years. The Bolsheviks’ great leader, the man who led them before the October Revolution, was no more. Lenin’s death brought great distress to the Bolshevik party. A leader like Lenin, a man with such a visionary mind, could not be replaced. The last thing the Bolsheviks needed was for the people to loose faith with the lose of their leader. In the first days of Lenin’s death, a popular supporter of Lenin wrote a poem in his honor.

Vladamir Mayakovsky began his art career as a member of the Futurists. From there he began to support the Reds in the early days of the Civil War and thus became a huge supporter of Lenin. Lenin’s death struck Mayakovsky, so much to influence him to write this Poem, simply titled Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. The poem contains multiple verses detailing how Lenin’s death broke the stone expressions of the Bolsheviks. This break down of the Bolshevik persona was something never seen before. His first stanza states: “A Bolshevik in Tears? Should a museum put him on display, what a house he’s draw!” Bolsheviks do not cry. I repeat, DO NOT CRY. This new culture, one of revolution, has created a dominate, stonewalled persona for people.

But this revolutionary culture is filled with artists and writers who are tasked to focus on the people. Mayakovsky has created many other works geared to support the new soviet system. These new artists have all gone to openly support the new movement and fuel the morale of the people. The Bolsheviks used these new upcoming artists to bring the people, the people they claimed to support them, to their side and to keep them there. Mayakovsky kept this style by expressing the grief of the Bolsheviks, but also by calling the people to keep Lenin’s vision alive. He ends his poem with this line: “Draw up proletarians for the final clash; slaves stiffen your backs, straighten your knees!” No event shall break the great plan of the Bolsheviks! Lenin’s death may be terrible, but it will not delay the work that the Bolsheviks are doing. This was revolutionary culture, beating now progress on the people. For he better of the people, we must do this! For Russia! For Lenin! “Listen to us, for we are doing this for the greater good, for all of our lives!” Everyone was equal, and everything was for creating a better life for everyone, no matter what the cost.

Sources:

Pg. 86-89 Mass Culture in Soviet Russia  &  http://www.unz.org/Pub/AmQSovietUnion-1940jul-00067

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Mayakovsky

3 thoughts on “The Passing of Lenin and Revolutionary Culture”

  1. Mayakovsky’s poem is so powerful, and also a bit ambiguous. Thanks for writing about it. What do Mayakovsky’s later work, and the circumstances of his death tell you about his changing perspectives on the revolution?

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  2. Though I am more familiar with Mayakovsky’s later works this poem shows that Mayakovsky was extraordinarely talented even in his younger days. What is interesting though is that a ideology that glorifies collectivism and equality so much can lend itself so easily to the culutes of personality that existed in Lenin and then was fought over by Trotsky and won by Stalin. This peom is just a great example of the dissonance between the ideology of the Bolsheviks and the practices of the Bolsheviks.

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  3. Your analysis of how Myakovsky breaks down the bolshevik image first, by portraying them as crying and despairing after the death of Lenin, but then builds bolshevik back up, and encouraging them to use the grief to move on and become stronger, is a side to Soviet art that didn’t persist for long, but speaks a lot to the ideals of the time.

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