Vladimir Lenin: Germany's secret WW1 weapon
What most people don't know about Lenin is that he was a de facto German agent during WW1, and Germany's most successful weapon against the Russian empire. In 1917, shortly after the February revolution started in Tsarist Russia, Lenin, along with 32 other Russian revolutionaries, were sent by the German Government to Russia on a special train with packed suitcases of money. To understand how important this mission was to the German high command, the Train which Lenin and his Bolsheviks secretly traveled on was provided by non other than Kaiser Wilhelm II himself. Lenin's return to his home country was followed with great attention in Berlin.
"Lenin's entry into Russia was a success. He is working according to your wishes." This was the message Germany's top army command sent to its Foreign Office.
But why did the Germans decide to support Lenin and send him back to Russia in the first place? Professor Sean McMeekin explains: “What singled Lenin out from fellow Russian socialists was his fanatical opposition to the war and his support for Ukrainian independence, a key aim of the Central Powers. While other antiwar socialists like Trotsky genuinely abhorred the carnage and strove to bring the war to a halt by supporting protests and draft resistance, Lenin argued in his 1915 pamphlet “Socialism and War” that revolutionaries should instead infiltrate the armies and turn them red, promoting mutinies and actively seeking the defeat of “ ‘their’ governments” (Lenin’s own quotation marks). So explosive were the implications of Lenin’s program, known as “revolutionary defeatism,” that the German Foreign Office intervened to prevent this program from being distributed to front-line soldiers.” Lenin's goal was simple; destabilize Russia, seize power, and to take Russia out of WW1.
The German high command during ww1: Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, Kaiser Wilhelm and General Erich Ludendorff The Germans subsidized not only Lenin’s Bolsheviks, but also socialist rivals such as Leon Trotsky, then a Menshevik, who published antiwar articles in Paris and then New York City. According to Professor Richard Pipes the German government sent "more than 50 million deutschmarks in gold" from 1917 to 1918 to help the Bolsheviks establish and hold power. In today's terms, this amounted to over 1 billion in US dollars. Apparently, Communist revolutions cost a lot of money. It is important to note that by the time Lenin reached Moscow the Tsar has already been deposed, and Russia was ruled by a government which was comprised by elected politicians from many different political parties. What is also important to note is that Lenin's party, the Bolsheviks, were a political pygmy, and enjoyed little support from the people they pretended to be representing, the urban workers and Russia's peasants. Lenin's goal was therefore not to topple the oppressing Tsarist regime, that has already been achieved without him, but to destroy the provisional legitimate Russian government, precipitate a civil war, take over power and to take Russia out of WW1.
Tsar Nicholas after he abdicated and was removed from power in 1917 The Bolshevik used the stupendous German funds to buy printing presses, to brainwash people with their propaganda, and to buy and bribe people to support their “revolutionary” cause. While this was going on, Lenin fled to Finland, and stayed there for months, leaving his comrades to do his dirty work for him. He only returned once it was clear the Bolsheviks were close to topple the Russian government. In October 1917 the Bolshevik Party, after storming the Russian government offices in Petrograd and the Kremlin in Moscow, finally managed to seize power in Russia Lenin was now in a position to pay back his German masters. As soon as Lenin and his Bolshevik comrades seized power, they demobilized Russia's armed forces and offered an unconditional surrender to Germany when he signed the Treaty of Brest - Litovsk. This allowed Germany not only to expand its eastern conquests and territories, but also to pivot most of its resources and armed forces into the western front. This worked out brilliantly for Germany. For a relative small investment of money they managed to achieve what the combined military might of the German, Austrian-Hungarian and Ottoman empires failed to do. They knocked out their biggest war adversary; completely disarmed it and installed a pro German government.
Territorial gains that the German and Austrian Hungarian empire received from Lenin in 1917 However, the consequences of Lenin seizing power for the Russian population were horrific. During the Russian revolution and subsequent civil war, Lenin and the Bolsheviks unleashed the “The Red Terror”. “The Red Terror” was a form of political repression on a scale which was not seen before in Russia. It was aimed against anyone who didn't share Lenin's and the Bolshevik's Communist/revolutionary ideals. This “Red Terror” resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and in the consolidation of a dictatorial Communist regime, headed by Lenin. But the greatest death toll from the Communist revolution in Russia came from the Russian famine of 1921–22, also known as Povolzhye famine. It is estimated that around 5 million people died in the mass famine, which was caused because of the Bolshevik revolution and the civil war it created in Russia. The German backing of Lenin turned out to be a great success for Germany, but for the people of Russia it turned out to be the worst catastrophe in Russian history, heralding a Communist regime which would prove to be much worse than any previous Tsarist one ever was. Bibliography: Sean McMeekin, "The Russian Revolution: A New History." Richard Pipes, "The Russian Revolution." Norman Davies, "Europe."