Controversial Russian dictator, Joseph Stalin, ruled the Soviet Union for around 25 years from 1929 to 1953 and is credited for making it a prominent industrial and military power of the world. During the Second World War, his army defeated the Nazis too. However, his regime was also one of terror and brutality where numerous Soviet citizens lost their lives.
Vladimir Lenin played a key role in the history of Russian politics by developing a political ideology called Leninism. During and after his lifetime, Lenin had a massive influence over international communist movement. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential and significant personalities of the 20th century.
Alexander Kerensky was a Russian revolutionary and lawyer who played a major role in the Russian Revolution of 1917. Alexander Kerensky is often portrayed in films and TV series. In the 1971 epic historical drama film Nicholas and Alexandra, he was played by John McEnery. In the 2019 series The Last Czars, he was portrayed by Kestutis Cicenas.
Russian philosopher Peter Kropotkin was a passionate advocate of anarcho-communism. He was also an activist, revolutionary, economist, and sociologist. He was arrested and imprisoned for his activism in 1874. However, he managed to escape and lived in exile for over 40 years in different countries across Europe. He returned to Russia after the Russian Revolution in 1917.
Mikhail Bakunin was a Russian socialist and anarchist. He is credited with founding an anarchist school of thought called collectivist anarchism. Regarded as one of the most influential personalities of anarchism, Mikhail Bakunin has had a major influence on thinkers like Peter Kropotkin, Herbert Marcuse, Errico Malatesta, Neil Postman, E. P. Thompson, and A. S. Neill.
Alexei Rykov was a Russian Bolshevik revolutionary and a Soviet politician. He served as the Premier of Russia and the Soviet Union in the 1920s. A key player in the 1905 Russian Revolution, he often came into political conflict with Vladimir Lenin. He oversaw the implementation of the "War Communism" economic policy during the Russian Civil War.
Yakov Yurovsky was a Russian Old Bolshevik. Also a Soviet Revolutionary, he acted as the chief executioner of Emperor Nicholas II of Russia and his family on the night of 17 July 1918. A watchmaker by trade, he was a Chekist for a short time. In his later life, he allegedly expressed remorse over his role in the executions.
A communist and an Old Bolshevic, Lev Kamenev was a close aide of Vladimir Lenin. Born to revolutionary parents, Kamenev was exiled but returned to Russia after the February Revolution. At the onset of the Great Purge, he was ousted from his party, arrested, and executed by a firing squad.
Russian revolutionary and politician Julius Martov was a prominent leader of the Mensheviks. A close associate of Vladimir Lenin since his initial political career, he later clashed with Lenin’s ideology of limiting party membership to an exclusive group. He spent his finals years in Berlin as an editor of Socialist Courier.
Alexandra Kollontai was a Russian revolutionary, politician, and diplomat. She served as the People's Commissar for Welfare in Lenin’s government. A powerful figure, she became the first woman in history to become an official member of a governing cabinet. She was also one of the few women to play a prominent role during the Russian Revolution.
Born to dairy farmers in Russia, Grigory Zinoviev was homeschooled and had started working at 14. An Old Bolshevik, he joined Russian revolutionary activities and became a close aide of Vladimir Lenin. Joseph Stalin later got him ousted from the party thrice. Zinoviev was eventually arrested and executed.
Soviet diplomat Maksim Litvinov believed in disarmament and was behind the adoption of the Kellogg–Briand Pact and the Litvinov Protocol. He had also been the Soviet Ambassador to the US and later served as the deputy commissar for foreign affairs. He was the grandfather of Russian-American author Pavel Litvinov.
Russian revolutionary Aleksandr Ulyanov was the elder brother of Vladimir Lenin, who founded the Soviet Union. Though initially not interested in politics, he later became involved in St. Petersburg student politics and was part of a plot to kill Alexander III. He was hanged along with four of his comrades.
Russian revolutionary and Marxist theorist Georgi Plekhanov is remembered for establishing Liberation of Labour, the first Russian Marxist organization. One of his best-known works was Socialism and Political Struggle. He later went against the Bolsheviks and Lenin and criticized their policies. He supported the Entente powers during World War I.
The son of an affluent Crimean Karaite merchant, Adolph Joffe grew up to be a Bolshevik politician and a revolutionary. He later represented the Soviet Union as its ambassador to China and Austria. A lifelong supporter of Leon Trotsky, he committed suicide after Trotsky was expelled from the Communist Party.
Marxist revolutionary leader Pavel Axelrod was closely associated with the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party and the Mensheviks. He was married to the daughter of satirist Isaac Kaminer. He went against the Bolshevik Revolution during World War I. He was exiled to Berlin in his final years and died there eventually.
Mikhail Markovich Borodin was a Bolshevik revolutionary and Third International agent. He is best remembered for his work in China where he served as an advisor to Sun Yat-sen and his political party Kuomintang. Mikhail Markovich Borodin also played an important role in the Northern Expedition before he was made to return to the Soviet Union.
Born into a poverty-stricken family of farmers, Fanny Kaplan was home-schooled. Later, while working as a milliner, she joined the Socialist Revolutionary Party and thus became part of radical politics. She developed anti-Bolshevik sentiments and attempted to assassinate Lenin. Though Lenin recovered, Kaplan was later executed.
Russian revolutionary Vera Figner was a major figure of the Populist (Narodnik) movement. Initially a medical student, she later left her studies midway to devote herself to politics. She also left her husband for her revolutionary cause and became associated with the Zemlya i Volya party.