Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov
Konstantin Petrovich Ivanoc
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
All the places, geographical names, names of houses, estates, streets, and fields in the Soviet Russia called Lenin, after the Russian Communist leader and head of state, (many of them previously for Stalin), are named after the pseudonym of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (1870–1924).
It was largely in order to publicise – and publish his views and theories on society and the economy that led Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov to adopt a whole number of pseudonyms, of which one, Lenin, was to make him internationally known as a professional revolutionary. (His views and activities had in fact caused the censor and the police to keep an eye on him even at the early age of 17. For him to have published anything under his real name would have been out of the question.) Lenin first used this particular name some time before the Revolution, in 1901. Many other Russians, both before and since the Revolution, have been obliged to adopt a pseudonym for fear of censorship or reprisals.
The origin of his name, famous though it is, is still uncertain. The traditional explanation is that the name derives from the river Lena in Siberia, where at the time, there had been disturbances. Ulyanov had been exiled to Siberia, although not to the Lena but to the village of Shushenskoye, on the river Yenisey. So why this particular river? According to one authority, the choice was a more or less random one: he would have chosen a name bases on the river Volga, but this was already ‘booked’, as ‘Volgin’, by Marxist Plekhanov. He therefore took the next big river to the east.
The uncertainty of the origin of the pseudonym is emphasised by the one person who should have known its derivation – Lenin’s wife. In 1924, the year of his death, she wrote in a letter to the magazine Komyacheyka: ‘Dear Comrades, I don’t know why Vladimir Ilyich took the name ‘Lenin’; I never asked him about it. His mother was called Mariya Aleksadrovna, his late sister Olga. The events on the river Lena happened after he took his pseudonym. He was never in exile on the Lena. Probably the name was chosen by chance.’ Another tentative explanation is that the name came from a childhood classmate, Lena.
See also Joseph Stalin.
Room, A. (1981), ‘Name for a Living’, Naming Names, p.19
Room, A. (1981), ‘How to Make a Name?’, Naming Names, p.41
Room, A. (1981), ‘Name Stories, Naming Names, p.114
Fisher, L. (1966), ‘Life of Lenin’
previous A–Z next