Lenin on the Train
Catherine Merridale’s new history book, Lenin on the Train, tells the story of the February Revolution and how it influenced Vladimir Lenin, who was living in exile in Zurich at the time. As soon as Lenin heard about the events in Petrograd, Russia’s capital at that time, he knew he had to do something. However, Russia at that time was embroiled in World War I, and to travel to Russia from Switzerland meant crossing through Germany, a move that would be considered treasonous by the Russian government. Germany, however, saw things differently. The Germans knew that Lenin was opposed to Russia’s involvement in World War I, and they used that fact to get Lenin into Petrograd in hopes that he would rile up the crowd to the point that Russia would take its concentration away from the front lines to deal with the riots in Petrograd. That would allow the Germans to focus on fighting against the British and the French. As a result, the Germans provided Lenin with a sealed carriage that had a line drawn with chalk across the floor that separated the Russians from the Germans. As Merridale retraces Lenin’s journey, she draws upon primary and secondary sources in order to bring the story to life.
Catherine Merridale’s account of Lenin’s journey is very fascinating. The book not only describes what Lenin saw and heard during his journey but also what he was thinking. Her account is not only focused on his train ride, however. A large part of the book also describes the mood in Petrograd at that time and how the Bolsheviks needed a strong leader like Lenin to bring their goals to fruition.