The year of his brother’s execution, Lenin enrolled at Kazan University to study law. His time there was cut short, however, when, during his first term, he was expelled for taking part in a student demonstration.
Exiled to his grandfather’s estate in the village of Kokushkino, Lenin took up residence with his sister Anna, whom police had ordered to live there as a result of her own suspicious activities.
There, Lenin immersed himself in a host of radical literature, including the novel What Is To Be Done? by Nikolai Chernyshevsky, which tells the tale of a character named Rakhmetov, who carries a single-minded devotion to revolutionary politics. Lenin also soaked up the writing of Karl Marx, the German philosopher whose famous book Das Kapital would have a huge impact on Lenin’s thinking. In January 1889, Lenin declared himself a Marxist.
Eventually, Lenin received his law degree, finishing his schoolwork in 1892. He moved to the city of Samara, where his client base was largely composed of Russian peasants. Their struggles against what Lenin saw as a class-biased legal system only reinforced his Marxist beliefs.
In time, Lenin focused more of his energy on revolutionary politics. He left Samara in the mid-1890s for a new life in St. Petersburg, the Russian capital atthe time. There, Lenin connected with other like-minded Marxists and began to take an increasingly active role in their activities.
The work did not go unnoticed, and in December 1895 Lenin and several other Marxist leaders were arrested. Lenin was exiled to Siberia for three years. His fiancée and future wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, joined him.
Following his release from exile and then a stint in Munich, where Lenin and others co-founded a newspaper, Iskra, to unify Russian and European Marxists, he returned to St. Petersburg and stepped up his leadership role in the revolutionary movement.
At the Second Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party in 1903, a forceful Lenin argued for a streamlined party leadership community, one that would lead a network of lower party organizations and their workers. “Give us an organization of revolutionaries,” Lenin said, “and we will overturn Russia!”