The Non-Geometric Lenin

The Non-Geometric Lenin

Essays on the Development of the Bolshevik Party 1910-1914

By Carter Elwood

Anthem Series on Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies

This book is a collection of eleven essays dealing with Lenin’s attempt to develop a Bolshevik Party between 1910 and 1914 as well as his curious relations with a tsarist police spy and a female Bolshevik during that period.

Hardback, 248 Pages


April 2011

£70.00, $115.00

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About This Book

This collection of eleven essays deals with Lenin’s life in western European emigration in the years before the First World War. The first five essays explore Lenin’s efforts to build a purely Bolshevik Party through the creation of a unique school for underground workers outside of Paris, his schismatic machinations in calling the 1912 Prague Conference, his problematic relations with the new Bolshevik daily ‘Pravda’, his unsuccessful attempt to call a party congress in 1914, and his defeat at the Brussels ‘Unity’ Conference summoned by the International Socialist Bureau on the eve of the war. These essays are based on a detailed reading of Western and Soviet sources, and they question the common assumption that Lenin was unquestioned inside his own faction and that pre-war Bolshevism was a monolithic entity well-prepared to seize power.

The latter essays discuss Lenin’s curious friendship during the pre-war period with Roman Malinovsky, who turned out to be a police spy, and Inessa Armand, a Bolshevik feminist with whom he had a romantic relationship. They also investigate such mundane but little-studied topics as what he liked to eat in emigration, his annual habit of taking bourgeois vacations and his obsession with athletic pursuits. The picture which emerges from these studies is not of a single-minded, perfect leader solely devoted to carrying out revolution, but rather of a ‘non-geometric’ Lenin with very human foibles and weaknesses.


‘Carter Elwood portrays a more human side of V. I. Lenin than Soviet hagiographies allowed and elaborates upon important moments in the Bolshevik leader’s life that are sometimes overlooked or sensationalized in Western biographies… All chapters reflect the author’s careful approach and close, cautious reading of sources.’ —Barbara C. Allen, ‘The NEP Era, Soviet Russia 1921-1928’

‘A somewhat quirky book [that] combines a study of pre-revolutionary Bolshevik party history with an often amusing and light-hearted look at the personal life of Lenin […The] writing style is breezy, often witty, and sometimes insightful, and the book makes for an enjoyable read.’ —James Ryan, ‘Revolutionary Russia’

‘Elwood is one of the three most significant English-language postwar historians of Lenin and Bolshevism… This essay is a fascinating bit of detective work. More than that, it is a case study in the dynamics of our profession that I believe everyone in it should read… A genuine exhilaration in scrupulous factual investigation, a quiet determination to follow the trail of whatever topic fascinates him… Would there were more non-geometric scholars like Carter Elwood!’ —Lars T. Lih, ‘Canadian Slavonic Papers’

‘Elwood has risen very well to the challenge of producing a more multifaceted Lenin… His guidance…is second to none. He has mined archives as deeply as they could be mined, including some post-1991 additions. His assessments are judicious and careful, and his scholarly craft is admirable… A wide range of those interested in the period will benefit greatly from Elwood’s book.’ —Christopher Read, ‘Slavic Review’

This book is based on a vast amount of research on a key period in the career of V. I. Lenin. It shows him hard at work at party meetings, usually winning the day through the force of his arguments. However, we also learn of Lenin at leisure in Switzerland, walking and taking refreshment in particular. The book is a major contribution from Carter Elwood, a senior figure in the field much respected by his colleagues.' —Paul Dukes, FRSE, University of Aberdeen

Lenin is here rescued from his adulators, who made him into an icon, and his detractors, who saw him as a tyrant, in this thorough study of his key middle years, when the future Bolshevik leader was still an unknown émigré in the West.' —Professor John Keep, University of Toronto (retired)

Author Information

Carter Elwood is a Distinguished Research Professor of History at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.


Anthem Series on Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations; Introduction; Part One. Lenin’s Attempt to Build a Bolshevik Party, 1910–1914; 1. Lenin and the Social Democratic Schools for Underground Party Workers, 1909–1911; 2. The Art of Calling a Party Conference (Prague, 1912); 3. Lenin and ‘Pravda’, 1912–1914; 4. The Congress that Never Was: Lenin’s Attempt to Call a ‘Sixth’ Party Congress in 1914; 5. Lenin and the Brussels ‘Unity’ Conference of July 1914; Part Two. The ‘Other’ Lenin; 6. The Malinovskii Affair: ‘A Very Fishy Business’; 7. Lenin’s Testimony to the Extraordinary Investigatory Commission; 8. Lenin and Armand: New Evidence on an Old Affair; 9. What Lenin Ate; 10. Lenin on Vacation; 11. The Sporting Life of V. I. Lenin; Notes; Bibliography of Works Cited; Index


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