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Reliving Lenin's ride A revolutionary train journey across wartime Europe

A historic journey by train, 100 years ago: in 1917, Lenin famously travelled in a ‘sealed railway carriage’ from Zurich to Petrograd (now St Petersburg) in Russia. A century on, relive the route the revolutionary took, in pictures.

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, pseudonym Lenin, and his wife, Nadeshda Krupskaja, arrived in Bern in 1914, claiming political exile. Lenin had previously lived in Geneva. The couple stayed in Bern until February 1916, when they moved to Spiegelgasse 14 in Zurich’s old town, remaining there for just over a year. 

The reasons behind the move were political: Lenin was dreaming of an armed uprising and was trying to gather supporters who could spread his message and help him build an international Marxist movement. The Zurich Social Democrats were more radical than their Bernese counterparts. He spent his time in the Swiss city attending Social Democratic Party meetings, trying to recruit followers and finishing his work, “Imperialism: the highest stage of capitalism”.

After hearing news of the “February Revolution”, in April 1917 he headed back to Russia, with the aim of establishing the 'dictatorship of the proletariat', where the working class has control of political power. His route took him through Germany, his passage organised by the German government. Though Germany was at war with Russia, they agreed to his journey, seeing an opportunity in Lenin's return to destabilise the country.  

He was accompanied on his journey by a band of just over 30 fellow revolutionaries, mostly Russians, but also a Pole and a Swiss. His route took him by rail and boat right across Europe.

This photo series shows Lenin's route and includes pictures from a recreation of his journey, taken in April 2017. 

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