Krupskaya: Lenin’s life in prison and exile

This account of Vladimir Lenin‘s life in prison and exile is from the memoirs of his wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, published in 1930. Krupskaya explains how Lenin maintained communication with his fellow revolutionaries and used the time for intense study and planning:

“Vladimir Ilyich was arrested in December 1895. He spent two years in prison but carried on studying and writing as well as keeping in touch with his comrades…

Letters written in milk came through from outside on the day for sending books, Saturday. One would immediately look at the secret signs in the book and ascertain whether a letter was inside. At 6 o’clock, they brought hot water for tea and the wardress led the criminals out to the church. By this time, the ‘politicals’ [political prisoners] would have the letters torn into long strips. Then they would make their tea and as soon as the wardress departed, they began to drop the strips into the hot tea. Thus the letters would be ‘developed’…

Just as Vladimir Ilyich was the pivot of all our work outside, so in prison he was for the centre of contact with the outside world. But apart from this, he did a great deal of work in prison… “It is a pity that they let us out so soon”, he said jokingly. “I would have liked to do a little more work on the book. It will be difficult to obtain books in Siberia.”

In order not to be discovered, while writing with milk, he made little milk in pots out of bread. These he popped into his mouth immediately he heard a rattle at the gate. “Today, I have eaten six inkpots,” said one of his letters.

[In exile in Siberia] we hired half a house with a yard and kitchen garden attached, for four rubles. We lived as one family. In the summer, it was impossible to find anyone to help with the housework. I and another together for the Russian stove. At first, I knocked over with the other and hook the soup and dumplings, which were scattered over the hearth. But afterwards, I got used to it…

Exile did not pass so badly. Those were years of serious study. The nearer we approach to the end of the period of exile, Vladimir Ilyich gave more and more thought to future work…

For all practical purposes, there was no party and no printing press… It was necessary to begin with the organisation of an all Russian newspaper, to establish it abroad, you connected up as closely as possible with activities in Russia, to arrange transport in the best way possible. Vladimir Ilyich began to spend sleepless nights. He became terribly thin.”