What To Make of Lenin's Jewish Grandfather

Lenin, his sister said, “always thought highly of the Jews” — and with good reason, since he apparently had Jewish ancestry.

That, at least, is the claim being put forward at a recently opened exhibit at the State Historical Museum in Moscow, where the founding ruler of the Soviet Union is revealed to have had a Jewish grandfather.

A 1932 letter written to Stalin by Lenin’s older sister, Anna Ulyanova, reports that their maternal grandfather “came from a poor Jewish family and was, according to his baptismal certificate, the son of Moses Blank.” Ulyanova used the information to suggest that Stalin reveal Lenin’s background to the Soviet people — an idea the dictator rejected.

Instead, Stalin had the details suppressed, with Lenin’s official biography continuing to state that he was of Russian, German and Swedish background. The letter was retrieved from declassified KGB files.

Time magazine notes that the revelation puts some far-right Russian nationalists in a tricky spot, since their admiration for Lenin conflicts with the anti-Semitism that often accompanies it. The articles predicts that “even if latent anti-Semitism does not play an active role in contemporary Russian politics, the Lenin exhibition could end up cutting into the famed revolutionary’s enduring popularity.”

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

What To Make of Lenin's Jewish Grandfather

Thank you!

This article has been sent!