Definition of Lenin

Reviewed on 6/3/2021

Lenin: (1870-1924) Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the founder of the Bolshevik Party and the Soviet state. Lenin is of some medical interest because he has been retrospectively diagnosed with syphilis. Lenin may have contracted the disease in Europe years before he led the October Revolution in 1917 and the disease followed an erratic but progressively debilitating course to his death in 1924 at age 53.

As with most retrospective diagnoses, this one is mainly a matter of educated guesswork. Lenin's death has also been variously attributed to cerebral hemorrhage, stroke, cerebral arteriosclerosis, and "exhaustion." At the very least, Lenin's illness closely followed a course compatible with syphilis characterized by seizures and excruciating headaches, as well as bouts of nausea, sleeplessness and partial paralysis. Lenin was alternately lucid and incapacitated. Sometimes, he was unable to walk without assistance or to speak.

Lenin was briefly treated with salvarsan, a drug that was used specifically to combat syphilis. Salvarsan had powerful side effects. There would be no reason but syphilis to have given it to him.

Reference: V. Lerner, Y. Finkelstein, E. Witztum. The enigma of Lenin's (1870-1924) malady. European Journal of Neurology 11: 371, 2004.


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