How Did Vladimir Lenin Really Die?

An annual conference on famous dead people reopens Lenin's autopsy report.

Brodskiy's_Lenin-615.jpg
Wikimedia Commons

Adolf Hitler isn't the only historical dictator whose medical records are being reopened this week, it seems. As part of an annual conference on the deaths of famous people at the University of Maryland (yes, really) researchers are cracking open the closed case of Vladimir Lenin, the former Soviet leader who is commonly thought to have been done in by a case of syphilis.

In fact, the sexually-transmitted disease may not have killed Lenin after all, the Associated Press reports:

The Soviet leader's father also died at 54 and both may have been predisposed to hardening of the arteries. Stress also is a risk factor for strokes, and there's no question the communist revolutionary was under plenty of that, the neurologist said.

"People were always trying to assassinate him, for example." Vinters said.

Among those would-be assassins? Joseph Stalin, Lenin's successor. Circumstantial evidence suggests that Lenin might actually have died from poisoning, administered under Stalin's orders. No toxicology assessment was conducted on Lenin's body -- which happens to reside still in Moscow's Red Square -- and just before his death, Lenin appeared to undergo a set of serious convulsions despite functioning normally hours earlier.

Presented by

Brian Fung is the technology writer at National Journal. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and has written for Foreign Policy and The Washington Post.

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This wildly inventive short film takes you on a whirling, spinning tour of the Big Apple

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Health

Just In