10 ways to start a revolution

Justin Pollard offers the would-be revolutionaries among you some light-hearted advice on how to lead an uprising – using everyone from Lenin to a bunch of Dutch desperadoes as examples. Plus, he has some handy illustrations of what not to do if you'd far prefer to maintain the status quo

A 1950s illustration of Vladimir Lenin on the sealed train between Switzerland and Russian. (Alamy)

This article was first published in the June 2008 issue of BBC History Magazine 


Send a surprise package

The Russian February Revolution of 1917 left Lenin stuck in neutral Switzerland at a time when getting home was problematic. Firstly there was a war going on in which Germany and Russia were enemies, something which would normally preclude taking a train trip between the two countries. Secondly, although Germany desperately wanted Lenin to return home and use his influence to make Russia withdraw from the war, what would happen if his Marxist ideas infected Germany en route and the people ended up, like the Russians, thinking this was all a bit of an aristocratic, ruling class disaster?

Lenin was too good a weapon not to use however and so the Germans decided they would allow him to travel across their country but his ideas would have to be kept in quarantine. Lenin and his entourage were placed on a sealed train, like some form of biological weapon, and transported in locked carriages across Germany, ready to be injected into the Russian body politic.

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