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Evolved
Wednesday, July 7th, 2004, 05:13 AM
Diagnosis: Lenin had syphilis
C.J. Chivers NYT
June 23, 2004

MOSCOW Whispers have circulated for decades that Lenin, the founder of the Bolshevik Party and the totalitarian Soviet state it ushered to power, was afflicted with syphilis. Now a new study turns that speculation into a retrospective diagnosis.

In an article this month in The European Journal of Neurology, three Israeli physicians sift through historical references to build what they regard as a probable diagnosis that Lenin contracted the sexually transmitted disease in Europe years before he led the October Revolution in 1917. Not long after the Bolsheviks' victory, the authors write, the illness strengthened its grip, leading to an agonizing decline and, in 1924, his death.

The idea is not new.

Despite the former Soviet Union's efforts to preserve a near theology around its central political figure, Lenin was long rumored to have suffered from the disease. The new thesis is not so much a breakthrough as a rumor revived and reframed. To do so, the authors quote the journals of doctors who treated Lenin in Europe and the Soviet Union and review materials related to his medical condition and autopsy, which they suggest was a propaganda job. "If you take Lenin's case and you cancel Lenin's name on the file and you give it to a neurologist who is an expert in infectious disease, the expert will say, 'Syphilis,'" said Vladimir Lerner, head of the psychiatry department at the Be'er Sheva Mental Health Center in Israel and an author of the report.

Reviews of the report have been mixed. Some scholars of the early Soviet period are skeptical, saying the talk circulated for decades, to little effect. "There has been a vague rumor of this," said Robert Conquest, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. "But of course in Russia, as you know, you have rumors about most everything." Gregory Freeze, professor of history at Brandeis University, was direct. "They don't have the smoking gun," he said. The authors concede this point but insist that they have a strong circumstantial case. They also propose a possible way to settle the question, further testing of Lenin's brain material, which is stored in Moscow.

"'Skeptical' is a healthy position," said another author, Eliezer Witztum, a professor of psychiatry at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. "But the point is that there are a lot of medical questions that have to be answered." Lenin was 53 when he died, after battling an erratic but progressively debilitating illness. His death has been variously attributed to stroke, cerebral hemorrhage, syphilis, exhaustion or cerebral arteriosclerosis, which had killed his father. The difficulty with a diagnosis of syphilis is that the symptoms are common to other ailments, so much so that it is called "the great imitator."

The infection, caused by a bacterium called the Treponema spirochete, first appears as an ulcerous sore, from which it spreads throughout the body, including the brain. Fever, extensive rash and malaise typically follow. A syphilitic can spend years alternating between bouts of illness and apparently fine health. When they occur, symptoms can be severe, including headaches, nervous disorders and gastrointestinal, muscle or joint pain. In late stages, often 20 or more years after infection, the victim can experience mood swings and bursts of creativity, as well as depression, lethargy and dementia. Cardiovascular damage can lead to paralysis, aneurysm or stroke. Until the advent of therapeutic penicillin in World War II, the disease was incurable.

Lenin's illness at least mimicked the progression of syphilis, afflicting him for months with occasional seizures and excruciating headaches, as well as bouts of nausea, sleeplessness and partial paralysis. As Stalin plotted for control of the Communist Party, Lenin was alternately lucid and incapacitated. The worst spells were horrific. According to "Lenin: A Biography," by Robert Service, professor of Russian history at St. Anthony's College at Oxford, he twice asked for poison with which he might end his life, remarkable requests from a man whose name was synonymous with struggle.

Communist Party orthodoxy required suppression of the deterioration, and many details were kept secret. But time has unlocked some of the confidences, and the authors combed the disparate evidence, some from archives available only after the collapse of communism, to render their diagnosis. Among the supporters of their conclusion is Deborah Hayden, author of "Pox: Genius, Madness, and the Mysteries of Syphilis." She wrote in an e-mail message: "A number of Lenin biographers have reported that the doctors attending him at his death suspected syphilis, but until this article no one has pulled the relevant information together in one place. The authors argue convincingly that Lenin was suffering from meningovascular syphilis on his deathbed." Hayden, who playfully calls herself a "syphilographer," said she was impressed by evidence that prominent syphilis specialists examined Lenin. And she noted that in previous work, listed in the footnotes, the authors found that Lenin was briefly treated with salvarsan, which was used specifically to combat the disease. Salvarsan had powerful side effects. In a phone interview, Hayden said there would be no reason but syphilis to give it to him.

Frances Bernstein, an assistant professor at Drew University who specializes in sexuality and public health in the Soviet period, also called the theory plausible. "I think the science does support, or could support, a diagnosis of syphilis," she said, pointing to a potentially curious context. Venereal disease was an acute problem under the tsars. After the revolution, the Health Ministry reversed the imperial position of suppressing sex education and launched a campaign to treat syphilitics and ease the stigma of the disease. In light of that campaign, Bernstein said, "it would have been the height of irony if Lenin died of syphilis."

Disagreement over the merits of the theory seems unlikely to end soon. Freeze found two factual errors in the article that he said undermined its credibility. Lenin survived an assassination attempt in 1918, not 1919, as the authors wrote, and the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, not 1992. (Witztum said the errors came from sources quoted in the study.) Freeze also described Lenin as a dynamo of activity in the years after the October Revolution and added, "The massive amount of documents he wrote in that period do not suggest a man who was suffering from syphilis." Hayden said that many syphilitics did not lapse into full paralysis or dementia and that some experienced intense periods of creativity not long before dying. "People think that if you have syphilis you get to be feeble minded, but the opposite is true," she said.

Although Lenin's stature has been eroded by the terror he relied on to build the Soviet state and by its eventual collapse, he remains a colossus. Eight decades after his death, his corpse still lies in state outside the Kremlin. In some circles, reverence clings to his name. Importantly, for those seeking an answer to the syphilis question, his brain tissue remains at the Moscow Institute of the Brain, where in early Soviet times it was sliced into wafers in an effort to find anatomical explanations for genius. The authors end their article by suggesting that an examination of the tissue might find the DNA of syphilis and yield a definitive answer. Freeze said he would support a conclusive test. "That would settle it," he said.

But like much of the discussion, the suggestion is subject to disagreement.

A representative of the brain institute declined even to discuss syphilis last week. "We don't have any wish or time to discuss this," he said, adding that the theory had been reviewed in the past and proved wrong. "We simply don't want to rake over the dust and ashes of the past." Hayden also cautioned that even if tests were conducted, the results might not close the case. In late-stage syphilis, she said, the spirochete was not always found in the brain.

Dr. Solar Wolff
Wednesday, July 7th, 2004, 07:31 AM
Yea, Isreali Intelligence told the CIA Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. In my book, an Isreali would have to pass a lie detector test to prove to me he was a Jew.

Evolved
Wednesday, July 7th, 2004, 10:00 AM
Lenin was not Jewish according to Jewish law, his mother was only half-Jewish through her paternal ancestry. Had she been half-Jewish from her maternal ancestry, Lenin would be considered a Jew. In any case, he regarded Jews highly. Maybe knowing his crimes they don't like this, and want to make him look bad to distance themselves.

Scoob
Wednesday, July 7th, 2004, 04:48 PM
Lenin said that the only intelligent Russians he ever met had Jewish blood.

At any rate, regarding syphillis: if he was sick in his late years, that could explain quite a bit about his behavior as dictator.

Also noteworthy is that Winston Churchill was a hereditary manic-depressive.

Northern Paladin
Wednesday, July 7th, 2004, 11:46 PM
Lenin said that the only intelligent Russians he ever met had Jewish blood.

Too bad for the Jews it was the Anti-Semite Stalin who took over and not Trotsky. :P


At any rate, regarding syphillis: if he was sick in his late years, that could explain quite a bit about his behavior as dictator.

He suffered from Strokes after being Shot in the head in an assanation attempt.


Also noteworthy is that Winston Churchill was a hereditary manic-depressive.

Where did you get this from? Churchill's reputation seems to say otherwise. No doubt he was a more astute than Roosevelt who fell into Stalin's Snare during the Yalta conference.

Scoob
Wednesday, July 7th, 2004, 11:57 PM
Where did you get this from? Churchill's reputation seems to say otherwise. No doubt he was a more astute than Roosevelt who fell into Stalin's Snare during the Yalta conference. See http://www.twilightbridge.com/icons1/winstonchurchill.htm

Except: "It is well known that he suffered throughout his life from what is now known as bipolar mood disorder - what used to be called manic-depressive disorder. This really makes his accomplishments both more astounding and at the same time easier to understand. Churchill will probably be remembered most fondly for his iron will and tenacity, and his fearless courage in the most difficult of circumstances."

And regarding Roosevelt - he had a major goal of ending the old European colonialist empires - and I think he saw the USSR as an ally that could help with this. The Bolsheviks were advocates of national self-determination for the colonies.

Northern Paladin
Thursday, July 8th, 2004, 12:09 AM
It is well known that he suffered throughout his life from what is now known as bipolar mood disorder

Churchill could have been a "Functional" Manic Depressive. Not all of those with Bipolar Disorder have the same intensity of symptoms. Indeed it seems like many



And regarding Roosevelt - he had a major goal of ending the old European colonialist empires - and I think he saw the USSR as an ally that could help with this. The Bolsheviks were advocates of national self-determination for the colonies. Leaders have had less than "Stable" Personalities.

Pretty Ironic how it than resulted in the Cold War. I think Roosevelt was rather short sighted compared to Churchill.

The Blond Beast
Thursday, July 8th, 2004, 09:30 PM
Lenin was not Jewish according to Jewish law, his mother was only half-Jewish through her paternal ancestry. Had she been half-Jewish from her maternal ancestry, Lenin would be considered a Jew. In any case, he regarded Jews highly. Maybe knowing his crimes they don't like this, and want to make him look bad to distance themselves.

His grandmother was a full Jew (Blank), making him eligible as per Israel's Law of Return:

4A. (a) The rights of a Jew under this Law and the rights of an oleh
under the Nationality Law, 5712-1952***, as well as the rights of an
oleh under any other enactment, are also vested in a child and a
grandchild of a Jew...

http://www.lectlaw.com/files/int16.htm

Lenin thought highly of Jews, surrounded himself with Jews, and behaved like a Jew -- if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck...

Northern Paladin
Thursday, July 8th, 2004, 09:31 PM
Lenin was a Jew,Mongol,Mutt. His father looked like a Simian from Planet of the Apes.