About Vasily Ulyanov
Ulyanov, Vasja / Vasily
- * 1822.
- † 1878.
Though we know little about Nikolay Ulyanov, we know a good deal more about his elder son Vasily, who became the head of the family on his father's death in 1838. Vasily was then sixteen, and Ilya was seven. The tailor had left no money, and the family would have been reduced to destitution but for Vasily's determination to assume the role of his dead father. He took a job in an office and singlehandedly provided for the whole family. He was one of those comp te self-denying men who derive their satisfactions from helping others. He had wanted to become a teacher and planned to go to a university, but when he saw that it was impossible he simply accepted his fate and channeled his own ambitions into achieving an education for his young brother. Ilya lived up to his expectations. He did well at school. He was intelligent, kind and thoughtful, and he was especially gifted in mathematics. He was thirteen or fourteen when he helped to eke out the family fortunes by giving lessons. While Vasily was the model family-provider, Ilya was the model student. In later years Ilya was to say quite simply "My brother was a father to me."
Still, even with Vasily's total self-abnegation, it would have been impossible to put Ilya through college without the help of scholarship funds. Ilya wanted to go to Kazan University to study mathematics and physics under Professor Nikolay Lobachevsky, the inventor of nonEuclidean geometry. By a statute of limitations introduced in 1848, only 540 students were permitted to study at the university, and competition for the Crown scholarships was keen. Ilya however had an impressive school record. The principal of the gymnasium wrote a long letter to the rector of the university, urging the acceptance of young Ilya Ulyanov. "Without a scholarship," be wrote, "this extremely talented boy will be unable to complete his education, for he is an orphan and completely devoid of financial resources."
"Writing in 1927, Lenin’s sister Anna recalled that when she was four years old or thereabouts, in 1868 or 1869, her parents took her and her little brother Alexander on a steamer trip down the Volga from Nizhnii Novgorod to Astrakhan, the home of her father’s relations. She remembered the small two-storey house in which her grandmother and her uncle Vasilii lived, the warm welcome they received there, and the great fuss made over Alexander and herself. The trip stood out in Anna’s memory because it was the first and last visit ever paid by the Ulyanovs to the Astrakhan branch of the family. When Anna visited Astrakhan her grandfather Nikolai Vasilevich Ulyanov (1768–1836) had been dead for over thirty years. He had started life called not Ulyanov but Ulyanin and as a serf in the village of Androsovo in the Nizhnii Novgorod province. It is possible that, while Nikolai belonged to the Orthodox faith, he might have been not a Russian but a Mordvinian or a Chuvash." (White 2001: 13)