Alexander was born in 1866. His father, Iyla Nikolaeyich Ulyanov, was an inspector of public schools, credited with the construction of 450 schoolhouses. His mother, Maria, was the daughter of surgeon and landowner. Alexander, nicknamed Sasha, was the oldest of six children. Vladimir was the third of the six, and four years younger than Alexander. Vladimir looked up to his older brother from a young age. When Alexander came home from school in a new students' uniform, Vladimir asked his brother for the same type of uniform.
The two brothers differed in personalities. Alexander was very serious, reserved, and rather quiet. On the other hand, Vladimir was noisy, boisterous, sharp of the tongue, and a player of practical jokes.
Both Alexander and Vladimir were top students in their classes. Each won gold medals for being the best student. Alexander excelled at science while his younger brother excelled at Latin, History, and Literature. Alexander's favorite author was Dostoevsky while Vladimir preferred Turneniev and Tolstoy. In 1883, Alexander went to St. Petersburg to attend the university. At the school, he was initially absorbed in scientific research. He won a gold medal for his zoological study of earthworms.
In January 1886, Alexander's father died of cerebral hemourage. A few months after his father's death, Alexander began to get involved in student causes. Alexander participated in illegal meetings, demonstrations and ran propaganda activities among other students and working class people. He...