On May 5, 1818, in the Prussian town of Trier, a child named Karl was born into the family of Jewish lawyer Heinrich Marx, a birth that proved to be of great consequence for the course of human history.
The birth went unnoticed in Russia, of course. Even in the 1840s, when Marx’s rallying cry, “Proletarians of the world, unite!” began to gain traction in Western Europe, Russia paid little attention. And why should it? At that point, you could just about count Russia’s proletarians on the fingers of one hand.
In 1848, when Marx published his pamphlet, The Communist Manifesto, Russia remained an island of calm amid a sea of European unrest. “Mount your horses, gentlemen! There’s revolution in Paris,” Nicholas I is purported to have exhorted officers of his guard at a ball that year. Russia’s defenders of order did not make it to Paris, but, at the request of the Austrian emperor, they did help suppress an uprising in Hungary.
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