Yakov Mikhaylovich Sverdlov, the author of Russia’s revolutionary constitution and one of the chief planners of the 1917 October Revolution, was born in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, Russia on this date in 1885. He joined the Bolshevik Party in 1903,  participated in the abortive revolution of 1905, and spent much of his early life in prison or Siberian exile. After the overthrow of the Tsarist system in February, 1917, Sverdlov was elected chair of the Central Executive Committee of the Congress of Soviets and secretary of the Bolshevik Party. He played a key role in the decision  to close down the Constituent Assembly and sign the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which withdrew Russia from World War I. Anatoly Lunacharsky wrote that Sverdlov “was on duty night and day. Whereas Lenin and a few others provided the intellectual guidance for the revolution, between them and the masses – the Party, the Soviet government apparatus and ultimately all Russia – like a spindle on which it all revolved, like a wire transmitting it all, stood Sverdlov.” He died from typhus in 1919 at the age of 33, well before the Revolution began to devour its founders.

“The man was like a diamond, chosen for its absolute hardness to be the axis of some delicate, perpetually revolving piece of mechanism.” —Anatoly Lunacharsky