(b. Nizhny Novgorod (Gorky), 4 June 1885; d. Moscow, 16 Mar. 1919)
Russian; head of state 1917–19 Sverdlov was the son of a Jewish engraver. He joined the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) in 1901 and became active in the underground, taking advantage of his father's printing facilities. He sided with Lenin and the Bolsheviks after the RSDLP split in 1903, and became a member of the Party's Central Committee in 1913. Often under arrest, he was exiled in Siberia when the February Revolution broke out in 1917. He went to Petrograd where the Bolshevicks utilized his impressive organizational abilities. Sverdlov was completely loyal to Lenin and in the ‘July Days’ of 1917 was Bolshevik leader when Lenin and his associates were in hiding. After the October Revolution he became a party secretary and chairman of the Bolsheviks' All Russian Central Executive Committee (VTsIK) and as such head of state. He was closely involved in the organization of party control throughout Russia, and was a member of the commission which prepared the Soviet constitution of 1918. Habitually dressing in a leather coat, he set the fashion for the commissars of the 1920s. He died during the influenza epidemic in spring 1919.