I want to get a tattoo with Lenin's quote "кто кого опередит?" I was originally just going to do the first two words, but the Cyrillic lettering is so beautiful in the last word. I've only seen the last word in a few of the references that I checked. I want to know if it is more specific/elaborate or a full sentence with the third word included because my Russian language is very limited but I have a deep fascination with Russian history. Any help would be appreciated!
Wiki: Who, whom? Кто кого?
is a Bolshevist principle or slogan which was formulated by Lenin in 1921.
Lenin is supposed to have stated at the second All-Russian Congress of Political Education Departments, on 17 October 1921,
Весь вопрос — кто кого опередит? "The whole question is — who will overtake whom?"
For the tattoo, I suggest using a short version:
опережать/опередить is quite neutral and common. It is derived from
перед (fore, front) and means "to overtake, to be faster/ahead of smb.". It is by no means taboo/offensive/colloquial/weird/obsolete, or in any other way inappropriate. You can safely use it on a tattoo, if you wish.
I'm not sure about the historical context, but in general the meaning of
кто кого опередит is more narrow than of simply
кто кого. The first phrase literally means "who will be ahead of (faster than) whom", and the last one - just "who will win whom", not necessarily by being faster, but maybe stronger, smarter or something else.
For a Russian, the verb
опередит is close to the colloquial, moderately taboo, verb
пердит (farts, singular first face of
пердеть). You can even add a prefix о-, making a verb
опердит (will fart on (somebody), or will fart all over (somebody), in third face singular). Russians will laugh to this tatoo, because, changing one letter, it means "who will fart on who".
I doubt that this semi-taboo verb existed in time of Lenin.
опередить means to be first by scores (mostly in sports, games, and other competitions) or by time (in any environment).