The Death of Leon Trotsky

After he left Amherst, Nova Scotia, Leon Trotsky’s life – if you can believe it – got even more interesting.

As told in this tale of how his personal papers came to be owned by Harvard, he ended his life in Mexico, banished and largely abandoned by the world.

After making arrangements to sell his papers to Harvard, in 1940 they safely arrived there, and word was sent to him informing him of the arrival:

In the preceding months Trotsky had been deserted and renounced by some of his closest associates, including his Mexican protector and benefactor, the painter Diego Rivera. And in May, 1940, Trotsky’s home was subjected to an armed-raid, apparently at the instigation of Joseph Stalin. Around 4 a.m. a group of assailants broke into Trotsky’s home and pumped about 200 machine gun bullets into Trotsky’s bedroom. Although the attack left him miraculously unharmed Trotsky became increasingly concerned about his own safety and the safety of his papers.

After months of anxiety the telegram from Harvard must have been a great relief. Ironically, that same day, the very day he learned that his papers would be preserved and protected, Trotsky was assassinated. A man calling himself Frank Jacson, who had connived his way into Trotsky’s confidence, crept up behind him while he was at work in his study, and crushed his skull with an ice axe.

Of course between Amherst and Mexico there was also becoming Russian Commissar for Foreign Affairs, founding and leading the Red Army, etc. But that’s another story.


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