in the Russian Communist Revolution
Lev Davidovich Bronstein was
born of middle-class Jewish parents near
Elizavetgrad, Ukraine, in 1879. He was educated
at the Peter and Paul Real Schule in Odessa, and
then at the university of that town.
After two years of
revolutionary activity, Bronstein was arrested in
1898, and soon after exiled to eastern Siberia.
In 1902 he escaped to England by
means of a forged passport in the name of Trotsky
(which name he used thenceforward). In London,
Trotsky soon became an important member of the
small body of Social Democrats which included Vladimir Lenin. He collaborated in the publication of Iskra
(Spark), the most famous of the Russian
revolutionary newspapers. In 1905 he returned to
Russia to take an active part in the revolution.
That same year he was elected a member of the St.
Petersburg Soviet of Workers' Deputies and was
chairman of the meeting at which the whole Soviet
was arrested. He was exiled to Tobolsk, but
escaped almost immediately and went to Vienna.
Trotsky spent the next several
years as a revolutionary writer and editor in
western Europe. In 1910 he attended the Social
Democratic congress at Copenhagen, where he
advocated a position midway between that of the
Bolshevists and that of the Menshevists. In 1914
he wrote a book on the origins of World War I,
published in German, and was sentenced to eight
months' imprisonment. But he opposed the war not
only in Germany but in the Allied countries, and
in 1916 was expelled from France. He was
arrested by the Spanish authorities on crossing
their border, but was allowed to leave for
America. He settled for a time in New York City,
where he edited the Russian revolutionary Novy
Mir (The New World).
When the revolution broke out
in March, 1917, Trotsky's friends and subscribers
to the paper collected the money for his journey
to Russia. He arrived at Petrograd soon after
Lenin. With Lenin, he helped plot the Bolshevik
seizure of power and formation of the Soviet
regime in November of that same year. He
subsequently became the first Soviet Commissar of
Foreign Affairs, and later the Commissar of War.
As Commissar of War, Trotsky made great use of
officers of the old régime in organizing a new
Red Army. In 1920 he organized as "labour
armies" the troops that were not needed for
Despite the important role he
had played in the success of the Communist
revolution, Trotsky gradually found himself out
of favor with the party. In 1923 he adopted a
position that made it possible for the "old
guard" of the Communist leaders to accuse
him of canvassing for the support of the younger
men. When Lenin died in 1924, many believed that
Trotsky would be his successor, but that was not
to be. The campaign to discredit him continued.
He lost his post as Commissar of War and was
given work of small political significance. In
1925 he was made head of the Central Committee
for Concessions. In 1927 he was expelled from the
Communist Party for his "anti-party
activities," and in January 1928 was exiled
to Viernie in Turkestan. He was subsequently
banished and went to Constantinople, in 1929.
In 1936 Trotsky made his home
in Norway; in
1937 he went to live in Mexico. On
August 20, 1940, he was attacked in his suburban
home at Mexico City. He died the next day.
Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1957.
World War I
New York City
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