Leon Trotsky Biography

Leon Trotsky was a Russian politician, a Marxist revolutionary and the founder and the first leader of the Red Army. To know more about this man, biography, profile, childhood, life & timeline, read on.

Quick Facts

Nick Name: Lev Davidovich Bronshtein

Birthday: November 7, 1879

Nationality: Russian, Ukrainian

Famous: Quotes By Leon Trotsky Writers

Died At Age: 60

Sun Sign: Scorpio

Also Known As: Lev Davidovich Bronshtein

Born Country: Ukraine

Born in: Kherson Oblast

Famous as: Founder and first leader of the Red Army

Height: 5'9" (175 cm), 5'9" Males

political ideology: RSDLP, SDPS, Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Left Opposition, IV International


Spouse/Ex-: Aleksandra Sokolovskaya (m. 1899–1902), Natalia Sedova (m. 1903–1940)

father: David Bronshtein

mother: Anna

siblings: Alexander, Liza, Olga

children: Lev Sedov, Nina Nevelson, Sergei Sedov, Zinaida Volkova

Died on: August 21, 1940

place of death: Coyoacán

Ideology: Communists

Cause of Death: Execution

More Facts

education: Odessa University

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Leon Trotsky was one of the key revolutionaries in the history of Russia, who fought, alongside the likes of Lenin, for the liberation of the working class from the dominating regime of monarchy. Appointed the Commissar of War, he helped to defeat the forces that were opposed to Bolshevik principles. He was responsible for building the Red Army and led it to victory in the battle against the White Army effectively. His forays resulted in being arrested and exiled to Siberia several times, the final one being a complete banishment from the Soviet Union. All his life, he struggled to promote the theories of Marxist society and opposed mere capitalism as a means of progress. He supported Vladmir Lenin and his theories, though he disagreed on several principles. After Lenin’s death, the power was transferred to Joseph Stalin. Thereafter, Trotsky’s hold on the party declined steadily, resulting in a permanent exile from the entire country. Author of several books, he continued to promote Marxist and Socialist ways of governance. He was a strong critic of the Stalin-led government. He was brutally assassinated in his study in Mexico City, where he was spending his time in exile.

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Childhood & Early Life
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  • Leon Trotsky wrote pamphlets and leaflets professing socialistic ideas and distributed them among the people. In 1898, he was imprisoned along with several other members of the Union, for two years.
  • In 1900, he was sentenced to a four-year exile and had to leave to Siberia, along with his wife. His two daughters, Zinaida and Nina, were both born in Siberia, but escaped from there with their mother.
  • He associated himself with a London based newspaper ‘Iskra’ and began writing for it. In 1902, he escaped from Siberia and moved to London, where he changed his name to Trotsky, and worked with socialist stalwarts like Lenin.
  • In 1903, the Iskra members split into two factions, the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. The Bolsheviks were led by Lenin, and the Mensheviks, by Martov, whom Trotsky followed.
  • Members of the two factions kept changing sides, and Trotsky decided to leave the Mensheviks due to a difference in their policies and their reluctance to reconcile with Lenin.
  • General unrest with the ruling government picked up pace, and in January 1905, a strike by the workers was called for, which grew into a massive protest at St. Petersburg. On the Sunday that followed, a peaceful protest march by citizens was fired at and thousands died, an event that would be marked in History as ‘Bloody Sunday’.
  • Following the events of Bloody Sunday, Trotsky returned to Russia to work more closely with both the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. However, he had to flee to Finland in hiding, due to betrayal by some members, and to avoid getting caught by the police.
  • The period of unrest continued all over Russia, and strikes at work places became a regular feature, affecting the rail system and creating chaos. This gave Trotsky an opportunity to return to Russia undetected and to get involved with the newspapers once again.
  • Trotsky not only wrote, but also voiced his protest against the Tsarist government that soon led him to face trial once again. In 1906, at a trial, he gave a speech that catapulted him to fame and established him as an accomplished public speaker, though he had to suffer another exile to Siberia.
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  • In 1907, Trotsky escaped again and made his way to London, and later to Vienna. There, he met Adolph Joffe, who remained his friend for the next 20 years, and also taught him about psychoanalysis.
  • He spent much of the next few years in exile in various European countries, but he kept at writing revolutionary material for magazines. He started the newspaper, ‘Pravda’ which ran until 1912.
  • In 1917, the Tsar, Nicholas II’s government was overthrown and it brought Trotsky back to Russia. A new party Soviet Council of People’s Commissars, chaired by Vladmir Lenin was formed, and Leon Trotsky was made the Commissar of Foreign Affairs to make peace with Germany.
  • In the following year, Lenin ordered the formation of the ‘Red Army’ and made Trotsky its head. The first task of the Red Army was to neutralize the White Army forces engaged in the civil war, and Trotsky emerged victorious.
  • After the Civil War in 1920-21, efforts were on to restore peace and order, and Trotsky was keen on allowing the State to control the trade unions. Although Lenin was opposed to this idea and a rift had developed between the two, Trotsky reconciled in the end.
  • By 1922, Lenin succumbed to ill health and suffered strokes that sapped his strength slowly. Though it seemed that Trotsky would take his place, it was Joseph Stalin who gathered forces to stall the ascension of Trotsky as the next leader.
  • After Lenin’s death in 1924, Trotsky was completely overshadowed by Stalin. Trotsky was pushed out of the government and eventually, evicted from the country as well.
  • Between 1925 and 1928, Trotsky was consistently pushed out from party affairs by Stalin and his allies. His role in the Russian Revolution was discredited by them, and he was expelled from the party and sent on exile.
  • In 1929, Trotsky was banished from the Soviet Union. The next few years were spent in France, Turkey and Norway, before he settled in Mexico city, from where he continued to criticize Stalin.
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Major Works
  • Leon Trotsky’s book, ‘The History of Russian Revolution’ is a classic account of the political, social and economical situations that led and governed the Russian Revolution. In the book, he has described how the unrest among the oppressed classes led to the overthrowing of the monarchist rule, and heralded a new era of socialist government under Lenin’s leadership.
  • Published in 1930, Trotsky’s ‘My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography’ is the only autobiography written by a Bolshevik. He wrote this book while on his long exile from the Soviet Union; it highlighted not only his lifelong struggle, but also the horrors of the Stalinist regime.
  • The ‘October Revolution’, which was led by Trotsky was a successful example of the concept of Permanent Revolution against the monarchic regime. This was a great achievement in the struggle against the bourgeoisie, because the problems faced by the working class were not solved, until then.
  • He also developed the concept of the ‘United Front’, which was a method of uniting all revolutionaries and reformists in a common struggle. His theories also voiced protests against the rising Fascist governance in Germany and Spain, and advocated a united front for them too.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • Trotsky’s first marriage was during his tenure in prison in 1900, to Aleksandra Sokolovskaya, with whom he had two daughters, Zinaida and Nina. The marriage was short-lived and the couple soon got divorced. His daughters were taken care of by his parents.
  • In 1902, he met Natalia Ivanovna Sedova, who became his companion and second wife, till his death. They had two children, Lev Sedov and Sergei Sedov, both of whom died before their parents.
  • On August 20, 1940, while he was sitting at his desk, he was attacked by Ramon Mercader, an undercover agent for the Soviet secret police. He was hit by an ice pick which punctured his skull, injuring him severely and killing him eventually.
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  • Born as Lev Bronstein, this Russian revolutionary adopted a new name from the jailer of the prison he had been to. This name became his revolutionary pseudonym, and he used it for the rest of his life.
  • This fiercely socialist Russian revolutionary was highly influenced by the theories of Karl Marx, the German philosopher. He was arrested and charged for spreading dangerous ideas and causing political disorder, and sent on exile to Siberia.
Childhood & Early Life
  • Born on November 7, 1879, as Lev Davidovich Bronshtein, Leon Trotsky was the fifth of the eight children born to David Leontyevich Bronshtein, and Anna Bronshtein. His was a well-to-do family with his father being a farmer and, despite being Jewish, they were not very religious.
  • His father sent him to Odessa, in a German school, for him to commence his education. Odessa was a bustling cosmopolitan city, and it was from here that Trotsky developed an international outlook, very early in his childhood.
  • Revolutionary activities had increased pace in Russia around that time. In 1896, Trotsky too became involved in revolutionary politics after moving to Nikolayev.
  • He had enrolled for pursuing a pure Mathematics degree in college, but he soon quit. Instead, he got involved and helped in setting up the South Russian Worker’s Union in 1897.

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Leon Trotsky

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