Leon Trotsky Timeline
1879 (7th November)
Leon Trotsky was born Lev Davidovich Bronstein to David Leontyevich Bronstein and Anna Lvovna in Yanovka (Ukraine). His parents were wealthy Jewish farmers and Leon was their fifth child.
Trotsky was sent to school in Odessa. He learned to speak English, French and German.
Trotsky moved to Nikolayev (Mykolaiv) on the Ukrainian coast. He joined the Narodnik populist group that was opposed to Tsarism.
Leon met Aleksandra Sokolovskaya who convinced him to become a Marxist.
Trotsky helped to organise the South Russian Workers’ Union. He wrote leaflets and gave them out to factory workers and students.
Trotsky and more than 200 members of the South Russian Workers’ Union were arrested. Leon was imprisoned in Nikolayev to await trial.
Trotsky was moved to a prison in Moscow. Here he met other imprisoned revolutionaries and heard about Vladimir Lenin
. He read Lenin’s work ‘The Development of Capitalism in Russia’.
Trotsky married Aleksandra Sokilovskaya in prison in Moscow.
Following a trial, Trotsky and his wife were sentenced to four years exile in Siberia. They moved to Ust-Kut near the Baikal Lake in Siberia.
A daughter, Zinaida, was born to Leon Trotsky and Aleksandra at Ust-Kut.
Trotsky read copies of the revolutionary newspaper, ‘Iskra’ (Spark) and agreed with much of what was written.
A daughter, Nina, was born to Leon Trotsky and Aleksandra at Ust-Kut.
Trotsky escaped from Siberia and made his way to London where ‘Iskra’ was being published. He began using the Name Leon Trotsky.
Leon Trotsky met Natalia Sedova.
Leon Trotsky divorced his wife, Aleksandra and married Natalia Sedova. He remained on good terms with his ex-wife. His children were cared for by Trotsky’s parents.
1903 (30th July)
Second RSDLP Congress
Trotsky attended this meeting of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party was held in London over a period of two weeks. The Social Democrats split into Bolsheviks led by Lenin and Mensheviks led by Martov. Lenin and the Bolsheviks wanted a full revolution while the Mensheviks were prepared to work with liberal groups to bring about reform. Bolsheviks wanted to restrict membership to the party and lead from a central core while the Mensheviks wanted an open membership and a democratic run party. Trotsky agreed with the Mensheviks.
Leon Trotsky left the Mensheviks because he disagreed with their opposition to any cooperation with the Bolsheviks. He remained a member of the Social Democrats but did not ally himself with either faction.
1905 (22nd January)
Father Georgy Gapon
had organised a peaceful march to present a petition to the Tsar to ask for measures to be put in place to treat the Russian people more fairly. The marchers included men, women and children carrying banners of the Tsar singing religious hymns. However, when the marchers reached the Winter Palace they were met by a line of armed Cossacks who opened fire on the demonstrators. More than 200 demonstrators were killed and more than 500 injured. Father Gapon escaped and left Russia.
1905 (late January)
The events of Bloody Sunday had sparked a wave of protests, demonstrations, strikes and unrest across the Russian Empire.
Leon Trotsky managed to return to Kiev without being detected. He began writing and distributing leaflets against the regime.
Trotsky moved to St Petersburg where he worked with the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks.
Third RSDLP Congress
This meeting of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party was held in London. Although they had split, the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks attended the congress. Lenin made a speech arguing that the Tsarist regime could only be overthrown if the peasants rose up against the monarchy.
Trotsky fled to Finland as he was in danger of being arrested by the secret police. In Finland he began working on his theory of revolution.
Tsar Nicholas II
responded to the 1905 Revolution by agreeing a number of reforms including: freedom of speech, freedom to hold meetings and no laws to be introduced without the agreement of the Duma. Furthermore, political parties were no longer banned and elections to the Duma were agreed.
1905 (15th October)
Trotsky returned to St Petersburg. He and Alexander Parvus took over the Russian Gazette Newspaper.
Leon Trotsky joined the St Petersburg Soviet which was led by Khrustalev-Nosar.
1905 (26th November)
Khrustalev-Nosar, leader of the St Petersburg Soviet, was arrested. Trotsky took over as chairman of the Soviet.
1905 (2nd December)
Trotsky issued a statement denouncing the Tsarist government
1905 (3rd December)
Trotsky and other members of the Soviet were arrested and tried for inciting an armed rebellion.
1906 (24th February)
A son, Lev Sedov, was born to Leon Trotsky and Natalia Sedova.
1906 (4th October)
Leon Trotsky was found guilty of inciting an armed rebellion and exiled to Obdorsk, Siberia.
Trotsky escaped exile and managed to get to London.
1908 (21st March)
A son, Sergei Sedov, was born to Leon Trotsky and Natalia Sedova.
Fifth RSDLP Congress
This was held in London and was attended by Trotsky, Lenin and Stalin
. The Bolsheviks dominated this congress.
Trotsky moved to Vienna.
Leon Trotsky joined the staff of the social democratic newspaper, Pravda. He worked on the paper with Adolph Joffe and Matvey Skobelev in Austria and it was then smuggled into Russia.
Trotsky went to the Balkans to cover the Balkan Wars for the newspaper Kievskaya Mysl.
1914 (1st August)
World War One
Germany declared war on Russia. Following the assassination of heir to the Austro-Hungarian Emprie, Franz Ferdinand and his wife, by Serbian nationalists, Austria-Hungary shelled the Serbian capital, Belgrade. Russia then backed Serbia and mobilised troops. Germany was allied to Austria-Hungary and declared war on Russia to support its ally.
As a Russian citizen in Vienna which was part of Austria-Hungary, Trotsky was not safe and moved to Switzerland.
1914 (19th November)
Trotsky moved to France where he continued to work for Kievskaya Mysl as a war correspondent.
Trotsky attended the Zimmerwald Conference where Lenin urged socialists to use the war to foment a revolution against the aristocracy.
1916 (31st March)
France deported Trotsky to Spain for his involvement in anti-war activities.
1916 (25th December)
Spain deported Trotsky to the United States.
1917 (13th January)
Leon Trotsky arrived in New York and began writing articles for a local Russian socialist newspaper, Novy Mir. He also wrote for the Jewish paper Der Foverts.
1917 (27th March)
After hearing about the February Revolution in Russia, Trotsky left New York on the SS Kristianiafjord. However, the ship was intercepted and he was interred in Nova Scotia, Canada.
1917 (29th April)
Trotsky was released from internment.
1917 (17th May)
Leon Trotsky returned to Russia.
1917 (2nd July)
Leon Trotsky joined the Bolsheviks.
1917 (3rd – 4th July)
This was a series of demonstrations against the government. Workers were joined on the streets by soldiers and the Kronstadt sailors calling for power to the Soviets.
1917 (4th July)
Prince Lvov, head of the Provisional government resigned.
1917 (mid July)
The Government blamed the July days on Bolshevik leaders and many, including Trotsky, were arrested.
1917 (18th July)
The Socialist Alexander Kerensky took over as head of the Provisional government.
1917 (18th August)
Lenin established the Narrow Composition to direct the Revolution. There were just seven members, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Zinoviev
, Stkolnikov and Bubnov.
Alexander Kerensky was persuaded to release those Bolsheviks that had been imprisoned following the July Days.
1917 (25th September)
Leon Trotsky became leader of the Petrograd Soviet. He worked closely with Lenin to plan a Bolshevik takeover.
Throughout the late Summer and early September support for the Bolsheviks had grown and by the end of September membership had reached 200,000.
1917 (9th October)
The Bolsheviks established a Military Revolutionary Committee led by Trotsky.
1917 (10th October)
At a meeting of the Bolshevik Central Committee, Lenin called for a Bolshevik Revolution.
1917 (24th October)
Armed workers, Bolshevik Red Guards and the Kronstadt sailors occupied key buildings around the city of Petrograd.
1917 (25th October)
Armed Bolshevik supporters entered the Winter Palace and arrested members of the Provisional Government.
1917 (26th October)
A congress of Soviets was held which appointed the first Soviet government and appointed Lenin as Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars. Leon Trotsky was made People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs.
Alexander Kerensky rallied those loyal to the Provisional Government and there was fighting between the two factions especially around Moscow. However, Lenin agreed to talk to other party members and Kerensky lost much support. He eventually fled firstly to France and then to the USA.
Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia
This gave non-Russian ethnic groups the right to set up their own independent states.
1917 (7th November)
Russian Civil War
Although Lenin and the Bolsheviks had taken control of the country there were still many opponents that sought to overturn the new regime. These were known as whites. The fighting between the whites and the red army was often violent.
1917 (12th November)
The election that had been promised by the Provisional Government after the February revolution took place. The Socialist Revolutionaries received the most votes but they were not a fully united party. They were split between the left Socialist Revolutionaries who supported Lenin and joined him in forming a coalition government and the moderate Socialist Revolutionaries led by Viktor Chernov. Lenin needed to formulate a plan to prevent the moderate Socialist Revolutionaries challenging the Bolshevik rule.
1917 (22nd December)
A Bolshevik peace delegation led by Alfred Joffe began negotiating a peace with Germany to take Russia out of World War One.
1917 (late December)
Leon Trotsky replaced Alfred Joffe as head negotiator for the peace treaty with Germany.
Lenin changed the name of the Bolshevik party to the Russian Communist Party.
1918 (7th, 8th January)
The harsh demands placed on Russia by Germany were not well received. Germany wanted to take the Baltic states as well as Poland and Ukraine from Russia, a move that would result in the loss of one third of Russia’s population and agricultural land as well as half of its industry. Trotsky was not happy with the harshness of the treaty and abstained from the vote over whether or not to accept the terms. Lenin felt that Russia did not have the strength to carry on fighting and proposed acceptance of the treaty.
1918 (23rd February)
Trotsky formed the Red Army. It was comprised of workers and peasants.
1918 (3rd March)
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
This treaty ended Russian involvement in World War One. The signing of the treaty ended the left Socialist Revolutionary’s support of Lenin.
1918 (5th March)
Fearing a possible foreign invasion in support of the Romanovs, Lenin moved the capital of Russia to Moscow. The royal family were moved to Yekaterinburg.
1918 (13th March)
Trotsky resigned as Commissar for Foreign Affairs because he disagreed with the acceptance of the terms of peace with Germany. He was appointed People’s Commissar of Army and Navy Affairs and Chairman of the Supreme Military Council.
Lenin’s government was facing opposition from a number of forces collectively known as the ‘White’ forces. Based in the south, they had been led by Kornilov but following his death were led by Deniken. Another ‘White’ force led by General Yudenich were forming near Petrograd.
1918 (22nd April)
Compulsory military service was introduced for all workers and peasants that did not hire labour.
The Russian Congress of the Soviets renamed the Russian Republic the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.
1918 (17th July)
The Romanov family were executed at Yekaterinburg and buried in shallow graves. Historians are divided as to whether the execution was sanctioned by Lenin.
1918 (30th August)
Lenin survived an assassination attempt by Fanya Kaplan but was badly injured. A ‘mass terror’ was organised against those responsible.
Lenin ordered the Cheka to put down political opposition. He also introduced the Gulag system of labour camps to contain opponents of his regime. Trotsky fully agreed with this action believing that it would hasten the fall of the bourgeoisie.
1918 (2nd September)
Leon Trotsky was appointed Chairman of the newly created Revolutionary Military Council.
1918 (late September)
Leon Trotsky clashed with Joseph Stalin over the appointment of Gemeran Pavel Pavlovich Sytin to command southern forces.
Polish and Russian troops clashed over land on the former Eastern Front.
The role of the Politburo was formalised and was to operate with the Central Committee to formulate policy. Trotsky was made a member.
Russian Civil War
The Red Army had virtually defeated the White forces.
1919 (4th July)
Trotsky’s leadership of the Red Army was criticised at the Central Committee meeting. Stalin wanted Lenin to dismiss Trotsky.
1919 (5th July)
Leon Trotsky tendered his resignation but it was rejected by the Central Committee and the Politburo. However, he was sent to Southern Russia.
1919 (late July)
Trotsky returned to Moscow.
1920 (21st April)
The Polish leader, Jozef Pilsudski, formed an alliance with the Ukrainian leader, Symon Petlyura
1920 (7th May)
The Polish army took Kiev from the soviet army.
The Soviet Red Army launched a counter-offensive against the Poles and marched to the Polish border.
1920 (early August)
Soviet forces had reached the outskirts of Warsaw. Western European powers fearing a Communist takeover of Poland, sent a military force to help the Poles.
1920 (mid August)
The Red Army were forced to retreat from Poland and a peace treaty was signed at Riga.
1920 (19th July)
Second Congress of the Communist International
This was held in Petrograd and Lenin urged foreign Communists to seize power in their countries.
1920 (late August)
There was conflict between Stalin and Trotsky. Trotsky blamed Stalin for failures in his handling of the Russo-Polish war while Stalin blamed Trotsky for signing a peace with Poland.
Famine of 1921-22
There was widespread famine in Russia due to flooding, the effects of the Civil War and grain requisitioning.
1921 (2nd February)
Lenin announced his New Economic Policy (NEP).
1921 (23rd February)
Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary workers went on strike. They were angry at the continual decrees of Lenin’s government and the lack of freedom they had.
Stalin supported Lenin’s New Economic Policy.
1921 (late March)
The Tenth meeting of the Communist Party was held. Lenin announced an end to War Communism and introduced a New Economic Policy whereby peasants only had to give a portion of the produce to the government, the rest they could sell and pay tax on the income. Private trading was also to be allowed in a bid to to increase availability of goods. Trotsky disagreed with Lenin and believed that there should be no private trade and that workers should be allowed to join trade unions. Many of Trotsky’s supporters were relieved of their positions in the party.
Due to ill health, Lenin went to the Gorki Estate to rest and get well. While he was away from Moscow, Stalin worked to strengthen his position in the party and to ensure that Trotsky did not succeed Lenin.
Lenin created a new post, General Secretary and chose Joseph Stalin for the post. Although often critical of Stalin, leading members of the Politburo supported Stalin’s appointment since they presumed that the post would be insignificant.
1922 (25th May)
Lenin suffered a stroke while recovering from surgery to remove a bullet that had been lodged in his neck since a failed assassination attempt in 1918.
Lenin’s health began to recover.
Lenin began a part-time return to work. He asked Trotsky to become his deputy but Trotsky refused.
Lenin suffered a second stroke that left him paralysed on his right side. He withdrew from politics though he remained leader of the Communist Party. The effective leader of the party was Kamenev who took the Chair of the Politburo.
1922 (29th December)
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was created. It comprised the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, the Ukrainian Social Republic, the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic and the Transcaucasian Soviet Socialist Republic.
Lenin completed his Testament. A document that proposed changes to the structure of Communism and also gave his thoughts on his possible successors. Lenin indicated that he was uncomfortable with Joseph Stalin and suggested that he be replaced as General Secretary. The document was to be read out at the 12th Party Congress.
Lenin suffered a third stroke that left him totally paralysed and unable to speak.
1923 (after March)
Although Lenin remained the leader of the Communist Party he could take no part in the actual government of the country. There emerged a power struggle between the Right and Left of the party. Stalin formed an alliance with Zinoviev and Kamenev known as the Triumvirate which became the dominant faction. Trotsky strongly opposed the Triumvirate.
Lenin’s wife kept the Testament secret in the hope’s that Lenin would recover and be able to deliver it himself.
1923 (15th October)
Declaration of the Forty Six
This was a document written by forty-six left-wing communists who agreed with Trotsky’s politics, expressing their concern about the lack of democracy in the party.
1923 (8th December)
Stalin and his supporters accused Trotsky of factionalism rather than supporting the party.
1924 (21st January)
Vladimir Lenin died. Stalin took control of Lenin’s funeral arrangements.
1924 (23rd May)
Lenin’s wife handed over Lenin’s Testament for it to be read out at the 13th Party Congress. The document was critical of the main contenders for party leader but they were reluctant to suppress it so soon after Lenin’s death especially as Lenin’s widow was insistent that his wishes should be carried out. A compromise was reached where it was read out but largely ignored. Furthermore, Stalin’s supporters in the Triumvirate, Zinoviev and Kamenev stated that Stalin had changed and that Lenin’s comments were no longer relevant. Trotsky was defeated and Stalin accepted as new leader.
Stalin allied himself with Nikolai Bukharin
and removed Trotsky from government and also from his position as head of the Red Army. Stalin knew that Trotsky was his main rival and did not want him able to influence either policy making or the army. Indeed Stalin feared that Trotsky could use the army to remove Stalin and make himself head of the government.
Lev Kamenev and Zinoviev became closer to Trotsky and together they formed the United Opposition.
As a result of strikes and the unrest of the past few years there had been a shortfall in grain production. As a result the price of grain had risen alarmingly. The United Opposition argued for a change in policy but were defeated.
At the fifteenth Party Congress Kamenev called for a reconciliation between the factions. His plea was ignored. He, Zinoviev, Trotsky and many other Oppositionists were removed from the Communist Party.
Trotsky’s daughter from his first marriage, Nina, died from tuberculosis.
1928 (31st January)
Leon Trotsky was exiled to Kazakhstan.
Trotsky was found guilty of being a counter-revolutionary and was banished from the Soviet Union. He was given refuge in Turkey and settled near Istanbul. While in Turkey he published his “History of the Russian Revolution
1933 (5th January)
Trotsky’s daughter from his first marriage, Zinaida, committed suicide.
Leon Trotsky moved to France after the left wing government agreed to give refuge to those exiled from the Soviet Union. However, the move faced strong opposition from the French Communist Party when Trotsky tried to rally support to overthrow Stalin. Trotsky also tried to encourage German Communists to rise against Hitler and Fascism in Germany. As a result the German government put pressure on France to expel Trotsky.
Trotsky’s first wife, Aleksandra Sokolovskaya was arrested and exiled.
Trotsky’s son, Sergei was arrested and sentenced to five years exile in Siberia.
The Norwegian government agreed to allow Trotsky and his family st to move to Norway. While in Norway Trotsky wrote “The Revolution Betrayed”. In the book he criticised Stalin’s Soviet Union stating how it did not measure up to the ideals of the 1917 revolution.
1936 (25th March)
The head of the NKVD, Yagoda, put forward a measure to remove all Trotskyists to remote camps.
1936 (20th May)
The Politburo approved the measure to remove Trotskyists to remote camps.
1936 (19th June)
Yagoda sent a list of 82 Trotskyists which included Kamenev and Zinoviev to the Politburo.
1936 (25th August)
Zinoviev and Kamenev were executed.
1936 (26th August)
Leon Trotsky was placed under house arrest in Norway after refusing to agree to make no further political comments, either in writing or vocally and to have all his mail intercepted.
1936 (4th October)
The first ‘sentencing by lists’ saw 585 Trotskyists and Zinovievists whose names were on a list sentenced without a trial.
1936 (6th December)
Trotsky and his wife were offered refuge in Mexico.
1936 (19th December)
Trotsky left Norway bound for Mexico.
Trotsky’s son, Sergei died, probably murdered during the purge.
The Trial of the Seventeen was the second ‘show trial’ that dealt with those former allies of Trotsky including Radek, Piatakov and Sokolinokov. They were accused of plotting with foreign powers, sabotage and maintaining contact with the exiled Trotsky. Thirteen were executed the others were sent to gulags where they later died.
1937 (9th January)
Trotsky arrived in Mexico.
Stalin, concerned by the fact that the Red Army had been established by Trotsky and that many Generals had been appointed by Trotsky, purged the army. Eight Generals confessed to treason following torture and were executed. 34,000 soldiers were executed over the following eighteen months.
The Fourth International
This was set up by Trotsky and those that agreed with his ideals.
1938 (16th February)
Trotsky’s son Lev, died from complications following an appendicectomy.
The Trial of the Twenty-One was the third ‘show trial’ that accused rightists and Trotskyists of attempting to overthrow Socialism and complicity in the murder of Kirov. Among those accused were former head of the NKVD, Yagoda, Bukharin and Krestinsky. Bukharin was also charged with attempting to assassinate Lenin. They were found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. All those that had been close to Lenin during the years of Lenin’s Communism were now dead.
1938 (1st October)
Edited by Stalin himself ‘The Short Course of the History of the All-Union Communist Party’ was published. The book erased Trotsky from the Party history and also highlighted the contributions made by Stalin to the Communist Party.
1940 (20th August)
Leon Trotsky was stabbed with an ice pick in Mexico City, Mexico by Ramon Mercader, a Soviet agent. He survived the assassination and was taken to hospital.
1940 (21st August)
Leon Trotsky died from his injuries.