Lev Davidovich Bronshtein, later to be known as Leon Trotsky, was born in 1879 in the shtetl of Yanivka,
Kherson Gubernia, Ukraine. His father was a well-off farmer and landowner. Trotsky's early education began
in a heder, which he attended for a brief time. This was later followed by elementary school in
Odessa, and high school in Nikolaev, from which he graduated in 1896.
Trotsky had an interest in mathematics
that he began to pursue in Novorossiisk University, but which he then abandoned for politics. Trotsky's
stay in Odessa, a cosmopolitan port city, may have been where he was first exposed to ideas that later
formed the foundation of his philosophy on international revolution.
Trotsky began his political career by joining the
Social Democratic movement.
His organizing activities
among Russian workers (he was an organizer of the South Russian Workers Union) resulted in his 1898 arrest
and sentencing to prison and to Siberian exile
for a combined period of six years, though this sentence was shortened to four years when he escaped
from Siberia in 1902 and made his way to London (it was during this escape that he changed his name
to Trotsky). In London, Trotsky wrote for Iskra ("Spark"), the party paper of the Russian
Social Democratic Labour Party.
Trotsky re-entered Russia during the 1905 Revolution, only to be re-arrested in December of that year.
During this period, before his second arrest, he was elected chairman of the Saint Petersburg Soviet of
Workers Deputies. His second arrest resulted in lifetime Siberian exile; however, Trotsky escaped again.
He ultimately found his way to Vienna, where he lived from 1907 to 1917. During this Viennese exile,
Trotsky wrote articles for émigré journals and continued with his studies.
The 1917 Revolution again drew Trotsky back to Russia, where he joined the Bolsheviks and was elected
to the Central Committee.
He became the chairman of the military committe and became intimately
involved in the revolutionary actions in Petrograd during the October Revolution. Later, as part of
the first Soviet government, Trotsky served as commissar for foreign affairs, where he headed the
delegation to the Brest-Litovsk peace negotiations with the Germans.
After the Russian Civil War broke out, it was Trotsky who played a major role in the ultimate victory
of the Soviets. He founded the Red Army; became the commissar both of transportation and of war; and
was a member of the presidium of the Supreme Council of the National Economy.
Trotsky believed that the success of the Russian Revolution depended on successfully exporting revolution
to other countries.
Before the rise of Nazism, Trotsky believed that Jews could not survive as a nation and that they had
to be absorbed into some sort of universalism. He did not support Zionism. By the late 1930's, Trotsky
came to believe that there should, indeed, be territory set aside for the Jewish people – but not
After Lenin's death in 1924, Trotsky was involved in a power struggle with Stalin, which Trotsky
ultimately lost, resulting in his final and permanent exile. Because of Trotsky's continued anti-Stalin
efforts made while in exile, Stalin planned his murder. Before this murder was carried out, however,
Stalin created the Moscow Show Trials in 1936, which eliminated people who opposed Stalin. Trotsky
was murdered in Mexico in 1940.
To learn more about Leon Trotsky read
the following linked articles in:
Jewish Virtual Library