Leon Trotsky Assassinated

Leon Trotsky's Deathbed
Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky dies in hospital in Mexico City. He had been attacked by NKVD agent Ramon Mercader with an ice axe, and died the next day. (Photo by Enrique Diaz/.Bilderwelt/Getty Images)

Leon Trotsky, a leader of the 1917 Russian Revolution, had been one of the possible successors to V. I. Lenin. When Joseph Stalin won the power struggle for Soviet leadership, Trotsky was exiled from the Soviet Union. Exile wasn't enough for Stalin, however, and he sent assassins to kill Trotsky. Trotsky was attacked on August 20, 1940, by an ice pick; he died a day later.

The Assassination of Leon Trotsky

Around 5:30 p.m. on August 20, 1940, Leon Trotsky was sitting at his desk in his study, helping Ramon Mercader (known to him as Frank Jackson) edit an article.

Mercader waited until Trotsky started to read the article, then snuck up behind Trotsky and slammed a mountaineering ice pick into Trotsky's skull.

Trotsky fought back and even remained standing long enough to say his murderer's name to those coming to his aid. When Trotsky's bodyguards found Mercader, they began beating him and only stopped when Trotsky himself said, "Don't kill him. He must talk!"

Trotsky was taken to a local hospital, where the doctors tried to save him by twice operating on his brain. Unfortunately, the damage was too severe. Trotsky died at the hospital on August 21, 1940, just over 25 hours after being attacked. Trotsky was 60 years old.

The Assassin

Mercader was handed over to the Mexican police and claimed his name was Jacques Mornard (his real identity wasn't discovered until 1953). Mercader was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 20 years in jail. He was released from jail in 1960.

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Rosenberg, Jennifer. "Leon Trotsky Assassinated." ThoughtCo, Apr. 7, 2017, thoughtco.com/leon-trotsky-assassinated-1779325. Rosenberg, Jennifer. (2017, April 7). Leon Trotsky Assassinated. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/leon-trotsky-assassinated-1779325 Rosenberg, Jennifer. "Leon Trotsky Assassinated." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/leon-trotsky-assassinated-1779325 (accessed December 14, 2017).