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Communist Leon Trotsky helped ignite the Russian Revolution of 1917, and built the Red Army afterward. He was exiled and later assassinated by Soviet agents.
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Born Lev Davidovich Bronshtein on November 7, 1879, Leon Trotsky's revolutionary activity as a young man spurred his first of several ordered exiles to Siberia. He waged Russia's 1917 revolution alongside Vladimir Lenin. As commissar of war in the new Soviet government, he helped defeat forces opposed to Bolshevik control. As the Soviet government developed, he engaged in a power struggle against Joseph Stalin,
"The end may justify the means, as long as there is something that justifies the end."
"Learning carries within itself certain dangers because out of necessity one has to learn from one's enemies."
"Ideas that enter the mind under fire remain there securely and forever."
which he lost, leading to his exile again and, eventually, his murder.
Leon Trotsky was born Lev Davidovich Bronstein in Yanovka, Ukraine—in the Russian Empire—on Dec 7, 1879. His parents, David and Anna Bronstein, were prosperous Jewish farmers. When he was 8 years old, Trotksy went to school in Odessa, then moved in 1896 to Nikolayev, Ukraine, for his final year in school. While there, he became enthralled with Marxism.
In 1897, Trotsky helped found the South Russian Workers' Union. He was arrested within a year and spent two years in prison before being tried, convicted and sent to Siberia for a four-year sentence. While in prison, he met and married Alexandra Lvovna, a co- revolutionary who had also been sentenced to Siberia. While there, they had two daughters.
In 1902, after serving only two years of his sentence, Leon Trotsky escaped exile, abandoning his wife and daughters. On forged papers, he changed his name to Leon Trotsky, a moniker he would use the rest of his life. He managed to make his way to London, England, where he joined the Socialist Democratic Party and met Vladimir Lenin. In 1903, Leon Trotsky married his second wife, Natalia Ivanovna. The couple had two sons.
During the early years of the Social Democratic Party, there were often disputes among the party's leadership over its form and strategy. Vladimir Lenin argued for a small party of professional revolutionaries who would lead a large contingent of non-party supporters. Julius Martov advocated for a larger, more democratic organization of supporters. Leon Trotsky tried to reconcile the two factions, resulting in numerous clashes with both groups' leaders. Many of the Social Democrats, including the ambitious Joseph Stalin, sided with Lenin. Trotsky's neutrality was seen as disloyal.
On January 22, 1905, unarmed demonstrators marching against the Russian Tsar were killed by the Imperial Guard. When word reached Leon Trotsky, he returned to Russia to support the uprisings. By the end of 1905, he had become a leader of the movement. In December, the rebellion was crushed, and Trotsky was arrested and once again sent to Siberia. At his trial, he put on a spirited defense and increased his popularity among the party's elite. In January 1907, Trotsky escaped prison and traveled to Europe, where he spent 10 years in exile in various cities, including Vienna, Zurich, Paris and New York, spending much of the time writing for Russian revolutionary journals, including Pravda, and advocating an anti-war policy.
After the overthrow of Russian Tsar Nicholas II, in February 1917, Trotsky set out for Russia from New York.
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