Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Trotsky in the night


trotski.jpgI’d almost forgotten he was there, in my home. Then came the global economic crisis with its visions of apocalypse, and he caught my eye again, this fiery orator, this ruthless revolutionary killer, the scourge of global capitalism.

His is the first face — hornrimmed glasses, goatee beard — guests might see as I usher them into my living room. My treasured, framed photograph of Lev Davidovich Trotsky
posing like some uneasy tourist, cap in hand, before a spreading palm tree in Sochi, commands pride of place. Not that I admire the man.

It was more the circumstances that delivered him to me.

I was working in Moscow, the Soviet Union was collapsing around me. The High and Mighty, Politburo members, so long distant, mysterious figures, were suddenly skittled from power and revealed in once undreamt-of meetings as the banalities most were. While the flesh was discredited, dusty old documents and photographs that had slept disregarded in secret Soviet archives took on a throbbing vitality as archive doors opened to me.

Yellowed paper, tragic, hand-annotated testimonies of men about to be slaughtered, the cruel scribbled jests of their executioners, came alive in my hands; then there was Lev Davidovich’s holiday snap, taken months before he was driven into exile and then bludgeoned to death with an ice axe by one of Stalin’s henchmen. Documents can have a strange power.