This weekend is the anniversary of the Russian revolutionary's unwilling exile in Turkey. AA looks at the legacy of his presence in Istanbul.
By Handan Kazanci
By Handan Kazanci
A hunted figure lost in exile, under round-the-clock security and so jumpy that he once pulled a gun on his doctor – these are the remarkable years of Leon Trotsky, Russian revolutionary and fugitive who once lived in Istanbul.
More than 80 years ago this Saturday, one of the driving forces behind the Russian revolution came to Istanbul where he stayed for almost five years, living on one of the city’s islands and penning some of his most influential books.
February 12, 1929 was when the hero of the October revolution, 49 years old at the time, set foot in Istanbul travelling under the name “Leon Sedov.”
One of the leading names of the 1917 revolution that put an end to Tsardom in Russia, Trotsky was forced into exile after a power struggle for the Soviet leadership with Joseph Stalin after Vladimir Lenin’s death.
“He did not want to come to Turkey but he was forced to,” says Halim Bulutoglu, chief of the Adalar Foundation based in Buyukada, or Big Island.
Buyukada is located off the southern shore of Istanbul in the Marmara Sea where Trotsky’s family spent most of their time during their Turkish exile.
The communist leader, who was also founder of the Red Army, was the developer of the “permanent revolution” theory which aimed to create a worldwide socialist government.
When Lenin’s former right-hand man came to Istanbul, Trotsky and his family stayed at the Russian Consulate at first, says Bulutoglu.
Trotsky biographer Robert Service wrote in 2009 that the Turkish authorities led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of Republic of Turkey, set some strict conditions before granting Trotsky asylum.
“Moscow had to give an assurance that no attempt would be made to assassinate him on Turkish soil. They [Turkey] also made demands upon Trotsky himself. He had to refrain from interfering in local politics and publish nothing inside the country.”