Pros:The desk where Leon Trotsky slumped over, an ice pick buried in his head...
Cons:Some villain STOLE the ice pick a few years ago!
The Bottom Line: An unexpected perspective on communism, the brutality of Joseph Stalin, and the life in exile of one of Russia's major figures from the October 1917 Red Revolution.
Revolutions are always full of bigger than life characters, and revolutionary tales don't get much more intriguing than that of Leon Trotsky.
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The 20th century kicked off with a bang across much of the world as Communist revolutionaries rejected the excesses of capitalism, toppling governments with promises of utopian societies. In Russia, the czars fell in the revolution of October 1917 and Russia became the Soviet Union. One of the biggest figures in revolutionary Russia was Leon Trotsky --- creator of the Red Army and Lenin's heir apparent to become head of the Soviet state. Or so it seemed to everyone except Joseph Stalin.
Stalin began a campaign against Trotsky and when Lenin died in 1924, Stalin labeled Trotsky an "anti-revolutionary". Stalin succeeded in wresting control of the Soviet government from Trotsky and then succeeded in getting him expelled from the country.
A man without a nation, Trotsky roamed around Europe for a few years until Diego Rivera put the bug in President Lazaro Cardenas's ear to extend an offer of political asylum to Trotsky. Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo were both proud communist sympathizers, as were many of Mexico's literati of the time.
Trotsky in Mexico City...
Leon Trotsky accepted the offer of asylum in Mexico and Trotsky and his wife moved into the home of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in the quiet neighborhood of Coyoacan. Things seemed to go well for a while, but then Rivera and Trotsky had "differences". I put the word "differences" in quotes because that's the term that the Trotsky Museum's official guidebook uses. It's widely known that the "difference" between Rivera and Trotsky was that Trotsky liked schtupping Kahlo while Rivera didn't like Trotsky schtupping his wife. The "difference" meant Trotsky was getting his goateed little Red butt thrown out of the Blue House.
Trotsky built his new house a few blocks away from Rivera and Kahlo's home. Trotsky was, by then, fearful for his life. Not necessarily because he thought Rivera might show up with a machine gun, but because Stalin made it known that he would very much enjoy seeing someone bump off Trotsky.
Trotsky's house on the corner of Rio Churubsco and Viena is a veritable fortress with 10-foot high concrete walls topped by barbed wire with three armored guard towers and iron-barred gates into the property. Trotsky's bedroom had foot-thick concrete walls and 2-inch thick armor doors and windows that would be deadbolted closed at night.
Trotsky was becoming paranoid, but in his case, people really WERE out to get him!
One night in May 1940, one of Mexico's most famous artists, David Alfaro Siquieros, a communist activist and loyal Stalin supporter, burst into the property with a machine gun blazing. Trotsky was uninjured, but one bodyguard died in the attack.
A few months later, Stalin sent KGB agent Ramon Mercader to Mexico to assasinate Trotsky. Mercader assumed the name Jacques Mornard, and claimed to be a writer working on a magazine article about Trotsky's life. During his third meeting with Trotsky, "Mornard" waited until Trotsky bent over the manuscript at his desk, and then Mornard snuck up behind Trotsky, pulled an ice axe from under his jacket, and buried it as deeply into Trotsky's skull as he could drive it.
Trotsky's bodyguards rushed into the room and apprehended "Mornard" and rushed Trotsky to the hospital, but he was dead by the next day.
Touring the Trotsky Home and Museum...
I love this small, but utterly fascinating museum. It's a place that's filled with the history of communist revolution and the life of one of the 20th century's most fascinating figures. The museum part of the tour is small. Just a couple rooms full of historical items, including lots of pamphlets and memorabilia from the Russian Revolution. There's also the mug shot of David Alfaro Siquieros after he was arrested by Mexico City police for his botched assasination attempt and various newspaper headlines featuring Trotsky.
Most of the site is a tour of Trotsky's home. The property is well maintained and its appearance replicates the way it looked in 1940 when Trotsky was assasinated. You can see how the Trotsky family lived, and can enter Trotsky's bedroom and study. The study is where he was killed. Outside, you can stroll through Trotsky's garden and see his renowned rabbit hutches (supposedly, his life was saved during the machine gun attack because he'd been outside feeding the rabbits when the shots rang out). The centerpiece of the garden is a monument marking Trotsky's grave. The monument is a simply obelisk adorned with a hammer and sickle symbol and topped by a Soviet flag.
I've put a few of my snapshots of this museum online. They're available at: community.webshots.com/user/mrkstvns
The Leon Trotsky Museum is a fascinating small museum in the quiet Mexico City neighborhood of Coyoacan. It's an easy 5-block walk from the Coyoacan Metro station and the Frida Kahlo Museum is another 4-5 block walk from the Leon Trotsky Museum. Visiting the Leon Trotsky Museum is easy, affordable, and unexpectedly good. It only takes about an hour to see everything here, and it is time very well spent.
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