Leon Trotsky Museum [House and Murder Site]

The former Trotsky home in Mexico City, now a museum, remains much as it was on the day that the revolutionary was murdered.

In fact, the room where a man named Ramón Mercader smashed an ice axe into Trotsky’s skull remains exactly as it was at the moment it happened. Papers, books and other belongings sit in the exact positions that Trotsky left them.

The house is a living time capsule to the man that almost became ruler of the Soviet Union.

The History

Trotsky at his desk in 1918. Image Credit: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
After finishing second in the power struggle with Stalin, Trotsky’s days were clearly numbered. Old Joseph wasn’t particularly tolerant of competition, and in 1929 Trotsky was expelled from Russia and later condemned to death in absentia.

For the next 8 years, a tour of sympathetic European countries ensued as Trotsky and his wife, Natalia Sedova, sought exile in Turkey, France, and Norway.

Trotsky’s inability to curb his disdain for the Soviet Leader meant that the couple was under surveillance throughout.

Finally, in 1937 he found refuge a little further from home; Mexico City.

Upon arrival, Trotsky and his wife lived in Frida Kahlo’s Blue House, (which is now also a museum close by) until they moved a few streets northeast to the abode where he would be murdered.

Leon Trotsky Death

Trotsky at Hot Springs, Mexico. ca. May 1938. Image Credit: NARA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The 1st Attempt on his Life

Mexico was a strange choice for the Trotskys. Having an active communist movement at the time they moved there, it was clear he would face issues from the Stalinist supporters.

On 24 May 1940, a first failed attempt to murder Trotsky’s life was led by an NKVD agent named Iosif Grigulevich. Joined by a pro-Stalin Mexican painter named David Alfaro Siqueiros, the two men stormed the Trotsky home dressed as policemen.

Overpowering guards, they pulled out machine guns in the inner-courtyard and began firing indiscriminately at the house, (a tour of the museum reveals the many bullet holes caused by this altercation).

Trotsky and his family survived by hiding behind furniture, (although his grandson was wounded in the foot). An assistant and bodyguard fared worse however after being abducted by the attackers and subsequently murdered.

The fortress appearance of the house and its outer walls is a direct result of this attack, with the additions being built shortly afterward.

The Successful Assassination

The inner courtyard of the Trotsky residence and door to his study. Image Credit: Patrice Etienne [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
An attempt on Trotsky’s life just 3 months later was successful.

Catalan Ramón Mercader had gained the trust of the household under the pseudonym Jacson Mornard.

Traveling with a Canadian passport, he had infiltrated the inner-circle after becoming the lover of Trotsky’s personal secretary.

As such he could roam the house freely and had even become “friends” with Trotsky. On the day he carried out the murder, Trotsky had invited Mercader into his study to look over some papers.

As the famous communist read out the work, Mercader removed an alpine climbing axe from his coat and struck Trotsky in the back of the head.

However, although the axe made contact it was not enough to finish Trotsky there and then. The revolutionary spat in the face of the imposter and put up a fight, breaking Mercader’s hand in the process.

The commotion alerted Trotsky’s bodyguards who entered the room and nearly killed Mercader. The man escaped with his life only because Trotsky put a stop to them; he wanted answers from the would-be assassin.

Tragically, he never got to hear them. Trotsky was taken to hospital, underwent surgery for his wounds before dying a day later on the 21st August 1940.

Mercader wound up with a 20-year prison sentence in Mexico before receiving a hero’s welcome in the Soviet Union upon release in 1960. He would later die in Havana.

Where is the Leon Trotsky Museum?

  • Address: Av. Río Churubusco 410, Del Carmen, Coyoacán, 04100 Ciudad de México, Mexico
  • Opening Times: Tuesday – Sunday 10 am to 5 pm.
  • Price: Cost is $40 MEX (approx $2.19 USD).
  • Website: Museotrotsky.com

Inside the Trotsky Museum

Trotsky house
The study where Trotsky was fatally wounded. Image Credit: Thelmadatter [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
The museum is small and will not take you very long to get around. It consists of the house that Trotsky lived in, the courtyard and gardens as well as the outer fortress style walls with guard facilities.

Memorabilia and biographical notes are displayed in buildings off the patio. Trotsky’s Mexican exile is especially well documented with period photos and other artifacts.

You will also see the tomb engraved with a hammer and sickle that contains Trotsky’s ashes.

There is, of course, the room where the assassination took place; left eerily as it was on that fabled day in August 1940.

Good to know

Spanish and English guided tours are free and can be arranged upon arrival. The inner courtyard houses a pretty outdoor cafe where you can loiter over lunch.

Look out for the bullet holes in the bedroom from the first, failed assassination attempt.

If you’ve visited a strange or unusual destination that you think our readers will want to know about, we would love to hear from you.

Featured Image Credit: Rod Waddington [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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