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Leon Trotsky 19381114 Terrorism and the Murders of Rasputin and Nicholas II

Leon Trotsky: Terrorism and the Murders of Rasputin and Nicholas II

November 14, 1938

[Writings of Leon Trotsky, Vol 11, 1938-1938, New York ²1974, p. 106 f.]

You ask what role I personally played in the assassination of Rasputin and the execution of Nicholas II. I doubt that this question, which already belongs to history, can interest the press; it deals with times that are long past.

As for the assassination of Rasputin, I had absolutely nothing to do with it. Rasputin was murdered on December 30, 1916. At that moment, I was on board the ship that was carrying my wife and me from Spain to the United States. This geographical separation alone proves that I had no hand in this matter.

But there are also serious political reasons. The Russian Marxists had nothing in common with individual terror; they were the organizers of the revolutionary mass movement. In fact, the assassination of Rasputin was carried out by elements around the imperial court. Direct participants in the assassination included the deputy to the Duma, the ultrareactionary monarchist Purishkevich, Prince Yusupov, who had ties with the czar's family, and other such persons; it seems that one of the Grand Dukes, Dimitri Pavlovich, took part directly in the assassination.

The purpose of the conspirators was to save the monarchy, by ridding it of a "bad counselor." Our purpose was to do away with the monarchy and all its counselors. We never busied ourselves with the adventures of individual assassinations, but rather with the task of preparing the revolution. As is known, the assassination of Rasputin did not save the monarchy; the revolution followed it only two months later.

The execution of the czar was an entirely different matter. Nicholas II had already been arrested by the Provisional Government; he was first held in Petrograd and then sent to Tobolsk. But Tobolsk is a small city with no industry and no proletariat, and it was not a sufficiently secure residence for the czar; the counterrevolutionaries could be expected to make an attempt to rescue him in order to put him at the head of the White Guards. The Soviet authorities transported the czar from Tobolsk to Ekaterinburg (in the Urals), an important industrial center. There it was possible to be certain that the czar's guard was adequate.

The imperial family lived in a private house and enjoyed certain liberties. There was a proposal to organize a public trial of the czar and czarina, but it never came to anything. Meanwhile, the development of the civil war decided otherwise.

The White Guards surrounded Ekaterinburg and from one moment to the next might have been able to descend upon the city. Their chief purpose was to liberate the imperial family. Under these conditions, the local Soviet decided to execute the czar and his family.

At this moment I personally was at another part of the front and, strange as it seems, I didn't hear about the execution for more than a week, if not even longer. Amid the turbulence of events, the fact of the execution didn't produce much of an impression upon me. I never bothered to find out "how" it had happened. I must add that special interest in the affairs of royalty or former royalty contains a certain measure of servile instincts. During the civil war, which was provoked exclusively by the Russian capitalists and rural landowners, with the collaboration of foreign imperialism, hundreds of thousands of people perished. If among them could be counted the members of the Romanov dynasty, it was impossible not to see that as a partial payment for all the crimes of the czarist monarchy. The Mexican people, who dealt harshly with Maximilian's imperial state, have a tradition in this respect that leaves nothing to be desired.