Leon Trotsky

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Leon Trotsky was born Lev Davidovich Bronstein (Russian: Лев Давидович Бронштейн) on 7 November 1879, in Yanovka, Kherson Province of the Russian Empire (today's Bobrynets Raion, Kirovohrad Oblast, Ukraine), a small village 15 miles (24 km) from the nearest post office. He was the fifth, and favorite child of a well-to-do farmer, David Leontyevich Bronstein (1847–1922) and Anna Bronstein (1850–1910). The family was Jewish, although it was not religious[citation needed] . The languages spoken in his home were Russian and Ukrainian instead of Yiddish[citation needed] . Trotsky's younger sister, Olga, married Lev Kamenev, a leading Bolshevik.

According to a notable pushkinist Alexander Latsis and his pupil Vladimir Kozarovetsky, Lev Trotsky might be a great-grandson of the greatest Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. Latsis studies suggested that Pushkin had an illegitimate son Leonty from Polish woman Angelica Dembinsky. The baby is alluded in many of Pushkin's poetry. In turn Leonty Dembinsky had an affair with his cousin. Their child was given for adoption to a Jewish family of Bronsteins and got the name David Lentyevich Bronstein, who was Leon's father.[6][7] The hypothesis was criticised by pushkinist Lazar Freydgeim who labelled it "fantasies on an empty place"[8]

When Trotsky was nine, his father sent him to Odessa to be educated and he was enrolled in an historically German school, which became Russified during his years in Odessa, consequent to the Imperial government's policy of Russification.[citation needed] As Isaac Deutscher points out in his biography of Trotsky, Odessa was then a bustling cosmopolitan port city, very unlike the typical Russian city of the time. This environment contributed to the development of the young man's international outlook.

Although it is stated in his autobiography My Life that he was never perfectly fluent in any language but Russian and Ukrainian, Raymond Molinier wrote that Trotsky spoke fluent French.[9]

Revolutionary activity and exile (1896–1902)

Trotsky became involved in revolutionary activities in 1896 after moving to Nikolayev (now Mykolaiv). At first a narodnik (revolutionary populist), he was introduced to Marxism later that year and was originally opposed to it. But during periods of exile and imprisonment he gradually became a Marxist. Instead of pursuing a mathematics degree, Trotsky helped organize the South Russian Workers' Union in Nikolayev in early 1897. Using the name 'Lvov',[10] he wrote and printed leaflets and proclamations, distributed revolutionary pamphlets and popularized socialist ideas among industrial workers and revolutionary students.

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