On August 20, in 1940, exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky was fatally stabbed by a pick of an ice axe in his skull.

On August 20, in 1940, exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky was fatally stabbed by a pick of an ice axe in his skull. The next day Leon Trotsky died. His assassin, Ramon Mercader, was a Spanish communist and a secret service agent of the Soviet Union.

Trotsky was the leading man in the 1917 Russian Revolution, the architect of the Red Army and a powerful war commissioner. After the death of Vladimir Lenin in 1924, a bitter fight for power broke out between Trotsky and Joseph Stalin. Eventually the majority of Bolshevik party members sided with Stalin, who became the Communist leader and exiled Trotsky first internally and then abroad in 1929. 

During the next 10 years Trotsky traveled through various countries of Europe. Being very cautious, he constantly changed homes while engaging in subversive activities. He emerged as a scathing critic of Soviet leadership and wrote many articles incriminating the new leader. He also established the Fourth International, an international communist organization which opposed capitalism and Stalin. All the time Trotsky was living in exile, the Soviet NKVD secret police kept a watchful eye on him. When he finally settled in Mexico, Stalin gave an order to kill his old enemy, declaring him a spy and a terrorist. 

After the first assassination attempt in May 1940 failed, Stalin handed over management of the operation to an experienced spy, Naum Eitingon (also known as Leonid Kotov), who recruited his Spanish contact Ramon Mercader for the job. While Eitingon taught him all the tricks in the art of espionage, NKVD members Pavel Sudoplatov and Lavrenty Beria devised an assassination plan titled “Duck,” which placed Mercader in the leading role.

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