Today in History
30.8.1918: Assassination Attempt on Lenin
Yet the mood among the public was one of discontent. There was war in Europe, and the Germans appeared to be winning. A peace treaty between Germany and the Ukraine was signed on February 9th, 1918. The pressure on the Bolshevists was growing. One day later, the Russian delegation leader Leo Trotzky announced the official end of Russia’s involvement in the war and abruptly terminated peace negotiations.

The top German military leaders commanded a further advance. The new and unstable Russian government was forced to capitulate and accept the German demands. Although there was strong opposition within the party, Lenin agreed to the peace treaty between Russia and the German Empire, signed on March 3rd.

The Communists needed external peace in order to continue with their bloody revolution from within. The Tsar’s family were killed on July 17th, all members of the royal family executed in Yekaterinenburg.

Six weeks later, however, the revolution received a shock. Lenin, the leader of the Russian Communist Party, was getting into his car after speaking to a gathering of workers in a munitions factor. The chauffeur was about to start the car when three shots were fired at the leader of the revolution.

Two of the three bullets hit their intended target. One sunk into his left shoulder blade, the second directly into the shoulder. Lenin collapsed, the revolutionary police immediately took the supposed assassin, Fanya Kaplan, into custody.

The 30-year-old Ukrainian had lived as an underground anarchist since carrying out a failed attempt on the life of province governor. Initially sentenced to life in a work camp, she was pardoned after the February Revolution of 1917. And subsequently fired shots at Lenin.

The protocol from the secret police dated August 30th, 1918, 11:30 p.m. reads, "My name is Fanya Efimovna Kaplan. That is the name under which I was listed as a prisoner in the Akatua Gulag. I shot at Lenin today. I shot at him as a result of my own convictions. I fired several shots, but I don’t know how many. I will not give away any details about the weapon. I shot at Lenin because I see him as a traitor to the revolution and his continued existence will destroy the belief in socialism."

It is a cryptic statement that still raises doubts about Kaplan’s role in the attempt on Lenin’s life. Kaplan appears to be only a victim, although a voluntary one. The circumstantial evidence is too questionable, making the revolutionary appear to be a murderer as well.

There are, for example, no witnesses who saw Kaplan fire the shots. Moreover she had lost her vision in 1906. She had regained some ability to see six years later, but was extremely shortsighted and therefore not well suited as an assassin.

When the Tsar’s assassin, Yurowski, investigated the scene of the crime, he founds four cartridge cases. Eyewitnesses, however, refer to only three shots. Fanya Kaplan’s eagerness to admit her supposed guilt also arouses suspicion.

A medical file from 1922, when the bullet was finally removed from Lenin’s shoulder, seems to provide clear proof of her innocence. The cartridge could not have come from the Browning revolver in Kaplan’s handbag that the secret police had identified as the weapon used to commit the crime.

Another hard-to-dispel rumor has remained alive until today. According to this theory, the person who actually shot at Lenin on August 30th, 1918, was a man named Protopopov, head of a Tscheka unit and one of those disappointed by the revolution. He, too, is said to have been taken into custody at the crime scene and executed that same day. Kaplan, who was supposed to cover him, did not know this and "admits" her guilt.

The Tscheka, the secret police and the forerunners of the KGB did not take long in deciding Kaplan’s fate. She was shot to death in a garage by Pavel Malkow on September 4th. Her remains vanished without a trace in accordance with official orders.

When Stalin came to power, those with the last name Kaplan were in a terrible position. Answering the question "Related to the Kaplan?" could quickly bring one in mortal danger during Stalin’s reign of terror.

The events of August 30th 1918, provided a welcome excuse for the leaders of the Bolshevists to begin hunting down those who opposed them. It began the "Red Terror.” The victims were members of the Social Revolutionary Party, which had enjoyed considerably more success than the Communist Party in the elections.

Leo Trotzky wrote an account of the situation,
"Remarkably enough, the revolution was not stabilized by a short phase of peace, but by the threat arising from the assassination attempt."

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