18 Times In History That A Scapegoat was Blamed And People Fell For It

Leon Trotsky in 1929. German Federal Archives/Wikimedia Commons.

2. Leon Trotsky was blamed for a host of problems in post-revolution Russia in the wake of Stalin’s rise of power and was eventually assassinated for them

Leon Trotsky (b. Lev Davidovich Bronstein, November 7, 1879 – August 21, 1940) was a Russian politician and revolutionary. Originally a leading figure of the Menshevik political faction within the Russia Social Democratic Labour Party, Trotsky defected to the Bolsheviks just prior to the Russian Revolution and supported Lenin’s call for an armed uprising to remove the Provisional Government from power on November 7, 1917. Becoming one of the seven original members of the Politburo upon its creation in 1917, Trotsky served as one of the most senior figures of the early Soviet Union, first as the People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs and secondly as the founding commander of the Red Army; in his capacity as the former Trotsky was responsible for the Treaty of Brest-Litvosk, whilst in the latter Trotsky was instrumental in securing a Bolshevik victory during the Russian Civil War (1918-1922) and the survival of the communist dictatorship in Russia.

With Lenin’s health deteriorating, suffering his third stroke in March 1923, Trotsky sought to lead the ultimately unsuccessful “Left Opposition” to Joseph Stalin’s increasing control over the political apparatus of the USSR; after years of infighting in the wake of Lenin’s death in 1924, Stalin finally garnered sufficient support within the Politburo to oust Trotsky. Removed from the Central Committee in October 1927, Trotsky, along with his supporters, was subsequently expelled from the Communist Party itself on November 12; exiled to Alama Ata, Kazakhstan, on January 31, 1928, Trotsky was formally deported from the Soviet Union in February 1929 and went into exile. During this time Trotsky sought to oppose Stalin’s reign of terror from abroad, before being murdered by an NKVD operative in Mexico City on August 21, 1940; Stalin subsequently awarded the assassin the Order of Lenin for his service.

In the wake of his death, positive portrayals of Trotsky were erased from Russian history and the once loved revolutionary was demonized as a capitalist stooge and counter-revolutionary. Despite being responsible for certain ills, most notably the implementation of War Communism and the extremes of harm caused by the radical policy, Trotsky was blamed for anything and everything wrong with the Russian state by the Stalinist faction. Any Trotskyists remaining in Russia after his exile were ultimately executed during the Great Purges of 1936-1938, blamed along with their leader as responsible for the many missteps and woes in the communist nation.