Lev Davidovič Trockij / International Left Opposition Archives

Biographical / Historical Note

Lev Trotsky (Троцкий Лев Давидович): true name: Lev Davidovič Bronštejn (Бронштейн Лев Давидович); born in Janovka, Cherson province, Ukraine, Russia 1879; murdered in Mexico City, Mexico 1940; revolutionary Marxist and theoretician, Bolshevik leader, Soviet official and main rival of Stalin; played an important role in the 1905 Revolution; lived abroad until 1917; returned to Russia after the February Revolution and joined the Bolsheviks; led the peace negotiation team in Brest-Litovsk; served as Commissar of War and reorganized the Red Army; got into conflict with Stalin (Сталин Иосиф Виссарионович) after Lenin's (Ленин Владимир Ильич) death in 1924; deprived of his functions in 1927 and expelled from the Communist Party; exiled in 1929 he lived in Turkey, France, Norway and Mexico. International Left Opposition (ILO) (Международная левая оппозиция, МЛО): origin of the Trotskyist movement can be traced to the Left Opposition within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Коммунистическая партия Советского Союза) 1923-1927; forbidden in 1927; from 1929 the centre of the opposition moved from Russia to Western Europe; the International Secretariat (IS) of the ILO was founded in Paris 1930; in 1933 the ILO changed its name into International Communist League (ICL); in 1938 the Fourth International was founded in Paris.

Custodial History

On December 28, 1935 the IISH bought from Lev Trotsky about 800 documents 1917-1922. The collection was called by Trotsky the Lenin-Trotsky correspondence (Perepiska Lenina s Trockim), although quite a few communications are to and from others. In 1936 negotiations were carried on between IISH and Trotsky/Lev Sedov on other parts of Trotsky's archive. Some parts were already transported to the Paris branch of the IISH, when in the night of 6/7 November 1936 the Paris branch was broken into with the express object of taking possession of Trotsky's archives.

Trotsky then decided to take his archives with him to America. In the summer of 1940 he transferred them to the Harvard College Library. The Boris I. Nicolaevsky Collection, bought in 1963 by the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University, was found to contain papers of Trotsky and Sedov too (9 meters).

However, a part of his papers remained behind in Europe. The IISH annual report of 1939 states the acquisition of a collection from Abel, "Abel" being the code word to avoid the name Trotsky(Repeatedly Trotsky referred to Stalin as Cain). It was probably in July 1939 that part of Trotsky's personal archive (manuscripts and correspondence 1929-1937) was acquired, together with papers from Natalija Sedova(including letters from Sedov 1931-1933), from Sedov(including letters from his father 1935-1937) and records of the International Secretariat of the ILO/ICL (1930-1934), or SIBL (Secrétariat international des Bolcheviques-Léninistes) as the collection was called previously. Together with the Trotsky papers and the ILO papers a third group of documents was acquired: records of the Ligue Communiste de France and of the Parti Ouvrier Internationaliste(POI)/ Parti Communiste Internationaliste(PCI), tendance Molinier-Frank, including many papers of Raymond Molinier(1904-). The records of the Ligue-POI/PCI are not listed in the Trotsky/ILO inventory, although documents are related. One should be aware that Raymond Molinier and Pierre Frank(1906-1984), among others, held several positions in the ILO, as well as in the French Opposition. Letters from Lev Trotsky are also to be found in the Ligue Communiste de France archive.


The first part of the papers were bought by the IISH from Lev Trotsky (Abel) in 1935 and 1939; see Annual Report IISH 1936, p.12 and 1939 , p. 60.


Classifying the Trotsky and ILO papers it seemed rather self-evident to maintain within the ILO sub-group the country files. One gets the impression that in the ILO office the communications with the sections were filed per country. Dealing with all the correspondence outside the country files was less self-evident. It was decided to describe them per item ("general correspondence"). This has after all the advantage of being able to mention of each letter not only the exact date, but also whether the letter is a manuscript one, a typescript one, or a carbon copy. When a document is a telegram it is mentioned; when a postal card, or a picture postcard no such mention is made; enclosures are not mentioned.

About half of the general correspondence consists of carbon copies (or, in a few cases, manuscript copies). Many are without sender, some without addressee. If possible, senders/addressees are solved. If not for certain: [ ] and "probably" are used. Both indications are interchangeably used for different degrees of uncertainty. For reasons of easy reference of the general correspondence we have not separated the originals and the copies, but listed them together.

Not only in the general correspondence, but also in other parts of the archive the letters/carbon copies from Trotsky are listed with year, month and day. Please note that outside the general correspondence it is not mentioned whether a letter is an original or a copy. More often than not the letters from the IS and its office workers are copies, the letters from the sections and its workers not.

Pseudonyms are solved, when known, except in instances where a person is generally known by his/her pseudonym. Please note, that quite a few documents are in Russian. In the inventory the international transcription has been used. An exception has been made for "Trotsky", instead of "Trockij". Originally the collection contained a higher amount of printed documents, but they have been incorporated in the IISH library. A small amount of photographs are now in the IISH Audiovisual Department. In the inventory the term "cover" is used for 5-13 items, cover for more than 13 items. The collection measures five meters. The card index system of the collection measures one meter.


Trotsky Papers (mainly carbon copies): correspondence between Lev Trotsky (Троцкий Лев Давидович) and Natalija Sedova (Седова Наталья Ивановна) and Lev Sedov (Седов Лев Львович) 1931-1937; with and between various Trotskyists in Europe, including Eugen Bauer, Jeanne Martin, Raymond Molinier, Alexandra Pfemfert, Lev Sedov (Седов Лев Львович); letters from several correspondents in the Soviet Union 1931-1935; correspondence relating to the stay of V.P. Volkov (Волков В.П.) in Austria and Paris 1933-1936; manuscripts of books and articles by Lev Trotsky, including `Istorija Russkoj Revolucii' (История Русской революции) and `Moja Žizn' (Моя жизнь); correspondence relating to the publishing of Trotsky's books 1929-1933; correspondence between Lenin and Trotsky published as `The Trotsky Papers 1917-1922'. ILO/ICL, International Secretariat: documents on the International Preconference of the ILO (Международная левая оппозиция, МЛО) 1933; documents on the plena of the IS 1933, [1936?]; minutes of meetings of the IS 1931-1934; correspondence, circulars and other documents of the IS 1930-1934, with a file on the discussion about a new party in Germany; correspondence, mainly with IS, circular letters, resolutions, reports, leaflets and other documents of the national sections and adhering groups in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Norway, Poland, Rumania, Spain, Switzerland, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Indochina, Japan, Mexico, South Africa and the USA; files on the European Antifascist Congress 1933, the International Conference of Left Socialist and Communist organizations 1933, etc. Papers of Emmanuel Loubier: documents 1930-1935.

Correspondence of Trotsky with Hugo Sonnenschein (pseudonym: Sonka) 1929-1939.

Processing Information

Inventory made by Hermien van Veen in 1990. Important contributions to the description of the documents have been made by Karel Hoskens and Emile Schwidder.

Alternative Form of Material

Complete papers digitized as a part of the Centrale Project 2012-2016.

45 security microfilms (1991).

Partly published in: The Trotsky Papers 1917-1922. Annotated by Jan M. Meijer. Vol. 1. 1917-1919. Vol. 2. 1920-1922. The Hague, 1964-1971.

Related Material

Papers of Lev Trotsky are also held at the Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. and at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, USA.