A hundred years after the Russian revolution, the Russians are claiming that a Jew was behind it — at least according to a new television drama.
An eight-episode series entitled “Trotsky” argues it was Jewish revolutionary Leon Trotsky — and not Vladimir Lenin — who masterminded the revolution that brought the communists to power. The film also blames Trotsky for the execution of the Russian royal family.
The upcoming televised drama will be screened on Russian TV in the beginning of November, in time for the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.
“You can say that Trotsky wrote the music, and Lenin sang to it. Trotsky made the revolution happen; Lenin only lead it,” said Alexander Kott, the Jewish co-director of the TV series.
“I hope the public view on Trotsky will change when the film comes out because no one remembers him. Everyone knows Lenin, but everyone forgot Trotsky,” said Kott.
Kott said that there are documents that prove Trotsky was more influential than Lenin.
“He signed all the orders,” Kott said. “I found out a lot for myself too. I didn’t know that Trotsky was in charge [before working on this series].”
The idea for the TV series came from Konstantin Ernst, the chief of Channel 1, Russia’s most popular TV network.
Although Trotsky masterminded the revolution, he could not serve as its public face because of his Jewish background, Kott said.
“The people wouldn’t have followed a Jewish leader,” said Kott. “For the factory workers, he was a stranger. So he did everything and then he stepped aside.”
He was a cannibal and a tyrant
The TV series presents Trotsky as a ruthless man who was responsible for the execution of the Russian Tsar, according to Kott.
Trotsky fought to reinstate the death penalty after it was abolished by Russia’s provisional government, which made it possible for the Bolsheviks to shoot the Tsar’s entire family including his children, according to Kott.
“He was a cannibal and a tyrant,” Kott said. “He was up to his elbows in blood. Under his orders, entire villages were burned down.”
An anti-Semitic production?
But most historians don’t accept the new theory that it was Trotsky who masterminded the Russian revolution.
“This is utter nonsense. It doesn’t fit in with any historical facts. I totally disagree,” said Gennady Estraikh, a New York University professor who specializes in Jewish history in Russia. “It smells like anti-Semitism, the claim that the Jews were responsible for the revolution rather than the Russians. It’s very strange.”
Joshua Rubenstein is an Associate of the Harvard University’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies who wrote a book about Trotsky. He also said that there is no question that the leader of the Bolsheviks was Lenin.
Trotsky only joined the Bolshevik party a month before the revolution, while Lenin was the leader of the Bolsheviks throughout, Rubenstein pointed out. The fact that Trotsky joined the Bolsheviks late is something that Stalin used against him during the power struggle that followed Lenin’s death, he added.
I wonder what their intention is by putting an explicitly Jewish figure like Trotsky at the center of the story
“I’m intrigued by the idea that the producers would put Trotsky in the center of the narrative and not Lenin. I wonder what their intention is by putting an explicitly Jewish figure like Trotsky at the center of the story,” Rubenstein said.
Rubenstein also said that Trotsky was not responsible for the execution of the Tsar.
“If they’re saying that Trotsky was behind the execution of the Tsar, that’s simply not true. Lenin and Sverdlov executed the Tsar,” he said. “If they’re saying it was Trotsky, then I really question their motives because this is a very sensitive point.”
As the leader of the Red Army, Trotsy was at the front and most likely was not even in Moscow when the decision to execute the Tsar’s family was made, according to Rubenstein.
“Trotsky always wanted to bring the Tsar to trial and serve as a prosecutor,” Rubenstein said. “The Tsar is an honored figure by the Russian Orthodox Church — to say that a Jew was behind his execution is a very incendiary accusation.”
Trotsky, the Jewish savior?
Although Trotsky had blood on his hands like the other revolutionaries, he also saved thousands of Jews from the pogroms during the Russian civil war when he was the leader of the Red Army, said Rubenstein.
“We believe that 150,000 Jews were killed and it was the Red Army that stopped it,” Rubenstein said. “Trotsky was absolutely opposed to any physical attacks on Jews.”
Whether the Russian television series about Trotsky is intentionally anti-Semitic, or is only trying to attract more interest from the public by presenting a new angle on a famous historical event, is something that remains to be seen. The Sreda Production company that made the series did not allow The Times of Israel access to the show before the premiere.
The director of the drama said he does not think his film is anti-Semitic. In fact, Kott said he would be happy if the series aired on Israeli television, too. He does not worry about an anti-Semitic reaction in Russia, he said.
“I tried to be objective,” he said. “In Russia, there is no anti-Semitism anymore. Half of the Jews immigrated and the anti-Semitism that existed in the Soviet times doesn’t exist at all now.”
The TV series “Trotsky” will premiere at the MIPCOM Festival in Cannes on October 17.