Ross School - Senior Project 2008-09

Student: Lucas Suarez-Orozco

Mentor: James Earle

Title:  Path of the USSR

Description:

For my Senior Project I wrote a series of letters as Leon Trotsky and a fictional character as if they were really communicating. These letters reference historical events that the fictional character brings to the attention of Trotsky during the latter’s exile.  I chose this particular project because of my interest and fascination with Communism. I have studied Stalin, but Trotsky and his writing were new to me. With this project my knowledge of the history of the U.S.S.R. expanded greatly.

Details:

Product Presentation – Leather Bound Book with copies of letters within

TIMELINE OF TROTSKY’S THIRD AND FINAL EXILE

DATE

WHERE

TROTSKY’S LIFE

EVENTS IN RUSSIA

1928

Moscow

~Trotzky, leader of the October Revolution and the founder of the Red Army, his common-law wife Natalya, and  his sons Lyova and Sergei are arrested by the GPU (the secret police).

~Trotsky was expelled from the Central Committee in 1927. In 1928 Stalin drives of his most powerful opponent Leon Trotsky into exile.

1928

Kazahkhatzan

~Trotsky, Natalya, and his oldest son Lyova are exiled to Kazahkhatzan.

~ This is the third exhile. In the past he had returned and has been able to exert great influence and power. This time, he will never return to Soviet Union.

 

1929

Prinkipo, Turkey

Trotzky, his wife, and son Lyova are deported to the island of Prinkipo.

~His other son Sergei remains in Moscow.

~His 26 year old daughter Nina dies of tuberculosis.

~With his opponent out of the USSR, Stalin greatly consolidates his power by 1929. 

1930

Prinkipo, Turkey

~Continued exile in Prinkipo

~Massive ‘collectivization’ of farming by 1930 the majority of peasants begin to work in collective farms.

1931

Prinkipo, Turkey

~Daughter Zina comes to Prinkipo with her son Seva

~Lyova goes to Western Europe to work with the European opposition to Stalin

~His sister Zina joins Lyova leaving her son with her grandparents; She seeks psychiatric help in Berlin

~Great fall in peasant farming between 1931 and 1932 millions and millions of Soviet citizens starve to death.

1931-32

Prinkipo, Turkey

~Trosky finds it hard to be so cut off from the world. 

~Main source of communication is his son Lyova. Political worries about the divisions between the Communist Party dominated by the Stalinists and Trotskists AND mounting fascist movement.

~Personal worries include Zina’s growing depression, and Lyova’s financial worries; and his concerns about his son and wife still in Russia.

~Massive failures in agricultural collectivization cause millions to starve in Ukraine

Excerpt of time-line used to set context of letters

Ukraine, July 25, 1932

Dear Comrade Trotsky,

I have seen some horrible things in my time but this is by

far the most horrific. I am in the Ukraine and I am watching

people fall left and right from starvation. Stalin has no concern

of who will die to consolidate his power. I do not know if you have

heard but he has cut off supplies to this part of the nation.

There are families who are having to make the horrific decision to

are let their sick children stare so that they can feed their

healthy children. The country is in a horrible state and I fear

for my life and the life of my family I do not know what to do.

Please advise me Trotsky—I need your help.

 At these times of despair, I long for your revolutionary

mindset but I fear there is no one has the strength to stand up

to Stalin’s agents. I know you always said the worst will bring

the best for the revolution but this is too much. While the

proletariat wants to stand up and fight no one has the courage

to stand up against Stalin’s rabid NKVD and his never ending

strive for power. 

Please comrade write to me as soon as you get this.

Your ally Sergi

Example of a letter contained within the journal

Final Letters

For my Senior Project I created an epistolary based on the time span between 1928-1940 of Leon Trotsky’s exile.  My senior project has many layers. I began this particular exploration as I have a long-standing interest in the Soviet Union. Since the 7th grade my interest in the Soviet Union has continued to strengthen.  From the Bolshevik Revolution to the fall of the Berlin Wall, my intrigue about communism and its leaders has shaped my historical and political interests.  As I began the project I knew less about Trotsky than about Stalin or Lenin and so I thought this would be a good opportunity to learn more about the other archetypes of the Bolshevik revolution. I thought it would be interesting to use imagined letters between Trotsky and a created character, Sergei Alekseev, in Stalin’s Russia as a way to explore Trotsky’s point of view by having him respond to a fellow soldier of the revolution.  This process also allowed me to input my own creative ideas into my project to be able to sculpt a man suffering in the turmoil times under Stalin.  This part of the project also allowed me to research the psychology of an exiled man, which represented another personal point of interest for me as my own father is a victim of exile under the fascist Argentine Government, after the fall of the Nazi empire. 

As I had expected, I learned a great deal about the Russian revolution, while conducting the background research. Throughout the project I had to create a series of timelines.  One focused on international events, while another highlighted only Russian events, and the other was dedicated to Trotsky’s life.  I then wove the events represented in these timelines together to create a single context for my letters.  This part of the process was quite difficult, as I had to match events with three different frames of references within the same chronology.  Accomplishing this task though was important as it the set both the mood and historical context for my letters.  The next challenge was to create the fictional character that Trotsky would correspond with.  I needed to create his historical profile, his family situation and most importantly his connection to Trotsky.  Yet at the same time, this part of the process intrigued me, as it allowed me to find my creative voice.  The intense loneliness of exile and the preoccupations of the ordinary man was a more surprising aspect of doing this project. The difficulty of attempting to capture Trotsky’s “voice” was by far and away the most humbling piece of doing the project.  Over the course of the time line outlined from 1928-1940, I created 18 correspondences between these men.  The letters chronicled the story of their personal lives, the political events that were shaping their lives, which ended with Trotsky’s assassination.  In the spirit of the Ross School, this senior project would not have seemed fully complete without a visual component. Finding the right album, paper, and fonts, and then assembling the project was a satisfying way to complete this intellectual journey. 

Works Consulted

Deutscher, Issac (2003) The Prophet Outcast: Trotsky 1929-1940. (London: Verso Publishers.) [Originally published in 1930.]

Fromm, Erich (1958). Trotsky’s Diary in Exile. http://www.marxists.org/archive/fromm/works/1935/trotsky.htm [Accessed December 28, 2008.]

Pollak, Lillian (2008). The Sweetest Dream: Love, Lies, & Assassination(Bloomington, IN; iUniverse Publishers.)

Trotsky Internet Archive http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/  [Accessed December 1, 2008.]

Trotsky.Net. The Moscow Trials. http://www.trotsky.net/trotsky_year/moscow_trials.html  [Accessed December 4, 2008.]

Trotsky Net. Not Guilty—The Dewey Commission Report-1937.  http://www.marxist.com/not-guilty-dewey-commission-1937.htm [Accessed December 21, 2008.]

Trotsky, Leon (2004). The Revolution Betrayed. (Mineloa, NY: Dover Publications) [Originally published in 1936.]

Trotsky, Leon (1935) Trotsky’s Diary in Exile-1935. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).

Trotsky, Leon (2007).  My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography. (Mineloa, NY: Dover Publications) [Originally published in 1930.]

Community Member (Details)

Lillian Pollack (Writer of The Sweetest Dream)