Leon Trotsky

My Daughter’s Suicide

Open Letter On Stalin’s Role in the Death of Zinaida Volkov

(January 1933)

Written: 11 January 1933.
Source: The Militant, Vol. VI No. 6, 11 February 1933, p. 2.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2015. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.


I deem it necessary to inform you how and why my daughter committed suicide.

At the close of 1930, upon my request, you authorized my tubercular daughter, Zinaida Volkov, to come to Turkey temporarily with he five year old son Wesewolod, for treatment. I did not suppose that behind this liberalism of Stalin lurked a mental reservation. My daughter arrived here in January 1931 with a pneumothorax in both lungs. After a ten months sojourn in Turkey we finally obtained – despite the constant resistance of the Soviet foreign representatives permission for her to go to Germany for treatment. The child remained temporarily with us in Turkey so as not to burden the invalid. After some time the German physicians thought it possible to remove the pneumothorax. The invalid began to recover and dreamed only of returning with her child to Russia where her daughter and her husband, who is a Bolshevik-Leninist held in exile by Stalin, remained.

On the twentieth of February 1932 you published a decree by which not only my wife, my son and I, but also my daughter Zinaide Volkov, was deprived of Soviet citizenship. In the foreign land where you gave her permission to go with a Soviet passport my daughter occupied herself only with her treatment. She did not, and because of her health, could not take any part in political life. She avoided anything that might throw the shade of a “suspicion” upon her. Depriving her of her citizenship was only a wretched and stupid act of vengeance against me. For her, this act of personal vengeance meant a break with her little daughter, her husband, her finance and all her customary life. Her mental condition, already disturbed without that by the death of her younger sister, by her own illness, received a fresh blow all the more atrocious as it was quite surprising and not provoked in any way by her. The psychiatrists unanimously declared that only a return to her normal environment, with her family, and her work could save her. But your decree of the twentieth of February of 1932 removed precisely this possibility of saving her. All other attempts, as you know, have remained in vain.

German physicians insisted that at least her son be brought to her as quickly as possible; in that they still saw the chance of restoring the moral equilibrium of the mother. But as the six-yead old child was equally deprived of Soviet citizenship the difficulties of his departure from Constantinople to Berlin were multiplied. A half year passed in constant but fruitless efforts in several European countries. Only my unforseen trip to Copenhagen gave us the opportunity to bring the child to Europe. With the greatest difficulty he made the trip to Berlin in six weeks. He was hardly near his mother for a week when Gen. Schleicher’s police in collusion with the Stalinist agents decided to expel my daughter from Berlin. Where? To Turkey? To the Island of Prinkipo? But the child needed to attend school and my daughter needed continuous medical attention under conditions of family life bear this new blow. On the fifth of January she asphyxiated herself with gas. She was thirty years old.

In 1928 my younger daughter Nina, whose husband has been locked up in solitary prison by Stalin for five years, was bedridden and then taken to the hospital for a short time after my exile to Alma Ata. They found her with galloping consumption. A purely personal letter, without the least relation to politics, which was addressed to me, was held up by you for seventy days so that my answer did not find her alive. She died at the age of 26.

During my stay in Copenhagen, where my wife began a treatment for a serious illness and where I prepared myself to begin a treatment, Stalin, through Tass agency, issued the lying denunciation to the European police that a “Trotskyist conference” was meeting in Copenhagen! That was enough to have the Danish social-democratic government do Stalin the favor of expelling me with feverish haste, interrupting the necessary treatments for my wife. But in this case, as in many others, Stalin’s unity with the capitalist police at least had a political aim. The persecution of my daughter was devoid of even a shade of political sense. Depriving her of Soviet citizenship – a loss of her only hope to return to a normal environment and to recovery – finally her expulsion from Berlin (a service indisputably rendered to Stalin by the German police), are acts without a political aim for miserable and stupid revenge and nothing else. My daughter was pretty clear about her position. She understood that she could receive no safety at the hands of the European police, persecuting her at the request of Stalin. Conscious of that, her death followed on the fifth of January. Such a death is called “voluntary”. No, it was not voluntary. Stalin imposed this death upon her. I limit myself to this information without drawing conclusions. The time will come for this subject. The regenerated party will do it.

Prinkipo, January 11, 1933

Leon Trotsky

return return return return return

Last updated on: 12 April 2015