Lenin: An Assassination Delayed?

Late in the afternoon of 30 August 1918, having addressed workers at the Hammer and Sickle factory in Moscow, Lenin was stepping into his car when three shots were fired, one bullet tore through the sleeve of his overcoat, another struck him in the collarbone, and a third lodged in his throat.

In the furore that followed, and as Lenin was taken back to the Kremlin in haste, a young woman, 28 year old Feiga ‘Fanni’ Kaplan was arrested at the scene.

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Despite the severity of his injuries which were considered life threatening, Lenin, fearing further attempts on his life, refused to leave the safety of the Kremlin to attend hospital and his denial of proper treatment of his wounds was to impact greatly on his future health.

In the meantime, Fanni , bound, dragged by the hair, and roughly handled was taken off to prison for interrogation.
Fanni Kaplan, was born Feiga Haimovna Royblat in the Ukraine to a large Jewish family and had been a committed Socialist Revolutionary since childhood.

In 1906, at the age of just sixteen she had been implicated in a plot to murder a Government Official and sentenced to life in prison.

She refused to be cowed by her predicament however, and was often brutally treated during her confinement being regularly stripped naked and whipped.

Indeed, so severe were the beatings she endured that she temporarily lost her sight and only ever regained partial vision, which even then would come and go.

She was released from prison on 3 March 1917, following the Revolution and the overthrow of the Tsar.

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The backdrop to the attempt to assassinate the Bolshevik leader Lenin had occurred the previous November when nationwide elections to a new Constituent Assembly had resulted in an overwhelming victory for the Socialist Revolutionaries who had polled 58% of the vote and had acquired 370 Deputies to the Bolsheviks 175.

Lenin, who had earlier vowed to abide by the results of the election now refused to relinquish power.

Fanni , believed him to be a reactionary, just another Tsar in waiting, and to have betrayed the workers he claimed to represent.

She now resolved, along with others who remain largely unknown, to murder him.

But could the nearly blind Fanni who had to use a stick to guide her so accurately have fired three shots into the heavily guarded Lenin whilst being jostled by the crowd surrounding him?

Many think not and it has been suggested that the real culprit was Lydia Kopaleva, a woman Fanni had formed a close relationship with in prison and had since fallen in love with.

Under interrogation Fanni confessed to the crime and refused to provide details or implicate others:

“My name is Fanni Kaplan. Today, I shot Lenin. I did it on my own. I will not say from whom I received my revolver. I will give no details. I had resolved to kill Lenin long ago. I consider him a traitor to the Revolution”.

Frustrated in their attempts to uncover a conspiracy on 3 September Fanni’s guards dragged her into the courtyard of her place of incarceration and shot her once in the back of the head.

The day after Fanni’s execution Lenin ordered the clampdown on all dissent to Bolshevik rule that was to become known as the “Red Terror”, and over the next few weeks 800 leading Socialist Revolutionaries were rounded up and executed.

As Russia descended into Civil War the killings escalated and the Head of the Soviet Secret Police, the Cheka, Felix Dzerzhinsky, was to declare the Revolution to be organised terror:

“We exist to terrorise, arrest, and exterminate the enemies of the revolution on the basis of their class affiliation or pre-revolutionary roles”.

Within three years of Fanni Kaplan’s own execution more than a million Russians had been killed by their fellow countrymen.

On 21 January 1924, Vladimir Lenin died following a series of strokes, aged just 53.

It was said that he never fully recovered from the wounds he had received six years earlier.

So it was perhaps just an assassination delayed, but by the time of his death the Bolshevik Revolution and their grip on power had been secured.

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