The Leon Trotsky Museum in Mexico City is both a drab and stirring place, writes Jennifer Wilson in Public Books. The museum occupies the house where Trotsky lived in exile after organizing a failed coup against Stalin, and where he survived one assassination attempt (he didn’t survive the second). Filled with Trotsky’s massive library and remnants of his own writings, the museum is an “archive of anger,” according to Wilson. Read an excerpt from the piece below or the full text here.
Visitors to his museum presumably aren’t looking for an aesthetic experience, though. Trotsky’s home is first and foremost an archive of anger. Whereas Diego Rivera painted the walls of his city to celebrate the Mexican worker, Trotsky burrowed away in his study, writing a biography of his sworn enemy, Joseph Stalin, for more than 10 hours a day. His study is, unsurprisingly, full of books, though none as impressive as the 86-volume Brockhaus and Efron Russian encyclopedia; there’s also an Edison dictation machine, on whose synthetic wax cylinders he recorded his notes. Trotsky’s study is the key attraction of the Trotsky museum, for it was there that Trotsky finally met his end, killed with an ice ax by Ramón Mercader, a Spanish Communist and Stalinist agent who seduced Trotsky’s secretary, Sylvia Ageloff, in order to get closer to his target. This was the second assassination attempt on Trotsky at his home. Just a few months earlier, in May 1940, Stalinist agents disguised as police officers burst past Trotsky’s guards and fired machine guns from the outside courtyard into the house. You can still see the bullet holes in the front door today. In that same courtyard, there is a large stone stela with a hammer and sickle carved into it, marking the spot in the ground where Trotsky’s ashes are interred.