Esteban Volkov (1926-2023)



Considerations on the life of Leon Trotsky's recently deceased grandson.

On June 16, Esteban Volkov died in Mexico City, aged 96. He was one of the last survivors of the tragic odyssey that struck Leon Trotsky and, mercilessly, all of his family.

The government led by Stalin could not only destroy the institutions of the regime erected by the October Revolution, and subvert the political tradition of Bolshevism ideas: it needed to physically eliminate the leaders who, alongside Lenin, had assumed a central role in the Republic. of the Soviets. The repressive fury did not spare even the families. This criminal insanity obeyed a method. The sinister calculus was that all those who had the political ability, moral authority and personal courage and could eventually defy Stalin had to die. And their relatives, heirs of the names of the condemned leaders, could not be spared.

Of the Central Committee elected at the VI Congress of 1917, ten of its 21 members had their deaths provoked by Stalinist repression: Zinoviev – shot in 1936 in the 1st Process of Moscow; Kamenev – Shot in 1936 in the framework of the 1st Moscow Trial; Milyutin – Shot in 1937 at the 3rd Moscow trial; Rikov – Shot in 1937 at the 3rd Moscow trial; Bubnov – Shot in 1937 accused of espionage; Bukharin – Shot in 1938 at the 3rd Moscow trial; Sokolnikov – Arrested in 1939 and murdered under state custody; Krestinski – Shot in 1938 at the 3rd Moscow trial; Joffé (alternate) – Committed suicide in 1927 in protest against the bureaucratization of the party. And the most feared of all: Trotsky – Assassinated in Mexico in 1940 by an infiltrated Stalinist provocateur.

Born in Yalta, Ukraine, in 1926, with the name Vsevolod Platonovich Volkov, Sieva to the family, Esteban transformed the house in the Coyoacán neighborhood, where his grandfather was murdered, into the Leon Trotsky Museum and tirelessly contributed to the defense of your memory.

His own life was an inseparable saga of the Stalinist persecution that relentlessly affected his family. Son of Platon Ivanovich Volkov, left-wing opposition militant, and Zinaida Volkova Bronstein, daughter of Leon Trotsky's first marriage to Aleksandra Sokolovskaya during the first exile/prison in Siberia, Zina for the family, Esteban was orphaned in childhood.

Her father Platon Ivanovich Volkov was arrested in 1928, exiled to Siberia, released and after further arrests was murdered in 1936. Zinaida was allowed to leave the Soviet Union with her son, then only five years old, but had to leave behind her daughter from her first marriage, to visit her father on Prince's Island (Prinkipo) opposite Istanbul in Turkey in 1931. Trotsky, her daughter and grandson lost their Soviet citizenship in 1932. Prevented from returning to Moscow and reuniting with her daughter, Zinaida he decided to go to Berlin, where his half-brother Leon Sedov lived, and deal with depression and tuberculosis. In January 1933, in intense agony, she ended her own life with kitchen gas.

Sieva came under the protection of Leon Sedov and, with Hitler's rise to power imminent a few weeks later, they fled in time. Through Leon Trotsky's contacts who were related to Wilhelm Reich, Sieva went to a Montessori college in Vienna. But as the Nazi danger threatened Austria, she went to join her uncle in Paris. However, in 1938, Leon Sedov lost his life after a suspected appendicitis operation, poisoned by Stalinist agents.

The siege against all of Trotsky's family members tightened. Grandmother Aleksandra, leader of the left-wing opposition in Leningrad, was imprisoned in the Kolyma labor camp, and disappeared in 1937, as did Alexandra Volkov, Sieva's sister.

In 1939, Alfred Rosmer and his wife, Marguerite Thevenet, accompanied Sieva, then aged 13, on the trip to Mexico to reunite with Trotsky. In May 1940 he was wounded during a machine-gun attack led by Siqueiros against Trotsky. Finally, in August 1940, he was returning from school when his grandfather was murdered by Ramon Mercader.

For the next eighty years he devoted his best efforts to defending the honor and memory of Leon Trotsky. Esteban Volkov was never a member of the Fourth International. But it was the Museum's soul that preserves a legacy of struggle when, in the words of Victor Serge: “it was midnight in the century”. Esteban was a witness and protagonist of this fight that remains the highest cause of the time we have lived.

He will be remembered by those who knew him. And those who will come after us to continue the good fight.

*Valério Arcary is a retired professor at IFSP. Author, among other books, of No one said it would be Easy (boitempo).

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