Lev Sedov

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Lev Lvovich Sedov (Russian: Лев Львович Седов, also known as Leon Sedov; 24 February 1906 – 16 February 1938) was the first son of the Russian Communist leader Leon Trotsky and his second wife Natalia Sedova. He was born when his father was in prison facing life imprisonment for having participated in the Revolution of 1905.


He lived separately from his parents after the October Revolution in order not to be seen as privileged. He married in 1925 at the age of 19, and had a son, Lev, the following year. Sedov supported his father in the struggle against Joseph Stalin and became a leader of the Trotskyist movement in his own right.

Exile in Turkey and Germany[edit]

He accompanied his parents into exile in 1929, and then in 1931 he moved to Berlin to study. Alexandra Ramm-Pfemfert and her husband Franz Pfemfert arranged his visa and ensured that he saw an eye-specialist to treat an eye disease from which he was suffering.[1] Carl Sternheim, a friend of the Pfemferts, met him during this period and described him as an extremely nice looking young man with light brown hair and blue eyes but who chain smokes and vividly explains that he goes through fifty of them every day".[1] During this period Sedov spoke little German but was fluent in French.[1]

Exile in Paris[edit]

Just before Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, Sedov was able to move to Paris[2] where he went to work as a Parisian laborer and became an important activist in the Trotskyist movement. He was frequently followed by agents of the Soviet NKVD.[3] Between 1935 and 1938, while in Paris, Sedov and his partner, Jeanne Martin, also took in and cared for his young nephew, Vsevolod Volkov, called "Sieva" by the family (and who later, in Mexico, took the name Esteban Volkov), the son of Sedov's late half-sister, Zina.[3]


The grave of Lev "Léon" Sedov in the Cimetière de Thiais

After an acute attack of appendicitis in February 1938, Mark Zborowski, an NKVD agent who had posed as Sedov’s comrade and friend, arranged to take him to a private clinic instead of a Paris hospital. At the same time, Zborowski notified the NKVD that Sedov had been transported under an assumed name to the Clinique Mirabeau,[4][5] which was itself, operated by a White Russian with connections to Soviet intelligence,[6] who performed an appendectomy. Complications set in after the operation, but Sedov apparently received no further treatment. He was later taken to a Paris hospital, where he died.[7]

The historians who have analyzed the matter believe Sedov was murdered by agents of Stalin who were in Paris watching him, either while in hospital or by poisoning him, causing his condition[8]. In 1956, Zborowski had testified before a United States Senate subcommittee that he had contacted the NKVD to report that Sedov had entered the clinic, and then to confirm his death.[9]

Sedov's grave is in Cimetière de Thiais, south of Paris.


Lev Sedov's major political work is The Red Book on the Moscow Trials (1936). At a time when a leftist consensus accepted the verdicts of the Moscow trials, this book analyzed them with the aim of discrediting them. It was the first thorough-going exposé of the frame-ups upon which the trials were based. Trotsky himself described it as a "priceless gift... the first crushing reply to the Kremlin falsifiers."[6]


  1. ^ a b c Bois, Marcel (2016). "A Transnational Friendship in the Age of Extremes: Leon Trotsky and the Pfemferts". Twentieth Century Communism (10): 9–29.
  2. ^ Obituary. Leon Sedov by Victor Serge
  3. ^ a b "To Mark the 75th Anniversary of Trotsky’s Arrival in Mexico: Interview with Esteban Volkov, Trotsky’s grandson", SocialistOrganizer.org website, posted 23 January 2013 (Accessed 9 February 2013).
  4. ^ The story of Mark Zborowski: Stalin’s spy in the Fourth International, World Socialist Web Site, 17 November 2011
  5. ^ Testimony of David Dallin, read before the Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and other Internal Security Laws, of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, December 28, 1955, in Testimony of Alexander Orlov before the Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and other Internal Security Laws, of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, December 28, 1955, US Government Printing Office, 1962, p. 15
  6. ^ a b Rob Sewell, "Leon Sedov - 70 Years Since His Murder", at www.marxist.com, posted 15 February 2008 (Accessed 10 February 2013)
  7. ^ Barmine, Alexander, One Who Survived, New York: G.P. Putnam (1945), pp. 17, 22: Barmine points out that the Soviet NKVD had a long history of using White Russians who longed to return to visit their homeland. The NKVD had even formed an association in Paris designed to recruit these persons, titled The Friends of the Soviet Fatherland. Typically, in order to gain an entry visa, the White émigré would first be asked to perform an 'act of loyalty' to the Soviet Union, usually a betrayal of another emigre. The method was used to 'set up' many Soviet fugitives for kidnapping or assassination by Stalin's secret police.
  8. ^ Schwartz, Stephen. (January 24, 1988). Intellectuals and Assassins - Annals of Stalin's Killerati. New York Times.
  9. ^ "Testimony of Mark Zborowski, Accompanied by Herman A. Greenberg, Esq., his Attorney", Scope of Soviet Activity in the United States, Hearing Before the Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act and Other Internal Security Laws of the Committee On the Judiciary, United States Senate, Eighty-Fourth Congress, Second Session, February 29, 1956, Part 4. Washington, Government Printing Office, 1956,page 92. (Available online)

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