Leon Trotsky & wife – Mexican passport 1936

Leon Trotsky was a crucial figure in the Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia, second only to Vladimir Lenin in the early stages of Soviet communist rule. But he lost out to Joseph Stalin in the power struggle that followed Lenin’s death and was assassinated while in exile.

Trotsky was born Lev Davidovich Bronstein on 7 November 1879 in Yanovka, Ukraine, then part of Russia. His father was a prosperous Jewish farmer. Trotsky became involved in underground activities as a teenager. He was soon arrested, jailed, and exiled to Siberia, joining the Social Democratic Party. Eventually, he escaped Siberia and spent most of the next 15 years abroad, including London.

In 1903, the Social Democrats split. While Lenin assumed leadership of the ‘Bolshevik’ (majority) faction, Trotsky became a member of the ‘Menshevik’ (minority) faction and developed his theory of ‘permanent revolution.’ After the revolution in Petrograd in February 1917, he made his way back to Russia. Despite previous disagreements with Lenin, Trotsky joined the Bolsheviks and played a decisive role in the communist take-over of power in the same year. His first post in the new government was as a foreign commissar, where he found himself negotiating peace terms with Germany. He was then made war commissar and, in this capacity, built up the Red Army, which prevailed against the White Russian forces in the civil war. Thus Trotsky played a crucial role in keeping the Bolshevik regime alive. He saw himself as Lenin’s heir-apparent, but his intellectual arrogance made him few friends, and his Jewish heritage may also have worked against him. When Lenin fell ill and died, Trotsky was easily outmaneuvered by Stalin. In 1927, he was thrown out of the party. Internal and then foreign exile followed, but Trotsky continued writing and criticizing Stalin.

Trotsky settled in Mexico in 1936. On 20 August 1940, an assassin called Ramon Mercader, acting on Stalin’s orders, stabbed Trotsky with an ice pick, fatally wounding him. He died the next day.

The Passport

TROTSKY, LEON. family’s Mexican passport, 15 December 1936

TROTSKY, LEON. 1879-1940
Document Signed (“Leòn Sedoff Trotsky”), partially printed and accomplished in manuscript, being the Trotsky family’s Mexican passport, 15 December 1936, in original cloth, also signed by NATALIA TROTSKY (“Natalie Sedoff Trotsky”), signatures present beneath the appropriate photographs, fine.

Trotsky’s Mexican passport, a remarkable document when Trotsky was sentenced to death, in absentia. Trotsky lists his occupation as a writer. There are no visa stamps. Trotsky did apply for travel to the United States, but his visa was denied.

See also… Beautiful Mexican passport 1917 issued in New York

FAQ Passport History
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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...