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Investigatory experiment attempt on Lenin in 1918 Investigatory experiment attempt on Lenin in 1918

14 January

On January 14, 1918 the first of ten assassination attempts was made on Vladimir Lenin.

Generally, the topic of assassination attempts on Lenin was poorly covered by Soviet historians, while the amount of disclosed information for free public access was all the more limited.

Before the October Revolution of 1917 there were no recorded cases of any assassination attempts on Lenin. The first planned attempt on his life took place a month and a half after the Bolsheviks seized power and took over Petrograd (now St. Petersburg).

On 14 January Lenin delivered a speech at the Mikhailovsky Manezh in Petrograd, greeting the first detachment of the First Socialist Army, which was to be sent to the front. The incident occurred at 7.30, as Lenin, along with his sister Maria and the Swiss communist Fritz Platten, was driving back to Smolny Palace, where he resided. The driver was going slow, taking precautions against black frost, snow-wreaths and thick fog. When passing the bridge over the Fontanka River, there came the sound of the bullets banging against the car. Platten managed to push Lenin’s head down, saving the leader’s life, while the driver thought to speed up. When the car was examined upon arrival at the Smolny Palace, its body was found peppered in several places, with two bullets having broken right through the windshield, one of them wounding Platten’s finger.

Though the news of the event itself was made public, the plotters were kept secret; all the more, the state security forces were neither able to catch nor identify the perpetrators right away. The terrorists disappeared and the details of the attempt were kept secret, as members of the Petrograd police were rumored to have been implicated in the matter. Disclosing the details would also have been politically unwise, as nobody was supposed to even think of raising their hand against the leader of world communism. As it was revealed later, some of the attackers were former White Guard officers. This fact only came up when the terrorists fled to the city of Novocherkassk, which had become one of the centers of the White movement. Some of the participants, who survived through the Civil War of 1918-1922, and found themselves in emigration, were able to share the classified secrets of the attempt. It was prepared by Prince Dmitry Shakhovskoy, at the cost of half a million rubles.

Fritz Platten, who had taken Lenin’s bullet, was arrested years later on espionage charges. In the course of the search of his house, the police found a revolver that had not been declared. This gave grounds for the Soviet government to suspect Platten of planning attempts on other government members.

Though the investigation ruled out any chance of Platten’s involvement with foreign intelligence services, he was still sentenced to four years for illegal possession of a gun. In 1942, while still in prison, Platten died of heart disease, ironically on Lenin’s birthday, 22 April. In 1956, Platten who actually saved the life of the Bolshevik leader was posthumously rehabilitated.

Lenin was attacked about ten more times, the most successful attempt being the one performed by the woman terrorist Fanny Kaplan on 30 August 1918, when the two bullets she fired reached their goal and seriously injured Lenin. However, as new never-before-seen information emerges, doubts arise as to whether the attempt actually took place due to a series of serious discrepancies in the whole assassination plot story, starting from the fact that Kaplan proved to have been almost blind by the time the attempt was performed. The full true story, however, seems will never be fully unraveled.