Fanny Kaplan

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Fanny Kaplan
Feiga Haimovna Roytblat

(1890-02-10)February 10, 1890
DiedSeptember 3, 1918(1918-09-03) (aged 28)

Fanny Efimovna Kaplan (Russian: Фа́нни Ефи́мовна Капла́н; real name Feiga Haimovna Roytblat, Фейга Хаимовна Ройтблат; February 10, 1890 – September 3, 1918) was a member of the Socialist Revolutionary Party who allegedly tried to assassinate Vladimir Lenin.

Socialist Revolutionary Party political party in early 20th century Russia

The Socialist Revolutionary Party, or Party of Socialists-Revolutionaries was a major political party in early 20th century Imperial Russia.

Vladimir Lenin Russian politician, communist theorist and founder of the Soviet Union

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known by his alias Lenin, was a Russian revolutionary, politician, and political theorist. He served as head of government of Soviet Russia from 1917 to 1922 and of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1924. Under his administration, Russia and then the wider Soviet Union became a one-party communist state governed by the Russian Communist Party. Ideologically a communist, he developed a variant of Marxism known as Leninism; his ideas were posthumously codified as Marxism–Leninism.


As a member of the Socialist Revolutionaries (SRs), Kaplan viewed Lenin as a "traitor to the revolution" when the Bolsheviks banned her party. On 30 August 1918, she approached Lenin as he was leaving a Moscow factory, and fired three shots, badly injuring him. Interrogated by the Cheka, she refused to name any accomplices, and was shot on 3 September. The Kaplan attempt and the Moisei Uritsky assassination provoked the Soviet government to reinstitute the death penalty after its abolition on October 28th, 1917.

Bolsheviks faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party

The Bolsheviks, also known in English as the Bolshevists, was a faction founded by Vladimir Lenin and Alexander Bogdanov that split from the Menshevik faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) at its Second Party Congress in 1903. The RSDLP was a revolutionary socialist political party formed in 1898 in Minsk to unite the various revolutionary organisations of the Russian Empire into one party.

The All-Russian Extraordinary Commission, abbreviated as VChK and commonly known as Cheka, was the first of a succession of Soviet secret-police organizations. Established on December 5 1917 by the Sovnarkom, it came under the leadership of Felix Dzerzhinsky, a Polish aristocrat-turned-communist. By late 1918 hundreds of Cheka committees had sprung up in the RSFSR at the oblast, guberniya, raion, uyezd, and volost levels.

Moisei Uritsky Soviet politician

Moisei Solomonovich Uritsky was a Bolshevik revolutionary leader in Russia. After the October Revolution, he was Chief of Cheka of Petrograd City. Uritsky was assassinated by Leonid Kannegisser, a military cadet, who was executed shortly afterwards.


There is some confusion as to Kaplan's birth name. Vera Figner, in her memoirs, At Women's Katorga , gives the name Feiga Khaimovna Roytblat-Kaplan (Фейга Хаимовна Ройтблат-Каплан). Other sources give her original family name as Ройтман (transliterated from Russian as Roytman, which corresponds to the common German/Yiddish name Reutemann). She is also sometimes called "Dora." [1]

Vera Figner Russian political activist

Vera Nikolayevna Figner Filippova was a revolutionary political activist born in Kazan Governorate, Russian Empire, into a noble family of ethnic German and Russian descent.


Katorga was a system of penal labor in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Prisoners were sent to remote penal colonies in vast uninhabited areas of Siberia and Russian Far East where voluntary settlers and workers were never available in sufficient numbers. The prisoners had to perform forced labor under harsh conditions.

Kaplan was born into a Jewish family, as one of seven children. She became a political revolutionary at an early age and joined a socialist group, the Socialist Revolutionaries. In 1906, when she was 16 years old, Kaplan was arrested in Kiev over her involvement in a terrorist bomb plot, and committed for life to the katorga (a hard-labor prison camp). She served in the Maltsev and Akatuy prisons of Nerchinsk katorga, Siberia, where she lost her sight (partially restored later). She was kept in the Maltzevskaya prison, where she was severely caned on her bare body as disciplinary corporal punishment. [2] Fully undressed corporal punishment was not usual for political prisoners at that time. She was released on March 3, 1917, after the February Revolution overthrew the imperial government. As a result of her imprisonment, Kaplan suffered from continuous headaches and periods of blindness.

Akatuy katorga

Akatuy katorga prison was part of the Nerchinsk katorga system of the Russian Empire, and was situated in today's Alexandrovo-Zavodsky District of Transbaikalia. It was constructed in 1888 at the Akatuyskom mine, what is now the village of New Akatuy. Originally labor convicts were used here for extraction of lead-silver ores. After the closing of the Kara katorga in 1890, it became one of the main centers of detention of political prisoners. It was turned into a women's penal camp in 1911 and was finally shut down after the February Revolution of 1917.

Nerchinsk katorga

Nerchinsk katorga was a katorga system of the Russian Empire in the area of the Nerchinsk Mining District, which embraced a large part of eastern Transbaikalia, near the border to China, in the 18th to 20th centuries. The District consisted of a variable number of industrial centres (zavody), usually operated by military administrations, the first of which, Nerchinsk, situated not far from the confluence of Nercha and Shilka Rivers, was established in the 18th century after the discovery of the area large mineral reserves.

Siberia Geographical region in Russia

Siberia is an extensive geographical region spanning much of Eurasia and North Asia. Siberia has historically been a part of modern Russia since the 17th century.

Kaplan became disillusioned with Lenin as a result of the conflict between the Socialist Revolutionaries and the Bolshevik party. [3] The Bolsheviks had strong support in the soviets; however, in elections to a competing body, the Constituent Assembly, the Bolsheviks failed to win a majority in the November 1917 elections and a Socialist Revolutionary was elected president in January 1918. The Bolsheviks, favoring soviets, ordered the Constituent Assembly to be dissolved. By August 1918 conflicts between the Bolsheviks and their political opponents had led to the banning of most other influential parties - most recently, of the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, who had been the Bolsheviks' principal coalition partner for some time, but had organized the Left SR uprising in July because of their opposition to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Kaplan decided to assassinate Lenin because she considered him "a traitor to the Revolution". [4]

Soviets were political organizations and governmental bodies, primarily associated with the Russian Revolutions and the history of the Soviet Union, and which gave the name to the latter state.

Russian Constituent Assembly

The All Russian Constituent Assembly was a constitutional body convened in Russia after the October Revolution of 1917. It met for 13 hours, from 4 p.m. to 5 a.m., 18–19 January [O.S. 5–6 January] 1918, whereupon it was dissolved by the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, making the Third All-Russian Congress of Soviets the new governing body of Russia.

The Left SR uprising or Left SR revolt was an uprising against the Bolsheviks by the Left Socialist Revolutionary Party in July 1918. The uprising started on 6 July 1918 and was claimed to be intended to restart the war with Germany. It was one of a number of left-wing uprisings against the Bolsheviks that took place during the Russian Civil War.

Assassination attempt

Vladimir Pchelin's depiction of the assassination attempt Lenin attempt.jpg
Vladimir Pchelin's depiction of the assassination attempt

On 30 August 1918, Lenin spoke at the Hammer and Sickle, a Michelson arms factory in south Moscow. [5] As Lenin left the building and before he entered his car, Kaplan called out to him. When Lenin turned towards her, she fired three shots with a Browning pistol. [1] One bullet passed through Lenin's coat, the other two struck him: one passing through his neck, puncturing part of his left lung, and stopping near his right collarbone; the other lodging in his left shoulder. [1] [6]

Moscow Capital city of Russia

Moscow is the capital and most populous city of Russia, with 13.2 million residents within the city limits, 17 million within the urban area and 20 million within the metropolitan area. Moscow is one of Russia's federal cities.

Lenin was taken back to his living quarters at the Kremlin. He feared there might be other plotters planning to kill him and refused to leave the security of the Kremlin to seek medical attention. Doctors were brought in to treat him but were unable to remove the bullets outside of a hospital. Despite the severity of his injuries, Lenin survived. However, Lenin's health never fully recovered from the attack and it is believed [7] the shooting contributed to the strokes that incapacitated and eventually killed him in 1924.


Kaplan was taken into custody and interrogated by the Cheka. She made the following statement:

My name is Fanya Kaplan. Today I shot Lenin. I did it on my own. I will not say from whom I obtained my revolver. I will give no details. I had resolved to kill Lenin long ago. I consider him a traitor to the Revolution. I was exiled to Akatui for participating in an assassination attempt against a Tsarist official in Kiev. I spent 11 years at hard labour. After the Revolution, I was freed. I favoured the Constituent Assembly and am still for it. [8]

When it became clear that Kaplan would not implicate any accomplices, she was executed in Alexander Garden, on September 3, 1918 with a bullet to the back of the head. [1] Her corpse was bundled into a barrel, and set alight. The order came from Yakov Sverdlov who, just six weeks before, had ordered the execution of the tsar and his family.[ citation needed ]


Some historians such as Arkady Vaksberg and Donald Rayfield have questioned the actual role of Kaplan in the assassination attempt. [9] Vaksberg states that Lidia Konopleva, another SR, was the culprit, believing it would be all too comforting that Lenin narrowly avoided being assassinated by a woman whose personality is so far from the stereotype of a national hero. [10] In particular, it is suggested that she was working on behalf of others and after her arrest assumed sole responsibility. The main argument put forth in this and other versions is her near-blindness. Another argument points to the contradiction between the official Soviet account (which states that angry workers who witnessed the event immediately seized Kaplan) and official documents, in particular a radiogram by Yakov Peters, which mentions the arrest of several suspects.


Moisei Uritsky Moisei Uritskii.jpg
Moisei Uritsky

In the official announcement of the assassination attempt, Kaplan was declared a Right Eser (Right SR). Moisei Uritsky, People's Commissar for Internal Affairs in the Northern Region and head of the Cheka in Petrograd, had been assassinated nearly two weeks prior to the attack on Lenin. While the Cheka did not find any evidence linking the two events, their co-occurrence appeared significant in the overall context of the intensifying civil war. The Bolshevik reaction was an abrupt escalation in the persecution of their opponents.

An official decree on Red Terror was issued only hours after the Kaplan shooting, calling for all-out struggle against enemies of the revolution. In the next few months, about 800 Right SRs and other political opponents of Bolsheviks were executed. During the first year, the scope of the Red Terror expanded significantly.


The event is portrayed in Reilly, Ace of Spies, a 1983 British TV series. Kaplan has been the subject of or character in several plays including (Fanny Kaplan by Venedikt Yerofeyev; Kill me, o my beloved! by Elena Isaeva) and books ( Europe Central by William T. Vollmann).

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 How Did They Die? by Norman and Betty Donaldson, p. 221.
  2. Школьник, Мария ЖИЗНЬ БЫВШЕЙ ТЕРРОРИСТКИ, ГЛАВА VI Archived 2009-01-16 at the Wayback Machine
  3. Kowalski, Ludwik (2008). Hell on Earth – Brutality and Violence Under the Stalinist Regime. American Academy of Arts and Sciences. p. Glossary. ISBN   978-1-60047232-9.
  4. "1918: Fanya Kaplan, Lenin's would-be assassin". September 3, 2009.
  5. Moscow: A Cultural History by Caroline Brooke, Oxford University Press, p. 74
  6. Partly confirmed in Top Five Assassination Attempts - Number Four, Lenin 1918 (link), Military History Monthly magazine, published 18 November 2014, accessed 20 November 2014.
  7. "'He doesn't bother anybody. Let him stay': MPs reject idea of removing Lenin's body from mausoleum". RT. 2019-01-21.
  8. "Fanya Kaplan". Spartacus Educational.
  9. Stalin and His Hangmen: The Tyrant and Those Who Killed for Him by Donald Rayfield, p. 78.
  10. Stalin and His Hangmen: The Tyrant and Those Who Killed for Him by Donald Rayfield, p. 79.

Further reading