1918: Fanya Kaplan, Lenin’s would-be assassin

On this date in 1918, a 28-year-old Jewish revolutionary was shot in Moscow for attempting to murder Vladimir Lenin.

Fanya (“Fanny”) Kaplan had actually drawn a life sentence for trying the same trick on a tsarist official 12 years before, so you couldn’t say she was a reactionary element.

No, she was a member of the peasant-based Socialist Revolutionary Party, the SRs — the Bolsheviks’ onetime coalition partners who had splintered into left and right factions, the latter being shut out of power when the Constituent Assembly was closed.

A peasant herself, Kaplan was incensed at the Bolshevik power grab and shot Lenin twice at close range as he left a factory on August 30.

Taken immediately, Kaplan clammed up in interrogation.

My name is Fanya Kaplan. Today I shot at Lenin. I did it on my own. I will not say 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 Akatoi for participating in an assassination attempt against a Tsarist official in Kiev. I spent eleven years at hard labour. After the Revolution I was freed. I favoured the Constituent Assembly and am still for it.

Realizing there was no information to be had from her, the Cheka had her executed four days after her crime — an affair organized by Yakov Sverdlov, the same guy who had recently disposed of the tsar.

On the same day Kaplan took her shots at Lenin, Bolshevik Moisei Uritsky was (successfully) assassinated. The two murders helped justify the Red Terror officially initiated on September 2 — which saw thousands of politically-motivated arrests and executions as the Bolsheviks consolidated their hold on power.


YouTube hosts a great many dreadful student dramatizations of historical events, but this one of Fanya Kaplan by Georgia Tech students is remarkably watchable.