August 30, 1918: Fanya Kaplan gets off three shots from her Browning pistol. Fanya was born in Volhynian Governorate, Russian Empire in 1890. Birth records have disappeared and it is uncertain what name she had at birth. Others give her name as Vera Figner, or perhaps the family name was Roytman in Russia or as Reutemann in German/Yiddish. She was one of seven children born into a Jewish family. She became a political activist at a young age and joined a social group, the Socialist Revolutionaries (Esers). At the age of 16, she was arrested in Kiev when she was implicated in a terrorist bomb plot. She was sentenced to life in prison at a hard-labor camp. She was sent to Siberia.
At the Akatuy prisons of the Nerchinsk katorga, she was not only subjected to a life of hard labor, but other abuses as well. Fully undressed corporal punishment was not the usual practice, but she was severely caned on her bare body as disciplinary punishment. She lost her sight (which was later partially restored). She was released on March 3, 1917 after the February Revolution overthrew the imperial government. Although freed from prison, she continued to suffer constant headaches and periods of blindness.
With the Imperial government eradicated, a new power struggle ensued between the Socialist Revolutionaries and the Bolshevik party. In November 1917, the Socialist Revolutionaries were able to win a majority of the Constituent Assembly and they were able to get their man elected President in January 1918. By August 1918, the Bolsheviks banned competing parties including Kaplan’s favored party. She vowed to kill Vladimir Lenin. On this day, Lenin spoke at a Moscow factory called the Hammer and Sickle. As he left the building, Kaplan called out to him and he turned towards her. She fired her three shots. One passed through Lenin’s coat and the other two struck him. One passed through his neck and punctured part of his lung while the other lodged in his shoulder.
Lenin insisted on returning to the Kremlin and was adamant about not going to the hospital. He was certain others would be involved in an assassination attempt. Doctors were brought in, but surgery was needed. He survived, but never fully recovered and it is possible this contributed to his death in 1924. Kaplan was taken into custody and interrogated. She admitted to shooting Lenin and was unwavering in her assertion that she was working alone. She was executed on September 3, 1918 without revealing any other names. Some historians do not accept Kaplan’s avowal of lone wolf. They point out her eyesight as reasons. There are conflicting reports about who and how many were arrested on this day. There is speculation that Kaplan was put forward as the shooter because she was the archetypal enraged woman and nothing less could have harmed Lenin.
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. – Fanya Kaplan
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. – Fanya Kaplan
A revolution is impossible without a revolutionary situation; furthermore, not every revolutionary situation leads to revolution. – Vladimir Lenin
There are no morals in politics; there is only expedience. A scoundrel may be of use to us just because he is a scoundrel. – Vladimir Lenin
Also on this day: Yesterdays and Todays – In 1909, the Burgess Shale site was discovered.
Thin Red Line – In 1963, a direct link between Washington, D.C. and Moscow was established.
Wreck of the Pandora – In 1791, the Pandora sinks.
Well Being with Sikhs – In 1574, Ram Das Ji became a Guru.