Spaniards in the NKVD and the Murder of Trotsky: a reassessment

Hosted by the Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies

Cañada Blanch Seminar Room 1.11, Cowdray House, LSE


Dr Boris Volodarsky

Dr Boris Volodarsky

Research Fellow at the Cañada Blanch Centre


Professor Paul Preston

Professor Paul Preston

London School of Economics

In the wake of the recent activities of Russian secret services, this event presents an intriguing reconsideration of their role in the murder of Leon Trotsky. The internationally renowned expert on the Soviet security services, Dr Boris Volodarsky, presents new information on one of the most notorious political assassinations of the twentieth century.

Contrary to popular belief, the NKVD station in Spain - a compact unit consisting of a handful of officers and a few special operations specialists - was tasked to do something other than fighting Franco or collecting intelligence. The NKVD, 'sword and shield' of the Communist party of the Soviet Union, in Spain was to suppress and destroy any manifestation of so-called Trotskyism, a political doctrine opposed to Stalinism, to maintain surveillance on the Soviet and foreign volunteers, recruit agents among them and to report on the political situation at the front and in the rearguard. To recruit collaborators in Spain before and during the civil war was considered an easy job. However, it is impossible to say how many Spaniards worked for the NKVD for the simple reason that there were four Soviet intelligence services that operated in Spain during the civil war, but we can say with confidence that there were many who did so in various capacities.

Boris Volodarsky was drafted into the Soviet Army as a GRU Spetsnaz officer (military intelligence, special operations). After successfully defending his PhD thesis at the LSE under Professor Paul Preston, Boris now works as a consultant for international private risk analysis companies. He is the author of several important books, among them The KGB's Poison Factory (UK, 2009 and USA, 2010), El caso Orlov (Barcelona, 2013), Stalin's Agent (Oxford University Press, 2015) and the most recent Assassins (London: Frontline Books, November 2018). He is a Research Fellow at the Cañada Blanch Centre.

The Cañada Blanch Centre for Contemporary Spanish Studies runs a series of lectures, seminars and debates in order to disseminate and encourage knowledge of contemporary Spain. It also sponsors the publication of an important series of books on contemporary Spain.

Event podcast


If you are planning to attend this event and would like details on how to get here and what time to arrive, as well as on accessibility and special requirements, please refer to LSE Events FAQ. LSE aims to ensure that people have equal access to these public events, but please contact the event’s organiser as far as possible in advance if you have any access requirements, so that arrangements, where possible, can be made. If the event is ticketed, please ensure you get in touch in advance of the ticket release date. Access Guides to all our venues can be viewed online.

From time to time there are changes to event details so we strongly recommend that if you plan to attend this event you check back on this listing on the day of the event.

Whilst we are hosting this listing, LSE Events does not take responsibility for the running and administration of this event. While we take responsible measures to ensure that accurate information is given here (for instance by checking that the room has been booked) this event is ultimately the responsibility of the organisation presenting the event.