The Newfoundland Historic Trust plaque at Cochrane House lists Leon Trotsky among its many famous former hotel guests.
Trotsky was a Bolshevik revolutionary and Marxist theorist. He helped create the Soviet Red Army, and lead them to victory in the Russian Revolution, only to be expelled from the Party and assassinated with an ice axe by Stalin’s agents.
In 1916, the year before the Russian Revolution, Trotsky was kicked out of France, deported to Spain, then traveled with his family to capitalist New York. Wishing to return to Russia to “push forward” the revolution, he was granted safe passage and an American passport in 1917 by US president Woodrow Wilson. But on April 3 Trotsky and his family were arrested in Halifax and interned at a station for German prisoners.
If Trotsky indeed stayed in St. John’s, it would have been after his release on April 29, on his way to join the Bolshevik uprising. But evidence confirming the visit to Newfoundland is spare to none, and his stay has entered the realm of myth and apocrypha. Rumor even has it that Joey Smallwood interviewed Trotsky for a St. John’s paper called The Plaindealer, but proof is yet to be found.
Cochrane House opened in 1870, and reopened again in 1893 as the Cochrane Hotel after it was destroyed by the great fire. Its revolutionary days long-past, it is now a senior’s complex.
– Lesley Thompson with thanks to Darren Hynes, Trotsky enthusiast