August 27, 2010
Nearly a century ago, Britain was accused of masterminding a failed plot to kill Lenin and overthrow his fledgling Bolshevik regime. The British government dismissed the story as mere Soviet propaganda - but new evidence suggests it might be true.
For decades what became known as the "Lockhart plot" has been etched in the annals of the Soviet archives, taught in schools and even illustrated in films.
In early 1918, in the final months of World War I, Russia's new Bolshevik government was negotiating a peace deal with Germany and withdrawing its exhausted troops from the front.
This did not please London. The move would enable Berlin - which had been fighting a war on two fronts - to reinforce its forces in the West.
Determined to get the Russians back into the war on the Allied side, the British despatched a young man in his 30s to be London's representative in Moscow.
His name was Robert Bruce Lockhart.
Lockhart, a Scot, was a colourful character. Known for his love of wine, women and sports, he also prided himself on his alleged ability to read five books at the same time.
Robert Bruce Lockhart in 1955 At first, the well-read Lockhart seemed to be making progress on the issue but, in March that year, the Soviets signed the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty with Germany, so ending hope of them rejoining the war with the Allies.
Lockhart, it seems, had no intention of giving up.
Instead, the suggestion is, his attention was now turning to overthrowing the Bolshevik regime and replacing it with another government that would be willing to re-enter the war against Germany.
Documents show that, in June, Lockhart asked London for money to fund various anti-Bolshevik organisations in Moscow.
This letter, marked "urgent", was sent from the Foreign Office to the Treasury. It sums up the Foreign Secretary's attitude to the Moscow's representative's request:
"Mr. Balfour is of the opinion that the moment has arrived when it has become necessary to take this action, and I am to request that you will move the Lords Committee to give the necessary sanction for the expenditure of such funds as Mr. Lockhart can collect for this purpose."
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