Exile in Büyükada

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Sep 6 08:20:52 MDT 2003


For those who are seeking to rid themselves of the bad taste in their mouth 
from the portrayal of Trotsky in "Frida", I strongly recommend the 72 
minute documentary titled "Exile in Büyükada". Narrated by Vanessa 
Redgrave, made in Turkey, and based on Isaac Deutscher's "The Prophet 
Outcast", it combines archival footage with performances by a fine cast of 
Turkish actors, with one Russian, Victor Sergachev, playing Trotsky with 
enormous effectiveness.

Radical activists and scholars would know Büyükada as Prinkipo, which was 
the biggest of Istanbul's islands and got its name from the fact that 
princes and deposed emperors were often exiled there.

When Stalin exiled Trotsky to Turkey in 1929, this latter-day prince of 
revolution was afraid that this might be a prelude to his 
assassination--not only by Stalin's agents but by counter-revolutionary 
Russians in exile themselves. Istanbul had become the first stop for many 
expropriated noblemen who were now working as restroom attendants or 
prostitutes in many cases.

Although it is customary to think of Mexico as Trotsky's chief sanctuary, 
Mustafa Kemal was as willing as Lazaro Cardenas to protect him and for many 
of the same reasons. As a radical nationalist, Kemal was anxious to 
establish Turkey's reputation as a modern secular republic that respected 
democratic rights, even extending them to one of the world's most 
controversial figures.

Trotsky's first stop in Istanbul was the Russian consulate, which provided 
living quarters for him despite the fact that he was no longer welcome in 
the Soviet Union. Within a month or so he moved to a first-class hotel in 
nearby Beyoglu, which is one of the most cosmopolitan and affluent 
neighborhoods in Istanbul. Rare archival footage of Beyoglu's street life 
and other Istanbul neighborhoods in 1929 would alone make this film worth 
seeing for those who love Turkish culture--in other words, just about 
everybody.

Finally Trotsky, his family and his staff move to a manor in Büyükada, 
where they set about the work of disseminating the ideas of the left 
opposition. Some of the most gripping scenes involve Trotsky making the 
case to his co-thinkers that the future of the world rested on the outcome 
of the events in Germany. It is obvious that the screenwriters either use 
Trotsky's actual words or a reasonable facsimile. When delivered 
passionately by Victor Sergachev, they remind us of how much of a presence 
Trotsky was when he was alive and why Stalin had to eradicate him.

Although I could find very nothing in the way of background on the Turkish 
principals involved with this film, it does suggest to me that the level of 
artistic and political sophistication in this country far exceed anything 
evident in "Frida". They also seem to have some adroitness in financing 
such projects, since the closing credits list the Stock Exchange of 
Istanbul as a sponsor!

While "Exile in Büyükada" might not be the sort of thing easily obtainable 
from Blockbuster, you can order the DVD from various sources online. Just 
enter the title in google and a number of vendors will pop up. Highly 
recommended.


Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org


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