Review: The Lockhart Plot: Love, Betrayal, Assassination and Counter-Revolution in Lenin’s Russia, by Jonathan Schneer

I first heard of the Lockhart Plot, as many others will have done, in the British television series from the 1980s, Reilly: Ace of Spies. That was a largely fictionalised version of the story, but to be fair the story itself reads like fiction.

Bruce Lockhart, a young and very talented British diplomat travelled to Russia in 1918 to make a deal with the Bolsheviks: stay in the world war on Britain’s side and we will help you. When that didn’t pan out, he switched sides and decided, together with a handful of his associates (including the notorious Sidney Reilly) and suitcases full of cash, to overthrow the Soviet regime.

Looking back at how it all turned out, it seems an inevitable failure and Lockhart was crazy to try it. But at the time, the idea of bribing the Latvian soldiers who were tasked with guarding the Bolshevik leaders in the Kremlin — combined with the landing of British troops in northern Russia, the attempted coup by the legendary terrorist Boris Savinkov, the anti-German uprising of the Left Social Revolutionaries, and the assassination attempt on Lenin — may have seemed more plausible.

The Lockhart plot is one of the great “what ifs” of the history of the twentieth century and Jonathan Schneer has done an outstanding job telling the story (as much as it can be hold — and there is much that we do not know) well. Highly recommended.