Ash heap of history

Ash heap of history

The ash heap of history (also garbage heap of history, garbage dump of history, dustbin of history, or landfill of history) is a figurative place to where history.

The expression arose in the 19th century in various places,[1] but it was popularized by Leon Trotsky (in its Russian form Свалка истории, Svalka istorii, "garbage dump of history") in response to the Mensheviks walking out of the Petrograd Second Congress of Soviets, on October 25, 1917 (Julian calendar), thereby enabling the Bolsheviks to establish their dominance. Trotsky declared: "'You are pitiful, isolated individuals! You are bankrupts. Your role is played out. Go where you belong from now on—into the dustbin of history!'"[2][3][4]

It has since been used literally and ironically in political and nonpolitical contexts.

Noted examples

It was used by Ronald Reagan in a speech to the British House of Commons on June 8, 1982. Reagan's speechwriter, Tony Dolan, chose the expression deliberately because of its prior context. His exact phrase was: "freedom and democracy will leave Marxism and Leninism on the ash heap of history". [5]

The phrase was also used by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi during a March 2011 speech. Speaking of the countries that attacked Libya during the implementation of a no-fly zone, Gaddafi stated, "This by a bunch of fascists who will end up in the dustbin of history".[6]


  1. ^ Liberman, Mark (23 December 2011). "The what of history?". Language Log. Retrieved 2011-12-23. 
  2. ^ Sonne, Paul, "The Dustbunnies of History", The Oxonian Review 8 June, 2009 • Issue 9.7. ISBN 978-0-571-22875-1
  3. ^ Bertrand M. Patenade (2009) Stalin’s Nemesis: The Exile and Murder of Leon Trotsky, Faber and Faber, pp. 193–194, 352. ISBN 978-0-571-22875-1
  4. ^ Maureen Healey (2004), "11 Dictator in a dumpster. Thoughts on history and garbage", in Alun Munslow, Robert A. Rosenstone, Experiments in rethinking history (illustrated ed.), Routledge, p. 225,  
  5. ^ Pipes, Richard (June 3, 2002). "Ash Heap of History: President Reagan's Westminster Address 20 Years Later".  
  6. ^ "Foreign forces to end in history's dustbin: Gaddafi". Reuters Africa. 23 Mar 2011. Retrieved 10 April 2011.