According to Michael Ray,

Carlos the Jackal, byname of Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, (born October 12, 1949, Caracas, Venezuela), Venezuelan militant who orchestrated some of the highest-profile terrorist attacks of the 1970s and ’80s.

Ramírez was born into an upper-class Venezuelan family; his father operated a lucrative law practice. Ramírez’s father was a committed Marxist, and Ramírez received an education that emphasized communist political theory and revolutionary thought. Ramírez also traveled extensively, in the company of his socialite mother, and acquired a taste for a lavish playboy lifestyle that seemed to be at odds with his professed communist beliefs. After a stint in a British preparatory school, Ramírez enrolled at Patrice Lumumba People’s Friendship University in Moscow, but his lacklustre academic performance and troubles with university authorities led to his expulsion in 1970.

Source: Michael Ray, Carlos the Jackal, Encyclopaedia Britannica.

What "troubles with university authorities" were these?

  • 4
    If "a lavish playboy lifestyle" seems "at odds with his professed communist belief", it shouldn't be too tough to see where "British preparatory school" may have added one incongruity too many to the mix.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Aug 1, 2023 at 11:21
  • 5
    It also isn't much of a stretch to imagine that the world's most notorious international criminal in his youth might not have got along very well with staff at a prep school.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Aug 1, 2023 at 13:26

1 Answer 1


According to John Follain, while at the Patrice Lumumba University (РУДН), Carlos wasn't a very serious student.

'Going to Moscow was a dream for us,' Ilich said years later. He and his younger brother started the course within weeks of Soviet tanks rolling into Czechoslovakia to crush the heady 'Prague Spring'. But they soon found that discipline at the cosmopolitan university, whose 6000 students were all selected through the Communist Party of their country of origin, was as stifling as its modernist architecture. Drab grey concrete blocks squatted around a charmless artificial pond. The only dash of colour was a map of the world painted on to the façade of one block in a valiant attempt to symbolise the ideals of the university: from an open book, symbol of learning, a torch emerges, issuing multicoloured flames that spread like waves across the planisphere. Perhaps Ilich drew some comfort from glancing up at the mural as, huddled against the rigours of the Russian winter and wearing a black beret in tribute to Che Guevara who had died riddled by bullets in October of the previous year, he trudged across the bleak square on his way to lectures. Coincidentally, the base of the flame is very close to Venezuela.

Rules and regulations governed virtually every aspect of Ilich's life from the moment he started the first year's induction course, which was designed to flesh out his knowledge of the Russian language and introduce him to the delights of Marxist society before he launched into his chosen subjects, languages and chemistry. Like father, like son. Ilich rebelled against the rules, preferring to spend his time chasing girls. He would often crawl back to his room drunk. His professors at the university, some of them children of Spanish Civil War veterans who had sought refuge in Moscow, were unimpressed by his academic performance.

'His name alone, Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, was so strange that people were curious about him,' relates Kirill Privalov, a journalist on the newspaper Druzhba (Friendship) which was printed at the small university press, and an acquaintance of Ilich. The Venezuelan's escapades, wildly excessive by the standards of the university, only fanned people's interest. 'llich was not at all the typical student sent by his country's Communist Party, nothing to do with the good little soldier of Mao who laboured in the fields every summer. He was a handsome young man although his cheeks looked swollen, and he was a great bon viveur. Flush with cash sent by his parents, Ilich could afford to spend lavishly on whisky and champagne in the special stores that only accepted payment in hard currencies and which were off-limits to most people. More Russian than the Russians, the privileged student and his friends would throw over their shoulders not only empty glasses but bottles as well.

The university authorities, frustrated in their attempts to impose discipline on Ilich, reasoned that his freedom of action would be drastically limited if the allowance that his father sent him were reduced. But when they asked Ramírez Navas to be less generous, the father, piqued, retorted that his son had never wanted for anything. 'The university had a sort of vice squad, and at night students were supposed either to study or sleep,' recounts Privalov.

One night the patrol entered Ilich's room and saw empty bottles of alcohol and glasses on the table, but he was apparently alone. The squad opened the cupboard door and a girl who was completely drunk fell out. She was naked and was clutching her clothes in her hands. They asked her what she was doing there and she answered: 'I feel pity for the oppressed.' She was obviously a prostitute. Another time, and with another girl, Ilich didn't bother to hide her in the cupboard. He threw her out of the window. This one was fully dressed and landed in two metres of snow a foor or two below. She got up unhurt and shouted abuse at him.

Allegedly, Carlos's support for Douglas Bravo led to his being disowned by the Venezuelan Communists and, ultimately, his being expelled from РУДН.

Ilich's academic syllabus motivated him much less than far-left politics, as he readily recognised: 'I acquired a personal culture by travelling in Russia and other countries. I learned to use Marx's dialectic method. It's an experience which is useful to all revolutionaries'. Fellow students describe him as passionate about Marxism, but as a romantic rather than an ideologue. An envoy of the Venezuelan Communist Party came to the conclusion that this young man had potential. But the offer of a post as its representative in Bucharest which Dr Eduardo Gallegos Mancera, a member of the party's politburo, made to llich when they met in Moscow did not tempt him. As his father had done, Ilich decided to keep the party at arm's length and turned Mancera down.

His snubbing of the appointment did not endear him to the Venezuelan Communist Party, and he further blackened his name by supporting a rebel faction. Since 1964 a storm had been brewing back home following the refusal of the young Commander Douglas Bravo, in charge of the party's military affairs and loyal to Che Guevara's doctrine, to toe the official line. Party policy dictated that armed struggle as a means to revolution should be abandoned in favour of a 'broad popular movement for progressive democratic change'. The storm broke in the late 1960s when Bravo left the party. Ilich, still at Lumumba University, wholeheartedly supported him as a true revolutionary, and this led to his expulsion in the early summer of 1969 from the Venezuelan Communist Youth, the first political movement he had joined.

Robbed of the backing of a Soviet-endorsed party, Ilich was an easy target for the university authorities, whom he had again angered earlier in 1969 when he joined a demonstration by Arab students. Moscow had no time for Bravo's followers: one Pravda editorial condemned Cuban-backed revolutionary movements in Latin America like Bravo's as 'anti-Marxist' and declared that only orthodox parties held the key to the future.

Allegedly, Carlos hated Russian Communists.

As his later cool relationship with Moscow was to show, he was far too independent-minded to take orders from the doctrinaire Soviets. Even if they did try to recruit him, the attempt was doomed to fail. 'They are full of self-importance and convinced that only they hold the truth. There is no truth other than theirs,' he fumed bitterly in front of one of his lawyers years later. To the same lawyer he also said that he hated the Russian Communists. He made a point of reaffirming his independence from Moscow, a matter of national pride in his eyes. 'Unlike other parties, the Venezuelan Communist Party is not pledged to Moscow, although it does have privileged relations with the Soviet Union. Venezuelans are a proud people. There is a strong libertarian tradition in the country.'

Hans-Joachim Klein, Ilich's fellow traveller for almost six months in the mid-1970s, recalled his antipathy towards the Russian Communists: 'He didn't like them. He thought they were corrupt. He did not define himself as a Marxist, but rather as an international revolutionary, a bit like Che Guevara.' Klein dismissed out of hand the story that Ilich was a KGB agent: 'That's a joke. He was expelled from Lumumba University after he took part in a demonstration. They don't really like that over there.'

Source: John Follain, Jackal — The complete story of the legendary terrorist, Carlos the Jackal, Arcade Publishing, 1998.

  • 2
    "I feel pity for the oppressed" 🤣 Commented Aug 1, 2023 at 11:58

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.