During the Revolution of 1905
The Kishinev pogrom produced a devastating and indelible effect on the Jewish community in Russia. Jabotinsky: Kishinev traces “the boundary between two epochs, two psychologies.” The Jews of Russia have not only experienced deep sorrow, but, more profoundly so, “something which had almost made one forget the pain—and that was shame.”1 “If the carnage of Kishinev played a major role in the realisation of our situation, it was because we then realised that the Jews were cowards.”2
We have already mentioned the failure of the police and the awkwardness of the authorities—it was therefore natural that the Jews had asked themselves the question: should we continue to rely on the protection of public authorities? Why not create our own armed militias and defend ourselves weapons in hand? They were incited by a group of prominent public men and writers—Doubnov, Ahad Haam, Rovnitsky, Ben‐Ami, Bialik: “Brothers… cease weeping and begging for mercy. Do not expect any help from your enemies. Only rely on your own arms!”3
These calls “produced on Jewish youth the effect of an electric shock.”4 And in the overheated atmosphere that began to reign after the Kishinev pogrom, “armed groups of self‐defence” quickly saw the light at various locations in the Pale of Settlement. They were generally financed “by the Jewish community”5, and the illegal introduction of weapons from abroad did not pose a problem for the Jews. It was not unusual for these weapons to fall into the hands of very young people.
Official reports do not indicate the existence of armed groups among the Christian population. The government struggled as best it could against the bombs of terrorists. When armed militias began to develop, it saw in them—it is only natural—totally illegal demonstrations, the premises of the civil war, and it banned them by the means and information it had at its disposal. (Also today, the whole world condemns and prohibits “illegal paramilitary formations.”)
A highly operational armed group was formed in Gomel under the direction of the local committee of the Bund. On March 1st, 1903, the latter had organised “festivities” for the anniversary of the “execution of Alexander II.”6 In this city, where Christians and Jews were nearly equal in number7, and the socialist Jews were more than determined, the establishment of armed groups of self‐defence was particularly strong. This was to be noted during the events of August 29th and September 1st 1903—the Gomel pogrom.
According to the findings of the official investigation, the responsibility for the Gomel pogrom is shared: Christians and Jews mutually attacked each other.
Let us take a closer look at the official documents of the time, in this case the indictment of the Gomel affair, based on the police reports drawn up on the spot. (Police reports, which date back to the early twentieth century in Russia, have repeatedly proven their accuracy and their irreproachable precision—and this up to the hustle and bustle of the days of February 1917, up to the moment where the police stations of Petrograd were vested by the insurgents, burnt down—since then, this stream of minutely‐recorded information was cut off, and remained so for us.)
At the Gomel trial, the indictment states: “The Jewish population… began to procure weapons and to organise self‐defence circles in the event of trouble directed at the Jews… Some residents of Gomel had the opportunity to attend Jewish youth training sessions outside the city and which gathered up to a hundred people practising shooting guns.”8
“The generalisation of the possession of weapons, on the one hand, the awareness of one’s numerical superiority and cohesion, on the other hand, have emboldened the Jewish population to the extent that, among its youth, they spoke not only of self‐defence, but of indispensable revenge for the Kishinev pogrom.”
Thus hatred expressed in one place is reflected in another, distant—and against the innocent.
“For some time past, the attitude of the Jews of Gomel has become not only contemptuous, but frankly provocative; the attacks—both verbal and physical—on peasants and workers have become commonplace, and the Jews display their contempt in all sorts of ways even against the Russians belonging to higher social strata, for example, by forcing soldiers to change sidewalk.” On August 29th, 1903, everything started with a banal incident in a market: an altercation between the herring merchant Malitskaya and her client Chalykov; she spat in his face, the dispute turned into a brawl, “immediately several Jews rushed upon Chalykov, threw him to the ground, and began to strike him with everything they could put their hands on. A dozen peasants wanted to defend Chalykov, but the Jews immediately emitted whistles previously agreed upon, causing a considerable influx of other Jews… No doubt these whistles were a call for help… thus they immediately mobilised the entire Jewish population of the city”; “on foot, by car, armed as they could, the Jews flocked to the market everywhere. Very soon, the Street of the Market, the market itself and all the adjacent streets were swarming with people; The Jews were armed with stones, sticks, hammers, specially‐made clubs or even simply iron bars. Everywhere shouts were heard: ‘Let’s go, Jews! To the market! It is the pogrom of the Russians!’ And all this mass went into small groups to pursue the peasants to strike them”—and the latter were numerous, on a market day. “Leaving there their purchases, the peasants—when they had time—jumped on their chariots and hastened to leave the city… Witnesses say that when they caught Russians, the Jews beat them without mercy, they beat old people, women and even children. For example, a little girl was pulled out of a chariot and dragged by her hair on the roadway.” “A peasant by the name of Silkov had placed himself at some distance to enjoy the spectacle while nibbling a piece of bread. At that moment, a Jew who ran behind him struck his throat with a mortal knife wound, then disappeared among the crowd.” Other episodes are listed. An officer was only saved thanks to the intervention of Rabbi Maiants and the owner of the neighbouring house, Rudzievsky. Upon arriving at the scene, the police were welcomed “on the Jews’ side, by a hail of stones and by revolver shots… which started not only from the crowd but also from the balconies of neighbouring buildings”; “the violence against the Christian population continued almost until the evening, and it was only with the arrival of a detachment from the army that the mobs of Jews were dispersed”; “the Jews struck the Russians, and especially the peasants, who… were incapable of any resistance, either because of their small number compared to that of the Jews or because of their lack of defences… That day, all the victims were Russians… many wounded, people beaten to a pulp.”9 The indictment concludes with regard to the events of August 29th that they “undeniably had the character of an ‘anti‐Russian pogrom’.”10
These facts caused “deep indignation among the Christian population”, which reinforced “the euphoric mood” of the Jews, their “enthusiasm”…: “We are no longer in Kishinev!” On September 1st, after the midday siren, the railway workers were abnormally noisy as they left the workshops, shouts and exclamations were heard, and the chief of police ordered to block the bridge leading to the city. Then the workers spread to the neighbouring streets and “stones flew to the windows of houses inhabited by Jews,” while “in the city were beginning to form large gatherings of Jews” who “threw from a distance pieces of wood and stones onto the crowd of workers”; “two paving stones thrown by the Jewish crowd” struck a police commissioner in the back who fell unconscious. The Russian crowd began to yell: “the kikes have killed the commissary!” and undertook to sack Jewish houses and shops. The intervention of the troop, which separated the adversaries and deployed itself in the face of both, prevented the shedding of blood. On the Jews’ side, stones were thrown, and revolver shots were fired at the soldiers “with a shower of insults.” The commander asked Rabbi Maiants and Doctor Zalkind to intervene with the Jews, but “their appeals for calm were of no effect and the crowd continued its agitation”; it was only possible to draw it back by pointing the bayonets. The main success of the army was to prevent “the breakers from reaching the city centre, where were found the shops and houses of the wealthy Jews.” Then the pogrom moved to the outskirts of the city. The chief of the police still tried to exhort the crowd, but they cried out: “You are with the Jews, you have betrayed us! The salvos drawn by the troops upon the Russians as well as on the Jews curbed the pogrom, but two hours later it resumed in the suburbs—again shootings on the crowd, several dead and wounded, and then the pogrom ceased. However, the indictment refers to the presence in the city centre of “groups of Jews who conducted themselves in a very provocative manner and opposed the army and the police… As on 29 August, all were armed… many brandished revolvers and daggers”, “going as far as firing shots or throwing stones on the troops charged to protect their property”; “they attacked the Russians who ventured alone in the streets, including the soldiers”: a peasant and a beggar were killed. During that day, three middle‐class Jews succumbed to “deadly wounds”. Towards the evening the disorders ceased. Five Jews and four Christians had been killed. “Nearly 250 commercial or residential premises belonging to Jews had been affected by the pogrom.” On the Jewish side, “the overwhelming majority of active participants in the events consisted exclusively of… young people,” but many “more mature” people, as well as children, had handed them stones, boards, and logs.”11
No description of these events can be found by any Jewish writer.
“The Gomel pogrom had not taken its organisers off guard. It had been prepared for a long time, the formation of self‐defence had been put in place soon after the events of Kishinev.”12 Only a few months after Kishinev, the Jews could no longer despise themselves for the resigned attitude with which they were accused of, among others, by the poet Bialik. And, as always happens with armed groups of this type, the boundary between defence and attack became blurred. The first was fed by the Kishinev pogrom, the second of the revolutionary spirit of the organisers.
(Activism of Jewish youth had already manifested itself before. Thus, in 1899, the “Chklov affair” was revealed: in this city where there were nine Jews for a Russian, disarmed Russian soldiers—they were demobilised—were severely beaten by Jews. After examining this episode, the Senate considered it to be a manifestation of ethnic and religious hatred of Jews towards Russians under the same article of the Penal Code as that had been applied to the trial of those responsible for the Kishinev pogrom.)
This activism must not be accounted for solely by the Bund. “At the head of this process [of creating, at a steady pace, organisations of self‐defence] are found the Zionists and the parties close to Zionism—the Zionist‐Socialists and the ‘Poalei Zion’.” Thus, it is how in Gomel, in 1903, “the majority of the detachments were organised by the ‘Poalei Zion’ party.”13 (Which contradicts Buchbinder, fervent admirer of the Bund—I do not really know whom to believe.)
When the news of Gomel’s pogrom reached Saint Petersburg, the Jewish Defence Office dispatched two lawyers—still Zaroudny and N. D. Sokolov—to proceed to a private investigation as soon as possible. Zaroudny once again gathered “irrefutable proofs” that the pogrom had been organised by the Department of Security,14 but here also, they were not made public. (Thirty years later, even Sliosberg, who participated in the trials of Gomel, followed suit in his Memoirs in three volumes, asserting, without any shred of evidence—which seems incomprehensible on the part of a lawyer—, mistaking the dates—and those errors that can be attributed to age, he found no one to correct them—, that the Gomel pogrom had been deliberately organised by the police. He excludes also all offensive action on the part of the self‐defence detachments of the Bund and of the Poalei Zion. (He speaks of it incoherently and confusedly, for example: “The young people of the self‐defence groups quickly put an end to the misbehaviour and drove out the peasants”, “the young Jews gathered promptly and, on more than one occasion, they were able to repel the rioters,”15 just like that, without using any weapons? …)
The official investigation was proceeding seriously, step by step—and during that time Russia was plunging into the Japanese war. And it was not until October 1904 that Gomel’s trial took place—in a white‐hot political atmosphere.
Forty‐four Christians and 36 Jews appeared before the court; Nearly a thousand people were called to the witness stand.16 The Defence Office was represented by several lawyers: Sliosberg, Kupernik, Mandelstam, Kalmanovich, Ratner, Krohl. From their point of view, it was unjust that even a single Jew should be included in the bench of the accused: for the entire Jewish community in Russia “it was like a warning against recourse to self‐defence.”17 From the government’s point of view, this was not “self‐defence”. But the lawyers of the Jewish defendants did not deal with the details, nor the Jewish property that had really been sacked—they focused only on one thing: to uncover the “political motives” of the pogrom, for example, to point out that Jewish youth, in the midst of the fray, was shouting: “Down with the autocracy!” In fact, shortly afterwards, they decided to abandon their clients and leave the courtroom collectively in order to send an even stronger message: to repeat the precedent of the Kishinev trial.18
This method, as skilful as it was revolutionary, was entirely in the air of the time in December 1904: these liberal advocates wanted to explode the judicial system itself!
After their departure, “the trial quickly came to an end” insofar as it was now possible to examine the facts. Some of the Jews were acquitted, the others were sentenced to penalties not exceeding five months; “The condemnations which befell the Christians were equal to those of the Jews.”19 In the end, there were about as many convictions on one side as on the other.20
By plunging into the Japanese war, by adopting a rigid and insightful stance in the conflict over Korea, neither the Emperor Nicholas II nor the high dignitaries around him realised how much, on the international plane, Russia was vulnerable to the west and especially to the “traditionally friendly” America. Nor did they take into account the rise of Western financiers, who were already influencing the policy of the great powers, increasingly dependent on credit. In the nineteenth century things did not happen this way yet, and the Russian government, always slow to react, did not know how to perceive these changes.
However, after the Kishinev pogrom, Western opinion had become firmly established in an attitude of repulsion towards Russia, considered as an old scarecrow, an Asiatic and despotic country where obscurantism reigns, where the people are exploited, where the revolutionaries are treated without pity, subjected to inhuman sufferings and deprivations, and now they are massacring the Jews “by the thousands”, and behind all this there is the hand of the government! (As we have seen, the government was unable to rectify this distorted version of the facts in time, with energy and efficiency.) So, in the West, people began to consider it appropriate, even worthy of consideration, to hope that the revolution would break out in Russia as soon as possible: it would be a good thing for the whole world—and for the Jews of Russia in particular.
And, above all, the incompetence, the incapacity, the unpreparedness to conduct far‐off military operations against a country that at that time seemed small and weak, in the context of an agitated, openly hostile public opinion, that longed for the defeat of its own country.
The sympathy of the United States for Japan expressed itself abundantly in the American press. It “hailed every Japanese victory and did not hide its desire to see Russia undergo a rapid and decisive setback.”21 Witte mentions twice in his Memoirs that President Theodore Roosevelt was on the side of Japan and supported it.22 And Roosevelt himself: “As soon as this war broke out I brought to Germany’s and France’s attention, with the utmost courtesy and discretion, that in case of an anti‐Japanese agreement” with Russia “I would immediately take the side of Japan and would do everything in the future to serve its interests.”23 It may be supposed that Roosevelt’s intentions were not unknown to Japan.
And it was there that the very powerful banker Jakob Schiff appeared—one of the greatest of the Jews, he who could realise his ideals thanks to his exceptional position in the economic sphere.”24 “From his earliest years Schiff took care of business affairs”; he emigrated from Germany to New York and soon became head of the Bank Kuhn, Loeb & Co. In 1912, “he is in America the king of rail, owner of twenty‐two thousand miles of railroads”; “he also has a reputation as an energetic and generous philanthropist; he is particularly sensitive to the needs of the Jewish community.”25 Schiff was particularly keen on the fate of the Russian Jews—hence his hostility towards Russia until 1917. According to the Encyclopædia Judaica (in English), “Schiff made a remarkable contribution to the allocation of credits to his own government and to that of other countries, particularly pointing out a loan of 200 million dollars to Japan during the conflict opposing it to Russia in 1904‒1905. Outraged by the anti‐Semitic policy of the tsarist regime in Russia, he eagerly supported the Japanese war effort. He constantly refused to participate in lending to Russia and used his influence to deter other institutions from doing so, while granting financial aid to the self‐defence groups of Russian Jews.”26 But while it is true that this money allowed the Bund and the Poalei Zion to supply themselves with weapons, it is no less likely that they also benefited from other revolutionary organisations in Russia (including the S.‐R. who, at the time, practised terrorism). There is evidence that Schiff, in an interview with an official of the Ministry of Finance of Russia, G. A. Vilenkine, who was also one of his distant relatives, “acknowledged that he contributed to the financing of the revolutionary movement in Russia” and that “things had gone too far”27 to put an end to it.
However, in Russia, Baron G. O. Ginzburg continued to intervene in favour of equal rights for the Jews. To this end, in 1903 he visited Witte at the head of a Jewish delegation. The latter (who had already dealt with the Jewish question when he was secretary‐general of the government) replied to them then: that the Jews should be granted equal rights only gradually, but “in order for the question to be raised, the Jews must adopt ‘a completely different behaviour’,” that is to say, to refrain from interfering in the political life of the country. “It is not your business, leave it to those who are Russian by blood and civil status, it is not for you to give us lessons, you should rather take care of yourself.” Ginzburg, Sliosberg, and Koulicher agreed with this opinion, other participants did not, particularly Winaver, who objected: “The time has come to grant equal rights to all the subjects [of the empire]… The Jews must support with all their strength those of the Russians who fight for it, and thus against the power in place.”28
From the Japanese war, from the beginning of 1904, the Russian government sought financial support from the West, and in order to obtain it, was willing to promise an extension of the rights of the Jews. At Plehve’s request, high personalities came into contact with Baron Ginzburg on this subject, and Sliosberg was sent abroad to survey the opinion of the greatest Jewish financiers. As a matter of principle, Schiff “declined all bargaining over the number and nature of the rights granted to the Jews.” He could “enter into financial relations only with a government that recognises to all its citizens the equality of civic and political rights… ‘One can only maintain financial relations with civilized countries’.” In Paris, Baron de Rothschild also refused: “I am not prepared to mount any financial operation whatsoever, even if the Russian government brings improvements to the fate of the Jews.”29
Witte succeeded in obtaining a large loan without the help of Jewish financial circles. Meanwhile, in 1903‒1904, the Russian government had undertaken to lift certain provisions limiting the rights of the Jews (we have already mentioned them in part). The first step in this direction, and the most important, had been, during Plehve’s lifetime, and by way of derogation of the 1882 Regulations, the lifting of the prohibition on Jews settling in 101 densely populated localities which were not considered cities despite significant industrial and commercial activity, particularly in the grain trade.30 Secondly, the decision to promote a group of Jews to the rank of avowed attorneys, which had not been done since 1889.31 After the assassination of Plehve and the era of “confidence” inaugurated by the short‐lived minister of the Interior Sviatopolk‐Mirsky, this process continued. Thus, for Jews with higher education, the lifting of restrictive measures taken in 1882 took place, including the right to settle in areas previously prohibited to them, such as those of the Army of the Don, of Kuban, of Terek. The ban on residence in the border strip of 50 versts was also lifted; they re‐established the right (abolished under Alexander II after 1874) to reside throughout the whole territory of the empire for “the brass of the army of Jewish origin… with exemplary service records.”32 On the occasion of the birth of the heir to the throne, in 1904, amnesty was decreed on the fines, which had befallen the Jews who had evaded their military obligations.
But all these concessions came too late. In the node of the Japanese war that surrounded Russia, they were henceforth not accepted, as we have seen, neither by Western Jewish financiers, nor by the majority of Jewish politicians in Russia, nor, with strong reason, by Jewish youth. And in response to statements made by Sviatopolk‐Mirsky when he took office—promising relief in both the Pale of Settlement and the choice of an activity—a declaration of “more than six thousand people” (The signatures had been collected by the Jewish Democratic Group): “We consider all efforts to satisfy and appease the Jewish population by partial improvements in their condition as futile. We consider as null and void any policy of gradually lifting the prohibitions weighing on us… We are waiting for equal rights… we make of it a matter of honour and justice.”33
It had become easier to weigh on a government entangled in war.
It goes without saying that, in a context in which cultivated Russian society had only contempt for power, it was difficult to expect Jewish youth to manifest massively its patriotic enthusiasm. According to the data provided by General Kushropkin, then Minister of War, then commander‐in‐chief of the eastern front, “in 1904 the number of insubordinates among the Jewish conscripts doubled compared with the year 1903; more than 20,000 of them have evaded their military obligations without good cause. Out of 1,000 conscripts, more than 300 were missing, while among the Russian conscripts this number fell to only 2 per 1,000. As for the Jewish reservists, they deserted en masse on the way to the area of military operations.”34
An American statistic suggests indirectly that from the beginning of the Japanese war there was a wave of mass emigration of Jews of military service age. During the two years of war, the figures for Jewish immigration to the United States increased very sharply for people of working age (14‒44 years) and men: the former were 29,000 more than what they were expected, (compared to other immigrant categories); the second, 28,000 more (compared to women). After the war, the usual proportions were found.35 (The Kievian newspaper reported at the time that “from 20,000 to 30,000 Jewish soldiers and reservists… have gone into hiding or fled abroad.”36 In the article “Military service in Russia” of the Jewish Encyclopædia, we can see a comparative picture of insubordination among Jews and Christians, according to official figures, the proportion of the former compared with the latter is 30 to one in 1902 and 34 to one in 1903. The Jewish Encyclopædia indicates that these figures can also be explained by emigration, deaths not taken into account, or miscalculations, but the inexplicable absence in this table of statistical data for 1904 and 1905, leaves no possibility of obtaining a precise idea of the extent of the insubordination during the war.37
As for the Jewish fighters, the Jewish Encyclopædia says that there were between 20,000 and 30,000 during the war, not to mention the 3,000 Jews serving as doctors; and it points out that even the newspaper Novoïe Vremia, although hostile to the Jews, recognised their courageous behaviour in combat.38 These statements are corroborated by the testimony of General Denikin “In the Russian army, the Jewish soldiers, resourceful and conscientious, adapted well, even in times of peace. But in times of war all differences were self‐effacing, and individual courage and intelligence were also recognised.”39 A historical fact: the heroism of Iossif Troumpeldor who, having lost a hand, asked to remain in the ranks. In fact, he was not the only one to distinguish himself.40
At the end of this war lost by Russia, President Theodore Roosevelt agreed to mediate the talks with Japan (Portsmouth, USA). Witte, who led the Russian delegation, evokes “this delegation of Jewish big shots who came to see me twice in America to talk to me about the Jewish question.” These were Jakob Schiff, the eminent lawyer Louis Marshall and Oscar Strauss, among others. The position of Russia had become rather uncomfortable, which imposed a more conciliatory tone on the Russian minister than in 1903. Witte’s arguments “raised violent objections on the part of Schiff.”41 Fifteen years later, Kraus, one of the members of this delegation, who in 1920 became president of the B’nai B’rith Lodge, said: “If the tsar does not give his people the freedoms to which it is entitled, the revolution will be able to establish a republic that will allow access to these freedoms.”42
During the same weeks, a new danger began to undermine Russian‐American relations. On his way back to Witte, T. Roosevelt asked him to inform the Emperor that the trade agreement which had long bound (1832) his country to Russia would suffer if it applied confessional restrictions to American businessmen going to its territory.43 This protest, which, of course, was a matter of principle, concerned, in practice, a significant number of Russian Jews who had immigrated to the United States and had become American citizens. They returned to Russia—often to engage in revolutionary activities—henceforth as merchants who were not subject to any professional or geographical limitation. This landmine could only explode a few years later.
For several years Stuttgart had published the Osvoboj‐denie* magazine, and the great mass of cultivated Russians scarcely concealed its sympathies for the illegal organisation Union for Liberation. In the autumn of 1904, a “banqueting campaign” was held in all the major cities of Russia, where impassioned and premonitory toasts were called for the overthrow of the “regime”. Participants from abroad also spoke in public (such as Tan Bogoraz).
“Political unrest had penetrated all layers of the Jewish community.” The latter was engulfed in this bubbling, without distinction of classes or parties. Thus “many Jewish public men, even of patriotic sensibility, were part of the Union for Liberation.”44 Like all Russian liberals, they proved to be “defeatists” during the Japanese war. Like them, they applauded the “executions” of the ministers Bogolepov, Sipiagin, Plehve. And this entire “progressive” Russia pushed even the Jews in this direction, unable to admit that a Jew could be more on the right than a left‐wing democrat, but feeling that he should, more naturally yet, be a socialist. A Conservative Jew? Ugh! Even in an academic institution such as the Jewish Historical‐Ethnographic Commission, “in these tumultuous years there was no time to serenely engage in scientific research…” it was necessary “to make History”.45 “The radical and revolutionary movements within the Russian Jewish community have always been based on the idea that the problem of equal rights… the fundamental historical question of the Jews of Russia, would be solved only when one would cut once for all the head of the Medusa and all the serpents that spring from it.”46
During these years in Saint Petersburg, the Jewish Defence Office developed its activities with the aim of “fighting anti‐Semitic literature and disseminating appropriate information on the legal situation of Jews in order to influence mainly the opinion of liberal Russian circles.” (Sliosberg points out that these activities were largely subsidised by the international EK0*.47) But it was not so much Russian society that it was a question of influencing. The Bureau did not open branches in Russia, not even in Moscow, Kiev, or Odessa: on the one hand, Zionist propaganda absorbed all the energy of the most cultivated Jews; on the other, “Bund propaganda mobilised the greater part of the educated Jewish youth.” (Sliosberg insisting that the Bund be condemned, Winaver objected that he should not quarrel with the Bund: “it disposes of energy and propaganda power.”48 However, the Bureau soon maintained a strong relationship, built on reciprocal information and mutual aid, with the American Jewish Committee (chaired by J. Schiff, then Louis Marshall), the English Jewish Committee (Claude Montefiore, Lucine Woolf), the Alliance in Paris and the Support Committee of the German Jews (Hilfsverein der deutschen Juden: James Simon, Paul Nathan49).
Here is the testimony of M. Krohl: “The heart of our group was the ‘Press Office’[whose mission was to disseminate] through the Russian and foreign press serious information about the situation of the Jews in Russia.” It was A. I. Braudo who undertook this task. “He accomplished it perfectly. Under the conditions of the Russia of that time, this kind of work required a great deal of prudence,” was to be carried out “in the greatest secrecy. Even the members of the Defence Office did not know by what means or by what channels he had succeeded in organising such and such a press campaign… A large number of articles published in the Russian or foreign press of the time, often with great repercussions, had been communicated to the newspapers or magazines either personally by Braudo, or through his intermediary.”50
“Providing serious information” to launch “this or that press campaign”—it is a bit chilling, especially in light of what happened in the 20th century. In today’s language, it is called “skilful manipulation of the media.”
In March 1905 the Defence Bureau convened in Vilnius the Constituent Congress of the “Union for the Equal Rights for the Jewish People in Russia,”51 but it quickly proceeded to its self‐dissolution and joined the direction of the Union for the integrality of rights (the expression “integrality”, because it was stronger than that of “equal rights”, had been proposed by Winaver. Today, we evoke it under a hybrid form such as the “Union for Achieving Integral Equality of Rights”52).
It was wanted that this new Union bring together all Jewish parties and groups.53 But the Bund denounced this congress as a bourgeois. However, many Zionists could not remain in their splendid isolation. The prodromes of the Russian revolution led to a split in their ranks. And some of these fractions did not resist the temptation to participate in the great things that unfolded before their eyes! But in so doing, they exerted an influence on the strictly civic orientation of the congress agenda. The idea was making its way not only to fight for civic rights but also, with the same energy, for national rights.54
Sliosberg fought against the influence of the Zionists “who wanted to withdraw the Jews from the number of citizens of Russia” and whose demands “were often formulated only for demagogic reasons.” For the Jewish community in Russia “has in no way been limited in the expression of its national life… Was it appropriate to raise the question of national autonomy of the Jews when none of the nationalities living in Russia possessed it, whereas the Russian people themselves, in their orthodox part, were far from being free in the expression of their religious and national life?” But, “at that time, demagogy assumed a very special significance in the Jewish backstreet.”55
Thus, in place of the notion, clear in the eyes of everyone, of “equality of rights”, which certainly had not yet happened, but seemed no longer to lag behind political developments, the slogan was issued for the integrality of rights of the Jews. What was meant by this was that, in addition to equal rights, “national autonomy” was also recognised. “It must be said that those who formulated these requirements did not have a very clear idea of their content. The creation of Jewish schools was not limited by any law. The study of the Russian language was required… insofar as it was not a question of Heders.* But other more civilised countries also imposed the use of the State language in relations with the administration as well as in school.56 Thus, there was no “national autonomy” for the Jews in the United States. But the “obtentionists” (“Union for the obtention…”) demanded “national and cultural self‐determination” on the territory of Russia, as well as a substantial autonomy for the Jewish communities (and, in the same breath: the secularisation of these, to tear them away from the religious influence of Judaism—which suited both the Zionists and the Socialists). Later, this was called “national‐personal autonomy”. (Accompanied by the requirement that the Jewish cultural and social institutions be financed by the State but without it interfering in their functioning.) And how can we imagine the “self‐management” of a nation scattered territorially? The Second Congress of the Union, in November 1905, took the decision to convene a Jewish National Assembly of Russia.57
All these ideas, including the “national‐personal autonomy” of the Jews of Russia, were expressed and continued in various forms until 1917. However, the Union for the Integrality of Rights proved ephemeral. At the end of 1906, the Jewish People’s Anti‐Zionist Group seceded (Winaver, Sliosberg, Koulicher, Sternberg) on the grounds that it refused the idea of a Jewish National Assembly; shortly afterwards it was the turn of the Jewish People’s Party (S. Doubnov—religious and cultural nationalism, notably the right to use the Jewish language in public life throughout the country, but with what means, how?); then the Jewish Democratic Group (Bramson, Landau), close to the Labour Party.58 The Union for the integrality of rights was also accused of having rallied to the KD and, consequently, was “no longer being able to represent the Jewish population of Russia”; the Zionists regarded the “secularists” as “partisans of assimilation”, and the socialists as bourgeois.59 In short, at the beginning of 1907, the Union ceased to exist.60
The Zionists were increasingly drawn into the revolutionary whirlpool, and in November 1906, at their All‐Russian Congress in Helsinfors, it was declared “indispensable not only to turn to the daily needs and demands of the Jews of Russia, but also to engage fully in their political and social struggle”61; Jabotinsky insisted that the Zionist program should include the requirement of the establishment in Russia of the sovereignty of the people; D. Pasmanik objected that “such a demand can only be made by those who are ready to stand on the barricades.”62 At the end of its work, the Congress brought its “sanction to the rallying of the Zionists to the Liberation Movement”.63 But the latter was just about to lose momentum after the failure of Vyborg’s manifesto.*
The author of this program, Jabotinsky, put forward the following arguments: the goal set by Zionism can only be reached in several decades, but by fighting for their full rights, Jews will understand better what Zionism is.64 However, he said: “We leave the first ranks to the representatives of the majority nation. We cannot pretend to play a leading role: we are aligning ourselves.65 In other words: Palestine is one thing; in the meantime, let us fight in Russia. Three years earlier, Plehve had told Herzl that he feared precisely this kind of drift of Zionism.
Sliosberg is far from minimising the role of the Zionists: “After the Congress of Helsinfors, they decided to take control of all public activities of the Jews” by trying to “impose their influence at the local level”. (In the first Duma, of the 12 Jewish deputies, five were Zionists.) But he also notes that this profusion of parties was “the business of small circles of intellectuals”, not of the Jewish masses, and their propaganda “only caused to confuse the issues.”66
True, all this scattering did not contribute to the clarification of the debate: it was no longer very clear what the Russian Jews were fighting, for what rights—equal or integral?—or on which plan—civic or national?
And, let us not forget: “All these groups composed only of intellectuals… did not understand Orthodox Jews, who eventually understood the need to organise to combat the growing anti‐religious influence exerting itself on Jewish youth.” And it was thus that “was born what was later to develop in ‘T’Agoudat Israel’.” “This movement was concerned that “Jewish revolutionary elements are recruited among the Jewish youth who have moved away from religion,” whereas “the majority of the Jews are religious and, while demanding recognition of their rights and the lifting of the prohibitions against them, remain loyal subjects of the Emperor and are far from any idea of overthrowing the existing regime.”67
When one studies the history of Russian Jews at the beginning of the twentieth century, there are few references to Orthodox Jews. Sliosberg once said, raising the ire of the Bund: “With the melameds* behind me, I rely on a greater number of Jews than the Bund leaders, for there are more melameds among the Jews than the workers.”68 In fact, the secularisation of Jewish society in no way affected the existence of traditional communities in the Pale of Settlement. For them, all the ancestral questions concerning the organisation of their lives, the religious instruction, the rabbinate, remained topical. During the temporary lull of 1909, the reform of the traditional Jewish community was discussed with great seriousness at the Kovno Congress. “The work of the Congress proved to be very fruitful, and few Jewish assemblies could have equalled it by the seriousness and wisdom of the resolutions adopted there.”69
“Orthodox Judaism has always been in conflict—not always open, but rather latent—with the Jewish intelligentsia. It was clear that in condemning the movement for the liberation of the Jews it hoped to win the government’s favour.”70 But it was too late: on the eve of the 1905 revolution, we have seen that the autocratic regime had lost control of the country. As for traditional Judaism, it had already lost a whole generation—moreover it was not the first—who had gone towards Zionism, secular liberalism, rarely enlightened conservatism, but also, and with the heaviest consequences, towards the revolutionary movement.
The new generation of revolutionaries had emerged at the turn of the century. Its leaders, Grigory Gershuni and Mikhail Gotz, had decided to revive the terrorist methods of The Will of the People. “Gershuni took upon himself the heavy responsibility of creating in Russia a new revolutionary party called to succeed with dignity to the Will of the People,” and “thanks to his talents as organiser as well as to those of other revolutionaries entirely devoted to the cause, this party was born at the end of the year 1901.” “At the same time… was also constituted its armed faction. Its creator and its inspirer was none other than the very same Gershuni.”71 Among the S.‐R.*, the Jews “immediately played a leading role.” Amongst them were “An‐ski Rappoport, K. Jitlovsky, Ossip Minor, I. Roubanovitch” and—still him!—Mark Natanson. The armed faction included among its members “Abraham Gotz, Dora Brilliant, L. Zilberberg”, not to mention the famous Azef. It is among the S.‐R. That M. Trilisser was also formed—he who later would become famous in the Cheka. “Among the grassroots activists of the S.‐R. party, there were also quite a few Jews,” even though, adds Schub, “they never represented a tiny minority.” According to him, it is even “the most Russian” of the revolutionary parties.72 For security reasons, the seat of the party was transferred abroad (for example, the Bund was absent), in Geneva, at M. Gotz and O. Minor’s place.
As for Gershuni, this indomitable “tiger”, after succeeding in deceiving Zubatov’s** vigilance, he began to criss-cross Russia, like B. Savinkov, fomenting terrorist actions and checking their proper execution. It was thus that he was present at the Place Saint‐Isaac during the assassination of Sipiagin***; he was at Ufa when Governor Bogdanovitch was killed73; and at Kharkov when it was Governor Obolensky’s turn; on the Nevsky prospect during the failed attack on Pobedonostsev****. The execution was always entrusted to “Christians” such as P. Karpovitch, S. Balmachov, E. Sozonov, etc. (The bombs used for the assassination of Plehve, Grand Duke Sergey Aleksandrovich, and planned attacks on Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich and Interior Ministers Boulygin and Durnovo were made by Maximilian Schweitzer, who in 1905 was himself victim of the machine he was making.74) Arrested by chance, Gershuni was condemned to death, reprieved by the Emperor without having asked for it; in 1907 he found an ingenious means of escaping from the prison of Akatuysk, hiding in a cabbage‐barrel, and then gained by way of Vladivostok, America and Europe; the Russian government demanded his extradition from Italy, but the European liberal opinion was unanimous in refusing it and Clemenceau also used his influence: he was also, as we know, a “tiger”. Soon after, Gershuni died of a sarcoma in the lung. Among other leading S.‐R. terrorists, we must also mention Abraham Gotz, who played an active part in the attacks on Dournovo, Akimov, Shuvalov, Trepov*, and played a role in the assassination of Mine and Rieman. (But, he had the misfortune of living much longer than his elder brother, who died prematurely—and the Bolsheviks later gave him a hard time.)
To play with History, precautions were less taken than the previous revolutionary generation. Less well known than others, Pinhas (Pyotr) Rutenberg is not less worthy of interest. In 1905 he trained groups of fighters in Saint Petersburg and supplied them with weapons. Inspired by Gapon**, he was at his side on 9 January 1905; But it was also he who, in 1906, “by order of the S.‐R. party, organises and supervises his assassination” (later he will author a book entitled Gapon’s Assassination75). In 1919, he immigrated to Palestine where he distinguished himself in the electrification of the country. There, he shows that he is capable of building; but in his early years, in Russia, he certainly does not work as an engineer, he destroys! One loses the trace of the “student of Zion”, irresponsible instigator of the mutiny of Sveaborg, who, however, escaped the slaughter that ensued.
Apart from the S.‐R., each year brought with it new social‐democratic fighters, theorists, and talkers. Some had short‐lived notoriety in narrow circles, such as Alekandra Sokolovskaya, whom History retained only because she was Trotsky’s first wife and the mother of his two daughters. Others have been unjustly forgotten: Zinovy Litvine‐Sedoi, the chief of staff of the detachments of the Krasnaya Presnia district during the armed insurrection in Moscow; Zinovy Dosser, a member of the “troika” who led this insurrection. Among its leaders, we can cite again “Marat”—V. L. Chanzer, Lev Kafenhausen, Lubotsky‐Zagorsky (who for nearly a century gave his pseudonym*** to the monastery of The Trinity Saint Sergius) and Martin Mandelstam‐Liadov, member of the executive Commission of the RSDLP**** for the organisation of the armed insurrection.76 Others—like F. Dan or O. Nakhamkis—were to play an important role later in 1917.
Despite Bakunin’s aversion for the Jews, there are many of them among the leaders and theorists of anarchism. But “other Russian anarchists, such as Kropotkin, had no hostility towards the Jews and tried to win them over to their cause.”77 Among these leaders are Yakov Novomirsky, Alexander Gue, Lev Tcherny, V. Gordine.78 One of them, I. Grossman‐Rochin, evokes with the greatest respect the figure of Aron Eline, of Bialystok: “a famous terrorist”, but not only “a specialist in gory operations” “never does he fall… into ‘systematic activism’.”79 “The least patient among the mass of Jews… are looking for a faster way to achieve socialism. And this recourse, this ‘ambulance’, they find in anarchism.”80 It is the Jews of Kiev and Southern Russia who have been most attracted to anarchism, and in the documents relating to the Bogrov affair* there is often mention of smaller‐scale anarchists, forgotten by history.
We have already observed, but it is worth recalling, that it was not only because of the inequalities of which they were the victims that many Jews were rushing into the revolution. “The participation of the Jews in the revolutionary movement which had gained the whole of Russia is only partly explained by their situation of inequality… The Jews merely shared the general feeling of hostility towards the autocracy.81 Should we be surprised? Young people from the intelligentsia, both Russian and Jewish, heard in their families, all year long, only “crimes perpetrated by the power”, of the “government composed of assassins”, and they precipitated the revolutionary action with all the energy of their fury. Bogrov like the others.
In 1905, the Jewish historian S. Doubnov accused all Jewish revolutionaries of “national treason.” In his article entitled “Slavery in the Revolution,” he wrote: “This entire numerous army of young Jews, who occupy the most prominent positions in the Social Democratic Party and who run for positions of command, has formally cut off all ties with the Jewish community… You build nothing new, you are only the valets of the revolution, or its commissionaires.”82
But as time passed, the approval of the adults to their revolutionary progeny grew. This phenomenon was intensified among the “fathers” of the new generation and was on the whole more marked among the Jews than among the Russians. Meier Bomach, member of the Duma, declared ten years later (1916): “We do not regret that the Jews participated in the struggle for liberation… They were fighting for your freedom.”83 And six months later, in the conflagration of the new revolution, in March 1917, the celebrated lawyer O. O. Gruzenberg held these passionate but not unfounded remarks before the leaders of the Provisional Government and the Soviet of deputies of workers and soldiers: “We generously offered to the revolution a huge ‘percentage’ of our people—almost all its flower, almost all its youth… And, when in 1905 the people rose up, countless Jewish fighters came to swell their ranks, carried by an irresistible impulse.”84 Others will say the same thing: “Historical circumstances made the Jewish masses of Russia unable to not participate in the most active way in the revolution.”85 “For the Jews, the solution of the Jewish question in Russia was the triumph of progressive ideas in this country.”86
The revolutionary effervescence that had seized Russia was undoubtedly stirred up by that which reigned among the Jews.
However, youth alone, trained in intellectual or manual labour, could not make the revolution. One of the top priorities was to win over to the revolutionary cause, and to lead the industrial workers, and especially those of Saint Petersburg, to battle. However, as noted by the director of the police department at the time, “at the initial stage of its development, the workers’ movement… was foreign to political aspirations.” And even on the eve of January 9th, “during an extraordinary meeting which they had organised on December 27th, the workers chased a Jew who tried to make political propaganda and distribute leaflets, and three Jewish women who sought to propagate political ideas were apprehended.”87
In order to train the workers of Saint Petersburg, Gapon’s pseudo‐religious propaganda took place.
On 9 January, even before the troops opened fire, it was the young Simon Rechtzammer (the son of the director of the Warehouse and Grain Storage Company) who took the lead of the only barricade erected that day (On the fourth street of Saint‐Basil’s island), with the destruction of the telegraph and telephone lines and the attack on the police station. Moreover, the workers of this quarter were employed two days later “to copiously beat the intellectuals.”88
We know that the Russian revolutionaries who immigrated to Europe welcomed the news of the shooting of Petersburg with a mixture of indignation and enthusiasm: it’s about time!! Now it’s going to blow!! As for the propagation of this enthusiasm—and of the insurrection—in the Pale of Settlement, it was the tireless Bund who harnessed itself, whose hymn (An‐ski said of it that it was “The Marseillaise of the Jewish Workers”) included the following words:
Enough of loving our enemies, we want to hate them!! …
… it is ready the pyre! We will find enough logs
For its holy flames to engulf the planet!!89
(Let us note in passing that The International was translated into Russian by Arkadi Kotz as early as 1912.90 Several generations were religiously imbued with his words: Stand up! The damned of the earth! and of the past let us make a clean slate…)
The Bund immediately issued a proclamation (“about two hundred thousand copies”): “The revolution has begun. It burned in the capital, its flames covering the whole country… To arms! Storm the armouries and seize all the weapons… Let all the streets become battlefields!”91
According to the Red Chronicle of the Soviet regime’s beginnings, “the events of 9 January in Saint Petersburg echoed a great deal in the Jewish workers’ movement: they were followed by mass demonstrations of the Jewish proletariat throughout the Pale of Settlement. At their head was the Bund. To ensure the massive nature of these demonstrations, detachments of the Bund went to workshops, factories, and even to the workers’ homes to call for the cessation of work; they employed force to empty the boilers of their steam, to tear off the transmission belts; they threatened the owners of companies, here and there shots were fired, at Vitebsk one of them received a jet of sulphuric acid. It was not “a spontaneous mass demonstration, but an action carefully prepared and organised.” N. Buchbinder regrets, however, that “almost everywhere the strikes were followed only by the Jewish workers… In a whole series of towns the Russian workers put up a strong resistance to the attempts to stop factories and plants.” There were week‐long strikes in Vilnius, Minsk, Gomel, Riga, of two weeks in Libava. The police had to intervene, naturally, and in several cities the Bund constituted “armed detachments to combat police terror.”92 In Krinki (the province of Grodno), the strikers gunned the police, interrupted telegraphic communications, and for two days all the power was in the hands of the strike committee. “The fact that workers, and among them a majority of Jews, had thus been able to hold power from the beginning of 1905, was very significant of what this revolution was, and gave rise to many hopes.” It is no less true that the Bund’s important participation in these actions “might lead one to believe that discontent was above all the result of the Jews, while the other nationalities were not that revolutionary.”93
The strength of the revolutionaries manifested itself through the actions, carried out in broad daylight, of armed detachments of “self‐defence” which had been illustrated during the Gomel pogrom and which had since then grown considerably stronger. “Self‐defence was most often in close contact with the armed detachments of political organisations… It can be said that the whole Pale of Settlement was covered by a whole network of armed self‐defence groups which played an important military role—only a professional army could face them.”94—At the height of the revolution, they were joined by Zionist groups of various tendencies: “the particularly active participation of the Poalei Zion”, as well as “armed detachments of the ZS [Zionist Socialists]”, But also from SERP. So that “in the armed operations that occurred during the revolution, these socialists belonging to different currents of Zionism found themselves at our side,”95 remembers S. Dimanstein, later a prominent Bolshevik leader.
The Bund was to continue its military operations throughout this changing and uncertain year of 1905. Special mention should be made to the April events in Jitomir. According to the Jewish Encyclopædia, it was a pogrom against the Jews, moreover “fomented by the police.”96 As for Dimanstein, who boasts of having “actively participated in the 1905 revolution on the territory of the so‐called Pale of Settlement,” he wrote: “It was not a pogrom, but a fight against the troops of the counter‐revolution.”97 The Jewish Encyclopædia indicates that up to twenty Jews were killed98; the new one: “almost fifty (according to other sources, about thirty‐five).”99 According to the latter, “disorders began after provocateurs had declared that Jews had fired shots on the portrait of the tsar outside the city.”100 While The Messenger of the Government gives as a fact that, two weeks before the pogrom, “a crowd of nearly three hundred people gathered outside the city… to practice shooting with revolvers… by aiming for the portrait of His Majesty the Emperor.” After this, several brawls broke out between the Jews and the Christians within the city—still according to The Messenger of the Government, the aggressors were mostly Jews.101 According to the new Jewish Encyclopædia, on the day of the event, “the Jewish detachments of self‐defence heroically resisted the rioters.” From a neighbouring village, a group of young armed Jews came to their rescue, when, on the way, “they were stopped by Ukrainian peasants” at Troyanovo. “They tried to take refuge among the Jewish inhabitants of the village, but these did not let them in” and, a characteristic fact, “indicated to the peasants where two of them had been hiding”; “ten members of the detachment were killed.”102
At the time, a particularly effective manœuvre had already been devised: “The funerals of the victims who fell for the revolution constituted one of the most effective means of propaganda capable of inflating the masses”, which had for consequence that “the fighters were aware that their death would be used for the profit of the revolution, that it would arouse a desire for vengeance among the thousands of people who were going to attend their funeral,” and that on these occasions “it was relatively easier to organise manifestations. The liberal circles considered it their duty to ensure that the police did not intervene during a funeral.” Thus “the funeral became one of the components of revolutionary propaganda in 1905.”103
In the summer of that year, “the police terror was massive, but there were also many acts of revenge on the part of the workers who threw bombs on patrols of soldiers or Cossacks, murdered policemen, whether officers or not; these cases were far from being isolated”, because it was “a step backwards or forwards for the revolution in the Jewish sector.”104 Example: the Cossacks killed a Bund militant in Gomel; eight thousand people attend his funeral, revolutionary speeches are given—and the revolution advances, always advances! And when the time came to protest against the convening of the “Boulyguine”* consultative Duma, the campaign “moved from the Stock Exchange in the Jewish quarter to the synagogues… where speakers of the Party intervened during the service… under the protection of armed detachments that sealed off the exits… During these assemblies, it was frequent that resolutions prepared in advance were adopted without discussion”—the unfortunate faithfuls come to pray, did they have a choice? Go and talk to these fellows! There is no question of “stopping the revolutionary process at this stage…”105
The project of convocation of this consultative Duma, which was not followed up on due to the events of 1905, started from the assumption that they did not possess it for the designation of municipal self‐government bodies, it had been originally planned to not grant the Jews the right to vote. But the revolutionary momentum was growing, the Jewish municipal councillors appointed by the provincial authorities resigned demonstratively here and there, and the Duma Elections Act of August 1905 already provided for the granting of voting rights to the Jews. But the revolution continued its course, and public opinion rejected this consultative Duma, which was therefore not united.
The tension remained high throughout this unhappy year 1905; the government was overtaken by the events. In the fall, strikes, notably in the railways, were being prepared everywhere in Russia. And, of course, the Pale of Settlement was not spared. In the region of the Northwest, during early October, was seen “a rapid rise… of the revolutionary energy of the masses”, “a new campaign of meetings takes place in the synagogues” (always in the same way, with men posted at exits to intimidate the faithful), “we prepare ourselves feverishly for the general strike.” In Vilnius, during a meeting authorised by the governor, “some shot the immense portrait of the Emperor that was there, and some smashed it with chairs”; An hour later, it was on the governor in person that one drew—here it was, the frenzy of 1905! But in Gomel, for example, the Social Democrats could not agree with the Bund and “they acted in disorder”; as for the social revolutionists, they “joined” the Zionist Socialists; and then “bombs are thrown at the Cossacks, who retaliate by shooting and knocking on all those who fall under their hand, without distinction of nationality,”106—a very pretty revolutionary outburst! They were rubbing their hands!
It is not surprising that “in many places… we could observe well‐to‐do and religious Jews actively fighting the revolution. They worked with the police to track down Jewish revolutionaries, to break up demonstrations, strikes, and so on.” Not that it was pleasing to them to find themselves on the side of power. But, not having detached themselves from God, they refused to witness the destruction of life. Still less did they accept the revolutionary law: they venerated their Law. While in Bialystok and other places the young revolutionaries assimilated the “Union of the Jews” to the “Black Hundreds” because of its religious orientation.107
According to Dimanstein, the situation after the general strike in October could be summarised as follows: “The Bund, the ZS and other Jewish workers’ parties called for insurrection,” but “there a certain weariness could be perceived.”108 Later, like the Bolsheviks, the Bund boycotted early in the 1906109 the elections to the first Duma, still caressing the hopes of a revolutionary explosion. This expectation having been disappointed, it resigned itself to bring its positions closer to those of the Mensheviks; in 1907, at the fifth Congress of the RSDLP, of the 305 deputies, 55 were members of the Bund. And it even became a “supporter of extreme Yiddishism.”110
It is in this amped atmosphere, very uncertain for the power in place, that Witte persuaded Nicholas II to promulgate the Manifesto of 17 October 1905. (More exactly, Witte wanted to publish it in the form of a simple government press release, but it is Nicholas II himself who insisted that the promulgation of the Manifesto, made in the name of the tsar, should assume a solemn character: he thought he would thus touch the hearts of his subjects.) A. D. Obolensky, who drew up the initial draft, reported that among the three main points of the Manifesto there was a special one devoted to the rights and freedoms of the Jews—but Witte (doubtlessly at the pressing request of the Emperor) modified its formulation by addressing in a general way the respect for individuals and the liberty of conscience, expression, and assembly.”111 The question of the equal rights of the Jews was therefore no longer mentioned. “It was only in the speech published at the same time than the Manifesto… that Witte spoke of the need to “equalise all Russian subjects before the law irrespective of their confession and nationality.”112
But: we must make concessions only at the right time and in a position of strength—and this was no longer the case. Liberal and revolutionary opinion laughed at the Manifesto, seeing it only as a capitulation, and rejected it. The Emperor, like Witte, was deeply affected, but also certain representatives of the Jewish intelligentsia: “For what the best of the Russians had been waiting for decades was finally realised… In fact, the Emperor willingly surrendered the autocratic regime and pledged to hand over the legislative power to the representatives of the people… One would have thought that this change would fill everyone with joy”—but the news was welcomed with the same revolutionary intransigence: the struggle continues!113 In the streets, the national flag, the portraits of the Emperor and the coat of arms of the State were torn off.
The account of Witte’s interview with the Petersburg press on 18 October, following the promulgation of the Manifesto, is rich in information. Witte obviously expected manifestations of gratitude and relied on the friendly support of the press to calm the spirits, he even openly solicited it. He obtained only scathing replies, first from the director of the Stock Exchange News, S. M. Propper, then from Notovitch, Khodski, Arabajine, and Annensky; all demanded with one voice: proclaim immediately political amnesty! “This requirement is categorical!” General Trepov must be dismissed from his post as governor‐general of Saint Petersburg. This is the unanimous decision of the press.” The unanimous decision of the press! And to withdraw the Cossacks and the army from the capital: “We shall not publish any more newspapers as long as the troops are there!” The army is the cause of the disorder… The security of the city must be entrusted to the “popular militia”! (That is to say, to the detachments of revolutionaries, which meant creating in Petersburg the conditions for a butchery, as it would soon be in Odessa, or, in the future, to set up in Petersburg the conditions favourable to the future revolution of February.) And Witte implored: “Let me breathe a little!”, “Help me, give me a few weeks!”; he even passed among them, shaking hands with each one.114 (For his part, he will remember later: Propper’s demands “meant for me that the press had lost its head.”) Despite this, the government had intelligence and courage to refuse the establishment of anarchy and nothing serious happened in the capital.
(In his Memoirs, Witte relates that Propper “had arrived in Russia from abroad, a penniless Jew with no mastery of the Russian language… He had made his mark in the press and had become the head of the Stock Exchange News, running through the antechambers of influential figures… When I was Minister of Finance, [Propper] begged for official announcements, various advantages, and eventually obtained from me the title of commercial advisor.” However, at this meeting, he formulated, not without a certain insolence, “demands, even declarations” like this one: “We have no confidence in the government.”115)
In the course of the same month of October, The Kievian published an account of an officer returning to Moscow just at that moment, after a year and a half of captivity in Japan, who was initially moved to tears by the generosity of the Emperor’s Manifesto, which opened up favourable prospects for the country. At the mere sight of this officer in battle dress, the welcome which the Muscovite crowd received from him was expressed in these terms: “Spook! Suck‐up! The tsar’s lackey!” During a large meeting in the Theatre Plaza, “the orator called for struggle and destruction”; another speaker began his speech by shouting: “Down with the autocracy!” “His accent betrayed his Jewish origins, but the Russian public listened to him, and no one found anything to reply to him.” Nods of agreement met the insults uttered against the tsar and his family; Cossacks, policemen and soldiers, all without exception—no mercy! And all the Muscovite newspapers called for armed struggle.”116
In Petersburg, as is well known, a “Soviet of the Workers’ Deputies” was formed on 13 October, headed by the incomparable Parvus and Trotsky, and with the straw man Khroustalëv‐Nossarëv as a bonus. This Soviet aimed for the complete annihilation of the government.
The events of October had even greater and more tragic consequences in Kiev and Odessa: two great pogroms against the Jews, which must now be examined. They were the subject of detailed reports of Senate committees of inquiry—these were the most rigorous investigative procedures in Imperial Russia, the Senate representing the highest and most authoritative judicial institution and of the greatest independence.
It is Senator Tourau who drafted the report on the Kiev pogrom.117 He writes that the causes of this “are related to the troubles that have won the whole of Russia in recent years”, and he supports this assertion by a detailed description of what preceded it and the course of the facts themselves.
Let us remind that after the events of 9 January in Saint Petersburg, after months of social unrest, after the infamous defeat against Japan, the imperial government found nothing better to do to calm the minds than to proclaim on the 27th of August, the complete administrative autonomy of the higher education institutions and the territory on which they were located. This measure had no other result than to turn up the revolutionary heat.
It is thus, writes Senator Tourau, that “individuals having nothing to do with the scientific activity of these institutions were free to access them,” and they did so “for the purpose of political propaganda.” At the University and Polytechnic of Kiev “a series of meetings were organised by the students, to which participated an external audience,” and they were called “popular meetings”; a more numerous day‐to‐day public went there: at the end of September, up to “several thousand people.” During these meetings, red flags were displayed, “passionate speeches were given about the deficiencies of the political regime in place, on the necessity of fighting the government”; “funds were raised for the purchase of weapons”, “leaflets were distributed and brochures on revolutionary propaganda were sold.” In mid‐October, “the university as well as the Polytechnic Institute had gradually been transformed into arenas for open and unbridled anti‐government propaganda. Revolutionary militants who were, until recently, prosecuted by the authorities for organising clandestine meetings in private places, now felt invulnerable,” they “hatched and discussed plans to bring down the existing political system.” But even this did not seem sufficient and the revolutionary action began its expansion: by attracting the “pupils of secondary schools”, in other words, high school pupils, and by moving the field of revolutionary activity: (A Jewish student takes the floor to denounce the Kishinev pogrom, immediately leaflets are spread out in the room and cries are heard: “Down with the police! Down with the autocracy!”); in some cases at a meeting of the Society of Art and Literature (windows are broken, “we break chairs and staircase ramps to throw them on peacekeepers”). And there was no authority to prevent this: the universities, autonomous, now had their own law.
The description of these events, supported by the statements of more than five hundred witnesses, alternates throughout this report with remarks on the Jews who stand out in the background of this revolutionary crowd. “During the years of the Russian revolution of 1905‒1907, the revolutionary activity of the Jews increased considerably”. No doubt the novelty of the thing made it seem obvious. “The Jewish youth,” the report says, “dominated by numbers both at the 9 September meeting at the Polytechnic Institute and during the occupation of the premises of the Arts and Literary Society”; and, also, on 23 September in the University Hall where “up to 5,000 students and persons outside the university were gathered, with more than 500 women among them.” On October 3rd, at the Polytechnic Institute, “nearly 5,000 people gathered… with a Jewish majority of women.” The preponderant role of the Jews is mentioned again and again: at the meetings of 5‒9 October; at the university meeting on 12 October, in which “participated employees of the railway administration, students, individuals of indeterminate professions” as well as “masses of Jews of both sexes”; on 13 October at the university where “nearly 10,000 people from diverse backgrounds gathered” and speeches were delivered by S‐R. and Bund militants. (The Jewish Encyclopædia confirms the fact that even beyond Kiev, during demonstrations celebrating new freedoms, “most of the protesters in the Pale of Settlement were Jews.” However, it calls “lies” the information according to which, in Ekaterinoslav, “they were collecting silver for the Emperor’s coffin in the street,” and in Kiev they “lacerated the portraits of the Emperor in the premises of the Municipal Duma.”118 Yet this last fact is precisely confirmed by the Tourau report.)
In Kiev, in October, the revolutionary movement was gaining momentum. Alexander Schlichter (future Bolshevik leader, specialist in flour requisitions and “Agriculture Commissioner” in Ukraine just before the great organised famine) fomented a south‐western railway strike, paralysing the trains to Poltava, Kursk, Voronezh, and Moscow. Threats were made to force the workers of the Kiev mechanical construction factory to go on strike on 12 October. At the university, “exceptional collections ‘for armaments’ took place: the participants threw gold coins, bank notes, silverware, a lady even offered her earrings.” “Flying detachments” were formed with the mission of interrupting by force the work in high schools, the factories, the transports, the commerce, and to “prepare the armed resistance to the forces of order.” The whole movement “had to take to the streets.” On the 14th of October, the newspapers ceased to appear, with the exception of The Kievian, aligned on the right; only the telegrammes relating to the liberation movement were allowed to pass. The “flying detachments” prevented the trams from rolling, breaking their windows (some passengers were wounded). At the first appearance of the agitators everything was closed, everything stopped; the post office closed its doors after a bomb threat; streams of students and pupils were converging towards the university at the call of Schlichter, as well as “young Jews of various professions”.
It was then that the authorities took the first steps. It was forbidden to meet in the streets and in public squares, and the cordoning off by the army of the university and the Polytechnic took place in order for only the students to be allowed in, “arrest… of a few individuals for contempt of the police and the army”, of some S.‐R. and Social Democrats, of the lawyer Ratner, who “had actively participated in popular meetings” (Schlichter, him, had taken off). The trams began to circulate again, the shops re‐opened their doors, and in Kiev the days of 16 and 17 October went by peacefully.
It was in this context (which was that of many other places in Russia) that the Emperor, relying on the gratitude of the population, launched on 17 October the Manifesto establishing the liberties and a parliamentary system of government. The news reached Kiev by telegram on the night of the 18th, and in the morning the text of the Manifesto was sold or distributed in the streets of the city (as for the newspaper The Kievian, “Jewish student youth rushed to buy it and immediately tear it ostensibly into pieces”). The authorities ordered ipso facto the release of both those who had been arrested in the last days and those who had previously been “charged with assault on the security of the State”, with the exception, however, of those who had used explosives. Both the police and the army had deserted the streets, “important rallies” were formed, at first calmly. “In the vicinity of the university there was a large crowd of students, high school pupils and “a significant number of young Jews of both sexes”. Giving way to their demands, the rector “had the portal of the main building opened.” Immediately “the great hall was invaded by a part of the crowd which destroyed the portraits of the Emperor, tore up the red hangings” to make flags and banners, and some “noisily invited the public to kneel before Schlichter by virtue of victim of arbitrariness.” If “those who were near him actually fell on their knees,” another part of the public “considered that all that had just taken place was offensive to their national sentiments.” Then the crowd went to the Municipal Duma, and at its head Schlichter pranced around on a horse, displaying a red band, and at every halt harangued the crowd, claiming that “the struggle against the government was not over.” Meanwhile, in the Nicholas Park, “the Jews had thrown a rope around the statue of the Emperor [Nicholas I] and tried to overthrow it from its pedestal”; “At another place, Jews wearing red bands began to insult four soldiers who passed by, spitting on them”; the crowd threw stones on a patrol of soldiers, wounded six, and two demonstrators were hit by the firing of a riposte. However, the interim mayor was visited by a group of peaceful citizens who “asked for the opening of the meeting room of the municipal council” so that the grateful protesters could “express their feelings about the Manifesto. Their request was met” and a peaceful rally was held “under the presidency of the municipal councillor Scheftel.” But a new wave, many thousands of people wearing red badges and ribbons, flocked in; “it was made up of students, people of different social classes, age, sex and condition, but the Jews were especially noted for it”; one party burst into the meeting room, the others occupied the square in front of the Duma. “In a moment all the national flags which had decorated the Duma on the occasion of the Manifesto were torn out and replaced by red and black banners. At that moment a new procession approached, carrying at arm’s length the lawyer Ratner who had just gotten out of prison; he called the crowd to release all the other prisoners; on the balcony of the Duma, Schlichter publicly embraced him. For his part, the latter “exhorted the population to go on a general strike… and pronounced insulting words addressed to the person of the Sovereign. In the meantime, the crowd had torn the Emperor’s portraits hung in the assembly hall of the Duma, and broken the emblems of imperial power which had been placed on the balcony for the festivities.” “There is no doubt that these acts were perpetrated by both Russians and Jews”; a “Russian worker” had even begun to break the crown, some demanded that it should be put back in its place, “but a few moments later it was again thrown to the ground, this time by a Jew who then broke in half of the letter ‘N’”; “Another young man, Jewish in appearance,” then attacked the jewels of the diadem. All the furniture of the Duma was shattered, the administrative documents torn. Schlichter directed the operations: in the corridors, “money was collected for unknown purposes”. Excitement in front of the Duma, however, only increased; perched on the roof of stationary trams, orators delivered fiery speeches; but it was Ratner and Schlichter who were the most successful from the balcony of the Duma. “An apprentice of Jewish nationality began shouting from the balcony: ‘Down with the autocracy!’; another Jew, properly dressed: ‘Same to the swine!’”; “Another Jew, who had cut the tsar’s head from the picture, reproducing him, introduced his own by the orifice thus formed, and began to yell at the balcony: ‘I am the tsar!’”; “the building of the Duma passed completely into the hands of revolutionary socialist extremists as well as the Jewish youth who had sympathised with them, losing all control of itself.”
I dare say that something stupid and evil has revealed itself in this frantic jubilation: the inability to remain within certain limits. What, then, prompted these Jews, in the midst of the delirious plebs, to trample so brutally what the people still venerated? Aware of the precarious situation of their people and their families, on 18 and 19 October they could not, in dozens of cities, refrain from embarking in such events with such passion, to the point of becoming its soul and sometimes its main actors?
Let us continue reading the Tourau report: “Respect for the national sentiment and the symbols venerated by the people was forgotten. As if a part of the population… did not shy away from any means of expressing its contempt…”; “the indignities carried out to the portraits of the Emperor excited an immense popular emotion. Cries came from the crowd gathered in front of the Duma: ‘Who has dethroned the tsar?’, others wept.” “Without being a prophet, one could foresee that such offences would not be forgiven to the Jews,” “voices rose to express astonishment at the inaction of the authorities; here and there, in the crowd… they began to shout: ‘We must break some kikes!’” Near the Duma, the police and an infantry company stood idly by. At that moment, a squadron of dragoons appeared briefly, greeted by shots from the windows and the balcony of the Duma; they began to bombard the infantry company with stones and bottles, to blast it from all sides: the Duma, the Stock Exchange, the crowd of demonstrators. Several soldiers were wounded; the captain gave orders to open fire. There were seven dead and one hundred and thirty wounded. The crowd dispersed. But on the evening of the 18th of October, “the news of the degradations committed on the Emperor’s portraits, the crown, the emblems of the monarchy, the national flag, circled the city, and spread into the suburbs. Small groups of passers‐by, mostly workers, craftsmen, merchants, who commented on the events with animation put the full responsibility for them on the Jews, who always stood out clearly from the other demonstrators.” “In the Podol district, the workers’ crowd decided to seize all the ‘democrats’… who had fomented the disturbances and placed them in a state of arrest ‘pending the orders of His Majesty the Emperor’.” In the evening, “a first group of demonstrators gathered in the Alexander Plaza, brandishing the portrait of the Emperor and singing the national anthem. The crowd grew rapidly and, as many Jews returned from the Krechtchatik with red insignia in the buttonhole, they were taken for the perpetrators of the disorders perpetrated in the Duma and became the target of aggressions; some were beaten.” This was already the beginning of the pogrom against the Jews.
Now, to understand both the unpardonable inaction of the authorities during the sacking of the Duma and the destruction of the national emblems, but also their even more unpardonable inaction during the pogrom itself, one has to take a look at what was happening within the organs of power. At first glance, one might think it was the result of a combination of circumstances. But their accumulation has been such in Kiev (as well as in other places) that one cannot fail to discern the mismanagement of the imperial administration of the last years, the consequences of which were fatal.
As for the governor of Kiev, he was simply absent. Vice‐Governor Rafalski had just taken office, had not had time to find his bearings, and lacked confidence in the exercise of temporary responsibilities. Above him, Governor General Kleigels, who had authority over a vast region, had, from the beginning of October, taken steps to be released from his duties—for health reasons. (His real motivations remain unknown, and it is not excluded that his decision was dictated by the bubbling revolution of September, which he did not know how to control.) In any case, he, too, considered himself as temporary, while in October the directives of the Ministry of the Interior continued to rain on him—10 October: take the most energetic measures “to prevent disorder in the street and to put an end to it by all means in case they occur”; 12: “repress street demonstrations, do not hesitate to use armed force”; 13: “do not tolerate any rally or gathering in the streets and, if necessary, disperse them by force”. On 14 October, as we have seen, the unrest in Kiev has crossed a dangerous limit. Kleigels brought together his close collaborators, including the Kiev chief of police, Colonel Tsikhotski, and the deputy head of security (again, the leader was absent), Kouliabka, a man as agitated as he was ineffective, the very one who, by stupidity, was about to expose Stolypin to the blows of his assassin.* From the panicked report of the latter stemmed the possibility not only of demonstrations of armed people in the streets of Kiev, but also of an armed insurrection. Kleigels, therefore, renounced reliance on the police, put in place the provisions for “recourse to the armed forces to assist the civil authorities”—and, on 14 October, handed over “his full powers to the military command”, more precisely to the commander—on a temporary basis once again (the commander himself is absent, but it must be said that the situation is anything but worrying!)—from the Kiev military region, the general Karass. The responsibility for security in the city was entrusted to General Drake. (Is it not comical enough: which of the surnames that have just been enumerated makes it possible to suppose that the action is taking place in Russia?) General Karass “found himself in a particularly difficult situation” insofar as he did not know the “data of the situation nor of the staff of the administration and of the police”; “By giving him his powers, General Kleigels did not consider it necessary to facilitate the work of his successor; he confined himself to respecting forms, and at once ceased to deal with anything.”
It is now time to talk about the chief of police, Tsikhotski. As early as 1902, an administrative inspection had revealed that he concealed the practice of extortion of the Jews in exchange for the right of residence. It was also discovered that he lived “above his means”, that he had bought—as well as for his son‐in‐law—properties worth 100,000 rubles. It was considered that he should be brought to justice when Kleigels was appointed Governor‐General; very quickly (and, of course, not without having received a large bribe), the latter intervened so that Tsikhotski was kept at his post and even obtained a promotion and the title of general. Regarding the promotion, it did not work, but there were no penalties either, although General Trepov had been working towards this end from Petersburg. Tsikhotski was informed at the beginning of October that Kleigels had asked to leave his post at the end of the month—his morale fell even lower, he saw himself already condemned. And on the night of the 18th of October, at the same time as the Imperial Manifesto, the official confirmation of the retirement of Kleigels came from Saint Petersburg. Tsikhotski now had nothing to lose. (Another detail: even though the situation was so troubled, Kleigels left his post even before the arrival of his successor, who was none other than the pearl of the Imperial administration, General Sukhomlinov, the future Minister of Defence who scuttled the preparations for the war against Germany; as for the functions of Governor‐General, they were temporarily assumed by the aforesaid General Karass.) And it was thus that “there was no rapid termination of the confusion that had settled within the police after the handing over of power to the army, but that it only increased to manifest itself with the greatest acuity during the disorders.”
The fact that Kleigels had “renounced his ‘full powers’… and that these had been handed over for an indefinite period to the military authorities of the city of Kiev is mainly at the origin of the uncertain mutual relations which later established themselves between civil authorities and military authorities”; “the extent and limits of the powers [of the army] were not known to anybody” and this vagueness “lead to a general disorganisation of services.”
This manifested itself from the beginning of the pogrom against the Jews. “Many police officers were convinced that the power had been fully handed over to the military command and that only the army was competent to act and to repress the disorders”; that is why they “did not feel concerned by the disorders which took place in their presence. As for the army, referring to an article of the provisions on the use of the armed forces to assist the civil authorities, it was awaiting indications from the police, considering with reason that it was not its responsibility to fulfil the missions of the latter”: these provisions “stipulated precisely” that the civil authorities “present at the scene of the disorders should guide the joint action of the police and the army with a view to their repression.” It was also up to the civil authorities to determine when to use force. Moreover, “Kleigels had not considered it useful to inform the military command about the situation in the city, nor had he told it what he knew about the revolutionary movement in Kiev. And this is what made units of the army begin to scour the city aimlessly.”
So, the pogrom against the Jews began in the evening of 18 October. “At its initial stage, the pogrom undoubtedly assumed the character of retaliation against the offence to national sentiment. The assaults against the Jews passed in the street, the destruction of shops and the merchandise they contained were accompanied by words such as: ‘Here it is, your liberty! Here it is, your Constitution and your revolution! This, this is for the portraits of the tsar and the crown!’” The next morning, 19 October, a large crowd came from the Duma to the Cathedral of Saint Sophia, bearing the empty frames of the Tsar’s portraits and the broken emblems of the imperial power. It stopped at the university to have the damaged portraits restored; a mass was celebrated and “the Metropolitan Flavian exhorted the people not to indulge in excesses and return home”. “But while the people who formed the heart of the patriotic demonstration… maintained an exemplary order, individuals who joined them along the way allowed themselves to be subjected to all kinds of violence against the Jewish passers‐by, as well as high school pupils or students in uniform.” They were then joined by “the workers, the homeless of the flea market, the bums”; “groups of rioters sacked the houses and shops of the Jews, threw into the street their goods and merchandise, which were partly destroyed on the spot, partly plundered”; “the servants, the guardians of buildings, the little shopkeepers apparently saw nothing wrong with taking advantage of the property of others”; “others, on the contrary, remained isolated to all interested goals until the last day of the disorders,” “they tore from the hands of their companions the objects that they had stolen and, without paying attention to their value, destroyed them on the spot.” The rioters did not touch the shops of the Karaites nor the “houses where they were presented portraits of the Emperor.” “But, on the whole, only a few hours after it had begun, the pogrom took the form of a pitiless rampage. On the 18th, it continued long into the night, then stopped on its own, to resume on the morning of the 19th, and to cease only on the evening of the 20th. (There were no fires, except one in the Podol district.) On the 19th, “luxury shops belonging to Jews were sacked as far as the city centre on the Krechtchatik. The heavy metal curtains and the locks were forced after half an hour of hard work”; “Expensive textiles, velvet cloths were thrown into the street and spread out in the mud, in the rain, like rags of no value. In front of the shop of the jeweller Markisch, on the Krechtchatik, the pavement was littered with precious objects”—and the same for fashion shops, the dry goods stores; the pavement was fraught with account books, invoices. In Lipki (the chic neighbourhood) “the private mansions of Jews were sacked,—that of Baron Ginzburg, of Halperine, of Alexander and Leon Brodksy, of Landau, and many more. All the luxurious decoration of these houses was destroyed, the furniture broken and thrown into the street”; likewise, “a model secondary school for the Jews, the Brodsky school, was ravaged,” “there was nothing left of the marble staircases and the wrought iron ramps.” In all, it was “nearly fifteen hundred apartments and commercial premises belonging to Jews were plundered.” Starting from the fact that “nearly two‐thirds of the city’s trade was in the hands of Jews,” Tourau assessed losses—including the richest mansions—to “several million rubles.” It had been planned to ransack not only Jewish houses, but also those of prominent liberal personalities. On the 19th, Bishop Plato “led a procession through the streets of Podol where the pogrom had been particularly violent, urging the people to put an end to the abuses. Imploring the crowd to spare the lives and property of the Jews, the bishop knelt several times before it… A broken man came out of the crowd and shouted threateningly: ‘You too, you’re for the Jews?’”
We have already seen the carelessness that prevailed among the authorities. “General Drake did not take appropriate measures to ensure the proper organisation of security.” The troops “should not have been scattered in small detachments,” “there were too many patrols,” and “the men often stayed idle.” And here we are: “What struck everyone during the pogrom was the obvious inaction, close to complacency, which was shown by both the army and the police. The latter was virtually absent, and the troops moved slowly, merely replying to the shots fired from certain houses, while on either side of the street the shops and apartments of the Jews were sacked with impunity.” A prosecutor asked a patrol of Cossacks to intervene to protect stores that were looted nearby; “the Cossacks replied that they would not go, that it was not their sector.”
More serious still: a whole series of witnesses had “the impression that the police and the army had been dispatched not to disperse the breakers but to protect them.” Here the soldiers declared that they had “been ordered to ensure that there were no clashes and that the Russians were not attacked.” Elsewhere they said that if they had “taken an oath to God and to the tsar,” it was not to protect “those who had lacerated and jeered at the portraits of the tsar.” As for the officers, “they considered themselves powerless to prevent disorders, and felt themselves entitled to use force only in cases where the violence was directed against their men.” Example: of a house “ran out a Jew covered with blood, pursued by the crowd. An infantry company was right there, but it paid no attention to what was going on and quietly went up the street.” Elsewhere, “the plunderers were massacring two Jews with table legs; a detachment of cavalry stationed ten paces away contemplated placidly the scene.” It is not surprising that the man in the street could have understood things like this: “The tsar graciously granted us the right to beat the kikes for six days”; and the soldiers: “You see, is all this conceivable without the approval of the authorities?” For their part, the police officers, “when they were demanded to put an end to the disorders, objected that they could do nothing to the extent that the full powers had been transferred to the military command.” But there was also a large crowd of thugs that took flight “due to a police commissioner who brandished his revolver, assisted by only one peacekeeper”, and “police officer Ostromenski, with three patrolmen and some soldiers, succeeded in preventing acts of looting in his neighbourhood without even resorting to force.”
The looters did not have firearms, while the young Jews, they, had some. However, unlike what happened in Gomel, here the Jews had not organised their self‐defence, even though “shots were fired from many houses” by members of self‐defence groups who included in their ranks “both Jews and Russians who had taken their part”; “It is undeniable that in some cases these shots were directed against the troops and constituted acts of retaliation for the shots fired on the crowd during the demonstrations” of the previous days; “Sometimes Jews fired on the patriotic parades organised in response to the revolutionary demonstrations that had taken place before.” But these shots “had deplorable consequences. Without producing any effect on the rioters, they gave the troops a pretext to apply their instructions to the letter”; “as soon as shots came from a house, the troops who were there, without even inquiring whether they were directed against them or against the rioters, sent a salvo into its windows, after which the crowd” rushed in and ransacked it. “We saw cases where we were firing at a house solely because someone had claimed that shots had gone”; “it also happened that the looters climbed the stairs of a house and fired shots towards the street to provoke the troops’ retaliation” and then engage in plundering.
And things got worse. “Some of the policemen and soldiers did not disdain the goods thrown into the street by the vandals, picked them up and hid them in their pockets or under their hoods.” And, although these cases “were exceptional and punctual”, one still saw a police officer dismantling the door of a shop himself, and a corporal imitating him. (The false rumours of looting by the army began to circulate when General Evert ordered in his area to confiscate goods taken by the looters and stolen goods and to transport them to the warehouses of the army for subsequent restitution to their owners on presentation of a receipt, thus saving property worth several tens of thousands of rubles.)
It is hardly surprising that this scoundrel of Tsikhotski, seeing his career broken, not only did not take any action concerning the action of the police (having learned of the beginning of the pogrom on the evening of the 18th, he did not communicate by telegram any information to the neighbourhood police stations before late in the evening on the 19th), not only did he not transmit any information to the generals of military security, but he himself, passing through the city, had “considered what was going on with calm and indifference”, contenting himself to say to the plunderers: “Move along, gentlemen” (and those few, encouraged one another: “Do not be afraid, he’s joking!”); and when, from the balcony of the Duma, they began to shout: “Pound the kikes, plunder, break!” And the crowd then carried the chief of police in triumph, the latter “addressed greetings in response to the cheering of the demonstrators.” It was not until the 20th, after General Karass had sent him a severe warning (as to the Director of the Governor‐General’s Chancery, he declared that Tsikhovsky would not escape the penal colony), that he ordered the police to take all measures to put an end to the pogrom. Senator Tourau effectively had to bring him to justice.
Another security official, disgruntled with his career, General Bessonov, “was in the midst of the crowd of rioters and was peacefully parleying with them: ‘We have the right to demolish, but it is not right to steal.’ The crowd shouted: ‘Hurray!’” At another moment he behaved “as an indifferent witness to the plunder. And when one of the breakers shouted: ‘Slam the kikes!’ [Bessonov] reacted with an approving laugh.” He reportedly told a doctor that “if he had wanted to, he could have put an end to the pogrom in half an hour, but the Jews’ participation in the revolutionary movement had been too great, they had to pay the price.” After the pogrom, summoned by the military authorities to explain himself, he denied having spoken favourably of the pogrom and declared, on the contrary, to have exhorted people to return to calm: “Have mercy on us, do not force the troops to use their weapons… to shed Russian blood, our own blood!”
Delegations went one after the other to General Karass, some requesting that some of them take troops out of the city, others for the use of force, and others for taking measures to protect their property. However, throughout the day of the 19th, the police did nothing and the military executed orders badly. On 20 October, Karass ordered “to encircle and apprehend the hooligans.” Many arrests were made; once, the army opened fire on the rioters, killing five and wounding several others. By the evening of the 20th, the pogrom was definitely over, but late in the evening “the rumour that the Jews murdered Russians sowed dismay among the population”; retaliation was feared.
During the pogrom, according to police estimates (but a number of victims were taken by the crowd), there were a total of 47 deaths, including 12 Jews, and 205 wounded, one‐third of them Jews.
Tourau concludes his report by explaining that “the root cause of the Kiev pogrom lies in the traditional enmity between the population of Little Russia and the Jewish population, motivated by differences of opinion. As for its immediate cause, it resides in the outrage of national sentiment caused by the revolutionary manifestations to which the Jewish youth had taken an active part.” The working class “imputed to the Jews only” the responsibility for the “blasphemies uttered against what was most sacred to them. They could not understand, after the grace granted by the Emperor, the very existence of the revolutionary movement, and explained it by the desire of the Jews to obtain ‘their own liberties’.” “The flip side of the war in which Jewish youth had always openly expressed its deepest satisfaction, its refusal to fulfil its military obligations, its participation in the revolutionary movement, acts of violence and the killings of agents of the State, its insulting attitude towards the armed forces… all this incontestably provoked exasperation towards the Jews among the working class,” and “this is why in Kiev there have been several cases where many Russians gave open shelter to unfortunate Jews who fled from the violence, but categorically refused Jewish youth.”
As for the newspaper The Kievian, it wrote119: “Poor Jews! Where is the fault of these thousands of families? … For their misfortune, these poor Jews could not control their brainless youngsters … But brainless youngsters, there are also some among us, the Russians, and we could not control them either!”
The revolutionary youth scoured the countryside, but it was the peaceful adult Jews who had to pay the piper.
Thus, on both sides, we have dug a bottomless abyss.
As for the Odessa pogrom, we have a similar and equally detailed report, that of Senator Kozminski.120
In Odessa, where a lively revolutionary sentiment had always existed, the tremors had started since January; the blast took place on the 13th of June (independently, therefore, of the arrival of the Potemkin battleship in the harbour of Odessa on the 14th). The entire day of the 14th of June passed in turmoil, especially among the young, but this time also among the workers, whose “numerous crowds began to impose by force the cessation of work in plants and factories.” A crowd “of about three hundred people attempted to break into a [tea] parlour… Several shots were fired at the head of the local police station, who was preventing the crowd from entering, but the latter was dispersed” by a salvo shot by a detachment of policemen. “However, the crowd soon re‐formed,” and proceeded to the police station; some shots were fired from the Doks house: “from the windows and the balcony, several shots were fired at the police officers.” Another group “erected a barricade with building materials in the street, and then began shooting at a police detachment.” In another street, a crowd of the same kind “overturned several tramway wagons with horses”. “A fairly large group of Jews broke into a tin factory, threw tobacco in the eyes [of a police officer]…, scattered at the appearance of a police detachment while opening fire with revolvers; among them four Jews [their names follow] were arrested on the spot”; at a crossroads, “a gathering of Jews was formed, [two of them] fired revolver shots at a mounted guard”; “in general, throughout the day of 14 June, almost all the streets of the city were the scene of clashes between Jews and the security forces, during which they used firearms and projectiles,” wounding several police officers. “A dozen Jews were also wounded,” which the crowd took to hide them. As he tried to escape, a certain Tsipkine threw a bomb, causing his own death as well as that of police officer Pavlovski.
It was at this time that the Potemkin entered the Odessa harbour! A crowd of nearly five thousand people assembled, “many men and women gave speeches calling the people for an uprising against the government”; among the students who got aboard the battleship were Konstantin Feldman (who urged to support the movement in town by cannonading it, but “the majority of the crew opposed it”).
And the authorities in all this? The governor of Odessa—in other words, the head of the police—Neudhart, was already completely distraught on the day of the arrival of the Potemkin; he felt (as in Kiev) that “the civil authorities were unable to restore order, and that is why he had handed over all subsequent decisions aimed at the cessation of disorder to the military command, that is to say, the commander of the Odessa garrison, General Kakhanov. (Did there exist a superior authority to that one in Odessa? Yes, of course, and it was Governor General Karangozov, who, as the reader will have guessed, was acting on a temporary basis, and felt hardly at ease.) General Kakhanov found nothing better than to have the port sealed by the army and to enclose the thousands of “unsafe elements” who had gathered there to cut them off—not yet contaminated—from the city.
On 15 June, the uprising in Odessa and the Potemkin mutiny collapsed into one movement: the inhabitants of the city, “among whom many students and workers” boarded the battleship, exhorting “the crew to common actions”. The crowd in the harbour rushed to “plunder the goods that were stored there”, beginning with the boxes of wine; then stormed the warehouses to which it set fire (more than 8 million rubles of losses). The fire threatened the quarantine port where foreign vessels were anchored and import goods were stored. Kakhanov still could not resolve to put an end to the disorder by force, fearing that the Potemkin would reply by bombarding the city. The situation remained equally explosive on the 15th. The next day the Potemkin drew five salvos on the town, three of them blank, and called on the commander of the armed forces to board the ship to demand the withdrawal “of the troops from the city and the release of all political prisoners.” On the same day, 16 June, at the funeral of the only sailor killed, “scarcely had the procession entered the town than it was joined by all kinds of individuals who soon formed a crowd of several thousand persons, principally young Jews,” and on the grave an orator, “after shouting ‘Down with the autocracy!’, called on his comrades to act with more determination, without fear of the police.”
But that very day, and for a long time, the state of siege was proclaimed in the city. The Potemkin had to take off to escape the squadron that had come to capture it. And although the four days it had been anchored in the port Odessa “and the many contacts which had been established between the people and it substantially raised the morale of the revolutionaries” and “gave rise to the hope of a possible future support of the armed forces”, despite of that the summer was going to end calmly, perhaps even no upset would have occurred in Odessa if, on the 27th of August, had been promulgated the incomparable law on the autonomy of higher education institutions! Immediately, “a ‘soviet coalition’ was formed by the students,” which, “by its determination and audacity, succeeded in bringing under its influence not only the student community but also the teaching force” (professors feared “unpleasant confrontations with the students, such as the boycott of classes, the expulsion of such and such professor from the amphi, etc.”).
Large gatherings took place at the university, “fund‐raising to arm the workers and the proletariat, for the military insurrection, for the purchase of weapons with a view to forming militias and self‐defence groups”, “discussions were held about the course of action to be taken at the time of the insurrection.” At these meetings the “faculty of professors” took an active part, “sometimes with the rector Zantchevski at its head,” who promised to “make available to the students all the means at their disposal to facilitate their participation in the liberation movement.”
On 17 September, the first meeting at the university took place “in the presence of an outside public so numerous that it had to be split into two groups”; The S.‐R. Teper “and two Jewish students made speeches calling on the public to lead the struggle to free the country from political oppression and a deleterious autocracy.” On 30 September, the state of siege was lifted in Odessa and henceforth rushed to these meetings “students of all educational establishments, some of whom were not more than fourteen years old”; the Jews “were the principal orators, calling for open insurrection and armed struggle.”
On 12 and 13 October, before all other secondary schools, “the pupils of two business schools, that of the Emperor Nicholas I and that of Feig, ceased to attend classes, being the most sensitive to revolutionary propaganda”; on the 14th, it was decided to halt the work in all the other secondary schools, and business schools and the students went to all the high schools of the city to force the pupils to go on course strikes. The rumour went around that in front of the Berezina high school, three students and three high school students had been wounded with swords by police officers. Certainly, “the investigation would establish with certainty that none of the young people had been affected and that the pupils had not yet had time to leave the school.” But this kind of incident, what a boon to raise the revolutionary pressure! On the same day, the courses ceased at the university, forty‐eight hours after the start of the school year; the striking students burst into the municipal Duma shouting: “Death to Neudhart!” and demanding that they stop paying salaries to the police.
After the episode of the Potemkin, Neudhart had regained power in his hands, but until the middle of October he did not make any measure against the revolutionary meetings—besides, could he do very much when the autonomy of universities had been established? On the 15th he received orders from the Ministry of the Interior to prohibit the entrance of outsiders to the university, and on the following day he surrounded the latter by the army, while ordering the cartridges to be taken out from the armouries, until then sold over‐the‐counter. “The closure of the university to the outside world provoked great agitation among Jewish students and Jewish youth,” an immense crowd set out, closing the shops on its way (the American armoury was plundered), overturning streetcars and omnibuses, sawing trees to make barricades, cutting off telegraph and telephone wires for the same purpose, dismantling the gates of the parks. Neudhart asked Kakhanov to have the town occupied by the troops. Then, “the barricades behind which the demonstrators had gathered—mostly Jews, among them women and adolescents—, they began to fire on the troops; shots were fired from the roofs of houses, balconies, and windows”; the army opened fire in its turn, the demonstrators were scattered and the barricades dismantled. “It is impossible to accurately estimate the number of deaths and injuries that occurred on that day, as the health team—consisting mainly of Jewish students in red‐white blouses with a red cross—hurried to take the wounded and the dead to the university infirmary”—thus in an autonomous and inaccessible zone—, “at the Jewish hospital or at the emergency stations near the barricades, as well as in almost all pharmacies.” (They had stopped delivering medicine even before the events.) According to the governor of the city, there were nine deaths, nearly 80 wounded, including some policemen. “Among the participants in the disorders were apprehended that day 214 people, of whom 197 Jews, a large number of women, and 13 children aged 12 to 14 years.”
And all this, still twenty‐four hours before the incendiary effect of the Manifesto was felt.
One might think that by exposing the role of the Jews so frequently in revolutionary movements, the Senate’s report was biased. But it must be borne in mind that in Odessa the Jews represented one‐third of the population, and, as we have seen, a very significant proportion of the student population; it must also be borne in mind that the Jews had taken an active part in the Russian revolutionary movement, especially in the Pale of Settlement. In addition, Senator Kouzminski’s report provides evidence of its objectivity in many places.
On 16 October, “when they arrived at the police station, the people arrested were victims of assault by the police and soldiers”; however, “neither the governor of the city nor the police officials responded in due course… and no investigation was carried out”; it was not until later that more than twenty of those who had been in this precinct declared that “those arrested had been systematically beaten; first they were pushed down a staircase leading to the basement… many of them fell to the ground and it was then that policemen and soldiers, arranged in a row, beat them with the back of their sabres, rubber truncheons, or simply their feet and fists”; the women were not spared. (It is true that, on the same evening, municipal councillors and justices of the peace went to the scene and gathered complaints from the victims. As for the senator, he identified several culprits during his inquiry in November and had them brought to justice.)
“On the 17th of October, the whole town was occupied by the army, patrols were criss-crossing the streets, and public order was not troubled all day. However, the Municipal Duma had met to discuss emergency measures, including how to replace the state police with an urban militia. On the same day, the Bund’s local committee decided to organise a solemn funeral for the victims who had fallen the day before on the barricades, but Neudhart, understanding that such a demonstration would cause, as always, a new revolutionary explosion, “gave the order to remove in secret, of the Jewish hospital” where they were, the five corpses and “to bury them before the scheduled date”, which was done on the night of 18. (The next day the organisers demanded that the corpses be unearthed and brought back to the hospital. Due to the developments of events, the bodies were embalmed there and remained in that state for a long time.) And it was at this time that the news of the Imperial Manifesto spread, pushing Odessa towards new storms.
Let us quote first of all the testimony of members of a Jewish self‐defence detachment: “During the pogrom, there was a certain coordination centre that worked quite well… Universities played an enormous role in the preparation of the events of October… the soviet coalition of the Odessa University included” a Bolshevik, a Menshevik, an S.‐R., a representative of the Bund, Zionist Socialists, the Armenian communities, Georgian and Polish ones as well. “Student detachments were formed even before the pogrom”; during “immense meetings at the university”, money was collected to buy weapons, “of course not only to defend ourselves, but with a view to a possible insurrection.” “The soviet coalition also raised funds to arm the students”; “when the pogrom broke out, there were two hundred revolvers at the university,” and “a professor… procured another hundred and fifty others.” A “dictator” was appointed at the head of each detachment “without taking into account his political stance”, and “it happened that a detachment composed mainly of members of the Bund was commanded by a Zionist‐Socialist, or vice versa”; “on Wednesday [19 October], a large quantity of weapons were distributed in a pro‐Zionist synagogue”; “the detachments were made up of Jewish and Russian students, Jewish workers, young Jews of all parties, and a very small number of Russian workers.”121
A few years later, Jabotinsky wrote that during the pogroms of the year 1905 “the new Jewish soul had already reached its maturity.”122 And in the still rose‐tinted atmosphere of the February Revolution, a major Russian newspaper gave the following description: “When, during the Neudhart pogroms in 1905, the young militiamen of self‐defence travelled through Odessa, weapons in their fists, they aroused emotion and admiration, we were heavy‐hearted, we were touched and full of compassion…”123
And this is what one of our contemporaries wrote: “The courage shown by Gomel’s fighters inflames tens of thousands of hearts. In Kiev, 1,500 people are engaged in self‐defence detachments, in Odessa several thousands.”124 But in Odessa, the number of combatants as well as their state of mind—and, in response, the brutality of the police forces—gave a much different turn to events than they had experienced in Kiev.
Let us go back to the Kuzminski report. After the proclamation of the Manifesto, on the morning of the 18th, General Kaoulbars, commanding the military district of Odessa, in order “to give the population the possibility of enjoying without restrictions the freedom in all its forms granted by the Manifesto,” ordered the troops not to appear in the streets, “so as not to disturb the joyous humour of the population.” However, “this joyous mood did not last.” On all sides “groups of Jews and students began to flock towards the city centre,” brandishing red flags and shouting: “Down with the autocracy!”, while speakers called for revolution. On the façade of the Duma, two of the words forming the inscription in metal letters “God save the Tsar” were broken; the Council Chamber was invaded, “a large portrait of His Majesty the Emperor was torn to shreds,” the national flag which floated on the Duma was replaced by a red flag. The headdresses of three ecclesiastics, who were in a cab at a funeral, were stolen; later, the funeral procession they conducted was repeatedly stopped, “religious songs interrupted by cheers.” “There was a headless scarecrow bearing the inscription ‘Here is the Autocracy’, and a dead cat was showed off while collecting money ‘to demolish the tsar’ or ‘for Nicholas’s death’.” “The young people, especially the Jews, who were obviously aware of their superiority, taught the Russians that their freedom had not been freely granted to them, that it had been torn from the government by the Jews… They declared openly to the Russians: ‘Now we are going to govern you’,” but also: “We have given you God, we will give you a tsar.” A large crowd of Jews waving red flags long pursued two peacekeepers, one of them managed to escape by the roofs, while on the other, a man named Goubiy, the crowd “armed with revolvers, axes, stakes, and iron bars, found him in an attic, and hurt him so badly that he died during his transport to the hospital; the concierge of the building found two of his fingers cut by axe.” Later, three police officers were beaten and wounded, and the revolvers of five peacekeepers were confiscated. The prisoners were then freed in one, two, and three police stations (where on the 16th there had been beatings, but the detainees had already been released on the orders of Neudhart; in one of these precincts, the liberation of the prisoners was negotiated in exchange for Goubiy’s corpse; sometimes there was nobody behind bars. As for the rector of the university, he actively participated in all this, transmitting to the prosecutor the demands of “a crowd of five thousand people”, while “the students went so far as to threaten to hang the police officers”. Neudhart solicited the advice of the mayor of the city, Kryjanovsky, and a professor at the university, Shtchepkin, but they only demanded that he “disarm the police on the spot and make it invisible,” otherwise, added Shchepkin, “the victims of popular revenge cannot be saved, and the police will be legitimately disarmed by force.” (Interrogated later by the senator, he denied having spoken so violently, but one can doubt his sincerity in view of the fact that on the same day he had distributed 150 revolvers to the students and that, during the inquiry, he refused to say where he had procured them.) After this interview, Neudhart ordered (without even warning the chief of police) to withdraw all the peacekeepers “in such a way that from that moment the whole of the city was deprived of any visible police presence”—which could have been understood if the measure had been intended to protect the life of the agents, but at the same time, the streets had been deserted by the army, which, for the moment, was pure stupidity. (But we remember that in Petersburg this was precisely what the press owners demanded from Witte, and it had been difficult for him to resist them.)
“After the police left, two types of armed groups appeared: the student militia and the Jewish self‐defence detachments. The first was set up by the ‘soviet coalition’ which had procured arms.” Now, “the municipal militia, made up of armed students and other individuals, placed themselves on guard” instead of policemen. This was done with the assent of General Baron Kaulbars and the governor of the city, Neudhart, while the police chief, Golovin, offered his resignation in protest and was replaced by his deputy, von Hobsberg. A provisional committee was set up at the Municipal Duma; in one of his first statements, he expressed his gratitude to the students of the university “for their way of ensuring the security of the city with energy, intelligence, and devotion”. The committee itself assumed rather vague functions. (During the month of November the press took an interest in one of the members of this committee, also a member of the Duma of the Empire, O. I. Pergament, and in the second Duma somebody had to recall that he proclaimed himself President “of the Republic of the Danube and the Black Sea,” or “President of the Republic of South Russia,”125 in the intoxication of those days, this was not unlikely.)
And what could happen after the streets had been deserted, during these feverish days, by both the army and the police, and that the power had passed into the hands of an inexperienced student militia and groups of self‐defence? “The militia arrested persons who seemed suspicious to it and sent them to the university for examination”; here a student “walked at the head of a group of Jews of about sixty persons who fired revolver shots at random”; “the student militia and Jewish self‐defence groups themselves perpetrated acts of violence directed against the army and peaceful elements of the Russian population, using firearms and killing innocent people.”
The confrontation “was inevitable, given the crystallisation of two antagonistic camps among the population.” On the evening of the 18th, “a crowd of demonstrators waving red flags, and composed predominantly of Jews, tried to impose a stoppage of work at the factory at Guen… The workers refused to comply with this demand; after which the same crowd, crossing Russian workmen in the street, demanded that they should uncover themselves before the red flags. As the latter refused,”—well here it is, the proletariat!—from the crowd “shots were fired; the workers, though unarmed, succeeded in dispersing it,” and pursued it until it was joined by another crowd of armed Jews, up to a thousand people, who began to fire on the workmen…; four of them were killed. This is how “brawls and armed clashes between Russians and Jews were unleashed at various points in the city; Russian workers and individuals without any definite occupation, also known as hooligans, began to chase the Jews and to beat them up, and then move on with the rampage and destruction of houses, apartments and shops belonging to Jews.” It was then that a police commissioner called “an infantry company which put an end to the clashes.”
On the following day, 19 October, “towards 10, 11 in the morning, there were seen forming in the streets… crowds of Russian workers and persons of various professions carrying icons, portraits of His Majesty the Emperor, as well as the national flag, and singing religious hymns. These patriotic demonstrations composed exclusively of Russians were formed simultaneously at several locations in the city, but their starting point was in the port from where set off a first manifestation of workmen, especially numerous.” There exists “reasons to assert that the anger provoked by the offensive attitude of the Jews over the whole of the previous day, their arrogance and their contempt for the national sentiment shared by the Russian population had to, in one way or another, lead to a reaction of protest.” Neudhart was not ignorant of the fact that a demonstration was being prepared and he authorised it, and it passed under the windows of the commander of the military district and the governor of the city, and then proceeded to the cathedral. “As it went on, the crowd was swollen by the addition of passers‐by, including a large number of hooligans, tramps, women and adolescents.” (But it is appropriate here to draw a parallel between the story of a member of the Poalei Zion: “The pogrom of Odessa was not the work of hooligans… During these days the police did not allow entrance to the city to the tramps of the port,”; “it was the small artisans and the small merchants who gave free rein to their exasperation, the workers and apprentices of various workshops, plants, or factories”, “Russian workers lacking political consciousness”; “I went to Odessa only to see a pogrom organised by provocation, but, alas, I did not find it!” And he explains it as hatred between nationalities.126)
“Not far from the Cathedral Square…, several shots were fired towards the crowd of protesters, one of them killed a little boy who was carrying an icon”; “the infantry company who arrived on the spot was also greeted by gunfire.” They fired from the windows of the editorial office of the newspaper Yuzhnoye Obozrenie, and “during the entire route of the procession gunshots came from windows, balconies, roofs”; “moreover, explosive devices were launched in several places on the demonstrators”, “six people were killed” by one of them; in the centre of Odessa, “at the corner of Deribassov and Richelieu, three bombs were thrown on a squadron of Cossacks.” “There were many deaths and wounded among the demonstrators,” “not without reason the Russians blamed the Jews, and it is why shouts merged quickly from the crowd: ‘Beat up the kikes!’, ‘Death to the heebs!’,” and “at various points in the city the crowd rushed to the Jewish shops to plunder them”; “these isolated acts were rapidly transformed into a generalised pogrom: all the shops, houses and apartments of the Jews on the path of the demonstration were completely devastated, all their property destroyed, and what had escaped the vandals was stolen by the cohorts of hooligans and beggars who had followed the lead of the protesters”; “it was not uncommon for scenes of looting to unfold under the eyes of demonstrators carrying icons and singing religious hymns.” On the evening of the 19th, “the hatred of the antagonist camps reached its peak: each one hit and tortured mercilessly, sometimes with exceptional cruelty, and without distinction of sex or age, those who fell into their hands.” According to the testimony of a doctor at the university clinic, “hooligans threw children from the first or second floor onto the road; one of them grabbed a child by the feet and smashed his skull against the wall. For their part, the Jews did not spare the Russians, killing those they could at the first opportunity; during the day they did not show themselves in the streets, but fired on the passers‐by from the doors, from the windows, etc., but in the evening they met in numerous groups,” going as far as “besieging police stations.” “The Jews were particularly cruel with police officers when they managed to catch them.” (Here is now the point of view of the Poalei Zion: “The press spread a legend that self‐defence had taken a huge crowd of hooligans and locked them up in the university premises. Numbers in the order of 800 to 900 individuals were cited; it is in fact necessary to divide this number by ten. It was only at the beginning of the pogrom that the vandals were brought to the university, after which things took a completely different turn.”127 There are also descriptions of the Odessa pogrom in the November 1905 issues of the newspaper The Kievian.128)
And what about the police, in all this? In accordance with Neudhart’s stupid dispositions, “on 19 October… as on the following days, the police were totally absent from the streets of Odessa”: a few patrols, and only occasionally. “The vagueness that reigned in the relations between civil authorities and military authorities, which ran counter to the legal provisions,” had the consequence that “the police officers did not have a very clear idea of their obligations”; even more, “all the police officers, considering that the responsibility for the political upheavals was incumbent on the Jews” and that “these were revolutionaries, felt the greatest sympathy for the pogrom which was unfolding before their eyes and judged even superfluous to conceal themselves.” Worse: “In many cases, police officers themselves incited hooligans to ransack and loot Jewish houses, apartments, and shops”; and at the height of it: “in civilian clothes, without their insignia”, they themselves “took part in these rampages,” “directed the crowd,” and there were even “cases where police officers fired on the ground or in the air to make the military believe that these shots came from the windows of houses belonging to Jews.”
And it was the police who did that!
Senator Kouzminski brought to trial forty‐two policemen, twenty‐three of whom were officers.
And the army—“scattered over the immense territory of the city” and supposed to “act autonomously”? “The military also did not pay any attention to the pogroms, since they were not aware of their exact obligations and were not given any indication by the police officers”, they “did not know against whom or according to what order they should use armed force; on the other hand, the soldiers could assume that the pogrom had been organised with the approval of the police.” Consequently, “the army took no action against the vandals.” Worse still, “there is evidence that soldiers and Cossacks also took part in the looting of shops and houses.” “Some witnesses affirmed that soldiers and Cossacks massacred innocent people for no reason.”
Again, these are innocent people who have paid for others.
“On 20 and 21 October, far from subsiding, the pogrom gained frightening momentum”; “the plunder and destruction of Jewish property, the acts of violence and the killings were openly perpetrated, and with complete impunity, day and night.” (Point of view of the Poalei Zion: on the evening of the 20th, “the university was closed by the army” while “inside it, we had barricaded ourselves in the event of an assault by the troops. Detachments of self‐defence no longer went into town.” In the latter, on the other hand, “self‐defence had organised itself spontaneously”, “powerful detachments of townspeople”, “equipped with weapons of opportunity: hatchets, cutlasses, limes”, “defended themselves with determination and anger equal to those they were victims of, and succeeded in protecting their perimeter almost completely.”129
On the 20th, a group of municipal councillors headed by the new mayor (the former Kryjanovsky, who noted his powerlessness in the face of what was happening in the university, where even weapons were being gathered, and had resigned on the 18th) went to General Kaulbars, “urging him to take all the power in his hands to the extent that the military command… alone is capable of saving the city.” The latter explained to them that “before the declaration of the state of siege, the military command had no right to interfere in the decisions of the civil administration and had no other obligation” than to assist it when it requested it. “Not to mention that the firing of the troops and the bombs thrown at them made it extremely difficult to restore order.” He finally agreed to intervene.—On the 21st of October he gave orders to take the most energetic measures against the buildings from which shots were fired and bombs were thrown. On the 22nd: “order to take down on the spot all those who guilty of attacks on buildings, businesses or persons.” As early as the 21st, calm began to return to different parts of the city; from the 22nd, “the police ensured the surveillance of the streets” with the reinforcement of the army; “the streetcars began to circulate again and in the evening, one could consider that the order was restored in the city.”
The number of victims was difficult to define and varies from one source to another. The Kuzminski report states that “according to information provided by the police, the number of people killed amounts to more than 500 persons, including more than 400 Jews; as to the number of injuries recorded by the police, it is 289…, of which 237 Jews. According to the data collected from the cemetery guardians, 86 funerals were celebrated in the Christian cemetery, 298 in the Jewish cemetery.” In the hospitals were admitted “608 wounded, including 392 Jews.” (However, many had to be those who refrained from going to hospitals, fearing that they would later be prosecuted.)—The Jewish Encyclopædia reports 400 deaths among the Jews.130—According to the Poalei Zion: based on the list published by the rabbinate of Odessa, “302 Jews were killed, including 55 members of self‐defence detachments, as well as 15 Christians who were members of these same detachments”; “among the other deaths, 45 could not be identified; 179 men and 23 women were identified.” “Many deaths among the vandals; no one counted them, nor cared to know their number; in any event, it is said that there were not less than a hundred.”131 As for the Soviet work already quoted, it did not hesitate to put forward the following figures: “more than 500 dead and 900 wounded among the Jews.”132
One should also mention, by way of illustration, the hot reactions of the foreign press. In the Berliner Tageblatt, even before the 21st of October, one could read: “Thousands and thousands of Jews are massacred in the south of Russia; more than a thousand Jewish girls and children were raped and strangled.”133
On the other hand, it is without exaggeration that Kuzmininski summarises the events: “By its magnitude and its violence, this pogrom surpassed all those who preceded it.”—He considers that the main person in charge is the governor of the city, Neudhart. The latter made an “unworthy concession” by yielding to Professor Chtchepkin’s demands, by withdrawing the police from the city and handing it over to a student militia that did not yet exist. On the 18th, “he did not take any measure… to disperse the revolutionary crowd that had gathered in the streets”, he tolerated that power would go to “the ramifications of Jews and revolutionaries” (did he not understand that reprisals in the form of a pogrom would follow?). His negligence could have been explained if he had handed power over to the army, but that did not happen “during the entire period of the troubles.” This did not, however, prevent him from broadcasting during the events fairly ambiguous statements and later, during the investigation, to lie to try to justify himself. Having established “the evidence of criminal acts committed in the exercise of his functions,” Senator Kouzminski had Neudhart brought to justice.
With respect to the military command, the senator had no power to do so. But he indicates that it was criminal on behalf of Kaulbars to yield on 18 October to the demands of the Municipal Duma and to withdraw the army from the streets of the city. On the 21st, Kaulbars also uses equivocal arguments in addressing the police officers gathered at the governor’s house: “Let us call things by name. It must be acknowledged that in our heart we all approve of this pogrom. But, in the exercise of our functions, we must not let the persecution we may feel for the Jews transpire. It is our duty to maintain order and to prevent pogroms and murders.”
The senator concluded his report by stating that “the troubles and disorders of October were provoked by causes of undeniably revolutionary character and found their culmination in an anti‐Jewish pogrom solely because it was precisely the representatives of that nationality which had taken a preponderant part in the revolutionary movement.” But could we not add that it is also due to the long‐standing laxity of the authorities over the excesses of which the revolutionaries were guilty?
But as “the conviction that the events of October were the sole cause of Neudhart’s actions…”, “his provocations”, immediately after the end of the disorders “several commissions were formed in Odessa, including the University, the Municipal Duma and the Council of the Bar Association”; they were actively engaged in collecting documents proving that “the pogrom was the result of a provocation.” But after examining the evidence, the senator “discovered… no evidence” and the investigation “did not reveal any facts demonstrating the participation of even a single police officer to the organisation of the patriotic manifestation.”
The senator’s report also highlights other aspects of the year 1905 and the general era.
On 21 October, “as rumours spread throughout the city that bombs were being made and weapons were being stored in large quantities within the university compound,” the military district commander proposed to have the buildings inspected by a Committee composed of officers and professors. The rector told him that “such an intrusion would violate the autonomy of the university”. Since the day it was proclaimed in August, the university was run by a commission composed of “twelve professors of extremist orientation”. (Shchepkin, for example, declared at a meeting on October 7th: “When the hour strikes and you knock on our door, we will join you on your Potemkin!”), But this commission itself was made under the control of the student “soviet coalition” who dictated its orders to the rector. After the rejection of Kaulbars’ request, the “inspection” was carried out by a commission composed of professors and three municipal councillors, and, of course, “nothing suspicious” was discovered.—“Facts of the same nature were also be observed in the Municipal Duma. There, it was the municipal employees who manifested claims to exercise influence and authority”; their committee presented to the Duma, composed of elected representatives, demands “of an essentially political character”; on the 17th, the day of the Manifesto, they concocted a resolution: “At last the Autocracy has fallen into the precipice!”—as the senator writes, “it is not excluded that at the outset of the troubles there might have been inclinations to take the whole of power.”
(After that, it was the revolutionary wave of December, the comminatory tone of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies—“we demand” the general strike—the interruption of electric lighting in Odessa, the paralysis of commerce, transport, the activity of the port, bombs were flying again, “the destruction in sets of the new patriotic‐oriented newspaper Rousskaïa retch*, “the collection [under threat] of money to finance the revolution”, the cohorts of disaffected high school students and the population frightened “under the yoke of the revolutionary movement.”)
This spirit of 1905 (the spirit of the whole “liberation movement”), which had manifested itself so violently in Odessa, also broke out in these “constitutional days”** in many other cities of Russia; both in and outside the Pale of Settlement, the pogroms “broke out everywhere… on the very day when was received the news of the Proclamation” from the Manifesto.
Within the Pale of Settlement, pogroms were held in Kremenchug, Chemigov, Vinnitsa, Kishinev, Balta, Ekaterinoslav, Elizabethgrad, Oman, and many other towns and villages; the property of the Jews was most often destroyed but not looted. “Where the police and the army took energetic measures, the pogroms remained very limited and lasted only a short time. Thus at Kamenets‐Podolsk, thanks to the effective and rapid action of the police and the army, all attempts to provoke a pogrom were stifled in the bud.” “In Chersonese and Nikolayev, the pogrom was stopped from the beginning.”134 (And, in a south‐western town, the pogrom did not take place for the good reason that adult Jews administered a punishment to the young people who had organised an anti‐government demonstration after the proclamation of the Imperial Manifesto of 17 October.”135)
Where, in the Pale of Settlement, there was no single pogrom, it was in the northwest region where the Jews were most numerous, and it might have seemed incomprehensible if the pogroms had been organised by the authorities and “generally proceeded according to the same scenario.”136
“Twenty‐four pogroms took place outside the Pale of Settlement, but they were directed against all the progressive elements of society,”137 and not exclusively against the Jews—this circumstance puts in evidence what pushed people to organise pogroms: the shock effect provoked by the Manifesto and a spontaneous impulse to defend the throne against those who wanted to put down the tsar. Pogroms of this type broke out in Rostov‐on‐the‐Don, Tula, Kursk, Kaluga, Voronezh, Riazan, Yaroslav, Viazma, Simferopol, “the Tatars participated actively in the pogroms at Kazan and Feodossia.”138 In Tver, the building of the Council of the Zemstvo was sacked; at Tomsk the crowd set fire to the theatre where a meeting of the Left took place; two hundred persons perished in the disaster! In Saratov, there were disturbances, but no casualties (the local governor was none other than Stolypin139).
On the nature of all these pogroms and the number of their victims, the opinions diverge strongly according to the authors. The estimates that are made today are sometimes very fanciful. For example, in a 1987 publication: “in the course of the pogroms we count a thousand killed and tens of thousands of wounded and maimed”—and, as echoed by the press at the time: “Thousands of women were raped, very often under the eyes of their mothers and children.”140
Conversely, G. Sliosberg, a contemporary of the events and with all the information, wrote: “Fortunately, these hundreds of pogroms did not bring about significant violence on the person of the Jews, and in the overwhelming majority of cases the pogroms were not accompanied by murders.”141 As for the women and the elderly, the rebuttal comes from the Bolshevik fighter Dimanstein, who declared with pride: “Jews who were killed or wounded were for the most part some of the best elements of self‐defence, they were young and combative and preferred to die rather than surrender.”142
As for the origins of the pogroms, the Jewish community and then the Russian public opinion in 1881 were under the tenacious hold of a hypnosis: undoubtedly and undeniably, the pogroms were manipulated by the government! Petersburg guided by the Police Department! After the events of 1905, the whole press also presented things as such. And Sliosberg himself, in the midst of this hypnosis, abounds in this sense: “For three days, the wave of pogroms has swept over the Pale of Settlement [we have just seen that this area was not touched in full and that, conversely, other regions of Russia were—A. S.], and according to a perfectly identical scenario, were planned in advance.”143
And this strange absence, in so many, many authors, if only one would attempt to explain things differently! (Many years later, I. Frumkin acknowledged at least: the pogroms of 1905 were “not only anti‐Jewish, but also counter‐revolutionary.”144 And no one even asks the question: and if the root causes were the same and should be sought in political events, the state of mind of the population? Are not the same concerns expressed in this way? Let us recall that the crowd had here and there demonstrated against the strikers before the proclamation of the Manifesto. Let us also recall that a general strike of the railways took place in October and that the communications had been interrupted throughout the country—and, in spite of this, so many pogroms broke out at the same time? It should also be noted that the authorities ordered investigations in a whole series of towns and that sanctions were imposed on police officers convicted of breaches of duty. Let us recall that during the same period the peasants organised pogroms against the landowners all over the place, and that they all proceeded in the same way. Without doubt, we are not going to say that these pogroms were also contrived by the Police Department and that they did not reflect the same uneasiness among all the peasants.
It seems that one proof—only one—of the existence of a scheme exists, but it does not point in the direction of power either. The Minister of the Interior R. N. Dournovo discovered in 1906 that an official in charge of special missions, M. S. Komissarov, had used the premises of the Police Department to secretly print leaflets calling for the fight against Jews and revolutionaries.145 It should be emphasised, however, that this was not an initiative of the Department, but a conspiracy by an adventurer, a former gendarmerie officer, who was subsequently entrusted with “special missions” by the Bolsheviks, to the Cheka, to the GPU, and was sent to the Balkans to infiltrate what remained of the Wrangel army*.
The falsified versions of events have nonetheless solidly embedded themselves in consciences, especially in the distant regions of the West, where Russia has always been perceived through a thick fog, while anti‐Russian propaganda was heard distinctly. Lenin had every interest in inventing the fable according to which tsarism “endeavoured to direct against the Jews the hatred which the workers and peasants, overwhelmed by misery, devoted to the nobles and capitalists”; and his henchman, Lourie‐Larine, tried to explain this by class struggle: only the rich Jews would have been targeted—whereas the facts prove the contrary: it was precisely they who enjoyed the protection of the police.146 But, even today, it is everywhere the same version of the facts—let us take the example of the Encyclopædia Judaica: “From the beginning, these pogroms were inspired by government circles. The local authorities received instruction to give freedom of action to the thugs and to protect them against Jewish detachments of self‐defence.”147 Let us take again the Jewish Encyclopædia published in Israel in the Russian language: “By organising the pogroms, the Russian authorities sought to…”; “the government wanted to physically eliminate as many Jews as possible”148 [emphasis in italics added everywhere by me—A. S.]. All these events, therefore, would not have been the effect of the criminal laxity of the local authorities, but the fruit of a machination carefully guarded by the central government?
However, Leo Tolstoy himself, who at the time was particularly upset with the government and did not miss an opportunity to speak ill of it, said at the time: “I do not believe that the police push the people [to the pogroms]. This has been said for Kishinev as well as for Baku… It is the brutal manifestation of the popular will… The people see the violence of the revolutionary youth and resist it.”149
At the tribune of the Duma, Chulguine proposed an explanation similar to that of Tolstoy: “The posse justice is very widespread in Russia as in other countries… What happens in America is rich in lessons regarding this…: posse justice is called lynching… But what has recently happened in Russia is even more terrible—it is the form of posse justice called pogrom! When the power went on strike, when the most inadmissible attacks on the national sentiment and the most sacred values for the people remained completely unpunished, then, under the influence of an unreasoned anger, it began to do justice to itself. It goes without saying that in such circumstances the people are incapable of differentiating between the guilty and the innocent and, in any case, what has happened to us—it has rejected all the fault on the Jews. Of these, few guilty have suffered, for they have been clever enough to escape abroad; it is the innocent who have massively paid for them.”150 (Cadet leader F. Rodichev, for his part, had the following formula: “Anti‐Semitism is the patriotism of disoriented people”—let us say: where there are Jews.)
The tsar had been too weak to defend his power by the law, and the government proved its pusillanimity; then the petty bourgeois, the petty traders and even the workers, those of the railways, the factories, the very people who had organised the general strike, revolted, stood up in a spontaneous way to defend their most sacred values, wounded by the contortions of those who denigrated them. Uncontrollable, abandoned, desperate, this mass gave free rein to its rage in the barbaric violence of the pogroms.
And in the case of a contemporary Jewish writer who is also lacking in sagacity when he persists in asserting that “undoubtedly, tsarist power played a major role in the organisation of anti‐Jewish pogroms”, we find in a nearby paragraph: “We are absolutely convinced that the Police Department was not sufficiently organised to implement simultaneous pogroms in six hundred and sixty different places that same week.” The responsibility for these pogroms “is not solely and not so much for the administration, but rather for the Russian and Ukrainian population in the Pale of Settlement.”151
On the latter point, I agree as well. But subject to a reservation, and it is of size: the Jewish youth of this time also carries a heavy share of responsibility in what happened. Here manifested itself a tragic characteristic of the Russian‐Ukrainian character (without attempting to distinguish which of the Russians or Ukrainians participated in the pogroms): under the influence of anger, we yield blindly to the need to “blow off some steam” without distinguishing between good and bad; after which, we are not able to take the time—patiently, methodically, for years, if necessary—to repair the damage. The spiritual weakness of our two peoples is revealed in this sudden outburst of vindictive brutality after a long somnolence.
We find the same impotence on the side of the patriots, who hesitate between indifference and semi‐approval, unable to make their voice heard clearly and firmly, to guide opinion, to rely on cultural organisations. (Let us note in passing that at the famous meeting at Witte’s, there were also representatives of the press of the right, but they did not say a word, they even acquiesced sometimes to Propper’s impertinences.)
Another secular sin of the Russian Empire tragically had its effects felt during this period: the Orthodox Church had long since been crushed by the State, deprived of all influence over society, and had no ascendancy over the popular masses (an authority which it had disposed of in ancient Russia and during the time of the Troubles, and which would soon be lacking very much during the civil war!). The highest hierarchs were able to exhort the good Christian people, for months and years, and yet they could not even prevent the crowd from sporting crucifixes and icons at the head of the pogroms.
It was also said that the pogroms of October 1905 had been organised by The Union of the Russian People. This is not true: it did not appear until November 1905, in instinctive reaction to the humiliation felt by the people. Its programme at the time had indeed global anti‐Jewish orientations: “The destructive, anti‐governmental action of the Jewish masses, solidarity in their hatred for everything Russian and indifferent to the means to be used.”152
In December, its militants called on the Semienovski regiment to crush the armed insurrection in Moscow. Yet the Union of the Russian People, which was ultimately made legendary by rumours and fears, was in reality only a shabby little party lacking in means whose only raison d’être was to lend its support to the autocratic monarch, which, early as the spring of 1906, had become a constitutional monarch. As for the government, it felt embarrassed to have support for such a party. So that the latter, strong of its two or three thousand local soviets composed of illiterates and incompetents, found itself in opposition to the government of the constitutional monarchy, and especially to Stolypin.—From the tribune of the Duma, Purishkevich* interrogated in these terms the deputies, “since the appearance of the monarchist organisations, have you seen many pogroms in the Pale of Settlement?… Not one, because the monarchists organisations struggled and struggled against Jewish predominance by economic measures, cultural measures, and not by punches.”153—These measures were they so cultural, one might ask, but no pogrom is actually known to have been caused by the Union of the Russian People, and those which preceded were indeed the result of a spontaneous popular explosion.
A few years later, the Union of the Russian People—which, from the start, was merely a masquerade—disappeared in the mist of general indifference. (One can judge of the vagueness that surrounded this party by the astonishing characteristic that is given in the Jewish Encyclopædia: the anti‐Semitism of the Union of the Russian People “is very characteristic of nobility and great capital”!154)
There is another mark of infamy, all the more indelible as its outlines are vague: “the Black Hundreds.”
Where does that name come from? Difficult to say: according to some, this is how the Poles would have designated out of spite the Russian monks who resisted victoriously the assault of the Trinity Lavra of Saint Sergius in 1608‒1609. Through obscure historical channels, it reached the twentieth century and was then used as a very convenient label to stigmatise the popular patriotic movement that had spontaneously formed. It was precisely its character, both imprecise and insulting, that made it a success. (Thus, for example, the four KDs who became emboldened to the point of entering into negotiations with Stolypin were denounced as “KD‐Black‐Hundreds”. In 1909, the Milestones Collection was accused of “propagating in a masked form the ideology of the Black Hundreds.”) And the “expression” became commonplace for a century, although the Slavic populations, totally dismayed and discouraged, were never counted by hundreds but by millions.
In 1908‒1912, the Jewish Encyclopædia published in Russia, in its honour, did not interfere in giving a definition of the “Black Hundreds”: the Jewish intellectual elite of Russia had in its ranks sufficient minds that were balanced, penetrating, and sensible. But during the same period before the First World War, the Brockhaus‐Efron Encyclopædia proposed a definition in one of its supplements: “The ‘Black Hundreds’ has been for a few years the common name given to the dregs of society focused on pogroms against Jews and intellectuals.” Further, the article broadens the statement: “This phenomenon is not specifically Russian; it appeared on the stage of history… in different countries and at different times.”155 And it is true that, in the press after the February revolution, I found the expression “the Swedish Black Hundreds!”…
A wise contemporary Jewish author rightly points out that “the phenomenon which has been designated by the term ‘Black Hundreds’ has not been sufficiently studied.”156
But this kind of scruple is totally foreign to the famous Encyclopædia Britannica whose authority extends to the entire planet: “The Black Hundreds or Union of the Russian People or organisation of reactionary and anti‐Semitic groups in Russia, constituted during the revolution of 1905. Unofficially encouraged by authorities, the Black Hundreds recruited their troops for the most part from the landowners, the rich peasants, the bureaucrats, the police, and the clergy; they supported the Orthodox Church, autocracy and Russian nationalism. Particularly active between 1906 and 1911…”157
One remains stunned before so much science! And this is what is being read to all cultivated humanity: “recruited their troops for the most part from the landowners, the rich peasants, the bureaucrats, the police, and the clergy!” It was thus those people who smashed the windows of the Jewish shops with their sticks! And they were “particularly active” after 1905… when the calm had returned!
True, in 1905‒1907 there were actions against landowners, there were even more pogroms against the Jews. It was always the same ignorant and brutal crowd that ransacked and looted houses and property, massacring people (including children), and even cattle; but these massacres never led to condemnation on the part of the progressive intelligentsia, while the deputy in the Duma Herzenstein, in a speech in which he took with passion and reason the defence of small peasant farms, alerting parliamentarians of the danger of an extension of the fires of rural estates, exclaimed: “The illuminations of the month of May last year are not enough for you, when in the region of Saratov one hundred and fifty properties were destroyed practically in a single day?”158 These illuminations were never forgiven. It was, of course, a blunder on his part, from which it should not be inferred that he was glad of such a situation. Would he have used this word, however, about the pogroms against the Jews of the preceding autumn?
It was not until the Great, the real revolution, that the violence against the noble landlords was heard, they “were no less barbaric and unacceptable than the pogroms against the Jews… There is, however, in the left‐wing circles a tendency to consider… as positive the destruction of the old political and social system.”159
Yes, there was another frightening similarity between these two forms of pogroms: the sanguinary crowd had the feeling of being in its right.
The last pogroms against the Jews took place in 1906 in Sedlets, in Poland—which is beyond our scope—and in Bialystok during the summer. (Soon after, the police stifled a pogrom in preparation in Odessa after the dissolution of the first Duma.)
In Bialystok was constituted the most powerful of the anarchist groups in Russia. Here, “important bands of anarchists had made their appearance; they perpetrated terrorist acts against owners, police officers, Cossacks, military personnel.”160 The memories left by some of them make it possible to represent the atmosphere of the city very clearly in 1905‒1906: repeated attacks by the anarchists who had settled in the Street de Souraje, where the police did not dare go any more. “It was very common for policemen on duty to be assassinated in broad daylight; This is why we saw fewer and fewer of them…” Here is the anarchist Nissel Farber: “he threw a bomb at the police station,” wounding two peacekeepers, a secretary, killing “two bourgeois who were there by chance,” and, lack of luck, perished himself in the explosion. Here is Guelinker (a.k.a. Aron Eline): he also launched a bomb, which seriously wounded the deputy of the chief of police, a commissioner, two inspectors and three agents. Here is another anarchist whose bomb “wounds an officer and three soldiers,” hurts him as well, in fact, “and, unfortunately, kills a militant of the Bund.” Here again it is a commissioner and a peacekeeper who are killed, there are two gendarmes, and again the same “Guelinker kills a concierge.” (Apart from the attacks, the “expropriation of consumer products” was also practised—food had to be eaten.) “The authorities lived in fear of an ‘uprising’ of the anarchists in the Street de Souraje,” the police had taken the habit of “expecting such an uprising for today, tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.” “The majority… of the anarchists… were leaning towards a resolute armed action in order to maintain, as much as possible, an atmosphere of class war.”
To this end, terror was also extended to the Jewish “bourgeois”. The same Farber attacked the head of a workshop, a certain Kagan, “at the exit of the synagogue… he wounded him seriously with a knife in the neck”; another little patron, Lifchitz, suffered the same fate; also “the wealthy Weinreich was attacked in the synagogue,” but the revolver was of poor quality and jammed three times.” There was a demand for a series of “significant ‘gratuitous’ actions against the bourgeois: “the bourgeois must feel himself in danger of death at every moment of his existence.” There was even the idea of “disposing all along [the main street of Bialystok] infernal machines to blow up the entire upper class” at once. But “how to transmit the anarchist ‘message’?” Two currents emerged in Bialystok: the “gratuitous” terrorists and the “communards” who considered terrorism to be a “dull” and mediocre method, but tended towards the armed insurrection “in the name of communism without State”: “To invest in the city, to arm the masses, to resist several attacks by the army and then to drive them out of the city,” and, “at the same time, to invest in plants, factories and shops.” It was in these terms that, “during meetings of fifteen to twenty thousand people, our speakers called for an armed uprising.” Alas, “the working masses of Bialystok having withdrawn from the revolutionary vanguard that they themselves had suckled from,” it was imperative to “overcome… the passivity of the masses.” The anarchists of Bialystok thus prepared an insurrection in 1906. Its course and its consequences are known as the “pogrom of Bialystok”. 161
It all began with the assassination of the chief of police, which took place precisely in this “Street de Souraje where the Jewish anarchist organisation was concentrated”; then someone shot or threw a bomb on a religious procession. After that, a commission of inquiry was dispatched by the State Duma, but alas, alas, three times alas, it failed to determine “whether it was a shot or some sort of whistling: witnesses were unable to say.”162 This, the communist Dimanstein wrote very clearly, twenty years later, that “a firecracker was thrown at an Orthodox procession as a provocation.”163
Nor can one exclude the participation of the Bund who, during the “best” months of the 1905 revolution, had burned with a desire to move to armed action, but in vain, and was withering away to the point of having to consider renewing allegiance to the Social democrats. But it is of course the anarchists of Bialystok themselves who manifested themselves with the most brilliance. Their leader, Judas Grossman‐Rochinin, recounted after 1917 what this nest of anarchists was: above all, they were afraid of “yielding to a wait‐and‐see approach and to common sense”. Having failed in organising two or three strikes because of the lack of support from the population, they decided in June 1906 to “take charge of the city” and expropriate the tools of production. “We considered that there was no reason to withdraw from Bialystok without having given a last class struggle, that it would have come down to capitulating in front of a complex problem of a superior type”; if “we do not move to the ultimate stage of the struggle, the masses will lose confidence [in us].” However, men and weapons were lacking to take the city, and Grossman ran to Warsaw to seek help from the armed fraction of the PPS (the Polish Socialists). And there he heard a newsagent shouting: “Bloody pogrom in Bialystok!… thousands of victims!”… Everything became clear: the reaction had preceded us!”164
And it is there, in the passage “to the ultimate stage of the struggle”, that is doubtlessly found the explanation for the “pogrom”. The revolutionary impetus of the Bialystok anarchists was expressed subsequently. At the trial, in the pleadings of the lawyer Gillerson who “called for the overthrow of the government and the political and social system existing in Russia”, and which, for precisely this reason, was himself prosecuted. As for the Duma commission, it considered that “the conditions of a pogrom had also been created by various elements of society who imagined that fighting the Jews was tantamount to fighting the liberation movement.”165
But after that “firecracker thrown by the provocation” which the Duma Committee had not been able to detect, what had been the course of events? According to the commission’s findings, “the systematic execution of innocent Jews, including women and children, was carried out under the pretext of repressing the revolutionaries.” There were “more than seventy dead and about eighty wounded” among the Jews. Conversely, “the indictment tended to explain the pogrom by the revolutionary activity of the Jews, which had provoked the anger of the rest of the population.” The Duma Committee rejected this version of the facts: “There was no racial, religious, or economic antagonism in Bialystok between Jews and Christians.”166
And here is what is written today: “This time the pogrom was purely military. The soldiers were transformed into rioters,” and chased the revolutionaries. At the same time, these soldiers were said to be afraid of the detachments of Jewish anarchists in the Street de Souraje, because “the war in Japan… had taught [Russian soldiers] to beware of gunshots”—such were the words pronounced in the Municipal Duma by a Jewish councillor.167 Against the Jewish detachments of self‐defence are given the infantry and the cavalry, but, on the other side, there are bombs and firearms.
In this period of strong social unrest, the Duma committee concluded to a “strafing of the population”, but twenty years later, we can read in a Soviet book (in any case, the “old regime” will not come back, will not be able to justify itself, and so we can go ahead!): “They massacred entire families with the use of nails, they pierced their eyes, cut tongues, smashed the skulls of children, etc.”168 And a luxury book edited abroad, sensationalist book, denunciatory, a richly illustrated folio, printed on coated paper, entitled The Last Autocrat (decreeing in advance that Nicholas II would indeed be the “last”), proposed the following version: the pogrom “had been the object of such a staging that it seemed possible to describe the program of the first day in the Berlin newspapers; thus, two hours before the beginning of the Bialystok pogrom, the Berliners could be informed of the event.”169 (But if something appeared in the Berlin press, was it not merely an echo of Grossman‐Rochin’s shenanigans?)
Moreover, it would have been rather absurd on the part of the Russian government to provoke pogroms against the Jews even as the Russian ministers were lobbying among Western financiers in the hope of obtaining loans. Let us remember that Witte had great difficulty in obtaining from the Rothschilds, who were ill‐disposed towards Russia because of the situation of the Jews and the pogroms, “as well as other important Jewish establishments,”170 with the exception of the Berliner banker Mendelssohn. As early as December 1905, the Russian ambassador to London, Benkendorf, warned his minister: “The Rothschilds are repeating everywhere… That Russia’s credit is now at its lowest level, but that it will be restored immediately if the Jewish question is settled.”171
At the beginning of 1906, Witte disseminated a government communiqué saying that “finding a radical solution to the Jewish problem is a matter of conscience for the Russian people, and this will be done by the Duma, but even before the Duma unites itself, the most stringent provisions will be repealed insofar as they are no longer justified in the present situation.”172 He begged the most eminent representatives of the Jewish community of Saint Petersburg to go as a delegation to the tsar, and he promised them the most kind welcome. This proposal was discussed at the Congress of the Union for the Integrality of Rights—and after the fiery speech of I. B. Bak (editor of the Retch newspaper) it was decided to reject it and to send a less important delegation to Witte, not to provide answers, but to make accusations: to tell him “clearly and unambiguously” that the wave of pogroms was organised “at the initiative and with the support of the government.”173
After two years of revolutionary earthquake, the leaders of the Jewish community in Russia who had taken the upper hand did not for a moment contemplate accepting a progressive settlement regarding the question of equal rights. They felt that they were carried by the wave of victory and had no need to go to the tsar in the position of beggars and loyal subjects. They were proud of the audacity displayed by the Jewish revolutionary youth. (One must position oneself in the context of the time when the old imperial army was believed to be immovable, to perceive the significance of the episode during which, in front of the regiment of Rostov grenadiers standing at attention, his commander, Colonel Simanski, had been arrested by a volunteer Jew!) After all, perhaps these revolutionaries had not been guilty of “national treason,” as Doubnov had accused them, perhaps they were the ones who were in the truth?—After 1905, only the fortunate and prudent Jews were left to doubt it.
What was the record of the year 1905 for the entire Jewish community in Russia? On the one hand, “the revolution of 1905 had overall positive results… it brought to the Jews political equality even when they did not even enjoy civil equality… Never as after the “Liberation Movement” did the Jewish question benefit from a more favourable climate in public opinion.”174 But, on the other hand, the strong participation of the Jews in the revolution contributed to the fact that they were henceforth all identified with it. At the tribune of the Duma in 1907 V. Choulgin proposed to vote a resolution to find that “… the western half of Russia, from Bessarabia to Warsaw, is full of hatred towards the Jews whom they consider the responsible for all their misfortunes…”175
This is indirectly confirmed by the increase in Jewish emigration from Russia. If, in 1904‒1905, there was still an increase in emigration among mature men, the whole age pyramid is concerned from 1906 onwards. The phenomenon is therefore not due to the pogroms of 1881‒1882, but indeed those of 1905‒1906. From now on, for the United States alone, the number of immigrants rose to 125,000 people in 1905‒1906 and to 115,000 in 1906‒1907.176
But at the same time, writes B. I. Goldman, “in the short years of agitation, higher education institutions did not rigorously apply the numerus clausus to the Jews, a relatively large number of Jewish professional executives, and as they were more skilful than the Russians in placing themselves on the market, without always being distinguished by a great moral rigour in their activity, some began to speak of a “hold of the Jews” on the intellectual professions.177 And “in the ‘Project for Universities’ prepared in 1906 by the Ministry of Public Instruction, no mention was made to the numerus clausus.” In 1905 there were 2,247 (9.2%) Jewish students in Russia; in 1906, 3,702 (11.6%); In 1907, 4,266 (12%).178
In the program of reforms announced on August 25th, 1906 by the Government, the latter undertook to re‐examine, among the limitations to which the Jews were subjected, those which could be immediately lifted “insofar as they merely provoke dissatisfaction and are obviously obsolete.”
However, at the same time, the Russian government could no longer be affected by the revolution (which was prolonged for another two years by a wave of terrorism hardly contained by Stolypin) and by the very visible participation of the Jews in this revolution.
To these subjects of discontent was added the humiliating defeat against Japan, and the ruling circles of Saint Petersburg yielded to the temptation of a simplistic explanation: Russia is fundamentally sound, and the whole revolution, from beginning to end, is a dark plot hatched by the Jews, an episode of the Judeo‐Masonic plot. Explain everything by one and the same cause: the Jews! Russia would long have been at the zenith of glory and universal power if there were no Jews!
And, clinging to this short but convenient explanation, the high spheres only brought the hour of their fall even closer.
The superstitious belief in the historical force of conspiracies (even if they exist, individual or collective) leaves completely aside the main cause of failures suffered by individuals as well as by states: human weaknesses.
It is our Russian weaknesses that have determined the course of our sad history—the absurdity of the religious schism caused by Nikon*, the senseless violence of Peter the Great and the incredible series of counter‐shocks that ensued, wasting our strength for causes that are not ours, the inveterate sufficiency of the nobility and bureaucratic petrification throughout the nineteenth century. It is not by the effect of a plot hatched from the outside that we have abandoned our peasants to their misery. It was not a plot that led the great and cruel Petersburg to stifle the sweet Ukrainian culture. It was not because of a conspiracy that four ministries were unable to agree on the assignment of a particular case to one or the other of them, they spent years in exhausting squabbles mobilising all levels of the hierarchy. It is not the result of a plot if our emperors, one after the other, have proved incapable of understanding the evolution of the world and defining the true priorities. If we had preserved the purity and strength, which were formerly infused into us by Saint Sergius of Radonezh, we should not fear any plot in the world.
No, it can not be said in any case that it was the Jews who “organised” the revolutions of 1905 or 1917, just as one cannot say that it was this nation as a whole that fomented them. In the same way, it was not the Russians or the Ukrainians, taken together as nations, who organised the pogroms.
It would be easy for us all to take a retrospective look at this revolution and condemn our “renegades.” Some were “non‐Jewish Jews,”179 others were “internationalists, not Russians.” But every nation must answer for its members in that it has helped to train them.
On the side of the Jewish revolutionary youth (but also of those who had formed it) as well as those of the Jews who “constituted an important revolutionary force,”180 it seems that the wise advice Jeremiah addressed to the Jews deported to Babylon was forgotten: “Seek peace for the city where I have deported you; pray to Yahweh in its favour, for its peace depends on yours.” (Jeremiah 29‒7.)
While the Jews of Russia, who rallied the revolution, only dreamed of bringing down this same city without thinking of the consequences.
In the long and chaotic human history, the role played by the Jewish people—few but energetic—is undeniable and considerable. This also applies to the history of Russia. But for all of us, this role remains a historical enigma.
For the Jews as well.
This strange mission brought them everything but happiness.