Chapter 14. During 1917

In the beginning of April 1917 the Provisional Government had discovered to its surprise that Russian finances, already for some time in quite bad shape, were on the brink of complete collapse. In an attempt to mend the situation, and stir enthusiastic patriotism, the government loudly, announced the issuance of domestic Freedom Loan bonds.

Rumors about the loan had began circulating as early as March and Minister of Finance Tereshchenko informed the press that there were already multi-million pledges from bankers to buy bonds, “mainly from the Jewish bankers, which is undoubtedly related to the abolition of religious and national restrictions.”[1] Indeed, as soon as the loan was officially announced, names of large Jewish subscribers began appearing in newspapers, accompanied by prominent front-page appeals: “Jewish citizens! Subscribe to the Freedom Loan!” and “Every Jew must have the Freedom Loan bonds!”[2] In a single subscription drive in a Moscow synagogue 22 million rubles was collected. During the first two days, Jews in Tiflis subscribed to 1.5 million rubles of bonds; Jews in Minsk – to half a million in the first week; the Saratov community – to 800 thousand rubles of bonds. In Kiev, the heirs of Brodsky and Klara Ginzburg each spent one million. The Jews abroad came forward as well: Jacob Schiff, 1 million; Rothschild in London, 1 million; in Paris, on the initiative of Baron Ginzburg, Russian Jews participated actively and subscribed to severalmillion worth of bonds.[3] At the same time, the Jewish Committee in Support for Freedom Loan was established and appealed to public.[4]

However, the government was very disappointed with the overall result of the first month of the subscription. For encouragement, the lists of major subscribers (who purchased bonds on 25 thousand rubles or more) were published several times: in the beginning of May, in the beginning of June and in the end of July.  “The rich who did not subscribe”[5] were shamed. What is most striking is not the sheer number of Jewish names on the lists (assimilated Russian-Germans with their precarious situation during the Russo-German War were in the second place among bond-holders) but the near absence of the top Russian bourgeoisie, apart from a handful of prominent Moscow entrepreneurs.

In politics, “left and center parties burgeoned and many Jews had became politically active.”[6] From the very first days after the February Revolution, central newspapers published an enormous number of announcements about private meetings, assemblies and sessions of various Jewish parties, initially mostly the Bund, but later Poale Zion, Zionists, Socialist Zionists, Territorialist Zionists, and the Socialist Jewish Workers’ Party (SJWP). By March 7 we already read about an oncoming assembly of the All-Russian Jewish Congress – finally, the pre-revolutionary idea of Dubnov had become widely accepted. However, “because of sharp differences between Zionists and Bundists,” the Congress did not materialize in 1917 (nor did it occur in 1918 either “because of the Civil War and antagonism of Bolshevik authorities”).[7] “In Petrograd, Jewish People’s Group was re-established with M. Vinaver at the helm.”[8] They were liberals, not socialists; initially, they hoped to establish an alliance with Jewish socialists. Vinaver declared: “we applaud the Bund – the vanguard of the revolutionary movement.”[9] Yet the socialists stubbornly rejected all gestures of rapprochement.

The rallying of Jewish parties in Petrograd had indirectly indicated that by the time of revolution the Jewish population there was already substantial and energetic. Surprisingly, despite the fact that almost no “Jewish proletariat” existed in Petrograd, the Bund was very successful there. It was extraordinarily active in Petrograd, arranging a number of meetings of local organization (in the lawyer’s club and then on April 1 in the Tenishev’s school); there was a meeting with a concert in the Mikhailovsky Theatre; then on April 14-19 “the All-Russian Conference of the Bund took place, at which a demand to establish a national and cultural Jewish autonomy in Russia was brought forward again.”[10] (“After conclusion of speeches, all the conference participants had sung the Bund’s anthem Oath, The Internationale, and La Marseillaise.”[11]) And, as in past, Bund had to balance its national and revolutionary platforms: in 1903 it struggled for the independence from the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party, and yet in 1905 it rushed headlong into the All-Russian revolution. Likewise, now, in 1917, the Bund’s representatives occupied prominent positions in the Executive Committee of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies [a Soviet is the Russian term used for an elected (at least in theory) council] and later among the Social Democrats of Kiev. “By the end of 1917 the Bund had nearly 400 sections countrywide, totaling around 40,000 members.”[12]

Developments in Poale Zion were no less amazing. In the beginning of April they also held their All-Russian Conference in Moscow. Among its resolutions we see on the one hand a motion to organize the All-Russian Jewish Congress and discuss the problem of emigration to Palestine. On the other hand, the Poale Zion Conference in Odessa had simultaneously announced the party’s uncompromising program of class warfare: “Through the efforts of Jewish revolutionary democracy the power over destinies of the Jewish nation was … wrested from the dirty grasp of ‘wealthy and settled’ Jews despite all the resistance of bourgeoisie to the right and the Bund to the left…. Do not allow the bourgeois parties to bring in the garbage of the old order…. Do not let the hypocrites speak – they did not fight but sweated out the rights for our people on their bended knees in the offices of anti-Semitic ministers; …  they did not believe in the revolutionary action of the masses.” Then, in April 1917, when the party had split the “Radical Socialist” Poale Zion moved toward the Zionists, breaking away from the main “Social Democratic” Poale Zion,[13] which later would join the Third International.[14]

Like the two above-mentioned parties, the SJWP also held its statewide conference at which it had merged with the Socialist Zionists, forming the United Jewish Socialist Workers’ Party (Fareynikte) and parting with the idea “of any extraterritorial Jewish nation” with its own parliament and national autonomy. “Fareynikte appealed to the Provisional Government asking it to declare equality of languages and to establish a council on the affairs of nationalities” which would specifically “fund Jewish schools and public agencies.” At the same time, Fareynikte closely collaborated with the Socialist Revolutionaries.[15]

However, it was Zionism that became the most influential political force in the Jewish milieu.[16] As early as the beginning of March, the resolution of Petrograd’s Zionist Assembly contained the following wording: “The Russian Jewry is called upon to support the Provisional Government in every possible way, to enthusiastic work, to national consolidation and organization for the sake of the prosperity of Jewish national life in Russia and the national and political renaissance of Jewish nation in Palestine.” And what an inspiring historical moment it was – March 1917 – with the British troops closing on Jerusalem right at that time! Already on March 19 the proclamation of Odessa’s Zionists stated: “today is the time when states rearrange themselves on national foundations. Woe to us if we miss this historic opportunity.” In April, the Zionist movement was strongly reinforced by the public announcement of Jacob Schiff, who had decided to join Zionists “because of fear of Jewish assimilation as a result of Jewish civil equality in Russia. He believes that Palestine could become the center to spread ideals of Jewish culture all over the world.”[17] In the beginning of May, Zionists held a large meeting in the building of Petrograd Stock Exchange, with Zionist hymns performed several times. In the end of May the All-Russian Zionist Conference was held in the Petrograd Conservatory. It outlined major Zionist objectives: cultural revival of the Jewish nation, “social revolution in the economic structure of Jewish society to transform the ‘nation of merchants and artisans into the nation of farmers and workers,’ an increase in emigration to Palestine and ‘mobilization of Jewish capital to finance the Jewish settlers’.” Both Jabotinsky’s plan on creation of a Jewish legion in the British Army and the I. Trumpeldorf’s plan for the “formation of a Jewish army in Russia which would cross the Caucasus and liberate Eretz Yisrael [The land of Israel] from Turkish occupation have been discussed and rejected on the basis of the neutrality of Zionists in the World War I.”[18]

The Zionist Conference decreed to vote during the oncoming local elections for the parties “not farther to the right than the People’s Socialists,” and even to refuse to support Constitutional Democrats like D. Pasmanik, who later complained: “It was absolutely meaningless – it looked like the entire Russian Jewry, with its petty and large bourgeoisie, are socialists.”[19] His bewilderment was not unfounded.

The congress of student Zionist organization, Gekhover, with delegates from 25 cities and all Russian universities, had taken place in the beginning of April in Petrograd. Their resolution stated that the Jews were suffering not for the sake of equality in Russia but for the rebirth of Jewish nation in the native Palestine. They decided to form legions in Russia to conquer Palestine. Overall, “during the summer and fall of 1917 Zionism in Russia continued to gain strength: by September its members numbered 300,000.”[20]

It is less known that in 1917 Jewish “orthodox movements enjoyed substantial popularity second only to the Zionists and ahead of the socialist parties” (as illustrated by their success “during elections of the leadership of reorganized Jewish communities”).[21]

There were rallies (“The Jews are together with the democratic Russia in both love and hatred!”), public lectures (“The Jewish Question and the Russian Revolution”), city-wide “assemblies of Jewish high school students” in Petrograd and other cities (aside from general student meetings). In Petrograd, the Central Organ of Jewish Students was established, though not recognized by the Bund and other leftist parties. While many provincial committees for the assistance to the “victims of the war” (i.e., to Jewish refugees and deportees) ceased to exist because at this time “democratic forces needed to engage in broader social activities,” and so the Central Jewish Committee for providing such aid was formed by April. In May the Jewish People’s Union was established to facilitate consolidation of all Jewish forces, to prepare for the convocation of the All-Russian Jewish Union and to get ready for the oncoming elections to the Constituent Assembly. In the end of May there was another attempt of unification: the steering committee of the Jewish Democratic Alliance convened the conference of all Jewish democratic organizations in Russia. Meanwhile, lively public discussion went on regarding convocation of the All-Russian Jewish Congress: the Bund rejected it as inconsistent with their plans; the Zionists demanded the Congress include on their agenda the question of Palestine – and were themselves rejected by the rest; in July the All-Russian Conference on the Jewish Congress preparation took place in Petrograd.[22] Because of social enthusiasm, Vinaver was able to declare there that the idea of united Jewish nation, dispersed among different countries, is ripe, and that from now on the Russian Jews may not be indifferent to the situation of Jews in other countries, such as Romania or Poland. The Congress date was set for December.

What an upsurge of Jewish national energy it was! Even amid the upheavals of 1917, Jewish social and political activities stood out in their diversity, vigor and organization.

The “period between February and November 1917 was the time of blossoming” of Jewish culture and healthcare. In addition to the Petrograd publication The Jews of Russia, the publisher of The Jewish Week had moved to Petrograd; publication of the Petrograd-Torgblat in Yiddish had begun; similar publications were started in other cities. The Tarbut and Culture League [a network of secular, Hebrew-language schools] had established “dozens of kindergartens, secondary and high schools and pedagogic colleges” teaching both in Yiddish and in Hebrew. A Jewish grammar school was founded in Kiev. In April, the first All-Russian Congress on Jewish Culture and Education was held in Moscow. It requested state funding for Jewish schools A conference of the Society of Admirers of Jewish Language and Culture took place. The Habima Theatre, “the first professional theatre in Hebrew in the world,”[23] opened in Moscow. There were an exposition of Jewish artists and a conference of the Society on Jewish Health Care in April in Moscow.

These Jewish activities are all the more amazing given the state of general governmental, administrative and cultural confusion in Russia 1917.

A major event in the Jewish life of the time was the granting of official permission for Jewish youth to enlist as officers in the Russian Army. It was a large-scale move: in April, the headquarters of the Petrograd military district had issued an order to the commanders of Guards military units to immediately post all Jewish students to the training battalion at Nizhny Novgorod with the purpose of their further assignment to military academies[24] – that is virtually mass-scale promotion of young Jews into the officer ranks. “Already in the beginning of June 1917, 131 Jews graduated from the accelerated military courses at the Konstantinovsky military academy in Kiev as officers; in the summer 1917 Odessa, 160 Jewish cadets were promoted into officers.”[25] In June 2600 Jews were promoted to warrant-officer rank all over Russia.

There is evidence that in some military academies Junkers [used in Tsarist Russia for cadets and young officers] met Jewish newcomers unkindly, as it was in the Alexandrovsky military academy after more than 300 Jews had been posted to it. In the Mikhailovsky military academy a group of Junkers proposed a resolution that: “Although we are not against the Jews in general, we consider it inconceivable to let them into the command ranks of the Russian Army.” The officers of the academy dissociated themselves from this statement and a group of socialist Junkers (141-strong) had expressed their disapproval, “finding anti-Jewish protests shameful for the revolutionary army,”[26] and the resolution did not pass. When Jewish warrant officers arrived to their regiments, they often encountered mistrust and enmity on the part of soldiers for whom having Jews as officers was extremely unusual and strange. (Yet the newly-minted officers who adopted new revolutionary style of behavior gained popularity lightning-fast.)

On the other hand, the way Jewish Junkers from the military academy in Odessa behaved was simply striking. In the end of March, 240 Jews had been accepted into the academy. Barely three weeks later, on April 18 old style, there was a First of May parade in Odessa and the Jewish Junkers marched ostentatiously singing ancient Jewish songs. Did they not understand that Russian soldiers would hardly follow such officers? What kind of officers were they going to become? It would be fine if they were being prepared for the separate Jewish battalions. Yet according to General Denikin, the year 1917 saw successful formation of all kinds of national regiments – Polish, Ukrainian, Transcaucasian (the Latvian units were already in place for a while) – except the Jewish ones: it was “the only nationality not demanding national self-determination in military. And every time, when in response to complaints about bad acceptance of Jewish officers in army formation of separate Jewish regiments was suggested, such a proposal was met with a storm of indignation on the part of Jews and the Left and with accusations of a spiteful provocation.”[27] (Newspapers had reported that Germans also planned to form separate Jewish regiments but the project was dismissed.) It appears, though, that new Jewish officers still wanted some national organization in the military. In Odessa on August 18, the convention of Jewish officers decided to establish a section which would be responsible for connections between different fronts “to report on the situation of Jewish officers in the field.” In August, “unions of Jewish warriors appeared; by October such unions were present at all fronts and in many garrisons. During the October 10-15, 1917 conference in Kiev, the All-Russian Union of Jewish Warriors was founded.”[28] (Although it was a new ‘revolutionary army’, some reporters still harbored hostility toward officer corps in general and to officer’s epaulettes in particular; for instance, A. Alperovich whipped up emotions against officers in general in Birzhevye Vedomosti [Stock Exchange News] as late as May 5.)[29]

Various sources indicate that Jews were not eager to be drafted as common soldiers even in 1917; apparently, there were instances when to avoid the draft sick individuals passed off as genuine conscripts at the medical examining boards, and, as a result, some district draft commissions began demanding photo-IDs from Jewish conscripts (an unusual practice in those simple times). It immediately triggered angry protests that such a requirement goes against the repulsion of national restrictions, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs forbade asking for such IDs.

In the beginning of April the Provisional Government issued an order by telegraph to free without individual investigation all Jews previously exiled as suspects of espionage. Some of them resided in the now-occupied territories, while others could safely return home, and yet many deportees asked for permission to reside in the cities of the European part of Russia. There was a flow of Jews into Petrograd (Jewish population of 50,000 in 1917)[30] and a sharp increase of Jewish population in Moscow (60,000).[31]

Russian Jews received less numerous, but highly energetic reinforcement from abroad. Take those two famous trains that crossed hostile Germany without hindrance and brought to Russia nearly 200 prominent individuals, 30 in Lenin’s and 160 in Natanson-Martov’s train, with Jews comprising an absolute majority (the lists of passengers of the ‘exterritorial trains’ were for the first time published by V. Burtsev).[32] They represented almost all Jewish parties, and virtually all of them would play a substantial role in the future events in Russia.

Hundreds of Jews returned from the United States: former emigrants, revolutionaries, and draft escapees – now they all were the ‘revolutionary fighters’ and ‘victims of Tsarism’. By order of Kerensky, the Russian embassy in the USA issued Russian passports to anyone who could provide just two witnesses (to testify to identity) literally from the street. (The situation around Trotsky’s group was peculiar. They were apprehended in Canada on suspicion of connections with Germany. The investigation found that Trotsky travelled not with flimsy Russian papers, but with a solid American passport, inexplicably granted to him despite his short stay in the USA, and with a substantial sum of money, the source of which remained a mystery.[33]) On June 26 at the exalted “Russian rally in New York City” (directed by P. Rutenberg, one-time friend and then a murderer of Gapon), Abraham Kagan, the editor of Jewish newspaper Forwards, addressed Russian ambassador Bakhmetev “on behalf of two million Russian Jews residing in the United States of America”: “We have always loved our motherland; we have always sensed the links of brotherhood with the entire Russian nation…. Our hearts are loyal to the red banner of the Russian liberation and to the national tricolor of the free Russia.” He had also claimed that the self-sacrifice of the members of Narodnaya Volya [literally, The People’s Will, a terrorist leftwing revolutionary group in Tsarist Russia, best known for its assassination of Tsar Alexander II, known as ‘the Tsar Liberator for ending serfdom] “was directly connected to the fact of increased persecution of the Jews” and that “people like Zundelevich, Deich, Gershuni, Liber and Abramovich were among the bravest.”[34]

And so they had begun coming back, and not just from New York, judging by the official introduction of discounted railroad fare for ‘political emigrants’ travelling from Vladivostok. At the late July rally in Whitechapel, London, “it was found that in London alone 10,000 Jews declared their willingness to return to Russia”; the final resolution had expressed pleasure that “Jews would go back to struggle for the new social and democratic Russia.”[35]

Destinies of many returnees, hurrying to participate in the revolution and jumping headlong into the thick of things, were outstanding. Among the returnees were the famous V. Volodarsky, M. Uritsky, and Yu. Larin, the latter was the author of the ‘War Communism economy’ program. It is less known that Yakov Sverdlov’s brother, Veniamin, was also among the returnees. Still, he would not manage to rise higher than the deputy Narkom [People’s Commissar] of Communications and a member of Board of the Supreme Soviet of the National Economy. Moisei Kharitonov, Lenin’s associate in emigration who returned to Russia in the same train with him, quickly gained notoriety by assisting the anarchists in their famous robbery in April; later he was the secretary of Perm, Saratov and Sverdlov gubkoms [guberniya’s Party committee], and the secretary of Urals Bureau of the Central Committee. Semyon Dimanshtein, a member of a Bolshevik group in Paris, would become the head of the Jewish Commissariat at the People’s Commissariat of Nationalities, and later the head of YevSek [Jewish Section] at the All-Russian Central Executive Committee; he would in fact supervise the entire Jewish life. Amazingly, at the age of 18 he managed “to pass qualification test to become a rabbi” and became a member of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party – all this in course of one year.[36]  Similarly, members of the Trotsky’s group had also fared well: the jeweler G. Melnichansky, the accountant Friman, the typographer A. Minkin-Menson, and the decorator Gomberg-Zorin had respectively headed Soviet trade unions, Pravda, the dispatch office of bank notes and securities, and the Petrograd Revolutionary Tribunal.

Names of other returnees after the February Revolution are now completely forgotten, yet wrongly so, as they played important roles in the revolutionary events. For example, the Doctor of Biology Ivan Zalkind had actively participated in the October coup and then in fact ran Trotsky’s People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs. Semyon Kogan-Semkov became the “political commissar of Izhevsk weapons and steel factories” in November 1918; that is he was in charge of the vindictive actions during suppression of major uprising of Izhevsk workers[37] known for its large, in many thousands, victim’s toll; in a single incident on the Sobornaya Square in Izhevsk 400 workers were gunned down.[38] Tobinson-Krasnoshchekov later headed the entire Far East as the secretary of the Far East Bureau and the head of local government. Girshfeld-Stashevsky under the pseudonym “Verkhovsky” was in command of a squad of German POWs and turncoats, that is, he laid foundation for the Bolshevik international squads; in 1920 he was the head of clandestine intelligence at the Western front; later, in peacetime, “he, on orders of Cheka Presidium, had organized intelligence network in the Western Europe”; he was awarded the title of “Honorary Chekist.”[39]

Among returnees were many who did not share Bolshevik views (at least at the time of arrival) but they were nevertheless welcomed into the ranks of Lenin’s and Trotsky’s party. For instance, although Yakov Fishman, a member of the Military Revolutionary Committee of the October coup, had deviated from the Bolshevik mainstream by participating in the Left Socialist Revolutionary insurrection in July 1918, he was later accepted into the Russian Communist party of Bolsheviks (RCPB) and entrusted with a post in the Military Intelligence Administration of the Red Army. Or take Yefim Yarchuk, who had returned as an Anarchist Syndicalist, but was delegated by the Petrograd Soviet to reinforce the Kronstadt Soviet; during the October coup he had brought a squad of sailors to Petrograd to storm the Winter Palace. The returnee Vsevolod Volin-Eikhenbaum (the brother of the literary scholar) was a consistent supporter of anarchism and the ideologist of Makhno [a Ukrainian separatist-anarchist] movement; he was the head of the Revolutionary Military Soviet in the Makhno army. We know that Makno was more of an advantage than a detriment to Bolsheviks and as a result Volin was later merely forced to emigrate together with a dozen of other anarchists.[40]

The expectations of returnees were not unfounded: those were the months marked by a notable rise to prominence for many Jews in Russia. “The Jewish Question exists no longer in Russia.”[41] (Still, in the newspaper essay by D. Aizman, Sura Alperovich, the wife of a merchant who moved from Minsk to Petrograd, had expressed her doubts: “So there is no more slavery and that’s it?” So what about the things “that ‘Nicholas of yesterday’ did to us in Kishinev [in regard to the Kishinev pogrom]?” [42]) In another article David Aizman thus elaborated his thought: “Jews must secure the gains of revolution by any means … without any qualms. Any necessary sacrifice must be made. Everything is on the stake here and all will be lost if we hesitate…. Even the most backward parts of Jewish mass understand this.” “No one questions what would happen to Jews if the counter-revolution prevails.” He was absolutely confident that if that happens there would be mass executions of Jews. Therefore, “the filthy scum must be crushed even before it had any chance to develop, in embryo. Their very seed must be destroyed…. Jews will be able to defend their freedom.”[43]

Crushed in embryo…. And even their very seed…. It was already pretty much the Bolshevik program, though expressed in the words of Old Testament. Yet whose seed must be destroyed? Monarchists’? But they were already breathless; all their activists could be counted on fingers. So it could only be those who had taken a stand against the unbridled, running wild soviets, against all kinds of committees and mad crowds; those, who wished to halt the breakdown of life in the country – prudent ordinary people, former government officials, and first of all officers and very soon the soldier-general Kornilov. There were Jews among those counter-revolutionaries, but overall that movement was the Russian national one.

What about press? In 1917, the influence of print media grew; the number of periodicals and associated journalists and staff was rising. Before the revolution, only a limited number of media workers qualified for draft deferral, and only those who were associated with newspapers and printing offices which were established in the pre-war years. (They were classified as ‘defense enterprises’ despite their desperate fight against governmental and military censorship.) But now, from April, on the insistence of the publishers, press privileges were expanded with respect to the number of workers exempt from military service; newly founded political newspapers were henceforth also covered by the exemption (sometimes fraudulently as the only thing needed to qualify was maintaining a circulation of 30,000 for at least two weeks). Draft privileges were introduced on the basis of youth, for the ‘political emigrants’ and those ‘released from exile’ – everything that favored employment of new arrivals in the leftist newspapers. At the same time, rightist newspapers were being closed: Malenkaya Gazeta [Small Newspaper] and Narodnaya Gazeta [People’s Newspaper] were shut down for accusing Bolsheviks of having links with Germans. When many newspapers published the  telegrams fraudulently attributed to the Empress and the fake was exposed (it was “an innocent joke of a telegraph operator lady,” for which, of course, she was never disciplined) and so they had to retract their pieces, Birzhevye Vedomosti, for instance, had produced such texts: “It turned out that neither the special archive at the Main Department of Post and Telegraph, where the royal telegrams were stored, nor the head office of telegraph contain any evidence of this correspondence.”[44] See, they presented it as if the telegrams were real but all traces of their existence had been skillfully erased. What a brave free press!

***

As early as in the beginning of March the prudent Vinaver had warned the Jewish public: “Apart from love for freedom, self-control is needed…. It is better for us to avoid highly visible and prominent posts…. Do not hurry to practice our rights.”[45] We know that Vinaver (and also Dan, Liber and Branson) “at different times have been offered minister posts, but all of them refused, believing that Jews should not be present in Russian Government.” The attorney Vinaver could not, of course, reject his sensational appointment to the Senate, where he became one of four Jewish Senators (together with G. Blumenfeld, O. Gruzenberg, and I. Gurevich).[46] There were no Jews among the ministers but four influential Jews occupied posts of deputy ministers: V. Gurevich was a deputy to Avksentiev, the Minister of Internal Affairs; S. Lurie was in the Ministry of Trade and Industry; S. Schwartz and A. Ginzburg-Naumov – in the ministry of Labor; and P. Rutenberg should be mentioned here too. From July, A. Galpern became the chief of the administration of the Provisional Government (after V. Nabokov)[47]; the director of 1st Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was A. N. Mandelshtam. The assistant to the head of the Moscow military district was Second Lieutenant Sher (since July 1917); from May, the head of foreign supply department at General Staff was A. Mikhelson; the commissar of the Provisional Government in the field construction office was Naum Glazberg; several Jews were incorporated by Chernov into the Central Land Committee responsible for everything related to allotting land to peasants. Of course, most of those were not key posts, having negligibly small influence when compared to the principal role of the Executive Committee, whose ethnic composition would soon become a hotly debated public worry.

At the August Government Conference dedicated to the disturbing situation in the country, apart from the representatives of soviets, parties, and guilds, a separate representation was granted to the ethnic groups of Russia, with Jews represented by eight delegates, including G. Sliozberg, M. Liber, N. Fridman, G. Landau, and O. Gruzenberg.

The favorite slogan of 1917 was “Expand the Revolution!” All socialist parties worked to implement it. I. O. Levin writes: “There is no doubt that Jewish representation in the Bolshevik and other parties which facilitated “expanding of revolution” – Mensheviks, Socialist Revolutionaries, etc. – with respect to both general Jewish membership and Jewish presence among the leaders, greatly exceeds the Jewish share in the population of Russia. This is an indisputable fact; while its reasons should be debated, its factual veracity is unchallengeable and its denial is pointless”; and “a certainly convincing explanation of this phenomenon by Jewish inequality before the March revolution … is still not sufficiently exhaustive.”[48] Members of central committees of the socialist parties are known. Interestingly, Jewish representation in the leadership of Mensheviks, the Right and the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, and the Anarchists was much greater than among the Bolshevik leaders. At the Socialist Revolutionary Congress, which took place in the end of May and beginning of June 1917, 39 out of 318 delegates were Jewish, and out of 20 members of the Central Committee of the party elected during the Congress, 7 were Jewish. A. Gotz was one of the leaders of the right wing faction and M. Natanson was among the leaders of the left Socialist Revolutionaries.”[49] (What a despicable role awaited Natanson, “the wise Mark,” one of the founder of Russian Narodnichestvo [“Populism”]! During the war, living abroad, he was receiving financial aid from Germany. In May 1917 he returned in Russia in one of the ‘extraterritorial trains’ across Germany; in Russia, he had immediately endorsed Lenin and threw his weight in support of the latter’s goal of dissolving the Constituent Assembly; actually, it was he who had voiced this idea first, though Lenin, of course, needed no such nudge.)

Local government elections took place in the summer. Overall, socialist parties were victorious, and “Jews actively participated in the local and municipal work in a number of cities and towns outside of the [former] Pale of Settlement.” For instance, Socialist Revolutionary O. Minor .became head of the Moscow City Duma; member of the Central Committee of the Bund, A. Vainshtein (Rakhmiel),of the Minsk Duma; Menshevik I. Polonsky, of the Ekaterinoslav Duma, Bundist D. Chertkov, of the Saratov Duma.” G. Shreider had become the mayor of Petrograd, and A. Ginzburg-Naumov was elected a deputy mayor in Kiev.”[50]

But most of these persons were gone with the October coup and it was not they who shaped the subsequent developments in Russia. It would become the lot of those who now occupied much lower posts, mostly in the soviets; they were numerous and spread all over the country: take, for instance, Khinchuk, head of the Moscow Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, or Nasimovich and M. Trilisser of the Irkutsk Soviet (the latter would later serve in the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets of Siberia and become a famous Chekist).[51]

All over the provinces “Jewish socialist parties enjoyed large representation in the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.”[52] They were also prominently presented at the All-Russian Democratic Conference in September 1917, which annoyed Lenin so much that he had even demanded surrounding the Alexandrinsky Theater with troops and arresting the entire assembly. (The theater’s superintendent, comrade Nashatyr, would have to act on the order, but Trotsky had dissuaded Lenin.) And even after the October coup, the Moscow Soviet of Soldiers’ Deputies had among its members, according to Bukharin, “dentists, pharmacists, etc., – representatives of trades as close to the soldier’s profession as to that of the Chinese Emperor.”[53]

But above all of that, above all of Russia, from the spring to the autumn of 1917, stood the power of one body – and it was not the Provisional Government. It was the powerful and insular Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet, and later, after June, the successor to its power, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee (CEC) – it was they who had in fact ruled over Russia. While appearing solid and determined from outside, in reality they were being torn apart by internal contradictions and inter-factional ideological confusion. Initially, the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies unanimously approved the Order No. 1, but later was doubtful about the war – whether to continue destroying army or to strengthen it. (Quite unexpectedly, they declared their support for the Freedom Loan; thus they had incensed the Bolsheviks but agreed with the public opinion on this issue, including the attitudes of liberal Jews.)

The Presidium of the first All-Russian CEC of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies (the first governing Soviet body) consisted of nine men. Among them were the Social Revolutionaries (SRs) A. Gots and M. Gendelman, the Menshevik, F. Dan, and the member of Bund, M. Liber. (In March at the All-Russian Conference of the Soviets, Gendelman and Steklov had demanded stricter conditions be imposed on the Tsar’s family, which was under house arrest, and also insisted on the arrest of all crown princes – this is how confident they were in their power.) The prominent Bolshevik, L. Kamenev, was among the members of that Presidium. It also included the Georgian, Chkheidze; the Armenian, Saakjan; one Krushinsky, most likely a Pole; and Nikolsky, likely a Russian – quite an impudent [ethnic] composition for the governing organ of Russia in such a critical time.

Apart from the CEC of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, there was also the All-Russian Executive Committee of the Soviet of Peasants’ Deputies, elected in the end of May. Of its 30 members, there were only three actual peasants – an already habitual sham of the pre-Bolshevik regime. Of those thirty, D. Pasmanik identified seven Jews: “a sad thing it was, especially considering Jewish interests”; and “they had become an eyesore to everybody.”[54] Then this peasant organ put forward a list of its candidates for the future Constituent Assembly. Apart from Kerensky, the list contained several Jews, such as the boisterous Ilya Rubanovich, who had just arrived from Paris, the terrorist Abram Gots, and the little-known Gurevich…[55] (In the same article, there was a report on the arrest for desertion of warrant officer M. Golman, the head of the Mogilev Guberniya, a Peasant Soviet.[56])

Of course, the actions of the executive committees could not be solely explained by their ethnic composition – not at all! (Many of those personalities irreversibly distanced themselves from their native communities and had even forgotten the way to their shtetls.) All of them sincerely believed that because of their talents and revolutionary spirit, they would have no problem arranging workers’, soldiers’ and peasants’ matters in the best way possible. They would manage it better simply because of being more educated and smarter than all this clumsy hoi polloi.

Yet for many Russians, from commoner toa general, this sudden, eye-striking transformation in the appearance among the directors and orators at rallies and meetings, in command and in government, was overwhelming.

V. Stankevich, the only officer-socialist in the Executive Committee, provided an example: “this fact [of the abundance of Jews in the Committee] alone had enormous influence on the public opinion and sympathies…. Noteworthy, when Kornilov met with the Committee for the first time, he had accidently sat in the midst of Jews; in front of him sat two insignificant and plain members of the Committee, whom I remember merely because of their grotesquely Jewish facial features. Who knows how that affected Kornilov’s attitudes toward Russian revolution?”[57]

Yet the treatment of all things Russian by the new regime was very tale-telling. Here is an example from the “days of Kornilov” in the end of August 1918.  Russia was visibly dying, losing the war, with its army corrupted and the rear in collapse. General Kornilov, cunningly deceived by Kerensky, artlessly appealed to the people, almost howling with pain: “Russian people! Our great Motherland is dying. The hour of her death is nigh…. All, whose bosoms harbor a beating Russian heart, go to the temples and pray to God to grant us the greatest miracle of salvation for our beloved country!”[58] In response to that the ideologist of the February Revolution and one of the leading members of the Executive Committee, Gimmer-Sukhanov, chuckled in amusement: “What an awkward, silly, clueless, politically illiterate call … what a lowbrow imitation of Suzdalshchina [‘Suzdalshchina’ refers to resistance in Suzdal to the Mongol invaders]!”[59]

Yes, it sounded pompously and awkwardly, without a clear political position. Indeed, Kornilov was not a politician but his heart ached. And what about Sukhanov’s heart – did he feel any pain at all? He did not have any sense of the living land and culture, nor he had any urge to preserve them – he served to his ideology only, the International, seeing in Kornilov’s words a total lack of ideological content. Yes, his response was caustic. But note that he had not only labeled Kornilov’s appeal an ‘imitation’, he had also derogatorily referred to ‘Suzdalshchina,’ to Russian history, ancient art and sanctity. And with such disdain to the entire Russian historical heritage, all that internationalist ilk – Sukhanov and his henchmen from the malicious Executive Committee, steered the February Revolution.

And it was not the ethnic origin of Sukhanov and the rest; it was their anti-national, anti-Russian and anti-conservative attitudes. We have seen similar attitudes on the part of the Provisional Government too, with its task of governing the entire Russia and its quite Russian ethnic composition. Yet did it display a Russian worldview or represent Russian interests if only a little? Not at all! The Government’s most consistent and ‘patriotic’ activity was to guide the already unraveling country (the ‘Kronstadt Republic’ was not the only place which had “seceded from Russia” by that time) to the victory in war! To the victory at any cost! With loyalty to the allies! (Sure, the allies, their governments, public and financers, put pressure on Russia. For instance, in May, Russian newspapers cited The Morning Post from Washington: “America made it clear to the Russian government” that if [Russia] makes a separate peace [with Germany], the United States would “annul all financial agreements with Russia.” [60] Prince Lvov [Prince Georgi Lvov, led the Russian Provisional Government during the Russian revolution’s initial phase, from March 1917 until he relinquished control to Alexander Kerensky in July 1917] upheld the sentiment: “The country must determinately send its army to battle.”[61]) They had no concern about consequences of the ongoing war for Russia. And this mismatch, this loss of sense of national self-preservation, could be observed almost at every meeting of the Provisional Government cabinet, almost in every discussion.

There were simply ridiculous incidents. Throwing millions of rubles left and right and always keenly supporting “cultural needs of ethnic minorities,” the Provisional Government at its April 6 meeting had rejected the request of the long-established “Great Russian Orchestra of V. V. Andreev” to continue getting paid as before, “from the funds of the former His Majesty’s Personal Chancellery” (the funds were confiscated by the Provisional Government itself). The petition was turned down despite the fact that the requested sum, 30 thousand rubles per year, was equivalent to the annual pay of just three minister assistants. “Deny!” (Why not disband your so-called “Great Russian” orchestra? – What kind of name is that?) Taken aback and believing that it was just a misunderstanding, Andreev petitioned again. Yet with an unusual for this torpid government determination, he was refused a second time too, at the April 27 meeting.[62]

Milyukov, a Russian historian and minister of the Provisional Government, did not utter a single specifically Russian sentiment during that year. Similarly, “the key figure of the revolution,” Alexander Kerensky, could not be at any stage accused of possessing an ethnic Russian consciousness. Yet at the same time the government demonstrated constant anxious bias against any conservative circles, and especially – against Russian conservatives. Even during his last speech in the Council of the Russian Republic (Pre-Parliament) on October 24, when Trotsky’s troops were already seizing Petrograd building after building, Kerensky emphatically argued that the Bolshevik newspaper Rabochy Put (Worker’s Way) and the right-wing Novaya Rus (New Russia)  – both of which Kerensky had just shut down – shared similar political views….

***

The “darned incognito” of the members of the Executive Committee was, of course, noticed by the public. Initially it was the educated society of Petrograd that was obsessed with this question, which several times surfaced in newspapers. For two months, the Committee tried to keep the secret, but by May they had no other choice but reveal themselves and had published the actual names of most of the pseudonym-holders (except for Steklov-Nakhamkis and Boris Osipovich Bogdanov, the energetic permanent chair of the council; they had managed to keep their identities secret for a while; the latter’s name confused the public by similarity with another personality, Bogdanov-Malinovsky). This odd secrecy irritated the public, and even ordinary citizens began asking questions. It was already typical in May that if, during a plenary meeting of the Soviet, someone proposed Zinoviev or Kamenev for something, the public shouted from the auditorium demanding their true names.

Concealing true names was incomprehensible to the ordinary man of that time: only thieves hide and change their names. Why is Boris Katz ashamed of his name, and instead calling himself “Kamkov”? Why does Lurie hide under the alias of “Larin”? Why does Mandelshtam use the pseudonym “Lyadov”? Many of these had aliases that originated  out of necessity in their past underground life , but what had compelled the likes of Shotman, the Socialist Revolutionary from Tomsk, (and not him alone) to become “Danilov” in 1917?

Certainly, the goal of a revolutionary, hiding behind a pseudonym, is to outsmart someone, and that may include not only the police and government. In this way, ordinary people as well are unable to figure out who their new leaders are.

Intoxicated by the freedom of the first months of the February Revolution, many Jewish activists and orators failed to notice that their constant fussing around presidiums and rallies produced certain bewilderment and wry glances. By the time of the February Revolution there was no “popular anti-Semitism” in the internal regions of Russia, it was confined exclusively to the areas of the Pale of Settlement. (For instance, Abraham Cogan had even stated in 1917: “We loved Russia despite all the oppression from the previous regime because we knew that it was not the Russian people” behind it but Tsarism.[63]) But after just a few months following the February Revolution, resentment against Jews had suddenly flared up among the masses of people and spread over Russia, growing stronger with each passing month. And even the official newspapers reported, for instance, on the exasperation in the waiting lines in the cities. “Everything has been changed in that twinkle of the eye that created a chasm between the old and the new Russia. But it is queues that have changed the most. Strangely, while everything has moved to the left, the food lines have moved to the right. If you … would like to hear Black Hundred propaganda  … then go and spend some time in a waiting line.” Among other things you will find out that “there are virtually no Jews in the lines, they don’t need it as they have enough bread hoarded.” The same “gossip about Jews who tuck away bread” rolls from another end of the line as well; “the waiting lines is the most dangerous source of counterrevolution.”[64] The author Ivan Nazhivin noted that in the autumn in Moscow anti-Semitic propaganda fell on ready ears in the hungry revolutionary queues: “What rascals! …  They wormed themselves onto the very top! … See, how proudly they ride in their cars…. Sure, not a single Yid can be found in the lines here…. Just you wait!”[65]

Any revolution releases a flood of obscenity, envy, and anger from the people. The same happened among the Russian people, with their weakened Christian spirituality. And so the Jews – many of whom had ascended to the top, to visibility, and, what is more, who had not concealed their revolutionary jubilation, nor waited in the miserable lines – increasingly became a target of popular resentment.

Many instances of such resentment were documented in 1917 newspapers. Below are several examples. When, at the Apraksin market on Sennaya Square, a hoard of goods was discovered in possession of Jewish merchants, “people began shout … ‘plunder Jewish shops!’, because ‘Yids are responsible for all the troubles’ … and this word ‘Yid’ is on everyone’s lips.”[66] A stockpile of flour and bacon was found in the store of a merchant (likely a Jew) in Poltava. The crowd started plundering his shop and then began calling for a Jewish pogrom. Later, several members of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, including Drobnis, arrived and attempted to appease the crowd; as a result, Drobnis was beaten.[67] In October in Ekaterinoslav soldiers trashed small shops, shouting “Smash the bourgeois! Smash the Yids!” In Kiev at the Vladimirsky market a boy had hit a woman, who tried to buy flour out her turn on the head Instantly, the crowd  started yelling “the Yids are beating the Russians!” and a brawl ensued. (Note that it had happened in the same Kiev where one could already see the streamers “Long live free Ukraine without Yids and Poles!”) By that time “Smash the Yids!” could be heard in almost every street brawl, even in Petrograd, and often completely without foundation. For instance, in a Petrograd streetcar two women “called for disbanding of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, filled, according to them, exclusively by ‘Germans and Yids’. Both were arrested and called to account.”[68]

Newspaper Russkaya Volya (Russian Freedom) reported: “Right in front of our eyes, anti-Semitism, in its most primitive form … re-arises and spreads…. It is enough to hear to conversations in streetcars [in Petrograd] or in waiting lines to various shops, or in the countless fleeting rallies at every corner and crossroad … they accuse Jews of political stranglehold, of seizing parties and soviets, and even of ruining the army … of looting and hoarding goods.”[69]

Many Jewish socialists, agitators in the front units, enjoyed unlimited success during the spring months when calls for a “democratic peace” were tolerated and fighting was not required. Then nobody blamed them for being Jewish. But in June when the policy of the Executive Committee had changed toward support and even propaganda for the offensive, calls of “smash the Yids!” began appearing and those Jewish persuaders suffered battering by unruly soldiers time and time again.

Rumors were spreading that the Executive Committee in Petrograd was “seized by Yids.” By June this belief had taken root in the Petrograd garrison and factories; this is exactly what soldiers shouted to the member of the Committee Voitinsky who had visited an infantry regiment to dissuade the troops from the looming demonstration conceived by Bolsheviks on June 10.

V. D. Nabokov, hardly known for anti-Semitism, joked that the meeting of the foremen of the Pre-Parliament in October 1917 “could be safely called a Sanhedrin”: its majority was Jewish; of Russians, there were only Avksentiev, me, Peshekhonov, and Chaikovsky….” His attention was drawn to that fact by Mark Vishnyak who was present there also.[70]

By autumn, the activity of Jews in power had created such an effect that even Iskry (Sparks), the illustrated supplement to the surpassingly gentle Russkoe Slovo (Russian Word) that would until then never dare defying public opinion in such a way, had published an abrasive anti-Jewish caricature in the October 29 issue, that is, already during fights of the October coup in Moscow.

The Executive Committee of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies actively fought against anti-Semitism. (I cannot rule out that the harsh refusal to accept the well-deserved Plekhanov into the CEC in April 1917 was a kind of revenge for his anti-Bund referral to the “tribe of Gad,” which was mentioned in Lenin’s publications.[71]Indeed, I cannot provide any other explanation.) On July 21 the 1st All-Russian Congress of Soviets had issued a proclamation about a struggle against anti-Semitism (“about the only resolution approved by the Congress unanimously, without any objections or arguments”[72]). When in the end of June (28th and 29th) the re-elected Bureau of the CEC had assembled, they had heard a report on “the rise of anti-Semitic agitation … mainly in the northwestern and southwestern” guberniyas; a decision was made immediately to send a delegation of 15 members of the CEC with special powers there[73], subordinating them to the direction of the “Department on the Struggle against Counter-Revolution.”

On the other hand, Bolsheviks, who advanced their agenda under the slogan “Down with the ministers-capitalists!” not only did nothing to alleviate this problem, they even fanned its flames (along with the anarchists, despite the fact that the latter were headed by one Bleikhman). They claimed that the Executive Committee was so exceptionally lenient toward the government only because capitalists and Jews control everything (isn’t that reminiscent of Narodnaya Volya [the People’s Will terrorist organization] of 1881?).

And when the Bolshevik uprising of July 3-4 broke out (it was in fact targeted not against the already impotent Provisional Government but against the Bolshevik’s true competitor – Executive Committee), the Bolsheviks slyly exploited the anger of soldiers toward Jews by pointing them to that very body – see, there they are!

But when the Bolsheviks had lost their uprising, the CEC had conducted an official investigation and many members of the commission of inquiry were Jews from the presidium of the CEC. And because of their “socialist conscience” they dared not call the Bolshevik uprising a crime and deal with it accordingly. So the commission had yielded no result and was soon liquidated.

During the garrison meeting, arranged by the CEC on October 19, just before the decisive Bolshevik uprising, “one of representatives of 176th Infantry Regiment, a Jew,” warned that “those people down on the streets scream that Jews are responsible for all the wrongs.”[74] At the CEC meeting during the night of October 25, Gendelman reported that when he was giving a speech in the Peter and Paul Fortress earlier that afternoon he was taunted: “You are Gendelman! That is you are a Yid and a Rightist!”[75] When on October 27 Gotz and his delegation to Kerensky tried to depart to Gatchina from the Baltiysky Rail Terminal, he was nearly killed by sailors who screamed that “the soviets are controlled by Yids.”[76] And during the ‘wine pogroms’ on the eve of the ‘glorious Bolshevik victory,’ the calls “Slaughter Yids!” were heard also.

And yet there was not a single Jewish pogrom over the whole year of 1917. The infamous outrageous pogroms in Kalusha and Ternopol were in fact the work of frenzied drunken revolutionary soldiers, retreating in disorder. They smashed everything on their way, all shops and stores; and because most of those were Jewish-owned, the word spread about ‘Jewish pogroms’. A similar pogrom took place in Stanislavov, with its much smaller Jewish population, and quite reasonably it was not labeled a ‘Jewish’ pogrom.

Already by the mid-summer of 1917 the Jews felt threatened by the embittered population (or drunken soldiers), but the ongoing collapse of the state was fraught with incomparably greater dangers. Amazingly, it seems that both the Jewish community and the press, the latter to a large extent identified with the former, learned nothing from the formidable experiences of 1917 in general, but narrowly looked at the “isolated manifestations of pogroms.” And so time after time they missed the real danger. The executive power behaved similarly. When the Germans breached the front at Ternopol in the night of July 10, the desperate joint meeting of the CEC of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies and the Executive Committee of the Soviet of Peasants’ Deputies had taken place. They had acknowledged that should the revolution perish, the country crumbles down (in that exact order), and then named Provisional Government a “Government for Salvation of the Revolution,” and noted in their appeal to the people that “dark forces are again prepared to torment our longsuffering Motherland. They are setting backward masses upon the Jews.”[77]

On July 18 at a panel session of the State Duma, in an extremely small circle, Rep. Maslennikov spoke against the Executive Committee and among other things spelled out the real names of its members. On the very same evening at the factional meeting of the CEC they beat an alarm: “This is a case of counterrevolution, it must be dealt with according to the recently issued decree of the Minister of Internal Affairs Tsereteli on suppression of counterrevolution! (The decree was issued in response to the Bolshevik uprising, though it was never used against Bolsheviks.) In two days Maslennikov made excuses in an article in the newspaper Rech [Speech]: indeed, he named Steklov, Kamenev, and Trotsky but never intended to incite anger against the entire Jewish people, and “anyway, attacking them, I had absolutely no wish to make Jewish people responsible for the actions of these individuals.”[78]

Then, in mid-September, when the all gains of the February Revolution were already irreversibly ruined, on the eve of the by now imminent Bolshevik coup, Ya. Kantorovich warned in Rech about the danger that: “The dark forces and evil geniuses of Russia will soon emerge from their dens to jubilantly perform Black Masses….” Indeed, it will happen soon. Yet what kind of Black masses? – “…Of bestial patriotism and pogrom-loving ‘truly-Russian’ national identity.”[79] In October in Petrograd I. Trumpeldor had organized Jewish self-defense forces for protection against pogroms, but they were never needed.

Indeed, Russian minds were confused, and so were Jewish ones.

Several years after the revolution, G. Landau, looking back with sadness, wrote: “Jewish participation in the Russian turmoil had astonishingly suicidal overtones in it; I am referring not only to their role in Bolshevism, but to their involvement in the whole thing. And it is not just about the huge number of politically active people, socialists and revolutionaries, who have joined the revolution; I am talking mainly about the broad sympathy of the masses it was met with…. Although many harbored pessimistic expectations, in particular, an anticipation of pogroms, they were still able to reconcile such a foreboding with an acceptance of turmoil which unleashed countless miseries and pogroms. It resembled the fatal attraction of butterflies to fire, to the annihilating fire…. It is certain there were some strong motives pushing the Jews into that direction, and yet those were clearly suicidal…. Granted, Jews were not different in that from the rest of Russian intelligentsia and from the Russian society…. Yet we had to be different … we, the ancient people of city-dwellers, merchants, artisans, intellectuals … we had to be different from the people of land and power, from peasants, landowners, officials.”[80]

And let’s not forget those who were different. We must always remember that Jewry was and is very heterogeneous, that attitudes and actions vary greatly among the Jews. So it was with the Russian Jewry in 1917: in provinces and even in the capital there were circles with reasonable views and they were growing as October was getting closer.

The Jewish stance toward Russian unity during the months when Russia was pulled apart not only by other nations, but even by Siberians, was remarkable. “All over the course of revolution Jews, together with Great Russians, were among the most ardent champions of the idea of Great Russia.”[81] Now, when Jews had gotten their equal rights, what could they have in common with different peoples on the periphery of the former empire? And yet the disintegration of a united country would fracture Jewry. In July at the 9th Congress of Constitutional Democrats, Vinaver and Nolde openly argued against territorial partition of peoples and in favor of Russian unity.[82] Also in September, in the national section of the Democratic Conference, the Jewish socialists spoke against any federalization of Russia (in that they had joined the Centralists). Today they write in an Israeli magazine that Trumpeldor’s Jewish detachments “backed the Provisional Government and had even foiled the Kornilov’s mutiny.”[83] Perhaps. However, in rigorously studying events of 1917, I did not encounter any such information. But I am aware of opposite instances: in early May 1917 in the thundering patriotic and essentially counter-revolutionary “Black Sea Delegation,” the most successful orator calling for the defense of Russia was Jewish sailor Batkin.

D. Pasmanik had published the letters of millionaire steamship owner Shulim Bespalov to the Minister of Trade and Industry Shakhovsky dated as early as September 1915: “Excessive profits made by all industrialists and traders lead our Motherland to the imminent wreck.” He had donated half a million rubles to the state and proposed to establish a law limiting all profits by 15%. Unfortunately, these self-restricting measures were not introduced as ‘rush to freedom’ progressives, such as Konovalov and Ryabushinsky, did not mind making 100% war profits. When Konovalov himself became the Minister of Trade and Industry, Shulim Bespalov wrote to him on July 5, 1917: “Excessive profits of industrialists are ruining our country, now we must take 50% of the value of their capitals and property,” and added that he is ready to part with 50% of his own assets. Konovalov paid no heed.[84]

In August, at the Moscow All-Russian State Conference, O. O. Gruzenberg (a future member of the Constituent Assembly) stated: “These days the Jewish people … are united in their allegiance to our Motherland, in unanimous aspiration to defend her integrity and achievements of democracy” and were prepared to give for her defense “all their material and intellectual assets, to part with everything precious, with the flower of their people, all their young.”[85]

These words reflected the realization that the February regime was the best for the Russian Jewry, promising economic progress as well as political and cultural prosperity. And that realization was adequate.

The closer it got to to October coup and the more apparent the Bolshevik threat, the wider this realization spread among Jews, leading them to oppose Bolshevism. It was taking root even among socialist parties and during the October coup many Jewish socialists were actively against it. Yet they were debilitated by their socialist views and their opposition was limited by negotiations and newspaper articles – until the Bolsheviks shut down those newspapers.

It is necessary to state explicitly that the October coup was not carried by Jews (though it was under the general command of Trotsky and with energetic actions of young Grigory Chudnovsky during the arrest of Provisional Government and the massacre of the defenders of the Winter Palace). Broadly speaking, the common rebuke, that the 170-million-people could not be pushed into Bolshevism by a small Jewish minority, is justified. Indeed, we had ourselves sealed our fate in 1917, through our foolishness from February to October-December.

The October coup proved a devastating lot for Russia. Yet the state of affairs even before it promised little good to the people. We had already lost responsible statesmanship and the events of 1917 had proved it in excess. The best Russia could expect was an  inept, feeble, and disorderly pseudo-democracy, unable to rely on enough citizens with developed legal consciousness and economic independence.

After October fights in Moscow, representatives of the Bund and Poale-Zion had taken part in the peace negotiations – not in alliance with the Junkers or the Bolsheviks — but as a third independent party. There were many Jews among Junkers of the Engineers School who defended the Winter Palace on October 25: in the memoirs of Sinegub, a palace defender, Jewish names appear regularly; I personally knew one such engineer from my prison experience. And during the Odessa City Duma elections the Jewish block had opposed the Bolsheviks and won, though only marginally.

During the Constituent Assembly elections “more than 80% of Jewish population in Russia had voted” for Zionist parties.[86] Lenin wrote that 550 thousands voted for Jewish nationalists.[87] “Most Jewish parties have formed a united national list of candidates; seven deputies were elected from that list – six Zionists” and Gruzenberg. The success of Zionists was facilitated by the recently published declaration of British Minister of Foreign Affairs Balfour on the establishment of ‘Jewish national home’ in Palestine, which was “met with enthusiasm by the majority of Russian Jewry (celebratory demonstrations, rallies and worship services took place in Moscow, Petrograd, Odessa, Kiev and many other cities).”[88]

Prior to the October coup, Bolshevism was not very influential among Jews. But just before the uprising, Natanson, Kamkov, and Shteinberg on behalf of the left Socialist Revolutionaries had signed a combat pact with Bolsheviks Trotsky and Kamenev.[89] And some Jews distinguished themselves among the Bolsheviks in their very first victories and some even became famous. The commissar of the famed Latvian regiments of the 12th Army, which did so much for the success of Bolshevik coup, was Semyon Nakhimson. “Jewish soldiers played a notable role during preparation and execution of the armed uprising of October 1917 in Petrograd and other cities, and also during suppression of mutinies and armed resurrections against the new Soviet regime.”[90]

It is widely known that during the ‘historical’ session of the Congress of Soviets on October 27 two acts, the ‘Decree on Land’ and the ‘Decree on Peace’, were passed. But it didn’t leave a mark in history that after the ‘Decree on Peace’ but before the ‘Decree on Land’ another resolution was passed. It declared it “a matter of honor for local soviets to prevent Jewish and any other pogroms by dark forces.”[91](Pogroms by ‘Red forces of light’ were not anticipated.)

So even here, at the Congress of Workers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, the Jewish question was put ahead of the peasant one.


[1] Delo Naroda, March 25, 1917, p. 3

[2] Russkaya Volya, April 14, 1917, p. 1; April 20, p. 1. See also Rech, April 16, 1917, p. 1; April 20, p. 1.

[3] Russkaya Volya, April 23, 1917, p. 4.

[4] Birzhevye Vedomosti, May 24, 1917, p. 2.

[5] See, for instance, Russkaya Volya, May 10, 1917, p. 5; Birzhevye Vedomosti, May 9, 1917, p. 5; Birzhevye Vedomosti, June 1, 1917, p. 6; Rech, July 29, 1917, p. 6.

[6] Kratkaya Evreiskaya Entsiklopediya [The Short Jewish Encyclopedia (henceforth—SJE)]. Jerusalem, 1994. v. 7, p. 399.

[7] Ibid., p. 380-381.

[8] Ibid., p. 379.

[9] G. Aronson. Evreyskaya obshchestvennost v Rossii v 1917-1918 [The Jewish Public in Russia in 1917-1918] // Kniga o russkom evreystve: 1917-1967 [The Book of Russian Jewry: 1917-1967 (henceforth — BRJ-2)]. New York: Association of Russian Jews, 1968, p. 6.

[10] SJE, v.7, p. 378.

[11] Izvestiya, April 9, 1917, p. 4.

[12] SJE, v.7, p. 378-379.

[13] SJE, v.7, p. 378.

[14] Izvestiya, September 15, 1917, p. 2.

[15] SJE, v.6, p. 85; v.7, p. 379.

[16] SJE, v.7, p. 378.

[17] Birzhevye Vedomosti, April 12, 1917, p. 4.

[18] SJE, v.6, p. 463, 464.

[19] D. Pasmanik. Chego zhe my dobivaemsya? [What are we struggling for?] // Rossiya i evrei: Otechestvennoe objedinenie russkikh evreev za granitsei [Russia and Jews: Expatriate Society of Russian Jews in Exile (henceforth—RJ)]. Paris, YMCA-Press, 1978, p. 211 [The 1st Edition: Berlin, Osnova, 1924].

[20] SJE, v.7, p. 378.

[21] Ibid., p. 379.

[22] Ibid., p. 380-381.

[23] Ibid., p. 379.

[24] Rech, April 27, 1917, p. 3.

[25] SJE, v.7, p. 378.

[26] Russkaya Volya, April 25, 1917, p. 5.

[27] A. I. Denikin. Ocherki russkoi smuty. V1: Krushenie vlasti I armii, fevral-sentyabr 1917 [Russian Turmoil. Memoirs. V1: Collapse of Authority and Army]. Paris, 1922, p. 129-130.

[28] SJE, v.7, p. 379.

[29] Birzhevye Vedomosti, May 5, 1917, p. 2.

[30] SJE, v.4, p. 775.

[31] SJE, v.5, p. 475.

[32] Obshchee delo, October 14 and 16, 1917

[33]  A. Sutton. Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution. Translation from English, Moscow, 1998, p. 14-36.

[34] Rech, June 27, 1917, p. 3; June 28, p. 2-3.

[35] Rech, August 2, 1917, p. 3.

[36] Russkaya Evreiskaya Entsiklopediya [The Russian Jewish Encyclopedia (henceforth—RJE)]. 2nd edition, Moscow, 1994 – 1997. v. 1, p. 240, 427; v. 2, p. 124; v. 3, p. 29, 179, 280.

[37] RJE, v. 1, p. 473; v. 3, p. 41.

[38] Narodnoe soprotivlenie kommunismu v Rossii: Ural i Prikamye. Noyabr 1917 – yanvar 1919 [People’s Resistance to Communism: Urals and Prikamye. November 1917 – January 1919. Redactor M. Bernshtam. Paris: YMCA-Press, 1982, p. 356. Volume 3 of the series Issledovaniya Noveishei Russkoi istorii [Studies of Modern Russian History].

[39] RJE, v. 2, p. 85; v. 3, p. 106.

[40] RJE, v. 3, p. 224, 505; v. 1, p. 239.

[41] Rech, June 28, 1917, p. 2.

[42] Russkaya Volya, April 13, 1917, p. 3.

[43] Russkaya Volya, April 9, 1917, p. 3.

[44] Birzhevye vedomosti, May 7, 1917, p. 3.

[45] G. Aronson. Evreyskaya obshchestvennost v Rossii v 1917-1918 [The Jewish Public in Russia in 1917-1918]. // BRJ-2, p. 7.

[46] RJE, v. 7, p. 381.

[47] Ibid.

[48] I. O. Levin. Evrei v revolutsii [The Jews in the Revolution]. // RJ, p. 124.

[49] RJE, v. 7, p. 399.

[50] G. Aronson. Evreyskaya obshchestvennost v Rossii v 1917-1918 [The Jewish Public in Russia in 1917-1918] // BRJ-2, p. 10. RJE, v. 7, p. 381.

[51] RJE, v. 3, p. 162, 293.

[52] G. Aronson. Evreyskaya obshchestvennost v Rossii v 1917-1918 [The Jewish Public in Russia in 1917-1918] // BRJ-2, p. 7.

[53] Izvestiya, November 8, 1917, p. 5.

[54] D. S. Pasmanik. Russkaya revolutsia i evreistvo: (Bolshevism i iudaizm) [Russian Revolution and Jewry: Bolshevism and Judaism]. Paris, 1923, p. 153-154.

[55] Rech, July 28, 1917, p. 3.

[56] Ibid.; see also G. Lelevich. Oktyabr v stavke [The October in the general Headquarters]. Gomel, 1922, p. 13, 66-67.

[57] V. B. Stankevich. Vospominaniya, 1914-1919 [Memoirs, 1914-1919]. Berlin, publishing house of I. P. Ladyzhnikov, 1920, p. 86-87.

[58] A. I. Denikin. Ocherki russkoi smuty. V1: Krushenie vlasti I armii, fevral-sentyabr 1917 [Russian Turmoil. Memoirs. V1: Collapse of Authority and Army]. Paris, 1922, p. 216.

[59]  Nik Sukhanov. Zapiski o revolutsii [Memoirs of the Revolution]. Berlin, Publishing House of Z. I. Grzhebin, 1923, v.5, p. 287.

[60] Russkaya Volya, May 7, 1917, p. 4.

[61] Ibid., p. 6.

[62] Zhurnaly zasedanii Vremennogo Pravitelstva [Minutes of the meetings of the Provisional Government]. Petrograd, 1917. V1: March-May; April 6 meeting (book 44, p. 5) and April 27 meeting (book 64, p. 4).

[63] Rech, June 28, 1917, p. 2.

[64] Rech, May 3, 1917, p. 6.

[65] Ivan Nazhivin. Zapiski o revolutsii [Notes about Revolution]. Vienna, 1921, p. 28.

[66] Rech, June 17, 1917, evening issue, p. 4.

[67] Rech, September 9, 1917, p. 3.

[68] Rech, August 8, 1917, p. 5.

[69] Russkaya Volya, June 17, 1917, evening issue, p. 4.

[70] V. Nabokov. Vremennoye pravitelstvo [The Provisional Government] // Archive of Russian Revolution, published by Gessen. Berlin: Slovo, 1922, v. 1, p. 80.

[71] V. I. Lenin. Sochineniya [Works]. In 45 volumes, 4th Edition (henceforth — Lenin, 4th edition). Moscow, Gospolitizdat, 1941-1967, v. 4, p. 311.

[72] Izvestiya, June 28, 1917, p. 5.

[73] Izvestiya, June 30, 1917, p. 10.

[74] Rech, October 20, 1917, p. 3.

[75] Izvestiya, October 26, 1917, p. 2.

[76] Delo Naroda, October 29, 1917, p. 1.

[77] Rech, July 11, 1917, p. 3.

[78] Rech, July 21, 1917, p. 4.

[79] Rech, September 16, 1917, p. 3.

[80] G. A. Landau. Revolutsionnye idei v evreiskoi obchshestvennosti [Revolutionary ideas in Jewish society] // RJ, p. 105, 106.

[81] D. S. Pasmanik. Russkaya revolutsia i evreistvo: (Bolshevism i iudaizm) [Russian Revolution and Jewry: Bolshevism and Judaism]. Paris, 1923, p. 245.

[82] Rech, July 26, 1917, p. 3.

[83] I. Eldad. Tak kto zhe nasledniki Zhabotinskogo? [So Who Are the Heirs of Jabotinsky?] // “22”: Obshchestvenno-politicheskiy i literaturniy zhurnal evreyskoy intelligentsii iz SSSR v Izraile [Social, Political and Literary Journal of the Jewish Intelligentsia from the USSR in Israel (henceforth – “22”)]. Tel-Aviv, 1980, (16), p. 120.

[84] D. S. Pasmanik. Russkaya revolutsia i evreistvo: (Bolshevism i iudaizm) [Russian Revolution and Jewry: Bolshevism and Judaism]. Paris, 1923, p. 179-181.

[85] Rech, August 16, 1917, p. 3.

[86] V. Boguslavsky. V sachshitu Kunyaeva [In Defense of Kunyaev] // “22”, 1980, (16), p. 169.

[87] Lenin, 4th edition, v. 30, p. 231.

[88] SJE, v.7, p. 381.

[89]  Kh. M. Astrakhan. Bolsheviki i ikh politicheskie protivniki v 1917 godu [The Bolsheviks and Their Political Adversaries in 1917]. Leningrad, 1973, p. 407.

[90] Aron Abramovich. V reshayuchshey voine: Uchastie i rol evreev SSSR v voine protiv natsisma [In the Deciding War: Participation and Role of Jews in the USSR in the War Against Nazism] 2nd Edition, Tel Aviv, 1982, v. 1, p. 45, 46.

[91] L. Trotsky. Istoriya russkoi revolutsii. T. 2: Oktyabrskaya revolutsia [The History of Russian Revolution]. Berlin, Granit, 1933, v. 2: October Revolution, Part 2, p. 361.

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4 Responses to Chapter 14. During 1917

  1. Armin says:

    Adam, this is so amazing it’s not even funny anymore. Whoever is doing the translating of this momentous book is doing such an amazing service for mankind in general because the powers-that-be have seen fit to keep this most important book out of the hands of the English-speaking world. Censorship at it’s worst. Adam, if at all possible please pass on my most profound thanks to this person or group of people for having the courage and stength to undertake such a monumental task for the good of the rest of us. My most humble thanks to you and the translator(s). God bless you all. I will book mark this site and check back every once in a while to see how the translation is coming of the rest of the book. Again, my most profound thanks.

    Sincerest regards,

    Armin

  2. Jozef says:

    Hi Adam

    Found you by the “search of the road” to answering the question “Should Pilsudski have helped Denikin?”

    Reading the text I started to wonder where is this from. Then I saw your moniker and all became clear. I have the book in Russian but have not gotten to reading it as I am preoccupied with Ivan the Terrible in Russian and it is going slow as my Russian is not on a level of university writing.

    Anyway, I second the comment of Armin, “Thank You to the one doing the translation”

    Jozef

    PS: I suspect that there are more and more people trying to understand this period of history in light of what is going on in the world TODAY !!!! What is written in the West on the subject is grossly lacking for a few instances of letting the light out.

  3. fred says:

    thanks a lot.

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