Chapter 4. In the Age of Reforms

At the moment of the ascension of Alexander II to the throne, the Peasant Question in Russia had been overripe for a century and demanded immediate resolution. Then suddenly, the Jewish Question surfaced and demanded a no less urgent solution  as well. In Russia, the Jewish Question was not as ancient as the deep-rooted and barbaric institution of serfdom and up to this time it did not seem to loom so large in the country. Yet henceforth, for the rest of 19th century, and right to the very year of 1917 in the State Duma, the Jewish and the Peasant questions would cross over and over again; they would contend with each other and thus become intertwined in their competing destiny.

Alexander II had taken the throne during the difficult impasse of the Crimean War against a united Europe. This situation demanded  a difficult decision, whether to hold out or to surrender.

Upon his ascension, “voices were immediately raised in defense of the Jewish population.”— After several weeks, His Majesty gave orders “to make the Jews equal with the rest of population in respect to military duty, and to end acceptance of underage recruits.” (Soon after, the “skill-category” draft of Jewish philistines was cancelled; this meant that “all classes of the Jewish population were made equal with respect to compulsory military service.”[i]) This decision was confirmed in the Coronation Manifesto of 1856: “Jewish recruits of the same age and qualities which are defined for recruits from other population groups are to be admitted while acceptance of underage Jewish recruits was to be abolished.”[ii] Right then the institution of military cantonists was also completely abolished; Jewish cantonists who were younger than 20 years of age were returned to their parents even if they already had been turned into soldiers. [Cantonists were the sons of Russian conscripts who, from 1721, were educated in special “canton (garrison) schools” for future military service].

The lower ranks who had served out their full term (and their descendents) received the right to live anywhere on the territory of the Russian Empire. (They usually settled where they terminated their service. They could settle permanently and had often become the founders of new Jewish communities.[iii] In a twist of fate and as a historical punishment, Russia and the Romanov Dynasty got Yakov Sverdlov from the descendents of one such cantonist settler.[iv])

By the same manifesto the Jewish population “was forgiven all [considerable] back taxes” from previous years. (“Yet already in the course of the next five years new tax liabilities accumulated amounting to 22% of the total expected tax sum.[v])

More broadly, Alexander II expressed his intention to resolve the Jewish Question — and in the most favorable manner. For this, the approach to the question was changed drastically. If during the reign of Nicholas I the government saw its task as first reforming the Jewish inner life, gradually clearing it out through productive work and education with consequent removal of administrative restrictions, then during the reign of Alexander II the policy was the opposite: to begin “with the intention of integrating this population with the native inhabitants of the country” as stated in the Imperial Decree of 1856.[vi] So the government had began quick removal of external constraints and restrictions not looking for possible inner causes of Jewish seclusion and morbidity; it thereby hoped that all the remaining problems would then solve themselves.

To this end, still another Committee for Arranging the Jewish Way of Life was established in 1856. (This was already the seventh committee on Jewish affairs, but by no means the last). Its chairman, the above-mentioned Count Kiselyov, reported to His Majesty that “the goal of integrating Jews with the general population” “is hindered by various temporary restrictions, which, when considered in the context of general laws, contain many contradictions and beget bewilderment.” In response, His Majesty ordered “a revision of all existing statutes on Jews to harmonize them with the general strategy directed toward integration of this people with the native inhabitants, to the extent afforded by the moral condition of Jews”; that is, “the fanaticism and economic harmfulness ascribed to them.”[vii]

No, not for nothing had Herzen struggled with his Kolokol, or Belinsky and Granovsky, or Gogol! (For although not having such goals, the latter acted in the same direction as the former three did.) Under the shell of the austere reign of Nicholas I, the demand for decisive reforms and the will for them and the people to implement them were building up, and, astonishingly, new projects were taken by the educated high governmental dignitaries more enthusiastically than by educated public in general. And this immediately impacted the Jewish Question. Time after time, the ministers of Internal Affairs (first Lanskoi and then Valuev) and the Governors General of the Western and Southwestern Krais [administrative divisions of Tsarist Russia] shared their suggestions with His Majesty who was quite interested in them. “Partial improvements in the legal situation of the Jews were enacted by the government on its own initiative, yet under direct supervision by His Majesty.”[viii] These changes went along with the general liberating reforms which affected Jews as well as the rest of population.

In 1858, Novorossiysk Governor General Stroganov suggested immediate, instant, and complete equalization of the Jews in all rights — but the Committee, now under the chairmanship of Bludov, stopped short, finding itself unprepared for such a measure. In 1859 it pointed out, for comparison, that “while the Western-European Jews began sending their children to public schools at the first invitation of the government, more or less turning themselves to useful occupations, the Russian government has to wrestle with Jewish prejudices and fanaticism”; therefore, “making Jews equal in rights with the native inhabitants cannot happen in any other way than a gradual change, following the spread of true enlightenment among them, changes in their inner life, and turning their activity toward useful occupations.”[ix]

The Committee also developed arguments against equal rights. It suggested that the question being considered was not so much a Jewish question, as it was a Russian one; that it would be precipitous to grant equal rights to Jews before raising the educational and cultural level of Russian population whose dark masses would not be able to defend themselves in the face of the economic pressure of Jewish solidarity; that the Jews hardly aspire toward integration with the rest of the citizens of the country, that they strive toward achieving all civil rights while retaining their isolation and cohesion which Russians do not possess among themselves.

However, these voices did not attain influence. One after another, restrictions had been removed. In 1859 the Prohibition of 1835 was removed: it had forbidden the Jews to take a lease or manage populated landowner’s lands. (And thus, the right to rule over the peasants; though that prohibition was “in some cases … secretly violated.” Although after 1861 lands remaining in the property of landowners were not formally “populated.”) The new changes were aimed “to make it easier for landowners to turn for help to Jews if necessary” in case of deterioration of in the manorial economy, but also “in order to somewhat widen the restricted field of economic activity of the Jews.” Now the Jews could lease these lands and settle on them though they could not buy them.[x] Meanwhile in the Southwestern Krai “capital that could be turned to the purchase of land was concentrated in the hands of some Jews … yet the Jews refused to credit landowners against security of the estate because estates could not be purchased by Jews.” Soon afterwards Jews were granted the right to buy land from landowners inside the Pale of Settlement.[xi]

With development of railroads and steamships, Jewish businesses such as keeping of inns and postal stations had declined. In addition, because of new liberal customs tariffs introduced in1857 and 1868, which lowered customs duties on goods imported into Russia, “profits on contraband trade” had immediately and sharply decreased.[xii]

In 1861 the prohibition on Jews to acquire exclusive rights to some sources of revenue from estates was abolished. In the same year the systems of tax farming and ‘wine farming’ [translator’s note: concessions from the state to private entrepreneurs to sell vodka to the populace in particular regions] were abolished. This was a huge blow to a major Jewish enterprise. “Among Jews, ‘tax collector’ and ‘contractor’ were synonyms for wealth”; now Orshansky writes, they could just dream about “the time of the Crimean War, when contractors made millions, thanks to the flexible conscience and peculiar view of the Treasury in certain circles”; “thousands of Jews lived and got rich under the beneficial wing of tax farming.” Now the interests of the state had begun to be enforced and contracts had become much less profitable. And “trading in spirits” had become “far less profitable than … under … the tax farming system.”[xiii] However, as the excise was introduced in the wine industry in place of the wine farming system, no special restrictions were laid on Jews and so now they could sell and rent  distillation factories on a common basis in the Pale of Settlement provinces.[xiv] And they had so successfully exercised this right to rent and purchase over next two decades that by the 1880s between 32 % and 76 % of all distillation factories in the Jewish Pale of Settlement belonged to Jews, and almost all of them fell under category of a ‘major enterprise’.[xv] By 1872, 89 % of distillation factories in the Southwestern Krai were rented by Jews.[xvi] From 1863 Jews were permitted to run distillation in Western and Eastern Siberia (for “the most remarkable specialists in the distillation industry almost exclusively came from among the Jews”), and from 1865 the Jewish distillers were permitted to reside everywhere.[xvii]

Regarding the spirits trade in the villages, about one-third of the whole Jewish population of the Pale lived in villages at the start of 1880s, with two or three families in each village,[xviii] as remnants of the korchemstvo [from “tavern” — the state-regulated business of retail spirits sale]. An official government report of 1870 stated that “the drinking business in the Western Krai is almost exclusively concentrated in the hands of Jews, and the abuses encountered in these institutions exceed any bounds of tolerance.”[xix] Thus it was demanded of Jews to carry on the drinking business only from their own homes. The logic of this demand was explained by G. B. Sliozberg: in the villages of Little Russia [Ukraine], that is, outside of the legal limits of the Polish autonomy, the landowners did not have the right to carry on trade in spirits — and this meant that the Jews could not buy spirits from landowners for resale. Yet at the same time the Jews might not buy even a small plot of peasant land; therefore, the Jews rented peasant homes and conducted the drinking business from them. When such trade was also prohibited — the prohibition was often evaded by using a ‘front’ business: a dummy patent on a spirits business was issued to a Christian to which a Jew supposedly only served as an ‘attendant.’[xx]

Also, the ‘punitive clause’ (as it is worded in the Jewish Encyclopedia), that is, a punishment accompanying the prohibition against Jews hiring a Christian as a personal servant, was repealed in 1865 as “incompatible with the general spirit of the  official policy of tolerance.” And so “from the end of the 1860s many Jewish families began to hire Christian servants.”[xxi]

Unfortunately, it is so typical for many scholars studying the history of Jewry in Russia to disregard  hard-won victories: if yesterday all strength and attention were focused on the fight for some civil right and today that right is attained — then very quickly afterwards that victory is considered a trifle. There was so much said about the “double tax” on the Jews as though it existed for centuries and not for very few short years, and even then it was never really enforced in practice. The law of 1835, which was at the time greeted by Jews with a sense of relief, was, at the threshold of 20th century dubbed by S. Dubnov as a ‘Charter of Arbitrariness.’ To the future revolutionary Leo Deutsch, who in the 1860s was a young and still faithful subject, it looked like the administration “did not strictly [enforce] some essential … restrictions on … the rights” of Jews, “they turned a blind eye to … violations”; “in general, the life of Jews in Russia in the sixties was not bad…. Among my Jewish peers I did not see anyone suffering from depression, despondence, or estrangement as a result of oppression” by their Christian mates.[xxii] But then he suddenly recollects his revolutionary duty and calls everything given to the Jews during the reign of Alexander I as, “in essence, insignificant alleviations” and, without losing a beat, mentions “the crimes of Alexander II”— although, in his opinion, the Tsar shouldn’t have been killed.[xxiii] And from the middle of the 20th century it already looks like for the whole of 19th century that various committees and commissions were being created for review of Jewish legal restrictions “and they came to the conclusion that the existing legal restrictions did not achieve their aims and should be … abolished…. Yet not a single one of the projects worked out by the Committees … was implemented.”[xxiv]

It’s rid of, forgotten, and no toasts made.

After the first Jewish reforms by Alexander II, the existence of the Pale of Settlement had become the most painful issue. “Once a hope about a possibility of future state reforms had emerged, and first harbingers of expected renewal of public life had barely appeared, the Jewish intelligentsia began contemplating the daring step of raising the question of abolishing the Jewish Pale of Settlement altogether.”[xxv] Yet still fresh in the Jewish memory was the idea of ‘selectivity’: to impose additional obligations on not-permanently-settled and unproductive Jews. And so in 1856 an idea to petition His Majesty appeared in the social strata of “Jewish merchants, citizens of St. Petersburg, and out-of-towners,” who “by their social standing and by the nature of their activity, more closely interacted with the central authorities.”[xxvi] The petition asked His Majesty “not to give privileges to the whole Jewish population, but only to certain categories,” to the young generation “raised in the spirit and under the supervision of the government,” “to the upper merchant class,” and “to the good craftsmen, who earn their bread by sweat of their brow”; so that they would be “distinguished by the government with more rights than those who still exhibited nothing special about their good intentions, usefulness, and industriousness…. Our petition is so that the Merciful Monarch, distinguishing wheat from chaff, would be kindly disposed to grant several, however modest privileges to the worthy and cultivated among us, thus encouraging good and praiseworthy actions.”[xxvii] (Even in all their excited hopes they could not even imagine how quickly the changes in the position of the Jews would be implemented in practice —already in 1862 some of the authors of this petition would ask “about extending equal rights to all who graduate from secondary educational institutions,” for the grammar school graduates “of course, must be considered people with a European education.”[xxviii]

And yes, “in principle, the Tsar did not mind violations of the laws concerning the Jewish Pale of Settlement in favor of individual groups of the Jewish population.” In 1859 Jewish merchants of the 1st Guild were granted the right of residency in all of Russia (and the 2nd Guild in Kiev from 1861; and also for all three guilds in Nikolayev, Sevastopol, and Yalta)[xxix] with the right of arranging manufacturing businesses, contracts, and acquiring real estate. Earlier, doctors and holders of masters degrees in science had already enjoyed the right of universal residency (including the right to occupy posts in government service; here we should note a professor of medicine G.A. Zakharyin, who in the future would pronounce the fatal judgment about the illness of Alexander III). From 1861 this right was granted to “candidates of universities,” that is, simply to university graduates,[xxx] and also “to persons of free professions.”[xxxi] The Pale of Settlement restrictions were now lifted even from the “persons, desiring to obtain higher education … namely to persons, entering medical academies, universities, and technical institutes.”[xxxii] Then, as a result of petitions from individual ministers, governors, and influential Jewish merchants (e.g., Evzel Ginzburg), from 1865 the whole territory of Russia including St. Petersburg was opened to Jewish artisans, though only for the period of actual professional activity. (The notion of artisans was then widened to include all kinds of technicians such as typesetters and typographic workers.)[xxxiii]

Here it is worth keeping in mind that merchants relocated with their clerks, office workers, various assistants, and Jewish service personnel, craftsmen, and also with apprentices and pupils. Taken altogether, this already made up a notable stream. Thus, a Jew with a right of residency outside of the Pale was free to move from the Pale, and not only with his family.

Yet new relaxations were outpaced by new petitions. In 1861, immediately after granting privileges for the “candidates of universities,” the Governor General of the Southwestern Krai had asked to allow exit from the Pale to those who completed state professional schools for the Jews, that is, incomplete high school-level establishments. He had vividly described the condition of such graduates: “Young people graduating from such schools find themselves completely cut off from Jewish society…. If they do not find occupations according to their qualifications within their own circles, they get accustomed to idleness and thus, by being unworthy representatives of their profession, they often discredit the prestige of education in the eyes of people they live among.”[xxxiv]

In that same year, the Ministers of Internal Affairs and Education declared in unison “that a paramount cause of the disastrous condition of Jews is hidden in the abnormal share of Jews occupied in commerce and industry versus the rest engaged in agriculture”; and because of this “the peasant is unavoidably preyed upon by Jews as if he is obligated to surrender a part of his income to their maintenance.” Yet the internal competition between the Jews creates a “nearly impossible situation of providing for themselves by legal means.” And therefore, it is necessary to “grant the right of universal residence to merchants” of the 2nd and 3rd Guilds, and also to graduates of high or equivalent schools.[xxxv]

In 1862 the Novorossiysk Governor General again called for “complete abolition of the Jewish Pale of Settlement” by asking “to grant the right of universal residency to the entire [Jewish] people.”[xxxvi]

Targeted permissions for universal residency of certain Jewish groups were being issued at a slower but constant rate. From 1865 acceptance of Jews as military doctors was permitted, and right after that (1866-1867), Jewish doctors were allowed to work in the ministries of Education and Interior.[xxxvii] From 1879 they were permitted to serve as pharmacists and veterinarians; permission was also granted “to those preparing for the corresponding type of activity,”[xxxviii] and also to midwives and feldshers, and “those desiring to study medical assistant arts.”[xxxix]

Finally, a decree by the Minister of Internal Affairs Makov was issued allowing residence outside the Pale to all those Jews who had already illegally settled there.[xl]

Here it is appropriate to add that in the 1860s “Jewish lawyers … in the absence of the official Bar College during that period were able to get jobs in government service without any difficulties.”[xli]

Relaxations had also affected the Jews living in border regions. In 1856, when, according to the Treaty of Paris, the Russian state boundary retreated close to Kishinev and Akkerman, the Jews were not forced out of this newly-formed frontier zone. And in 1858 “the decrees of Nicholas I, which directed Jews to abandon the fifty versts [an obsolete Russian measure, a verst is slightly more than a kilometer] boundary zone, were conclusively repealed.”[xlii] And from 1868 movement of Jews between the western provinces of Russia and Polish Kingdom was allowed (where previously it was formally prohibited).[xliii]

Alongside official relaxations to the legal restrictions, there were also exceptions and loopholes in regulations. For example, in the capital city of St. Petersburg “despite … prohibitions, the Jews all the same settled in for extended times”; and “with the ascension of Alexander II … the number of Jews in St. Petersburg began to grow quickly. Jewish capitalists emerged who began dedicating significant attention to the organization of the Jewish community” there; “Baron Goratsy Ginzburg, for example … L. Rozental, A Varshavsky, and others.”[xliv] Toward the end of Alexander II’s reign, E. A. Peretz (the son of the tax farmer Abram Peretz) became the Russian Secretary of State. In the 1860s “St. Petersburg started to attract quite a few members of the commercial, industrial and intellectual [circles] of Jewry.”[xlv]

According to the data of the Commission for Arranging the Jewish Way of Life, in 1880-81, 6,290 Jews were officially registered in St. Petersburg,[xlvi] while according to other official figures, 8,993; and according to a local census from 1881, there were 16,826 Jews in St. Petersburg, i.e., around 2% of the total city population.[xlvii]

In Moscow in 1856 the obligation of arriving Jewish merchants to exclusively reside in the Glebovsky Quarter was repealed; “the Jews were allowed to stay in any part of the city. During the reign of Alexander II … the Jewish population of Moscow grew quickly”; by 1880 it was around 16,000.”[xlviii]

It was a similar situation in Kiev. After 1861, “a quick growth of the Jewish population of Kiev had began” (from 1,500 in 1862, to 81,000 by 1913). From the 1880s there was an influx of Jews to Kiev. “Despite frequent police round-ups, which Kiev was famous for, the numbers of Jews there considerably exceeded the official figures…. By the end of the 19th century, the Jews accounted for 44% of Kiev merchants.”[xlix]

Yu. I. Hessen calls “the granting of the right of universal residency (1865) to artisans” most important. Yet Jews apparently did not hurry to move out of the Pale. Well, if it was so overcrowded in there, so constraining, and so deprived with respect to markets and earnings, why then did they make “almost no use of the right to leave the Pale of Settlement?” By 1881, in thirty-one of the interior provinces, Jewish artisans numbered 28,000 altogether (and Jews in general numbered 34,000). Hessen explains this paradox in the following way: prosperous artisans did not need to seek new places while the destitute did not have the means for the move, and the middle group, “which somehow managed from day to day without enduring any particular poverty,” feared that after their departure the elders of their community would refuse to extend an annual passport to them for tax considerations, or even “demand that the outgoing parties return home.”[l]

But one can strongly doubt all this statistics. We have just read that in St. Petersburg alone there were at least twice as many Jews than according to official data. Could the slow Russian state apparatus really account for the mercury-quick Jewish population within a definite time and in all places?

And the growth of Jewish population of Russia was rapid and confident. In 1864 it amounted to 1,500,000 without counting Jews in Poland.[li] And together with Poland in 1850 it was 2,350,000; and in 1860 it was already 3,980,000. From the initial population of around 1,000,000 at the time of the first partitions of Poland, to 5,175,000 by the census of 1897 — that is, after a century, it grew more than five times. (At the start of the 19th century Russian Jewry amounted to 30% of the world’s Jewish population, while in 1880 it was already 51%).[lii]

This was a major historical event.At the time, its significance was grasped neither by Russian society, nor by Russian administration.

This fast numerical growth alone, without all other peculiarities of the Jewish Question, had already put a huge state problem for Russia. And here it is necessary, as always in any question, to try to understand both points of view. With such an enormous growth of Russian Jewry, two national needs were clashing ever more strongly. On one hand was the need of Jews (and a distinct feature of their dynamic 3,000-year existence) to spread and settle as wide as possible among non-Jews, so that a greater number of Jews would be able to engage in manufacturing, commerce, and serve as intermediaries (and to get involved into the culture of the surrounding population). On the other was the need of Russians, as the government understood it, to have control over their economic (and then cultural) life, and develop it themselves at their own pace.

Let’s not forget that simultaneously with all these relief measures for the Jews, the universal liberating reforms of Alexander II were implemented one after another, and so benefiting Jews as well as all other peoples of Russia. For example, in 1863 the capitation [i.e., poll or head] tax from the urban population was repealed, which meant the tax relief for the main part of Jewish masses; only land taxes remained after that, which were paid from the collected kosher tax.[liii]

Yet precisely the most important of these Alexandrian reforms, the most historically significant turning point in the Russian history — the liberation of peasants and the abolition of the Serfdom in 1861 — turned out to be highly unprofitable for Russian Jews, and indeed ruinous for many. “The general social and economic changes resulting from the abolition of peasant servitude … had significantly worsened the material situation of broad Jewish masses during that transitional period.”[liv] The social change was such that the multi-million disenfranchised and immobile peasant class ceased to exist, reducing the relative advantage of Jewish personal freedom. And the economic change was such that “the peasant, liberated from the servitude, … was less in the need of services by the Jew”; that is, the peasant was now at liberty from the strict prohibition against trading his products and purchasing goods himself — that is, through anyone other than a pre-assigned middleman (in the western provinces, almost always a Jew). And now, as the landowners were deprived of free serf labor, in order not to be ruined, “they were compelled to get personally engaged in the economy of their estates — an occupation where earlier Jews played a conspicuous role as renters and middlemen in all kinds of commercial and manufacturing deals.”[lv]

It’s noteworthy that the land credit introduced in those years was displacing the Jew “as the financial manager of the manorial economy.”[lvi] The development of consumer and credit associations led to “the liberation of people from the tyranny of usury.”[lvii]

An intelligent contemporary conveys to us the Jewish mood of the time. Although access to government service and free professions was open to the Jews and although “the industrial rights of the Jews were broadened” and there were “more opportunities for education” and “on every … corner” the “rapprochement  between the Jewish and Christian populations was visible” and although the remaining “restrictions … were far from being strictly enforced” and “the officials now treated the Jewish population with far more respect than before,” yet the situation of Jews in Russia “at the present time … is very dismal.” “Not without reason,” Jews “express regret … for good old times.” Everywhere in the Pale of Settlement one could hear “the Jewish lamentations about the past.” For under serfdom an “extraordinary development of mediation” took place; the lazy landowner could not take a step without the “Jewish trader or agent,” and the browbeaten peasant also could not manage without him; he could only sell the harvest through him, and borrowed from him also. Before, the Jewish business class “derived enormous benefit from the helplessness, wastefulness, and impracticality of landowners,” but now the landowner had to do everything himself. Also, the peasant became “less pliant and timid”; now he often establishes contacts with wholesale traders himself and he drinks less; and this “naturally has a harmful effect on the trade in spirits, which an enormous number of Jews lives on.” The author concludes with the wish that the Jews, as happened in Europe, “would side with the productive classes and would not become redundant in the national economy.”[lviii]

Now Jews had begun renting and purchasing land. The Novorossiysk Governor General (1869) requested in a staff report to forbid Jews in his region to buy land as was already prohibited in nine western provinces. Then in 1872 there was a memorandum by the Governor General of the Southwestern Krai stating that “Jews rent land not for agricultural occupations but only for industrial aims; they hand over the rented land to peasants, not for money but for a certain amount of work, which exceeds the value of the usual rent on that land, and thereby they “establish a sort of their own form of servitude.” And though “they undoubtedly reinvigorate the countryside with their capital and commerce,” the Governor General “considered concentration of manufacture and agriculture in the same hands un-conducive, since only under free competition can peasant farms and businesses avoid the “burdensome subordination of their work and land to Jewish capital, which is tantamount to their inevitable and impending material and moral perdition.” However, thinking to limit the renting of land to Jews in his Krai, he proposed to “give the Jews an opportunity to settle in all of the Greater Russian provinces.”[lix]

The memorandum was put forward to the just-created Commission for Arranging the Jewish Way of Life (the eighth of the ‘Jewish Commissions’, according to count), which was then highly sympathetic to the situation of the Jews. It received a negative review which was later confirmed by the government: to forbid the Jewish rent of land would be “a complete violation of rights” of … landowners. Moreover, the interests of the major Jewish renter “merge completely with those of other landowners…. Well, it is true, that the Jewish proletarians group around the major [Jewish] renters and live off the work and means of the rural population. But the same also happens in the estates managed by the landowners themselves who to this time cannot manage without the help of the Jews.”[lx]

However, in the areas inhabited by the Don Cossacks, the energetic economic advancement of the Jews was restricted by the prohibition of 1880 to own or rent the real estate. The provincial government found that “in view of the exclusive situation of the Don Province, the Cossack population  which is obligated to military service to a man, [this] is the only reliable way to save the Cossack economy from ruin, to secure the nascent manufacturing and commerce in the area.” For “a too hasty exploitation of a region’s wealth and quick development of industry … are usually accompanied by an extremely uneven distribution of capital, and the swift enrichment of some and the  impoverishment of others. Meanwhile, the Cossacks must prosper, since they carry out their military service on their own horses and with their own equipment.”[lxi] And thus they had prevented a possible Cossack explosion.

So what happened with the conscription of Jews into military service after all those Alexandrian relief measures of 1856? For the 1860s, this was the picture: “When Jews manage to find out about the impending Imperial Manifest about recruit enrollment before it is officially published … all members of Jewish families fit for military service flee from their homes in all directions….” Because of the peculiarities of their faith and “lack of comradeship and the perpetual isolation of the Jewish soldier … the military service for the Jews was the most threatening, the most ruinous, and the most burdensome of duties.”[lxii] Although from 1860 the Jewish service in the Guards was permitted, and from 1861promotions to petty officer ranks and service as clerks,[lxiii] there was still no access to officer ranks.

I. G. Orshansky, a witness to the 1860s, certifies: “It is true, there is much data supporting the opinion that in the recent years the Jews in fact had not fulfilled their conscription obligations number-wise. They purchase old recruit discharges and present them to the authorities”; peasants sometimes keep them without knowing their value as far back as from 1812; so now Jewish resourcefulness puts them to use. Or, they “hire volunteers” in place of themselves and “pay a certain sum to the treasury.” “Also they try to divide their families into smaller units,” and by this each family claims the privilege of “the only son,” (the only son was exempt from the military service). Yet, he notes “all the tricks for avoiding recruitment … are similarly encountered among the ‘pure-blooded’ Russians” and provides comparative figures for Ekaterinoslav Guberniya. I. G. Orshansky had even expressed surprise that Russian peasants prefer “to return to the favorite occupation of the Russian people, farming,” instead of wanting to remain in the highly-paid military service.[lxiv]

In 1874 a unified regulation about universal military service had replaced the old recruit conscription obligation giving the Jews a “significant relief.” “The text of the regulation did not contain any articles that discriminated against Jews.”[lxv] However, now Jews were not permitted to remain in residence in the interior provinces after completion of military service. Also, special regulations aimed “to specify the figure of male Jewish population” were introduced, for to that day it largely remained undetermined and unaccounted.” Information about abuses of law by Jews wishing to evade military service[KM1] ”[lxvi] was circulated to governors. In 1876 the first “measures for ensuring the proper fulfillment of military duty by Jews”[lxvii] were adopted. The Jewish Encyclopedia saw “a heavy net of repressive measures” in them. “Regulations were issued about the registration of Jews at conscription districts and about the replacement of Jews not fit for service by Jews who were fit”; and about verification of the validity of exemptions for family conditions: for violation of these regulations “conscription … of only sons was permitted.”[lxviii]

A contemporary and then influential St. Petersburg newspaper, Golos [The Voice] cites quite amazing figures from the official governmental “Report on the Results of Conscription in 1880…. For all [of the Russian Empire] the shortfall of recruits was 3,309; out of this, the shortfall of Jews was 3,054, which amounts to 92%.”[lxix]

Shmakov, a prominent attorney, not well-disposed toward Jews, cites such statistics from the reference, Pravitelstvenniy Vestnik [The Government Bulletin]: for the period 1876-1883: “out of 282,466 Jews subject to conscription, 89,105 — that is, 31.6% — did not show up.” (The general shortfall for the whole Empire was 0.19%.) The Administration could not help but notice this, and a number of “steps toward the elimination of such abuse” were introduced. This had an effect, but only short-term. In 1889 46,190 Jews were subjected to call-up, and 4,255 did not appear, that is 9.2%. But in 1891 “from a general number of 51,248 Jews recorded on the draft list, 7,658, or 14.94%, failed to report; at that time the percentage of Christians not reporting was barely 2.67%. In 1892, 16.38% of Jews failed to report as compared with 3.18% of Christians. In 1894 6,289 Jews did not report for the draft, that is, 13.6%. Compare this to the Russian average of 2.6%.[lxx]

However, the same document on the 1894 draft states that “in total, 873,143 Christians, 45,801 Jews, 27,424 Mohammedans, and 1,311 Pagans” were to be drafted. These are striking figures — in Russia, there were 8.7% Muslims (according to the 1870 count) but their share in the draft was only 2.9%! The Jews were in an unfavorable position not only in comparison with the Mohammedans but with the general population too: their share of the draft was assigned 4.8% though they constituted only 3.2% of Russian population (in 1870). (The Christian share in the draft was 92% (87% of Russian population).[lxxi]

From everything said here one should not conclude that at the time of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, Jewish soldiers did not display courage and resourcefulness during combat. In the journal Russkiy Evrei [The Russian Jew] we can find convincing examples of both virtues.[lxxii] Yet during that war much irritation against Jews arose in the army, mainly because of dishonest contractor-quartermasters — and “such were almost exclusively Jews, starting with the main contractors of the Horovits, Greger, and Kagan Company.”[lxxiii] The quartermasters supplied (undoubtedly under protection of higher circles) overpriced poor-quality equipment including the famous “cardboard soles”, due to which the feet of Russian soldiers fighting in the Shipka Pass were frostbitten.




In the Age of Alexander II, the half-century-old official drive to accustom the Jews to agriculture was ending in failure.

After the repeal of disproportionate Jewish recruitment, farming had “immediately lost all its appeal” for Jews, or, in words of one government official, a “false interpretation of the Manifest by them” had occurred, “according to which they now considered themselves free of the obligation to engage in farming,” and that they could now migrate freely. “The petitions from the Jews about resettling with the intent to work in agriculture had ended almost completely.”[lxxiv]

Conditions in the existing colonies remained the same if not worse: “fields … were plowed and sowed pathetically, just for a laugh, or for appearance’s sake only.” For instance, in 1859 “the grain yield in several colonies was even smaller than the amount sown.” In the new ‘paradigmatic’ colonies, not only barns were lacking, there was even no overhangs or pens for livestock. The Jewish colonists leased most of their land to others, to local peasants or German colonists. Many asked permission to hire Christians as workers, otherwise threatening to cut back on sowing even further — and they were granted such a right, regardless of the size of the actual crop.[lxxv]

Of course, there were affluent Jewish farmers among the colonists. Arrival of German colonists was very helpful too as their experience could now be adopted by Jews. And the young generation born there was already more accepting toward agriculture and German experience; they were more “convinced in the advantageousness of farming in comparison to their previous life in the congestion and exasperating competition of shtetls and towns.”[lxxvi]

Yet the incomparably larger majority was trying to get away from agriculture. Gradually, inspectors’ reports became invariably monotonic: “What strikes most is the general Jewish dislike for farm work and their regrets about their former artisan occupations, trade, and business”; they displayed “tireless zeal in any business opportunity,” for example, “at the very high point of field work … they could leave the fields if they discovered that they could profitably buy or sell a horse, an ox, or something else, in the vicinity.” [They had] a predilection for penny-wise trade,” demanding, according to their “conviction, less work and giving more means for living.” “Making money was easier for Jews in nearby German, Russian, or Greek villages, where the Jewish colonist would engage in tavern-keeping and small trade.” Yet more damaging for the arable land were long absences of the workers who left the area for distant places, leaving only one or two family members at home in the colonies, while the rest went to earn money in brokerages. In the 1860s (a half-century after the founding of colonies) such departure was permitted for the entire families or many family members simultaneously; in the colonies quite a few people were listed who had never lived there. After leaving the colonies, they often evaded registering with their trade guild in the new place, and “many stayed there for several consecutive years, with family, unregistered to any guild, and thus not subject to any kind of tax or obligation.” And in the colonies, the houses built for them stood empty, and fell into disrepair. In 1861, Jews were permitted to maintain drinking houses in the colonies.[lxxvii]

Finally, the situation regarding Jewish agriculture had dawned on the St. Petersburg authorities in all its stark and dismal reality. Back taxes (forgiven on numerous occasions, such as an imperial marriage) grew, and each amnesty had encouraged Jews not to pay taxes or repay loans from now on. (In 1857, when the ten years granted to collect past due taxes had expired, five additional years were added. But even in 1863 the debt was still not collected.) So what was all that resettling, privileges and loans for? On the one hand, the whole 60-year epic project had temporarily provided Jews with means “of avoiding their duties before the state” while at the same time failing to instill love for agriculture among the colonists.” “The ends were not worthy of the means.” On the other hand, “simply a permission to live outside of the Pale, even without any privileges, attracted a huge number of Jewish farmers” who stopped at nothing to get there.[lxxviii]

If in 1858 there were officially 64,000 Jewish colonists, that is, eight to ten thousand families, then by 1880 the Ministry had found only 14,000, that is, less than two thousand families.[lxxix] For example, in the whole Southwestern Krai in 1872 the commission responsible for verifying whether or not the land is in use or lay unattended had found fewer than 800 families of Jewish colonists.[lxxx]

Russian authorities had clearly seen now that the entire affair of turning Jews into farmers had failed. They no longer believed that “their cherished hope for the prosperity of colonies could be realized.” It was particularly difficult for the Minister Kiselyov to part with this dream, but he retired in 1856. Official documents admitted failure, one after another: “resettlement of the Jews for agricultural occupation ‘has not been accompanied by favorable results’.” Meanwhile “enormous areas of rich productive black topsoil remain in the hands of the Jews unexploited.” After all, the best soil was selected and reserved for Jewish colonization. That portion, which was temporarily rented to those willing, gave a large income (Jewish colonies lived off it) as the population in the South grew and everyone asked for land. And now even the worst land from the reserve, beyond that allotted for Jewish colonization, had also quickly risen in value.[lxxxi] The Novorossiysk Krai had already absorbed many active settlers and “no longer needed any state-promoted colonization.”[lxxxii]

So the Jewish colonization had become irrelevant for state purposes.

And in 1866 Alexander II had ordered and end to the enforcement of several laws aimed at turning Jews into farmers. Now the task was to equalize Jewish farmers with the rest of the farmers of the Empire. Everywhere, Jewish colonies turned out to be incapable of independent existence in the new free situation. So now it was necessary to provide legal means for Jews to abandon agriculture, even individually and not in whole families (1868), so they could become artisans and merchants. They had been permitted to redeem their parcels of land; and so they redeemed and resold their land at a profit.[lxxxiii]

However, in the dispute over various projects in the Ministry of State Property, the question about the reform of Jewish colonies dragged out and even stopped altogether by 1880. In the meantime with a new recruit statute of 1874, Jews were stripped of their recruiting privileges, and with that any vestiges of their interest in farming were conclusively lost. By 1881 “in the colonies ‘there was a preponderance of farmsteads with only one apartment house, around which there were no signs of settlement; that is, no fence, no housing for livestock, no farm buildings, no beds for vegetables, nor even a single tree or shrub; there were very few exceptions.’”[lxxxiv]

The state councilor Ivashintsev, an official with 40 years experience in agriculture, was sent in 1880 to investigate the situation with the colonies. He had reported that in all of Russia “no other peasant community enjoyed such generous benefits as had been given [to Jews]” and “these benefits were not a secret from other peasants, and could not help but arouse hostile feelings in them.” Peasants adjacent to the Jewish colonies “‘were indignant … because due to a shortage of land they had to rent the land from Jews for an expensive price, the land which was given cheaply to the Jews by the state in amounts in fact exceeding the actual Jewish needs.’ It was namely this circumstance which in part explained …  ‘the hostility of peasants toward Jewish farmers, which manifested itself in the destruction of several Jewish settlements’” (in 1881-82).[lxxxv]

In those years, there were commissions allotting land to peasants from the excess land of the Jewish settlements. Unused or neglected sectors were taken back by the government. “In Volynsk, Podolsk, and Kiev guberniyas, out of 39,000 desyatins [one desyatin = 2.7 acres] only 4,082 remained [under Jewish cultivation].”[lxxxvi] Yet several quite extensive Jewish farming settlements remained: Yakshitsa in the Minsk Guberniya, not known for its rich land, had 740 desyatins for 46 [Jewish] families;[lxxxvii] that is, an average of 16 desyatins per family, something you will rarely find among peasants in Central Russia; in 1848 in Annengof of Mogilyov Guberniya, also not vast in land, twenty Jewish families received 20 desyatins of state land each, but by 1872 it was discovered that there were only ten families remaining, and a large part of the land was not cultivated and was choked with weeds.[lxxxviii] In Vishenki of Mogilyov Guberniya, they had 16 desyatins per family;[lxxxix] and in Ordynovshchina of Grodno Guberniya 12 desyatins per [Jewish] family. In the more spacious southern guberniyas in the original settlements there remained: 17 desyatins per [Jewish] family in Bolshoi Nagartav; 16 desyatins per [Jewish] family in Seidemenukh; and 17 desyatins per family in Novo-Berislav. In the settlement of Roskoshnaya in Ekaterinoslav Guberniya they had 15 desyatins per family, but if total colony land is considered, then 42 desyatins per family.[xc] In Veselaya (by 1897) there were 28 desyatins per family. In Sagaidak, there were 9 desyatins, which was considered a small allotment.[xci] And in Kiev Province’s Elyuvka, there were 6 Jewish families with 400 desyatins among them, or 67 desyatins per family! And land was rented to the Germans.”[xcii]

Yet from a Soviet author of the 1920s we read a categorical statement that “Tsarism had almost completely forbidden the Jews to engage in agriculture.”[xciii]

On the pages which summarize his painstaking work, the researcher of Jewish agriculture V. N. Nikitin concludes: “The reproaches against the Jews for having poor diligence in farming, for leaving without official permission for the cities to engage in commercial and artisan occupations, are entirely justified ….We by no means deny the Jewish responsibility for such a small number of them actually working in agriculture after the last 80 years.” Yet he puts forward several excuses for them: “[The authorities] had no faith in Jews; the rules of the colonization were changed repeatedly”; sometimes “officials who knew nothing about agriculture or who were completely indifferent to Jews were sent to regulate their lives….  Jews who used to be independent city dwellers were transformed into villagers without any preparation for life in the country.”[xciv]

At around the same time, in 1884, N. S. Leskov, in a memorandum intended for yet another governmental commission on Jewish affairs headed by Palen, had suggested that the Jewish “lack of habituation to agricultural living had developed over generations” and that it is “so strong, that it is equal to the loss of ability in farming,” and that the Jew would not become a plowman again unless the habit is revived gradually.[xcv]

(Lev Tolstoy had allegedly pondered: who are those “confining the entire nation to the squeeze of city life, and not giving it a chance to settle on the land and begin to do the only natural man’s occupation, farming. After all, it’s the same as not to give the people air to breathe. … What’s wrong with …  Jews settling in villages and starting to live a pure working life, which, probably, this ancient, intelligent, and wonderful people has already yearned for?…”[xcvi] — On what planet was he living? What did he know about the 80 years of practical experience with [Jewish] agricultural colonization?)

And yet the experience of the development of Palestine where the Jewish settlers felt themselves at home had showed their excellent ability to work the land; moreover, they did it in conditions much more unfavorable than in Novorossiya. Still, all the attempts to persuade or compel the Jews toward arable farming in Russia (and afterwards in the USSR) had failed (and from that came the degrading legend that the Jews in general are incapable of farming).

And thus, after 80 years of effort by the Russian government it turned out that all that agricultural colonization was a grandiose but empty affair; all the effort, all the massive expenditures, the delay of the development of Novorossiya — all were for nothing. The resulting experience shows that it shouldn’t have been undertaken at all.




Generally examining Jewish commercial and industrial entrepreneurship, I. G. Orshansky justly wrote at the start of the 1870s that the question about Jewish business activity is “the essence of the Jewish Question,” on which “fate of Jewish people in any country depends.” “[An entrepreneur] from the quick, mercantile, resourceful Jewish tribe” turns over a ruble five times “while a Russian turns it two times.” There is stagnation, drowsiness, and monopoly among the Russian merchants. (For example, after the expulsion of the Jews from Kiev, life there had become more expensive). The strong side of Jewish participation in commercial life lies in the acceleration of capital turnover, even of the most insignificant working capital. Debunking the opinion, that so-called Jewish corporate spirit gives them a crucial advantage in any competition, that “Jewish [merchants] always support each other, having their bankers, contractors, and carriers,” Orshansky attributed the Jewish corporate spirit only to social and religious matters, and not to commerce, where, he claimed, Jews fiercely compete against each other (which is in contradiction with the Hazaka prescribing separation of spheres of activity, which, according to him, “had gradually disappeared following the change in legal standing of Jews”[xcvii]). He had also contested the opinion that any Jewish trade does not enrich the country, that “it exclusively consists of exploitation of the productive and working classes,” and that “the profit of the Jews is a pure loss for the nation.” He disagreed, suggesting that Jews constantly look for and find new sales markets and thereby “open new sources of earnings for the poor Christian population as well.”[xcviii]

Jewish commercial and industrial entrepreneurship in Russia had quickly recovered from the two noticeable blows of 1861, the abolition of serfdom and the abolition of wine farming. “The financial role of Jews had become particularly significant by the 1860s, when previous activities amassed capital in their hands, while liberation of peasants and the associated impoverishment of landowners created a huge demand for money on the part of landowners statewide. Jewish capitalists played a prominent role in organization of land banks.”[xcix] The whole economic life of the country quickly changed in many directions and the invariable Jewish determination, inventiveness, and capital were keeping pace with the changes and were even ahead of them. Jewish capital flowed, for example, to the sugar industry of the Southwest (so that in 1872 one fourth of all sugar factories had a Jewish owner, as well as one third of joint-stock sugar companies),[c] and to the flour-milling and other factory industries both in the Pale of Settlement and outside. After the Crimean War “an intensive construction of railroads” was underway; “all kinds of industrial and commercial enterprises, joint stock companies and banks arose” and “many Jews … found wide application for their strengths and talents in those undertakings … with a few of them getting very rich incredibly fast.”[ci]

“Jews were involved in the grain business for a long time but their role had become particularly significant after the peasant liberation and from the beginning of large-scale railroad construction.” “Already in 1878, 60% of grain export was in the hands of Jews and afterwards it was almost completely controlled by Jews.” And “thanks to Jewish industrialists, lumber had become the second most important article of Russian export (after grain).” Woodcutting contracts and the acquisition of forest estates by Jews were not prohibited since 1835. “The lumber industry and timber trade were developed by Jews. Also, Jews had established timber export.” “The timber trade is a major aspect of Jewish commerce, and, at the same time, a major area of concentration of capital…. Intensive growth of the Jewish timber trade began in the 1860-1870s, when as a result of the abolition of serfdom, landowners unloaded a great number of estates and forests on the market.” “The 1870s were the years of the first massive surge of Jews into industries” such as manufacturing, flax, foodstuff, leather, cabinetry, and furniture industries, while “tobacco industry had long since been concentrated in the hands of Jews.”[cii]

In the words of Jewish authors: “In the epoch of Alexander II, the wealthy Jewish bourgeoisie was … completely loyal … to the monarchy. The great wealth of the Gintsburgs, the Polyakovs, the Brodskys, the Zaitsevs, the Balakhovskys, and the Ashkenazis was amassed exactly at that time.” As already mentioned, “the tax-farmer Evzel Gintsburg had founded his own bank in St. Petersburg.” Samuil Polyakov had built six railroad lines; the three Polyakov brothers were granted hereditary nobility titles.[ciii] “Thanks to railroad construction, which was guaranteed and to a large extent subsidized by the government, the prominent capital of the Polyakovs, I. Bliokh, A. Varshavsky and others were created.” Needless to say, many more smaller fortunes were made as well, such as that of  A. I. Zaks, the former assistant to E. Gintsburg in tax-farming, who had moved to St. Petersburg and created the Savings and Loan Bank there; “he arranged jobs for his and his wife’s many relatives at the enterprises he was in charge of.”[civ]

Not just the economy, the entire public life had been transformed in the course of Alexandrian reforms, opening new opportunities for mercurial Jewry. “In the government resolutions permitting certain groups of Jews with higher education to enter government service, there was no restriction in regard to movement up the job ladder. With the attainment of the Full State Advisor rank, a Jew could be elevated to the status of hereditary nobility on common grounds.”[cv]

In 1864 the land reform began. It “affected all social classes and strata. Its statute … did not in any way restrict the eligibility of Jews to vote in country administrative elections or occupy elected country offices. In the course of twenty-six years of the statute being in effect, Jews could be seen in many places among town councilors and in the municipal executive councils.”[cvi]

Similarly, the judicial statutes of 1864 stipulated no restrictions for Jews. As a result of the judicial reform, an independent judicial authority was created, and in place of private mediators the legal bar guild was established as an independent class with a special corporate structure (and notably, even with the un-appealable right to refuse legal assistance to an applicant “on the basis of moral evaluation of his person,” including evaluation of his political views). And there were no restrictions on Jews entering this class. Gessen wrote: “Apart from the legal profession, in which Jews had come to prominence, we begin noticing them in court registries among investigative officials and in the ranks of public prosecutors; in some places we already see Jews in the magistrate and district court offices”; they also served as jurors”[cvii] without any quota restrictions (during the first decades after the reform). (Remarkably, during civil trials the Jews were taking conventional juror’s oath without any provision made for the Jewish religion).

At the same time municipal reform was being implemented. Initially it was proposed to restrict Jewish representation among town councilors and in the municipal executive councils by fifty percent, but because of objections by the Minister of Internal Affairs, the City Statute of 1870 had reduced the maximal share to one third; further, Jews were forbidden from occupying the post of mayor.[cviii] It was feared “that otherwise Jewish internal cohesion and self-segregation would allow them to obtain a leading role in town institutions and give them an advantage in resolution of public issues.”[cix] On the other hand, Jews were equalized in electoral rights (earlier they could vote only as a faction), which led to “the increased influence of Jews in all city governing matters (though in the free city of Odessa these rules were in place from the very beginning; later, it was adopted in Kishinev too. “Generally speaking, in the south of Russia the social atmosphere was not permeated by contempt toward Jews, unlike in Poland where it was diligently cultivated.”[cx])

Thus “perhaps … the best period in Russian history for Jews” went on. “An access to civil service was opened for Jews…. The easing of legal restrictions and the general atmosphere of ‘the Age of Great Reforms’ had affected the spirit of the Jewish people beneficially.”[cxi] It appeared that under the influence of the Age of Great Reforms “the traditional daily life of the Jewish populace had turned toward the surrounding world” and that Jewry “had begun participating as far as possible in the struggle for rights and liberty…. There was not a single area in the economic, public and spiritual life of Russia unaffected by the creative energies of Russian Jews.”[cxii]

And remember that from the beginning of the century the doors of Russian general education were opened wide for Jews, though it took a long time for the unwilling Jews to enter.

Later, a well-known lawyer and public figure, Ya. L. Teytel thus recalled the Mozyr grammar school of the 1860s: “The director of the school … often … appealed to the Jews of Mozyr, telling them about the benefits of education and about the desire of government to see more Jews in grammar schools. Unfortunately, such pleas had fallen on deaf ears.”[cxiii] So they were not enthusiastic to enroll during the first years after the reform, even when they were offered free education paid for by state and when school charters (1864) declared that schools are open to everyone regardless confession.[cxiv] “The Ministry of National Education … tried to make admission of Jews into general education institutions easier”; it exhibited “benevolence toward young Jewish students.”[cxv] (Here L. Deutsch had particularly distinguished the famous surgeon N. I. Pirogov, then a trustee of the Novorossiysk school district, suggesting that he had “strongly contributed to the alleviation of hostility among my tribesmen toward ‘goyish’ schools and sciences.”[cxvi]) Soon after the ascension of Alexander II, the Minister of Education thus formulated the government plan: “It is necessary to spread, by any means, the teaching of subjects of general education, while avoiding interference with the religious education of children, allowing parents to take care of it without any restrictions or hindrances on the part of government.”[cxvii] Education in state public schools was made mandatory for children of Jewish merchants and honorary citizens.[cxviii]

Yet all these measures, privileges and invitations, did not lead to a drastic increase in Jewish admissions. By 1863 the share of Jewish students in Russian schools reached 3.2%,[cxix] that is, equal to their percentage in the population of the empire. Apart from the rejection of Russian education by the Jewry, there was a certain influence from Jewish public leaders who now saw their task differently: “With the advent of the Age of Great Reforms, ‘the friends of enlightenment’ had merged the question of mass education with the question of the legal situation of Jews,”[cxx] that is, they began struggling for the immediate removal of all remaining restrictions. After the shock of the Crimean War, such a liberal possibility seemed quite realistic.

But after 1874, following enactment of the new military statute which “granted military service privileges to educated individuals,” almost a magical change happened with Jewish education. Jews began entering public schools in mass.[cxxi] “After the military reform of 1874, even Orthodox Jewish families started sending their sons into high schools and institutions of higher learning to reduce their term of military service.”[cxxii] Among these privileges were not only draft deferral and easement of service but also, according to the recollections of Mark Aldanov, the possibility of taking the officer’s examination “and receiving officer rank.” “Sometimes they attained titles of nobility.”[cxxiii]

In the 1870s “an enormous increase in the number of Jewish students in public education institutions” occurred, leading to creation of numerous degreed Jewish intelligentsia.” In 1881 Jews composed around 9% of all university students; by 1887, their share increased to 13.5%, i.e., one out of every seven students. In some universities Jewish representation was much higher: in the Department of Medicine of Kharkov University Jews comprised 42% of student body; in the Department of Medicine of Odessa University — 31%, and in the School of Law — 41%.[cxxiv] In all schools of the country, the percentage of Jews doubled to 12% from 1870 to 1880 (and compared to 1865, it had quadrupled). In the Odessa school district it reached 32% by 1886, and in some schools it was 75% and even more.[cxxv] (When D. A. Tolstoy, the Minister of Education from 1866, had begun  school reforms in 1871 by introducing the Classical education standard with emphasis on antiquity, the ethnic Russian intelligentsia boiled over, while Jews did not mind).

However, for a while, these educational developments affected only “the Jewish bourgeoisie and intelligentsia. The wide masses remained faithful … to their cheders and yeshivas,” as the Russian elementary school offered nothing in the way of privileges.”[cxxvi] “The Jewish masses remained in isolation as before due to specific conditions of their internal and outside life.”[cxxvii] Propagation of modern universal culture was extremely slow and new things took root with great difficulty among the masses of people living in shtetls and towns of the Pale of Settlement in the atmosphere of very strict religious traditions and discipline.”[cxxviii] “Concentrated within the Pale of Settlement, the Jewish masses felt no need for the Russian language in their daily lives…. As before, the masses were still confined to the familiar hold of the primitive cheder education.”[cxxix] And whoever had just learned how to read had to immediately proceed to reading the Bible in Hebrew.[cxxx]

From the government’s point of view, opening up general education to Jews rendered state Jewish schools unnecessary. From 1862 Jews were permitted to take posts of senior supervisors in such schools and so “the personnel in these schools was being gradually replenished with committed Jewish pedagogues, who, acting in the spirit of the time, worked to improve mastery of Russian language and reduce teaching of specifically Jewish subjects.”[cxxxi] In 1873 these specialized schools were partially abolished and partially transformed, some into primary specialized Jewish schools of general standard, with 3 or 6 years study courses, and two specialized rabbinical schools in Vilna and Zhitomir were transformed into teacher training colleges.[cxxxii] The government … sought to overcome Jewish alienation through integrated education; however, the Commission for Arranging the Jewish Way of Life was receiving reports both from Jewish advocates, often high-ranked, and from the opponents of reform who insisted that “Jews must never be treated … in the same way as other ethnic groups of the Empire, that they should not be permitted unrestricted residence all over the country; it might be allowed only after all possible measures were tried to turn Jews into useful productive citizens in the places where they live now and when these measures would prove their success beyond any doubt.”[cxxxiii]

Meanwhile, through the shock of ongoing reforms, especially of the abolition of the burdensome recruiting obligation in 1856 (and through it the negation of the corresponding power of Jewish leaders over their communities), and then of the repeal of the associated special taxation in 1863, “the administrative power of the community leaders was significantly weakened in comparison to their almost unrestricted authority in the past” inherited from the Qahal (abolished in 1844), that omnipotent arbiter of the Jewish life.[cxxxiv]

It was then, at the end of 1850s and during the 1860s, when the baptized Jew, Yakov Brafman, appeared before the government and later came out publicly in an energetic attempt at radical reformation of the Jewish way of life. He had petitioned the Tsar with a memorandum and was summoned to St. Petersburg for consultations in the Synod. He set about exposing and explaining the Qahal system (though a little bit late, since the Qahal had already been abolished). For that purpose he had translated into Russian the resolutions of the Minsk Qahal issued in the period between the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries. Initially he published the documents in parts and later (in 1869 and 1875) as a compilation, The Book of Qahal, which revealed the all-encompassing absoluteness of the personal and material powerlessness of the community member. The book “had acquired exceptional weight in the eyes of the authorities and was accepted as an official guidebook; it won recognition (often by hearsay) in wide circles of Russian society”; it was referred to as the “Brafman’s triumph” and lauded as an “extraordinary success.”[cxxxv] (Later the book was translated into French, German, and Polish.)[cxxxvi] The Book of Qahal managed to instill in a great number of individuals a fanatical hatred toward Jews as the ‘worldwide enemy of Christians’; it had succeeded in spreading misconceptions about Jewish way of life.”[cxxxvii]

The ‘mission’ of Brafman, the collection and translation of the acts issued by the Qahal had “alarmed the Jewish community”; At their demand, a government commission which included the participation of Jewish community representatives was created to verify Brafman’s work. Some “Jewish writers were quick to come forward with evidence that Brafman distorted some of the Qahal documents and wrongly interpreted others”; one detractor had even had doubts about their authenticity.”[cxxxviii] (A century later in 1976, The Short Jewish Encyclopedia confirmed the authenticity of Brafman’s documents and the good quality of his translation but blamed him for false interpretation.[cxxxix] The Russian Jewish Encyclopedia (1994) pointed out that “the documents published by Brafman are a valuable source for studying the history of Jews in Russia at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries.”[cxl] (Apropos, the poet Khodasevich was the grand-nephew of Brafman).

Brafman claimed “that governmental laws cannot destroy the malicious force lurking in the Jewish self-administration … According to him, Jewish self-rule is not limited to Qahals … but allegedly involves the entire Jewish people all over the world … and because of that the Christian peoples cannot get rid of Jewish exploitation until everything that enables Jewish self-segregation is eliminated.” Further, Brafman  “view[ed] the Talmud not as a national and religious code but as a ‘civil and political code’ going ‘against the political and moral development of Christian nations’”[cxli] and creating a ‘Talmudic republic’. He insisted that “Jews form a nation within a nation”; that they “do not consider themselves subject to national laws”;[cxlii] that one of the main goals of the Jewish community is to confuse the Christians to turn the latter into no more than fictitious owners of their property.”[cxliii] On a larger scale, he “accused the Society for the Advancement of Enlightenment among the Jews of Russia and the Alliance Israélite Universelle for their role in the ‘Jewish world conspiracy’.”[cxliv] According to Yu. Gessen’s opinion, “the only demand of The Book of Qahal … was the radical extermination of Jewish self-governance” regardless of all their civil powerlessness.[cxlv]

The State Council, “having mitigated the uncompromised style of The Book of Qahal, declared that even if administrative measures would succeed in erasing the outward differences between Jews and the rest of population, “it will not in the least eliminate the attitudes of seclusion and nearly the outright hostility toward Christians which thrive in Jewish communities. This Jewish separation, harmful for the country, can be destroyed, on one hand, through the weakening of social connections between the Jews and reduction of the abusive power of Jewish elders to the extent possible, and, on the other hand, through spreading of education among Jews, which is actually more important.”[cxlvi]

And precisely the latter process — education — was already underway in the Jewish community. A previous Jewish Enlightenment, the Haskalah Movement of the 1840s, was predominantly based on German culture; they were completely ignorant of Russian culture (they were familiar with Goethe and Schiller but did not know Pushkin and Lermontov).[cxlvii] “Until the mid-19th century, even educated Jews, with rare exceptions, having mastered the German language, at the same time did not know the Russian language and literature.”[cxlviii] However, as those Maskilim sought self-enlightenment and not the mass education of the Jewish people, the movement died out by the 1860s.[cxlix] “In the 1860s, Russian influences burst into the Jewish society. Until then Jews were not living but rather residing in Russia,[cl] perceiving their problems as completely unconnected to the surrounding Russian life. Before the Crimean War the Jewish intelligentsia in Russia acknowledged German culture exclusively but after the reforms it began gravitating toward Russian culture. Mastery of the Russian language “increases … self-esteem.”[cli] From now on the Jewish Enlightenment developed under the strong influence of the Russian culture. “The best … Russian Jewish intellectuals abandoned their people no longer”; they did not depart into the “area of exclusively personal interests”, but cared “about making their people’s lot easier.” Well, after all, Russian literature taught that the strong should devote themselves to the weak.[clii]

However, this new enlightenment of the Jewish masses was greatly complicated by the strong religiosity of said masses, which in the eyes of progressives was doubtlessly a regressive factor,[cliii] whereas the emerging Jewish Enlightenment movement was quite secular for that time. Secularization of the Jewish public consciousness “was particularly difficult because of the exceptional role religion played in the Diaspora as the foundation of Jewish national consciousness over the course of the many centuries.” And so “the wide development of secular Jewish national consciousness” began, in essence, only at the end of the century.[cliv] “It was not because of inertia but due to a completely deliberate stance as the Jew did not want risking separation from his God.”[clv]

So the Russian Jewish intelligentsia met the Russian culture at the moment of birth. Moreover, it happened at the time when the Russian intelligentsia was also developing expansively and at the time when Western culture gushed into Russian life (Buckle, Hegel, Heine, Hugo, Comte, and Spencer). It was pointed out that several prominent figures of the first generation of Russian Jewish intelligentsia (S. Dubnov, M. Krol, G. Sliozberg, O. Gruzenberg, and Saul Ginzburg) were born in that period, 1860-1866[clvi] (though their equally distinguished Jewish revolutionary peers — M. Gots, G. Gershuni, F. Dan, Azef, and L. Akselrod — were also born during those years and many other Jewish revolutionaries, such as P. Akselrod and L. Deych, were born still earlier, in the 1850s).

In St. Petersburg in 1863 the authorities permitted establishment of the Society for the Spreading of Enlightenment among the Jews in Russia (SSE) supported by the wealthy Evzel Gintsburg and A. M. Brodsky. Initially, during the first decade of its existence, its membership and activities were limited; the Society was preoccupied with publishing activities and not with school education; yet still its activities caused a violent reaction on the part of Jewish conservatives[clvii] (who also protested against publication of the Pentateuch in Russian as a blasphemous encroachment on the holiness of the Torah). From the 1870s, the SSE provided financial support to Jewish schools. Their cultural work was conducted in Russian, with a concession for Hebrew, but not Yiddish, which was then universally recognized as a ‘jargon’.[clviii] In the opinion of Osip Rabinovich, a belletrist, the “‘spoiled jargon’ used by Jews in Russia cannot ‘facilitate enlightenment, because it is not only impossible to express abstract notions in it, but one cannot even express a decent thought with it’.”[clix] “Instead of mastering the wonderful Russian language, we Jews in Russia stick to our spoiled, cacophonous, erratic, and poor jargon.”[clx] (In their day, the German Maskilim ridiculed the jargon even more sharply.)

And so “a new social force arose in Russian Jewry, which did not hesitate entering the struggle against the union … of capital and synagogue”, as expressed by the liberal Yu. I. Gessen. That force, nascent and for the time being weak, was the Jewish periodical press in the Russian language.[clxi]

Its first-born was the Odessa magazine Rassvet [Dawn], published for two years from 1859 to 1861 by the above-mentioned O. Rabinovich. The magazine was positioned to serve “as a medium for dissemination of ‘useful knowledge, true religiousness, rules of communal life and morality’; it was supposed to predispose Jews to learn the Russian language and to ‘become friends with the national scholarship’”[clxii] Rassvet also reported on politics, expressing “love for the Fatherland” and the intention to promote “the government’s views”[clxiii] with the goal “of communal living with other peoples, participating in their education and sharing their successes, while at the same time preserving, developing, and perfecting our distinct national heritage.”[clxiv] The leading Rassvetpublicist, L. Levanda, defined the goal of the magazine as twofold: “to act defensively and offensively: defensively against attacks from the outside, when our human rights and confessional (religious) interests must be defended, and offensively against our internal enemy: obscurantism, everydayness, social life troubles, and our tribal vices and weaknesses.”[clxv]

This last direction, “to reveal the ill places of the inner Jewish life,” aroused a fear in Jewish circles that it “might lead to new legislative repressions.” So the existing Jewish newspapers (in Yiddish) “saw the Rassvet’s direction as extremely radical.” Yet these same moderate newspapers by their mere appearance had already shaken “‘the patriarchal structure’ of [Jewish] community life maintained by the silence of the people.”[clxvi] Needless to say, the struggle between the rabbinate and Hasidic Judaism went on unabated during that period and this new 1860s’ struggle of the leading publicists against the stagnant foundations of daily life had added to it. Gessen noted that “in the 1860s, the system of repressive measures against ideological opponents did not seem offensive even for the conscience of intelligent people.” For example, publicist A. Kovner, ‘the Jewish Pisarev’ [a radical Russian writer and social critic], could not refrain from tipping off a Jewish newspaper to the Governor General of Novorossiysk.[clxvii] (In the 1870s Pisarev “was extremely popular among Jewish intellectuals.”)[clxviii]

M. Aldanov thinks that Jewish participation in Russian cultural and political life had effectively begun at the end of the 1870s (and possibly a decade earlier in the revolutionary movement).[clxix]

In the 1870s new Jewish publicists (L. Levanda, the critic S. Vengerov, the poet N. Minsky) began working with the general Russian press. (According to G. Aronson, Minsky expressed his desire to go to the Russo-Turkish War to fight for his brothers Slavs). The Minister of Education Count Ignatiev then expressed his faith in Jewish loyalty to Russia. After the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, rumors about major auspicious reforms began circulating among the Jews. In the meantime, the center of Jewish intellectual life shifted from Odessa to St. Petersburg, where new writers and attorneys gained prominence as leaders of public opinion. In that hopeful atmosphere, publication of Rassvet was resumed in St. Petersburg in 1879. In the opening editorial, M. I. Kulisher wrote: “Our mission is to be an organ of expression of the necessities of Russian Jews … for promoting the awakening of the huge mass of Russian Jews from mental hibernation … it is also in the interests of Russia…. In that goal the Russian Jewish intelligentsia does not separate itself from the rest of Russian citizens.”[clxx]

Alongside the development of the Jewish press, Jewish literature could not help but advance —first in Hebrew, then in Yiddish, and then in Russian, inspired by the best of Russian literature.[clxxi] Under Alexander II, “there were quite a few Jewish authors who persuaded their co-religionists to study the Russian language and look at Russia as their homeland.”[clxxii]

Naturally, in the conditions of the 1860s-1870s, the Jewish educators, still few in numbers and immersed in Russian culture, could not avoid moving toward assimilation, in the same direction “which under analogous conditions led the intelligent Jews of Western Europe to unilateral assimilation with the dominant people.”[clxxiii] However, there was a difference: in Europe the general cultural level of the native peoples was consistently higher and so in Russia these Jews could not assimilate with the Russian people, still weakly touched by culture, nor with the Russian ruling class (who rejected them); they could only assimilate with the Russian intelligentsia, which was then very small in number but already completely secular, rejecting, among other things, their God. Now Jewish educators also tore away from Jewish religiosity and, “being unable to find an alternative bond with their people, they were becoming completely estranged from them and spiritually considered themselves solely as Russian citizens.”[clxxiv]

“A worldly rapprochement between the Russian and Jewish intelligentsias” was developing.[clxxv] It was facilitated by the general revitalization of Jewish life with several categories of Jews now allowed to live outside the Pale of Settlement. Development of railroad communications and possibilities of travel abroad — “all this contributed to a closer contact of the Jewish ghetto with the surrounding world.”[clxxvi] Moreover, by the 1860s “up to one-third … of Odessa’s Jews could speak Russian.”[clxxvii] The population there grew quickly, “because of massive resettlement to Odessa of both Russian and foreign Jews, the latter primarily from Germany and Galicia.”[clxxviii] The blossoming of Odessa by the middle of the 19th century presaged the prosperity of all Russian Jewry toward the end of the 19th – to the beginning of 20th century. Free Odessa developed according to its own special laws, differing from the All-Russian statutes since the beginning of the 19th century. It used to be a free port and was even open to Turkish ships during the war with Turkey. “The main occupation of Odessa’s Jews in this period was the grain trade. Many Jews were small traders and middlemen (mainly between the landowners and the exporters), as well as agents of prominent foreign and local (mainly Greek) wheat trading companies. At the grain exchange, Jews worked as stockbrokers, appraisers, cashiers, scalers, and loaders”; “the Jews were in a dominant position in grain commerce: by 1870 most of grain export was in their hands. In 1910 … 89.2% of grain exports was under their control.”[clxxix] In comparison with other cities in the Pale of Settlement, more Jews of the independent professions lived in Odessa and they had better relations with educated Russian circles, and were favorably looked upon and protected by the high administration of the city…. N. Pirogov [a prominent Russian scientist and surgeon], the Trustee of the Odessa School District from 1856-1858, particularly patronized the Jews.”[clxxx] A contemporary observer had vividly described this Odessa’s clutter with fierce competition between Jewish and Greek merchants, where “in some years half the city, from the major bread bigwigs, to the thrift store owners, lived off the sale of grain products.” In Odessa, with her non-stop business commotion bonded by the Russian language, “it was impossible to draw a line, to separate clearly a ‘wheat’ merchant or a banker from a man of an intellectual profession.”[clxxxi]

Thus in general “among the educated Jews … the process of adopting all things Russian … had accelerated.”[clxxxii] “European education and knowledge of the Russian language had become necessities”; “everyone hurried to learn the Russian language and Russian literature; they thought only about hastening integration and complete blending with their social surroundings”; they aspired not only for the mastery of the Russian language but for “for the complete Russification and adoption of ‘the Russian spirit’, so that “the Jew would not differ from the rest of citizens in anything but religion.” The contemporary observer M. G. Morgulis wrote: “Everybody had begun thinking of themselves as citizens of their homeland; everybody now had a new Fatherland.”[clxxxiii] “Members of the Jewish intelligentsia believed that ‘for the state and public good they had to get rid of their ethnic traits and … to merge with the dominant nationality.’ A contemporary Jewish progressive wrote, that ‘Jews, as a nation, do not exist’, that they ‘consider themselves Russians of the Mosaic faith…’‘Jews recognize that their salvation lies in the merging with the Russian people’.”[clxxxiv]

It is perhaps worth naming here Veniamin Portugalov, a doctor and publicist. In his youth he harbored revolutionary sentiments and because of that he even spent some time as a prisoner in the Peter and Paul Fortress. From 1871 he lived in Samara. He “played a prominent role in development of rural health service and public health science. He was one of the pioneers of therapy for alcoholism and the struggle against alcohol abuse in Russia.” He also organized public lectures. “From a young age he shared the ideas of Narodniks [a segment of the Ruslsian intelligentsia, who left the cities and went to the people (‘narod’) in the villages, preaching on the moral right to revolt against the established order] about the pernicious role of Jews in the economic life of the Russian peasantry. These ideas laid the foundation for the dogmas of the Judeo-Christian movement of the 1880s” (The Spiritual Biblical Brotherhood). Portugalov deemed it necessary to free Jewish life from ritualism, and believed that “Jewry could exist and develop a culture and civilization only after being dissolved in European peoples” (he had meant the Russian [people]).[clxxxv]

A substantial reduction in the number of Jewish conversions to Christianity was observed during the reign of Alexander II as it became unnecessary after the abolishment of the institution of military cantonists and the widening of Jewish rights.[clxxxvi] And from now on the sect of Skhariya the Jew began to be professed openly too.[clxxxvii]

Such an attitude on the part of affluent Jews, especially those living outside the Pale of Settlement and those with Russian education, toward Russia as undeniably a homeland is noteworthy. And so it had to be noticed and was. “In view of the great reforms, all responsible Russian Jews were, without exaggeration, patriots and monarchists and adored Alexander II. M. N. Muravyov, then Governor General of the Northwest Krai famous for his ruthlessness toward the Poles [who rebelled in 1863], patronized Jews in the pursuit of the sound objective of winning the loyalty of a significant portion of the Jewish population to the Russian state.”[clxxxviii] Though during the Polish uprising of 1863 Polish Jewry was mainly on the side of the Poles;[clxxxix] “a healthy national instinct prompted” the Jews of the Vilnius, Kaunas, and Grodno Guberniyas “to side with Russia because they expected more justice and humane treatment from Russians than from the Poles, who, though historically tolerating the Jews, had always treated them as a lower race.”[cxc] (This is how Ya. Teitel described it: “The Polish Jews were always detached from the Russian Jews”; they looked at Russian Jews from the Polish perspective. On the other hand, the Poles in private shared their opinion on the Russian Jews in Poland: “The best of these Jews are our real enemy.  Russian Jews, who had infested Warsaw, Lodz, and other major centers of Poland, brought with them Russian culture, which we do not like.”)[cxci]

In those years, the Russification of Jews on its territory was “highly desirable” for the Tsarist government.[cxcii] Russian authorities recognized “socialization with Russian youth … as a sure method of re-education of the Jewish youth to eradicate their ‘hostility toward Christians’.”[cxciii]

Still, this newborn Russian patriotism among Jews had clear limits. The lawyer and publicist I. G. Orshansky specified that to accelerate the process “it was necessary to create conditions for the Jews such that they could consider themselves as free citizens of a free civilized country.”[cxciv] The above-mentioned Lev Levanda, ‘a Jewish scholar’ living under the jurisdiction of the Governor of Vilnius, then wrote: “I will become a Russian patriot only when the Jewish Question is resolved conclusively and satisfactory.” A modern Jewish author who experienced the long and bitter 20th century and then had finally emigrated to Israel, replied to him looking back across the chasm of a century: “Levanda does not notice that one cannot lay down conditions to Motherland. She must be loved unconditionally, without conditions or pre-conditions; she is loved simply because she is the Mother. This stipulation — love under conditions — was extremely consistently maintained by the Russian-Jewish intelligentsia for one hundred years, though in all other respects they were ideal Russians”[cxcv]

And yet in the described period “only small and isolated groups of Jewry became integrated into ‘Russian civil society; moreover, it was happening in the larger commercial and industrial centers … leading to the appearance of an exaggerated notion about victorious advance of the Russian language deep into Jewish life,” all the while “the wide Jewish masses were untouched by the new trends … isolated not only from the Russian society but from the Jewish intelligentsia as well.”[cxcvi] In the 1860s and 1870s, the Jewish people en masse were still unaffected by assimilation, and the danger of the Jewish intelligentsia breaking away from the Jewish masses was real. (In Germany, Jewish assimilation went smoother as there were no “Jewish popular masses” there — the Jews were better off socially and did not historically live in such crowded enclaves).[cxcvii]

However, as early as the end of the 1860s, some members of the Jewish intelligentsia began voicing opposition to such a conversion of Jewish intellectuals into simple Russian patriots. Perets Smolensky was the first to speak of this in 1868: that assimilation with the Russian character is fraught with ‘national danger’ for the Jews; that although education should not be feared, it is necessary to hold on to the Jewish historical past; that acceptance of the surrounding national culture still requires perservation of the Jewish national character[cxcviii]; and that the Jews are not a religious sect, but a nation.”[cxcix] So if the Jewish intelligentsia withdraws from its people, the latter would never liberate itself from administrative oppression and spiritual stupor. (The poet I. Gordon had put it this way: “Be a man on the street and a Jew at home.”)

The St. Petersburg journals Rassvet (1879-1882) and Russkiy Evrei [Russian Jew] had already followed this direction.[cc] They successfully promoted the study of Jewish history and contemporary life among Jewish youth. At the end of the 1870s and the beginning of the 1880s, cosmopolitan and national directions in Russian Jewry became distinct.[cci] “In essence, the owners of Rassvet had already abandoned the belief in the truth of assimilation…. Rassvet unconsciously went by the path … of the awakening of ethnic identity … it was clearly expressing aJewish national bias…. The illusions of Russification … were disappearing.”[ccii]

The general European situation of the latter half of the 19th century facilitated development of national identity. There was a violent Polish uprising, the war for the unification of Italy, and then of Germany, and later of the Balkan Slavs. The national idea blazed and triumphed everywhere. Obviously, these developments would continue among the Jewish intelligentsia even without the events of 1881-1882.

Meanwhile, in the 1870s, the generally favorable attitudes of Russians toward Jews, which had developed during the Alexandrian reforms, began to change. Russian society was concerned with Brafman’s publications, which were taken quite seriously.

All this coincided with the loud creation of the Alliance Israélite Universelle in Paris in 1860; its goal was “to defend the interests of Jewry” all over the world; its Central Committee was headed by Adolphe Cremieux.[cciii] “Insufficiently well-informed … about the situation of Jews in Russia,” the Alliance “took interest in Russian Jewry” and soon “began consistently working on behalf of Russian Jews.” The Alliance did not have Russian branches and did not function within Russia. Apart from charitable and educational work, the Alliance, in defending Russian Jews, several times addressed Russian government directly, though often inappropriately. (For example, in 1866 the Alliance appealed to prevent the execution of Itska Borodai who was convicted of politically motivated arson. However, he was not sentenced to death at all, and other Jews implicated in the affair were acquitted even without the petition. In another case, Cremieux protested against the resettlement of Jews to the Caucasus and the Amur region — although there was no such Russian government plan whatsoever. In 1869 he again protested, this time against the nonexistent persecution of Jews in St. Petersburg.[cciv]  Cremieux had also complained to the President of the United States about similarly nonexistent persecutions against the Jewish religion by the Russian government). Nevertheless, according to the report of the Russian ambassador in Paris, the newly-formed Alliance (with the Mosaic Tablets over the Earth on its emblem) had already enjoyed “extraordinary influence on Jewish societies in all countries.” All this alarmed the Russian government as well as Russian public. Yakov Brafman actively campaigned against the Universal Jewish Alliance. He claimed that the Alliance, “like all Jewish societies, is double-faced (its official documents proclaim one thing while the secret ones say another)” and that the task of the Alliance is “to shield the Jewry from the perilous influence of Christian civilization.”[ccv] As a result, the Society for the Spreading of Enlightenment among the Jews in Russia was also accused of having a mission “to achieve and foster universal Jewish solidarity and caste-like seclusion.”[ccvi])

Fears of the Alliance were also nurtured by the very emotional opening proclamation of its founders “to the Jews of all nations” and by the dissemination of false Alliance documents. Regarding Jewish unity the proclamation contained the following wording: “Jews! … If you believe that the Alliance is good for you, that while being the parts of different nations you nevertheless can have common feelings, desires, and hopes … if you think that your disparate efforts, good aspirations and individual ambitions could become a major force when united and moving in one direction and toward one goal … then please support us with your sympathy and assistance.”[ccvii]

Later in France a document surfaced containing an alleged proclamation “To Jews of the Universe” by Aldolphe Cremieux himself. It was very likely a forgery. Perhaps it was one of the drafts of the opening proclamation not accepted by the Alliance founders. However it had resonated well with Brafman’s accusations of the Alliance having hidden goals: “We live in alien lands and we cannot take an interest in the variable concerns of those nations until our own moral and material interests are endangered … the Jewish teachings must fill the entire world….” Heated arguments were exchanged in this regard in Russian press. I. S. Aksakov concluded in his newspaper Rus that “the question of the document under discussion being … a falsehood is rather irrelevant in this case because of veracity of the expressed herein Jewish views and aspirations.”[ccviii]

The pre-revolutionary Jewish Encyclopedia writes that from the 1870s “fewer voices were heard in defense of Jews” in the Russian press. “The notion of Jews allegedly united under the aegis of a powerful political organization administered by the Alliance Israélite Universelle was taking root in Russian society.”[ccix] Thus the foundation of the Alliance produced in Russia (and possibly not only in Russia) a reaction counterproductive to the goals that the Alliance had specified.

If the founders of the Alliance could have foreseen the sheer scale of condemnations against the idea of worldwide Jewish solidarity and even the accusations of conspiracy which had erupted after the creation of the organization, they might have refrained from following that route, especially considering that the Alliance did not alter the course of Jewish history.

After 1874, when a new military charter introducing the universal military service obligation in Russia came into force, “numerous news article on draft evasion by Jews began fueling resentment against the Jews in the Russian society .”[ccx] The Alliance Israélite Universelle was accused of intending “to care about young Jews leaving Russia to escape conscription enforced by the new law” so that “using support from abroad, the Jews would have more opportunities than other subjects to move out of the country.” (This question would arise once again precisely a century later in the 1970s.) Cremieux replied that the mission of the Alliance was “the struggle against religious persecution” and that the Alliance had decided “henceforth not to assist Jews trying to evade military obligation in Russia.” Rather it would issue “an appeal to our co-religionists in Russia in order to motivate them to comply with all the requirements of the new law.”[ccxi]

Besides crossing the border, another way to evade military service was self-mutilation. General Denikin (who was quite a liberal before and even during the revolution) described hundreds of bitter cases of the self-mutilation he personally saw during several years of service at the military medical examination board in Volyn Guberniya. Such numerous and desperate self-injuries are all the more striking considering that it was already the beginning of the 20th century.[ccxii]

As previously mentioned, the influx of Jews into public schools, professional schools and institutions of higher learning had sharply increased after 1874 when a new military charter stipulating educational privileges came into force. This increase was dramatic. While calls to restrict Jewish enrollment in public education institutions were heard from the Northwestern Krai even before, in 1875, the Ministry of Public Education informed the government that it was impossible to admit all Jews trying to enter public educational institutions without constraining the Christian population.”[ccxiii]

It is worth mentioning here the G. Aronson’s regretful note that even D. Mendeleev of St. Petersburg University “showed anti-Semitism.”[ccxiv] The Jewish Encyclopedia summarizes all of the 1870s period as “a turnaround in the attitudes of a part of Russian intelligentsia … which rejected the ideals of the previous decade especially in regard to … the Jewish Question.”[ccxv]

An interesting feature of that time was that it was the press (the rightist one, of course) and not governmental circles that was highly skeptical (and in no way hostile) towards the project of full legal emancipation of the Jews. The following quotes are typical. How can “all the citizenship rights be granted to this … stubbornly fanatical tribe, allowing them to occupy the highest administrative posts? … Only education … and social progress can truly bring together Jews and Christians…. Introduce them into the universal family of civilization, and we will be the first to say words of love and reconciliation to them.” “ Civilization will generally benefit from such a rapprochement as the intelligent and energetic tribe will contribute much to it. The Jews … will realize that time is ripe to throw off the yoke of intolerance which originates in the overly strict interpretations of the Talmud.” “Until education brings the Jews to the thought that it is necessary to live not only at the expense of Russian society but also for the good of this society, no discussion could be held about granting them more rights than those they have now.” “Even if it is possible to grant the Jews all civil rights, then in any case they cannot be allowed into any official positions ‘where Christians would be subject to their authority and where they could have influence on the administration and legislation of a Christian country.’”[ccxvi]

The attitude of the Russian press of that time is well reflected in the words of the prominent St. Petersburg newspaper Golos: “Russian Jews have no right to complain that the Russian press is biased against their interests. Most Russian periodicals favor equal civil rights for Jews;” it is understandable “that Jews strive to expand their rights toward equality with the rest of Russian citizens”; yet … ”some dark forces drive Jewish youth into the craziness of political agitation. Why is that only a few political trials do not list Jews among defendants, and, importantly, among the most prominent defendants? … That and the common Jewish practice of evading military service are counterproductive for the cause of expanding the civil rights of Jews”; “one aspiring to achieve rights must prove beforehand his ability to fulfill the duties which come with those rights” and “avoid putting himself into an extremely unfavorable and dismal position with respect to the interests of state and society.”[ccxvii]

Yet, the Encyclopedia notes, “despite all this propaganda, bureaucratic circles were dominated by the idea that the Jewish Question could only be resolved through emancipation. For instance, in March 1881 a majority of the members of the Commission for Arranging the Jewish Way of Life tended to think that it was necessary to equalize the Jews in rights with the rest of the population.”[ccxviii] Raised during the two decades of Alexandrian reforms, the bureaucrats of that period were in many respects taken by the reforms’ triumphant advances. And so proposals quite radical and favorable to Jews were put forward on several occasions by Governors General of the regions constituting the Pale of Settlement.

Let’s not overlook the new initiatives of the influential Sir Moses Montefiore, who paid another visit to Russia in 1872; and the pressure of both Benjamin Disraeli and Bismarck on Russian State Chancellor Gorchakov at the Berlin Congress of 1878. Gorchakov had to uneasily explain that Russia was not in the least against religious freedom and did grant it fully, but “religious freedom should not be confused with Jews having equal political and civil rights.”[ccxix]

Yet the situation in Russia developed toward emancipation. And when in 1880 the Count Loris-Melikov was made the Minister of the Interior with exceptional powers, the hopes of Russian Jews for emancipation had become really great and well-founded. Emancipation seemed impending and inevitable.

And at this very moment the members of Narodnaya Volya assassinated Alexander II, thus destroying in the bud many liberal developments in Russia, among them the hopes for full Jewish civil equality.

Sliozberg noted that the Tsar was killed on the eve of Purim. After a series of attempts, the Jews were not surprised at this coincidence, but they became restless about the future.[ccxx]

[i] Evreyskaya Entsiklopediya [The Jewish Encyclopedia] (henceforth—EE [JE] ): V 16 T. Sankt-St. Petersburg.: Obshchestvo dlya Nauchnikh Evreyskikh Izdaniy i Izd-vo Brokrauz-Efron [Society for Scientific Jewish Publications and Brokrauz-Efron Publishing House], 1906-1913. T 13, p. 373-374.

[ii] EE* [JE], T 3, p. 163.

[iii] Ibid. T 11, p. 698; Yu Gessen*. Istoriya evreyskogo naroda v Rossii [History of the Jewish People in Russia] (henceforth—Yu. Gessen): V 2 T. L., 1925-1927. T 2, p. 160.

[iv] Kratkaya Evreyskaya Entsiklopedia [The Short Jewish Encyclopedia] (henceforth KEE [SJE] ): [V 10 T.] Jerusalem, 1976-2001. T 4, p. 79.

[v] Yu. Gessen. T 2, p. 183.

[vi] M. Kovalevskiy*. Ravnopravie evreyev i ego vragi [Jewish Equal Rights and its Opponents] // Shchit: Literaturniy sbornik [Shchit: A Literary Anthology] / Under the Editorship of L. Andreyev, M Gor’kiy, and F. Sologub. 3rd Edition., dop. M.: Russkoe Obshchestvo dly izucheniya evreyskoy zhizni [Russian Society for the Study of Jewish Life], 1916, p. 117-118.

[vii] EE [JE], T 1, p. 812-813.

[viii] Ibid. p. 808.

[ix] Ibid. p. 814-815; Yu Gessen*, T 2, p. 147-148.

[x] Yu Gessen, T 2, p. 163.

[xi] Yu Gessen, T 2, p. 164.

[xii] Ibid. p. 161-162.

[xiii] I. Orshanskiy. Evrei v Rossii: Ocherki i issledovaniya [The Jews in Russia: Essays and Research]. Vip. 1 (henceforth—I. Orshanskiy). Sankt-St. Petersburg., 1872, p. 10-11.

[xiv] V.N. Nikitin. Evrei zemledel’tsi: Istoricheskoe, zakonodatel’noe, administrativnoe i bitovoe polozhenie kolonii co vremeni ikh vozniknoveniya do nashikh dney 1807-1887 [ Jewish Farmers: the Historical, Legal, Administrative, and Everyday Condition of the Colonies, from the Time of Their Origin to Our Days. 1807-1887]. (henceforth—V.N. Nikitin). Sankt-St. Petersburg, 1887, p. 557.

[xv] EE [JE], T 5, p. 610-611.

[xvi] Ibid. T 13, p. 663.

[xvii] Ibid*, T 5, p. 622.

[xviii] Yu. Larin. Evrei i antisemitizm v SSSR [The Jews and Anti-Semitism in the USSR]. Moscow; Leningrad: GIZ, 1929, p. 49.

[xix] I. Orshanskiy, p. 193.

[xx] G.B. Sliozberg. Dela minuvshikh dney: Zapiski russkogo evreya [Affairs of the Past: the Notes of a Russian Jew] (henceforth—G.B. Sliozberg): V 3 T. Paris, 1933-1934. T 1, p. 95.

[xxi] EE*, T 11, p. 495.

[xxii] L. Deych. Rol’ evreyev v russkom revolyutsionnom dvizhenii [The Role of the Jews in the Russian Revolutionary Movement]. T 1. Second Edition. Moscow,; Leningrad.: GIZ, 1925, p. 14, 21-22.

[xxiii] Ibid. p. 28.

[xxiv] A.A. Gal’denveyzer. Pravovoe polozhenie evreyev v Rossii // [Sb.] Kniga o russkom evreystve: Ot 1860-kh godov do Revolyutsii 1917g [The Legal Position of the Jews in Russia // [Anthology] The Book of Russian Jewry: from the 1860s to the Revolution of 1917]. (henceforth—KRE-1). New York: Soyuz Russkikh Evreyev [Union of Russian Jews], 1960, p. 119.

[xxv] Yu Gessen. T 2, p. 143.

[xxvi] EE [JE], T 1, p. 813.

[xxvii] Yu. Gessen*, T 2, p. 144-145; EE [JE] T 1, p. 813.

[xxviii] Yu Gessen, T 2, p. 158.

[xxix] Yu Gessen, T 2, p. 144, 154-155.

[xxx] EE [JE], T 1, p. 817.

[xxxi] KEE [SJE], T 4, p. 255.

[xxxii] Sm.: M. Kovalevskiy // Shchit, p. 118.

[xxxiii] EE [JE], T 1, p. 818; T 11, p. 458-459; T 14, p. 841.

[xxxiv] Yu Gessen, T 2, p. 150.

[xxxv] Ibid*, p. 148.

[xxxvi] Ibid, p. 150.

[xxxvii] Ibid. p. 169.

[xxxviii] Yu Gessen, T 2, p. 208.

[xxxix] EE [JE], T 15, p. 209; T 1, p. 824.

[xl] Perezhitoe: Sbornik, posvyashchenniy obshchestvennoy i kul’turnoy istorii evreyev v Rossii [Past Experiences: An Anthology Dedicated to the Social and Cultural History of the Jews in Russia]. T 2, Sankt-St. Petersburg, 1910, p. 102.

[xli] G.B. Sliozberg, T 1, p. 137.

[xlii] KEE [SJE], T 7, p. 327.

[xliii] EE [JE], T 1, p. 819.

[xliv] Also, T 13, p. 943-944.

[xlv] I.M. Trotskiy. Samodeyatel’nost i samopomoshch’ evreyev v Rossii [The Individual Initiative and Self-Help of the Jews in Russia] (OPE, ORT, EKO, OZE, EKOPO) // KRE-1, p. 471.

[xlvi] Yu. Gessen. T 2, p. 210.

[xlvii] EE [JE], T 13, p. 947; KEE [SJE], T 4, p. 770.

[xlviii] KEE [SJE], T 5, p. 473.

[xlix] Also, T 4, p. 255.

[l] Yu Gessen. T 2, p. 159-160, 210.

[li] Also, p. 159.

[lii] B.Ts. Dinur. Religiozno-natsional’niy oblik russkogo evreystva [The Religious-National Look of Russian Jewry] // KRE-1, p. 311-312.

[liii] EE [JE], T 12, p. 640.

[liv] Yu Gessen, T 2, p. 161.

[lv] Also.

[lvi] Also.

[lvii] Yu. Orshanskiy, p. 12.

[lviii] I. Orshanskiy, p. 1-15.

[lix] Yu. Gessen, T 2, p. 224-225.

[lx] EE [JE], T 3, p. 83-84.

[lxi] EE* [JE], T 7, p. 301-302.

[lxii] G.B. Sliozberg, T 2, p. 155-156.

[lxiii] EE [JE], T 3, p. 164.

[lxiv] I. Orshanskiy, p. 65-68.

[lxv] KEE [SJE], T 7, p. 332.

[lxvi] EE [JE], T 1, p. 824.

[lxvii] Also*, T 3, p. 164.

[lxviii] Also, T 1, p. 824; KEE [SJE], T 7, p. 332.

[lxix] Golos [The Voice], 1881, No46, 15 (27) February, p. 1.

[lxx] A. Shmakov. “Evreyskie” rechi [“Jewish” Questions]. Moscow, 1897, p. 101-103.

[lxxi] Entsiklopedicheskiy slovar’ [Encyclopedic Dictionary]: V 82 T. Sankt-St. Petersburg.: Brokgauz i Efron, 1890-1904. T 54, p. 86.

[lxxii] EE [JE], T 3, p. 164-167.

[lxxiii] G.B. Sliozberg, T 1, p. 116.

[lxxiv] V.N. Nikitin*, p. 448, 483, 529.

[lxxv] Also*, p 473, 490, 501, 506-507, 530-531, 537-538, 547-548, 667.

[lxxvi] Also, p. 474-475, 502, 547.

[lxxvii] V.N. Nikitin*, p. 502-505, 519, 542, 558, 632, 656, 667.

[lxxviii] Also*, p. 473, 510, 514, 529-533, 550, 572.

[lxxix] Also, p. 447, 647.

[lxxx] EE [JE], T 7, p. 756.

[lxxxi] V.N. Nikitin*, p. 478-479, 524, 529-533, 550-551.

[lxxxii] EE [JE], T 7, p. 756.

[lxxxiii] V.N. Nikitin, p. 534, 540, 555, 571, 611-616, 659.

[lxxxiv] V.N. Nikitin, p. 635, 660-666.

[lxxxv] Also*, p. 658-661.

[lxxxvi] EE [JE], T 7, p. 756.

[lxxxvii] Also, T 16, p. 399.

[lxxxviii] Also, T 2, p. 596.

[lxxxix] Also, T 5, p. 650.

[xc] Also, T 13, p. 606.

[xci] Also, T 5, p. 518; T 13, p. 808.

[xcii] Also, T 16, p. 251.

[xciii] Yu Larin. Evrei i antisemitizm v SSSR [The Jews and Antisemitism in the USSR], p. 36.

[xciv] V.N. Nikitin, p. xii-xiii.

[xcv] N.S. Leskov. Evrei v Rossii: Neskol’ko zamechaniy po evreyskomu voprosu [The Jews in Russia: Several Observations on the Jewish Question]. Pg., 1919 [reprint s izd. 1884], p. 61, 63.

[xcvi] L.N. Tolstoy o evreyakh / Predisl. O.Ya. Pergamenta [L.N. Tolstoy on the Jews / Foreword O.Ya. Pergamenta], Sankt-PeterburgSt. Petersburg.: Vremya [Time], 1908, p. 15.

[xcvii] EE [JE], T 15, p. 492.

[xcviii] I. Orshanskiy, p. 71-72, 95-98, 106-107, 158-160.

[xcix] EE [JE], T 13, p. 646.

[c] I.M. Dizhur. Evrei v ekonomicheskoy zhizni Rossii [The Jews in the Economic Life of Russia] // KRE-1, p. 168; EE [JE], T 13, p.662.

[ci] L. Deych. Rol’ evreyev…[The Role of the Jews..], T 1, p. 14-15.

[cii] EE [JE], T 13, p. 647, 656-658, 663-664; G.B. Sliozberg, T 3, p. 93; KEE [SJE], T 7, p. 337.

[ciii] M.A. Aldanov. Russkie evrei v 70-80-kh godakh: Istoricheskiy etyud [The Russian Jews in the 1870-1880s: An Historical Essay] // KRE-1, p. 45-46.

[civ] G.B. Sliozberg, T 1, p. 141-142.

[cv] KEE [SJE], T 7, p. 328, 331.

[cvi] EE [JE], T 7, p. 762.

[cvii] Yu. Gessen, T 2, p. 168.

[cviii] Also, p. 168.

[cix] Also, p. 206.

[cx] EE [JE], T 6, p. 712, 715-716.

[cxi] Also, T 13, p. 618.

[cxii] KRE-1, Predislovie [Foreword], p. iii-iv.

[cxiii] Y.L. Teytel’. Iz moey zhizni za 40 let [From My Life of 40 Years]. Paris: Y. Povolotskiy and Company, 1925, p. 15.

[cxiv] I.M. Trotskiy. Evrei v russkoy shkole [The Jews in Russian School] // KRE-1, p. 354.

[cxv] Yu. Gessen. T 2, p. 179.

[cxvi] L. Deych. Rol’ evreyev…, T 1, p. 14.

[cxvii] EE [JE]*, T 13, p. 48.

[cxviii] Also, p. 49.

[cxix] Yu. Gessen, T 2, p. 179.

[cxx] EE [JE], T 13, p. 48.

[cxxi] Yu. Gessen, T 2, p. 208

[cxxii] KEE [SJE], T 7, p. 333.

[cxxiii] M.A. Aldanov // KRE-1, p. 45.

[cxxiv] I.M. Trotskiy. Evrei v russkoy shkole [The Jews in Russian Schools] // KRE-1, p. 355-356.

[cxxv] EE [JE], T 13, p. 50.

[cxxvi] I.M. Trotskiy. Evrei v russkoy shkole [The Jews in Russian Schools] // KRE-1, p. 355-356.

[cxxvii] EE [JE], T 13, p. 618.

[cxxviii] G.Ya. Aronson. V bor’be za grazhdanskie i natsional’nie prava: Obshchestvennie techeniya v russkom evreystve [In the Struggle for Civil and National Rights: Social Currents in Russian Jewry] // KRE-1, p. 207.

[cxxix] Yu. Gessen. T 2, p. 178, 180.

[cxxx] Ya.G. Frumkin. Iz istorii russkogo evreystva: Vospominaniya, materiali, dokumenti [From the History of Russian Jewry: Memoirs, Materials, and Documents] // KRE-1, p. 51.

[cxxxi] Yu. Gessen, T 2, p. 180.

[cxxxii] EE [JE], T 1, p. 823.

[cxxxiii] Yu Gessen*, T 2, p. 205.

[cxxxiv] Also, p. 170.

[cxxxv] Also, p. 200-201.

[cxxxvi] KEE [JEE], T 1, p. 532.

[cxxxvii] Yu. Gessen, T 2, p. 200-201.

[cxxxviii] EE [JE], T 4, p. 918.

[cxxxix] KEE [SJE], T 1, p. 532.

[cxl] Rossiyskaya Evreyskaya Entsiklopediya [The Russian Jewish Encyclopedia] (henceforth REE). Moscow, 1994–…T 1, p. 164.

[cxli] Yu. Gessen. T 2, p. 200-201.

[cxlii] EE [JE], T 4, p. 918, 920.

[cxliii] KEE [SJE], T 1, p. 532.

[cxliv] REE [RJE], T 1, p. 164.

[cxlv] Yu. Gessen, T 2, p. 202.

[cxlvi] Also*, p. 202-203.

[cxlvii] S.M. Sliozberg. O russko-evreyskoy intelligentsia [On the Russo-Jewish Intelligentsia] // Evreyskiy mir: Ezhegodnik na 1939g. [Jewish World: Yearbook for 1939] (henceforth—EM-1 [JW-1]). Paris: Ob’edinenie russko-evreyskoy intelligentsia [Association of the Russo-Jewish Intelligentsia], p. 34.

[cxlviii] EE [JE], T 3, p. 334.

[cxlix] Yudl. Mark. Literatura na idish v Rossii [Literature in Yiddish in Russia] // KRE-1, p. 521; G.Ya. Aronson. Russko-Evreyskaya pechat’ [Russo-Jewish Press] // Also, p. 548.

[cl] B. Orlov. Ne te vi uchili alfaviti // Vremya i mi: Mezhdunarodniy zhurnal literature i obshchestvennikh problem (henceforth-VM). Tel’-Aviv, 1975, No1, p. 130.

[cli] M. Osherovich. Russkie evrei v Soedinennikh Shtatakh Ameriki [Russian Jews in the United States of America] // KRE-1, p. 289-290.

[clii] S.M. Sliozberg // EM-1, p. 35.

[cliii] G.Ya. Aronson*. V bor’be za…[In the Struggle for…] // KRE-1, p 210.

[cliv] S. Shvarts. Evrei v Sovetskom Soyuze c nachala Vtoroy mirovoy voyni. 1939-1965 [The Jews in the Soviet Union from the Start of the Second World War. 1939-1965]. New York: Amerikanskiy evreyskiy rabochiy komitet [American Jewish Workers Committee], 1966, p. 290.

[clv] I.M. Bikerman. K samopoznaniyu evreya: Chem mi bili, chem mi stali, chem mi dolzhni bit’. [What We Were, What We Became, and What We Should Be]. Paris, 1939, p. 48.

[clvi] K. Leytes. Pamyati M.A. Krolya [The Memoirs of M.A. Krol’] // Evreyskiy mir [Jewish World]: Anthology 2 (henceforth EM-2 [JW-2]). New York: Soyuz russkikh evreyev v N’yu Yorke [Union of Russian Jews in New York], 1944, p. 408-411.

[clvii] EE [JE], T 13, p. 59.

[clviii] I.M. Trotskiy. Samodeyatel’nost’…[Individual Initiative…] // KRE-1, p. 471-474.

[clix] Yu. Gessen, T 2, p. 172.

[clx] EE [JE]*, T 3, p. 335.

[clxi] Yu. Gessen, T 2, p. 170.

[clxii] Also, p. 171.

[clxiii] G.Ya. Aronson*. Russko-Evreyskaya pechat’ [Russo-Jewish Press] // KRE-1, p. 562.

[clxiv] S.M. Ginzburg* // EM-1 [JW-1], p. 36.

[clxv] Yu. Gessen*, T 2, p. 173.

[clxvi] Also*, p. 174.

[clxvii] Also, p. 174-175.

[clxviii] EE [JE], T 3, p. 480.

[clxix] M.A. Aldanov // KRE-1, p. 44.

[clxx] G.Ya. Aronson*. Russko-evreyskaya pechat’ [Russo-Jewish Press] // KRE-1, p. 558-561.

[clxxi] M. Krol’. Natsionalizm i assimilyatsiya v evreyskoy istorii [Nationalism and Assimilation in Jewish History] // EM-1 [JW-1], p. 188-189.

[clxxii] James Parkes. The Jew and his Neighbor: a Study of the Causes of anti-Semitism. Paris: YMCA-Press, 1932, p. 41.

[clxxiii] Yu Gessen, T 2, p. 198.

[clxxiv] Also.

[clxxv] Also, p. 177.

[clxxvi] EE [JE], T 13, p. 638.

[clxxvii] G.Ya. Aronson. Russko-Evreyskaya pechat’ [Russo-Jewish Press] // KRE-1, p. 551.

[clxxviii] KEE [SJE], T 6, p. 117.

[clxxix] Also, p. 117-118.

[clxxx] Also, p. 118.

[clxxxi] K. Itskovich. Odessa-khlebniy gorod [Odessa—City of Bread] // Novoe russkoe slovo [The New Russian Word], New York, 1984, 21 March, p. 6.

[clxxxii] EE [JE], T 3, p. 334-335.

[clxxxiii] Also*, T 13, p. 638.

[clxxxiv] G.Ya. Aronson. V bor’be za…[In the Struggle for…] // KRE-1, p. 207.

[clxxxv] KEE [SJE], T 6, p. 692-693.

[clxxxvi] EE, T 11, p. 894.

[clxxxvii] KEE [SJE], T 2, p. 510.

[clxxxviii] V.S. Mandel’. Konservativnie i razrushitel’nie elemente v evreystve [Conservative and Destructive Elements in Jewry] // Rossiya i evrei: Sb. 1 [Russia and the Jews: Anthology 1 (henceforth—RiE [RandJ]) / Otechestvennoe obedinenie russkikh evreyev za granitsey [The Patriotic Union of Russian Jews Abroad]. Paris: YMCA-Press, 1978 [1st Publication—Berlin: Osnova, 1924], p. 195.

[clxxxix] I.M. Trotskiy. Evrei v russkoy shkole [The Jews in Russian Schools] // KRE-1, p. 356.

[cxc] V.S. Mandel’ // RiE [RandJ], p. 195.

[cxci] Ya. Teytel’. Iz moey zhizni…[From My Life…], p. 239.

[cxcii] See.: EE [JE], T 3, p. 335; and others.

[cxciii] Yu. Gessen, T 2, p. 208.

[cxciv] EE [JE], T 3, p. 335.

[cxcv] B. Orlov // VM, 1975, No1, p. 132.

[cxcvi] Yu. Gessen, T 2, p. 181.

[cxcvii] G.Ya. Aronson. V bor’be za…[In the Struggle for…] // KRE-1, p. 208-209.

[cxcviii] Yu. Gessen, T 2, p. 198-199.

[cxcix] EE [JE], T 3, p. 336.

[cc] Yu. Gessen, T 2, p. 232-233.

[cci] S.M. Ginzburg. Nastroeniya evreyskoy molodezhi v 80-kh godakh proshlogo stoletiya. // EM-2, p. 380.

[ccii] G.Ya. Aronson. Russko-evreyskaya pechat’ [Russo-Jewish Press] // KRE-1, p. 561-562.

[cciii] EE [JE], T 1, p. 932; KEE [SJE], T 1, p. 103.

[cciv] EE [JE], T 1, p. 945-950.

[ccv] Also, p. 948-950.

[ccvi] Also*, T 2, p. 742.

[ccvii] Also, T 1, p. 933-936.

[ccviii] EE [JE], T 1, p. 950-951; I.S. Aksakov. Soch. [Essays].: V7 T Moscow., 1886-1887. T 3, p. 843-844.

[ccix] EE [JE], T 2, p. 738.

[ccx] Also, p. 738-739.

[ccxi] Also, T 1, p. 948-949.

[ccxii] A.I. Denikin. Put’ russkogo ofitsera [The Path of a Russian Officer]. New York: Publisher-named-Chekov, 1953, p. 284.

[ccxiii] EE [JE], T 13, p. 50-51.

[ccxiv] G.Ya. Aronson. Russko-evreyskaya pechet’ [Russo-Jewish Press] // KRE-1, p. 558.

[ccxv] EE [JE], T 12, p. 525-526.

[ccxvi] EE [JE]*, T 2, p. 736, 740.

[ccxvii] Golos [The Voice], 1881, No46, 15 (27) February, p. 1.

[ccxviii] EE [JE], T 2, p. 740.

[ccxix] Also, T 4, p. 246, 594.

[ccxx] G.B. Sliozberg, T 1, p. 99.

 [KM1]The quote at the end needs one somewhere at the beginning to balance it.

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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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Chapter 17. Emigration between the two World Wars

As a result of the October coup and the subsequent Civil War, hundreds of thousands Russian citizens emigrated abroad, some retreating in battles, others simply fleeing. Among those emigrants were the entire surviving combat personnel of the White Army, and many Cossacks. They were joined by the old nobility, who were so strikingly passive during the fateful revolutionary years, although their wealth was precisely in land or estates. Many former landowners, who failed to take their valuables with them, upon arrival to Europe had to become taxi drivers or waiters. There were merchants, industrialists, financiers, quite a few of whom had money safely deposited abroad, and ordinary citizens too, of whom not all were well-educated, but who could not bear to stay under Bolshevism.

Many emigrants were Russian Jews. “Of more than 2 million emigrants from the Soviet republics in 1918-1922 more than 200,000 were Jews. Most of them crossed the Polish and Romanian borders, and later emigrated to the USA, Canada, and the countries of South America and Western Europe. Many repatriated to Palestine.”[1] The newly formed independent Poland played an important role. It had a large Jewish population of its own before the revolution, and now a part of those who left Poland during the war were returning there too. “Poles estimate that after the Bolshevik revolution” 200-300 thousand Jews “arrived in Poland from Russia.”[2] (This figure could be explained not only by increased emigration, but also by the re-arrangement of the Russian-Polish border). However “the majority of the Jews who left Russia in the first years after the revolution settled in Western Europe. For example, around 100,000 Russian Jews had gathered in Germany by the end of World War I.”[3]

“While Paris was, from the beginning, the political centre and unofficial capital of Russia-in-Exile., The second, so to say cultural capital of Russian emigration in Europe from the end of 1920 until the beginning of 1924, was Berlin (there was also an intense cultural life in the 1920s in the Russian quarters of Prague, which became … Russia-in-Exile’s main university city).”[4] It was “easier to settle” in Berlin because of inflation. “On the streets of Berlin” you could see “former major industrialists and merchants, bankers and manufacturers,”[5] and many émigrés had capital there. Compared to other emigrants from Russia, Jewish emigrants had fewer problems with integration into the Diaspora life, and felt more confident there. Jewish emigrants were more active than Russians and generally avoided humiliating jobs. Mihkail Levitov, the commander of the Kornilov Regiment who had experienced all sorts of unskilled labour after emigration, told me: “Who paid us decently in Paris? Jews. Russian multi-millionaires treated their own miserably.”

Both in Berlin and in Paris “the Jewish intelligentsia was prominent – lawyers, book publishers, social and political activists, scholars, writers and journalists”[6]; many of them were deeply assimilated, while Russian emigrants “from the capitals [Moscow and St. Petersburg]” mostly had liberal opinions which facilitated mutual amity between the two groups (unlike the feeling between Jews and the Russian monarchist emigrants). The influence of Russian Jews in the entire cultural atmosphere of Russia-in-Exile between the two world wars was more than palpable. (Here it is proper to mention a very interesting series of collections, Jews in the Culture of Russia-in-Exile, published in Israel in 1990s and still continuing.[7]) Some Jewish families with a comfortable income opened Russian artistic salons, clearly demonstrating Jewish attachment to and immersion in Russian culture. There was a famously generous house of the Tsetlins in Paris. Many others, I. V. Gessen’s (in Berlin), I. I. Fondaminsky-Bunakov (tireless in his “endless, selfless cares for Russian culture abroad”[8]), Sofia Pregel, Sonya Delone, Alexander and Salomeia Galpern, were constantly engaged in the burdensome business of providing assistance for impoverished writers and artists. They helped many, and not just the famous, such as Bunin, Remizov, Balmont, Teffi, but also unknown young poets and painters. (However, this help did not extend to “White” and monarchist emigrants, with whom there was mutual antagonism). Overall, among all the emigrants, Russian Jews proved themselves the most active in all forms of cultural and social enterprise. This was so striking that it was reflected in Mihail Osorgin’s article, Russian Loneliness, printed in the Russian Zionist magazine Rassvet [Dawn], re-established abroad by V. Jabotinsky.

Osorgin wrote: “In Russia, there was not this ‘Russian loneliness’ neither in the social nor the revolutionary movement (I mean the depths and not just the surface); the most prominent figures who gave specific flavour to the whole movement … were Slavic Russians.” But after emigration “where there is a refined spirituality, where there is deep interest in thought and art, where the calibre of man is higher, there a Russian feels national loneliness; on the other hand, where there are more of his kin, he feels cultural solitude. I call this tragedy the Russian loneliness. I am not at all an anti-Semite, but I am primarily a Russian Slav… My people, Russians, are much closer to me in spirit, in language and speech, in their specific national strengths and weaknesses. For me, it is precious to have them as my fellow thinkers and peers, or perhaps it is just more comfortable and pleasant. Although I can respect the Jew, the Tatar, the Pole in the multi-ethnic and not at all “Russian” Russia, and recognise each as possessing the same right to Russia, our collective mother, as I have; yet I myself belong to the Russian group, to that spiritually influential group which has shaped the Russian culture.” But now “Russians abroad have faded and given up and surrendered the positions of power to another tribe’s energy. Jews adapt easier – and good for them! I am not envious, I am happy for them. I am equally willing to step aside and grant them the honour of leadership in various social movements and enterprises abroad…. But there is one area where this ‘Jewish empowerment’ strikes me at the heart – charity. I do not know who has more money and diamonds, rich Jews or rich Russians. But I know for certain that all large charitable organizations in Paris and Berlin can help poor Russian emigrants only because they collect the money needed from generous Jewry. My experience of organizing soireés, concerts, meetings with authors has proven that appealing to rich Russians is a pointless and humiliating waste of time…. Just to soften the tone of such an ‘anti-Semitic’ article, I will add that, in my opinion, the nationally-sensitive Jew can often mistake national sensitivity of a Slav for a spectre of anti-Semitism.”[9]

Osorgin’s article was accompanied by the editorial (most likely written by the editor-in-chief Jabotinsky based on the ideas expressed and with a similar style) to the effect that M.A. Osorgin “has no reason to fear that the reader of Rassvet would find anti-Semitic tendencies [in his article]. There was once a generation that shuddered at the word ‘Jew’ on the lips of a non-Jew. One of the foreign leaders of that generation said: ‘The best favour the major press can give us is to not mention us.’ He was listened to, and for a long time in progressive circles in Russia and Europe the word ‘Jew’ was regarded as an unprintable obscenity. Thank God, that time is over.” We can assure Osorgin “of our understanding and sympathy…. However, we disagree with him on one point. He gives too much importance to the role of Jews in charity among refugees. First, this prominent role is natural. Unlike Russians, we were learning the art of living in Diaspora for a long time…. But there is a deeper explanation…. We have received much that is precious from the Russian culture; we will use it even in our future independent national art…. We, Russian Jews, are in debt to Russian culture; we have not come close to repaying that debt. Those of us that do what they can to help it survive during these hard times are doing what is right and, we hope, will continue doing so.”[10]

However let us return to the years immediately after the revolution. “Political passions were still running high among Russian emigrants, and there was a desire to comprehend what had happened in Russia. Newspapers, magazines, book publishers sprung up.”[11] Some rich men, usually Jews, financed this new liberal and more left-of-center Russian emigrant press. There were many Jews among journalists, newspaper and magazine editors, book publishers. A detailed record of their contribution can be found in The Book of Russian Jewry (now also in Jews in the Culture of Russia-in-Exile).

Of significant historical value among these are the twenty two volumes of I. V. Gessen’s Archive of the Russian Revolution. Gessen himself, along with A. I. Kaminkov and V. D. Nabokov (and G. A. Landau after the latter’s death), published a prominent Berlin newspaper Rul [Steering Wheel], “a kind of emigrant version of Rech [Speech],” but unlike Milyukov’s brainchild, Josef Gessen’s position was consistently patriotic. Rul often published articles by G. A. Landau and I. O. Levin, whom I have amply cited, and also articles by the famous literary critic U. I. Aikhenvald. The political spectrum of Berlin papers ranged from Rul on the right to the socialists on the left. A. F. Kerensky published Dni [Days], which provided a platform for such personalities as A. M. Kulisher-Yunius (author “of a number of sociological works” and a Zionist from Jabotinsky’s circle), S. M. Soloveichik, the famous former Socialist Revolutionary O. C. Minor (he also wrote for the Prague Volya Rossii [Russia’s Will]), and the former secretary of the Constituent Assembly M. V. Vishnyak. In 1921 U. O. Martov and R. A. Abramovich founded the Socialist Gerald in Berlin (it later moved to Paris and then New York). F. I. Dan, D. U. Dalin, P. A. Garvi, and G. Y. Aranson worked on it among others.

V. E. Jabotinsky, whose arrival in Berlin (after three years in Jerusalem) coincided with the first wave of emigration, re-established Rassvet, first in Berlin and then in Paris, and also published his own novels. In addition “many Russian Jewish journalists lived in Berlin in 1920-1923, working in the local and international emigrant press.” There we could find I. M. Trotsky from the defunct Russkoe Slovo [Russian Word], N. M. Volkovyssky, P. I. Zvezdich (who died at the hands of Nazis during the World War II), the Menshevik S. O. Portugeis from the St. Petersburg Den [Day] (he wrote under the pseudonym S. Ivanovich), the playwriter Osip Dymov-Perelman, and the novelist V. Y. Iretsky.[12]

Berlin also became the capital of Russian book publishing: “In 1922 all these Russian publishers released more Russian books and publications than there were German books published in the whole of Germany. Most of these publishers and booksellers were Jewish.”[13] Most notable were the publishing houses of I. P. Ladyzhnikov, owned since the war by B. N. Rubinstein (classical, modern and popular scientific literature), of Z. I. Grzhebin (which had links to the Soviets, and so sold some of his works in the USSR), the publishing house, Word, established as early as 1919 and run by I. V. Gessen and A. I. Kaminka (collections of Russian classics, emigrant writers and philosophers, valuable historical and biographical works), and the artistically superb issues of Zhar-Ptitsa run by A. E. Kogan. Also there was Edges of A. Tsatskis, Petropolis of Y. N. Blokh, Obelisk of A. S. Kagan, Helicon of A.G. Vishnyak, and Scythians of I. Shteinberg. S. Dubnov’s World History of the Jewish People was also published in Berlin in ten German volumes, and during the 1930s in Russian in Riga.

Riga and other cities in the once again independent Baltic countries (with their substantial Jewish populations) became major destinations of Jewish emigration. Moreover, “the only common language that Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians shared was Russian,” and so the Riga newspaper Segodnya [Today] (publishers Ya. I. Brams and B. Yu. Polyak) became “highly influential.”  “A large number of Russian-Jewish journalists” worked there: the editor M. I. Ganfman, and after his death M. S. Milrud; Segodnya Vecherom [Today Evening] was edited by B. I. Khariton (the latter two were arrested by the NKVD in 1940 and died in Soviet camps). V. Ziv, an economist, and M. K. Aizenshtadt (under the pen names of first Zheleznov, then Argus) wrote for the newspaper. Gershon Svet wrote from Berlin. Andrei Sedykh (Y. M. Tsvibak) was its Paris correspondent, Volkovyssky reported from Berlin, and L. M. Nemanov from Geneva.[14]

From the late 1920s, Berlin started to lose its position as the centre of emigrant culture because of the economic instability and the rise of Nazism. Rul had to close in 1931. Emigrants had dispersed with the “main wave going to France,” especially to Paris which was already a major centre of emigration.

In Paris the main emigrant newspaper was Poslednie Novosti [Breaking News], founded “ at the beginning of 1920 by the St. Petersburg barrister M. L. Goldstein. It was financed by M. S. Zalshupin,” and in a year the newspaper was bought by “P. N. Milyukov…. While it was in a precarious position, the paper was significantly financially supported by M. M. Vinaver.” “Milyukov’s right hand” was A. A. Polyakov. Editorials and political articles were written by Kulisher-Yunius (who was arrested in 1942 in France and died in a concentration camp). The international news section was run by M. Yu. Berkhin-Benedictov, an acquaintance of Jabotinsky.  The staff included the acerbic publicist S. L. Polyakov-Litovtsev (who had only learnt “to speak and write Russian at fifteen”), B. S. Mirkin-Getsevich (who wrote as Boris Mirsky), the noted Kadet [Constitutional Democrat] publicist Pyotr Ryss and others. Poslednie Novosti published the satirical articles of I. V. Dioneo-Shklovsky and the popular science of Yu. Delevsky (Ya. L. Yudelevsky). The best humorists were V. Azov (V. A. Ashkenazi), Sasha Cherny (A. M. Gliksberg), the “king of humour” Don-Aminado (Shpolyansky). Poslednie Novosti had the widest circulation of all emigrant newspapers.[15] Shulgin called it “the citadel of political Jewishness and philo-Semitic Russians.”[16] Sedykh regarded this opinion as an “obvious exaggeration.” The political tension around the paper also stemmed from the fact that immediately after the Civil War it was dedicated to “disclosure” and sometimes outright condemnation of the Volunteer Army. Sedykh noted that in Paris “there was not only a political divide, but also a national one”; “Milyukov’s editorial team included many Russian-Jewish journalists,” while “Jewish names virtually never appeared on the pages of the right-wing Vozrozhdenie [Rebirth] (with the exception of I. M. Bikerman).[17] (Vozrozhdenie was founded later than the other papers and ceased operation in 1927, when its benefactor Gukasov fired the main editor P. B. Struve.)

The leading literary-political magazine Sovremennye Zapiski [Contemporary Notes], published in Paris from 1920 to 1940, was established and run by Socialist Revolutionaries, N. D. Avksentiev, I. I. Fondaminsky-Bunakov, V. V. Rudnev, M. V. Vishnyak and A. I. Gukovsky. Sedykh noted that “out of [its] five editors … three were Jews. In 70 volumes of the Sovremennye Zapiski we see fiction, articles on various topics and the memoirs of a large number of Jewish authors.” Illyustrirovannaya Rossia [Illustrated Russia] was published by the St. Petersburg journalist M. P. Mironov, and later by B. A. Gordon (earlier the owner of Priazovsky Krai).[18] Its weekly supplement “gave the readers 52 pieces of classic or contemporary emigrant literature each year.” (The literary emigrant world also included many prominent Russian Jews, such as Mark Aldanov, Semyon Yushkevich, the already mentioned Jabotinsky and Yuly Aikhenvald, M. O. Tsetlin (Amari). However, the topic of Russian emigrant literature cannot be examined in any detail here due to its immenseness.)

Here I would like to address the life of Ilya Fondaminsky (born in 1880). Himself from a prosperous merchant family and married in his youth to the granddaughter of the millionaire tea trader V. Y. Vysotsky, he nonetheless joined the Socialist Revolutionaries (SRs) and “sacrificed a large part of his wealth and his wife’s inheritance to the revolution”[19] by buying weaponry. He worked towards the outbreak of the All-Russian political strike in 1905 and during the uprising he served in the headquarters of the SRs. He emigrated from Russia to Paris in 1906, where he became close to D. Merezhkovsky and Z. Gippius and developed an interest in Christianity. He returned to St. Petersburg in April 1917. In the summer of 1917 he was the commissar of the Black Sea Fleet, and later a delegate in the Constituent Assembly, fleeing after it was disbanded. From 1919 he lived in Paris, France, during the period under discussion. He devoted much time and effort to Sovremennye Zapiski, including publication of a series of articles titled The Ways of Russia. He played an active role in emigrant cultural life and provided all possible support to Russian writers and poets. For a while he even managed to maintain a Russian theatre in Paris. “His passion, many-sidedness, energy and selflessness … were without parallel among emigrants.”[20] He estranged himself from the SRs and joined Christian Democrats. Along with the like-minded G. P. Fedotov and F. A. Stepun he began to publish the Christian Democratic Novy Grad [New City]. “He grew ever closer to Orthodoxy during these years.”[21] “In June 1940 he fled Paris from the advancing German forces,” but came back and was arrested in July1941and sent to Compiegne camp near Paris; “by some accounts, he converted to Christianity there. In 1942 he was deported to Auschwitz and killed.”[22]

Between 1920 and 1924, the most important forum for purely Jewish issues was the Paris weekly, Jewish Tribune, published in both French and Russian with the prominent participation of M. M. Vinaver and S. B. Pozner. It published articles by many of the aforementioned journalists from other newspapers.

Novoe Russkoe Slovo [New Russian Word] was founded in 1910 in the United States and added its voice from across the ocean. Its publisher from 1920 was V. I. Shimkin and the main editor (from 1922) was M. E. Veinbaum. Veinbaum remembered: “The newspaper was often criticised, and not without reason. But gradually it earned the reader’s confidence.”[23](Its masthead now proudly boasts: “the oldest Russian newspaper in the world”; it is even two years older than Pravda. All the others have died out at various times, for various reasons.)

Right-wing or nationalist Russian newspapers appeared in Sofia, Prague, and even Suvorin’s Novoe Vremya [New Times] continued in Belgrade as Vechernee Vremya [Evening Times], but they all either collapsed or withered away without leaving a lasting contribution. (The publisher of Rus in Sofia was killed.) The Paris Vozrozhdenie of Yu. Semenov “did not shirk from anti-Semitic outbursts”[24] (but not under Struve’s short reign).


Those who left soon after the Bolshevik victory could not even imagine the scale of inferno that broke out in Russia. It was impossible to believe in rumours. Testimonies from the White camp were mostly ignored. This changed when several Russian democratic journalists (the Constitutional Democrat (Kadet) A. V. Tyrkova-Williams, the socialist E. D. Kuskova (exiled from the USSR in 1922), and the escaped SR S. S. Maslov began to inform the stunned emigrant public about rapid growth of grass-root anti-Semitism in Soviet Russia: “Judeophobia is one of the most acrid features of modern Russia. Perhaps even the most acrid. Judeophobia is everywhere: North, South, East, and West. It is shared regardless of intellect, party membership, tribe, age…. Even some Jews share it.”[25]

These claims were at first met with suspicion by Jews who had emigrated earlier – what’s the reason for this anti-Semitism? The Jewish Tribune initially rejected these claims: “generally, Russian Jewry suffered from Bolshevism perhaps more than any other ethnic group in Russia”; as to the “familiar identification of Jews and commissars” – we all know that it is the work of the [anti-Semitic] “Black Hundreds.” The old view, that anti-Semitism resides not in the people but in Tsarism, began to transform into another, that the Russian people are themselves its carriers. Therefore, Bolsheviks should be credited for the suppression of popular “Black Hundred” attitudes in Russia. (Others began to excuse even their capitulation at Brest [at which Russia ceded large amounts of territory to the Kaiser’s German military]. The Jewish Tribune in 1924 dusted off even such argument: “the Russian revolution of 1917, when it reached Brest-Litovsk, prevented the much greater and more fateful betrayal planned by Tsarist Russia.”[26])

Yet the information was gradually confirmed; moreover, anti-Jewish sentiments spread over a large segment of Russian emigration. The Union for Russian Salvation (dedicated to crown prince Nikolai Nikolaevich) produced leaflets for distribution in the USSR in a manner like this: “To the Red Army. The Jews have ruled Great Russia for seven years….” “To Russian workers. You were assured that you would be the masters of the country; that it will be the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat.’ Where is it then? Who is in power in all the cities of the republic?” Of course, these leaflets did not reach the USSR, but they scared and offended Jewish emigrants.

S. Litovtsev wrote: “In the beginning of 1920s, anti-Semitism among emigrants became almost an illness, a sort of delirium tremens.”[27] But it was a broader attitude as many in Europe during the first years after the Bolshevik victory rejected and damned the Jews, so that “the identification of Bolshevism with Judaism became a widespread part of European thought. It is ridiculous to assert that it is only anti-Semites preach this social-political heresy.”[28] But could it be that the conclusions of Dr. Pasmanik were somehow premature? Yet this is what he wrote in 1922: “In the whole civilised world, among all nations and social classes and political parties, it is the established opinion now that Jews played the crucial role in the appearance and in all the manifestations of Bolshevism. Personal experience tells that this is the opinion not only of downright anti-Semites, but also … that representatives of the democratic public … reference these claims, i.e., to the role of Jews not only in Russian Bolshevism, but also in Hungary, Germany and everywhere else it has appeared. At the same time, the downright anti-Semites care little for truth. For them all Bolsheviks are Jews, and all Jews are Bolsheviks.”[29]

Bikerman wrote a year later: “Waves of Judeophobia now roll over nations and peoples, with no end in sight”; “not just in Bavaria or Hungary … not only in the nations formed from the ruins of the once great Russia … but also in countries separated from Russia by continents and oceans and untouched by the turmoil…. Japanese academics came to Germany to get acquainted with anti-Semitic literature: there is interest in us even on distant islands where almost no Jews live…. It is precisely Judeophobia – the fear of the Jew-destroyer. Russia’s miserable fate serves as the material evidence to frighten and enrage.”[30]

In the collective declaration To the Jews of the World! the authors warn: “Never have so many clouds gathered above the Jewish people.”[31]

Should we conclude that these authors exaggerated, that they were too sensitive? That they imagined a non-existent threat? Yet doesn’t the abovementioned warning about “anti-Semitic literature in Germany” sound very scary – in retrospect, from our historical perspective?

“The opinion that Jews created Bolshevism” was already so widespread in Europe (this was the “average opinion of French and English philistines,” Pasmanik notes) that it was supported even by Plekhanov’s son-in-law, George Bato, who claims in his book[32] that Jews are inherently revolutionaries: “as Judaism preaches an ideal of social justice on earth … it has to support revolution.” Pasmanik cites Bato: “Over the centuries … Jews have always been against the established order…. This does not mean that Jews carried out all revolutions, or that they were always the sole or even main instigators; they help the revolutions and participate in them”;  “One can responsibly claim, as many Russian patriots, often from very progressive circles, do, that Russia now agonizes under the power of Jewish dictatorship and Jewish terror”; “Impartial analysis of the worldwide situation shows the rebirth of anti-Semitism, not so much against Jews as individuals, as against the manifestations of the Jewish spirit.”[33] The Englishman Hilaire Belloc[34] similarly wrote about “the Jewish character of Bolshevik revolution,” or simply: “the Jewish revolution in Russia.” Pasmanik adds that “anyone who has lived in England recently knows that Belloc’s opinion is not marginal.” The books of both authors (Bato and Belloc) “are enormously popular with the public”; “journalists all over the world argue that all the destructive ideas of the past hundred years are spread by Jews, through precisely Judaism.”[35]

“We must defend ourselves,” Pasmanik writes, “because we cannot deny obvious facts…. We cannot just declare that the Jewish people are not to blame for the acts of this or that individual Jew…. Our goal … is not only an argument with anti-Semites, but also a struggle with Bolshevism … not only to parry blows, but to inflict them on those proclaiming the Kingdom of Ham…. To fight against Ham is the duty of Japheth and Shem, and of Helenes, and Hebrews.” Where should we look for the real roots of Bolshevism? “Bolshevism is primarily an anti-cultural force … it is both a Russian and a global problem, and not the machination of the notorious ‘Elders of Zion.’”[36]

The Jews acutely realized the need to “defend themselves” in part because the post-war Europe and America were flooded with Protocols of the Elders of Zion, suddenly and virtually instantly. These were five editions in England in 1920, several editions in both Germany and France; half a million copies in America were printed by Henry Ford. “The unheard-of success of the Protocols, which were translated into several languages, showed how much the Bolshevik revolution was believed to be Jewish.[37]” English researcher Norman Cohn wrote: “in the years immediately after the World War I, when the Protocols entered mainstream and thundered across the world, many otherwise entirely sensible people took them completely seriously.”[38] The London Times and Morning Post of that time vouched for their authenticity, although by August 1921 the Times published a series of articles from its Istanbul correspondent, Philipp Greaves, who sensationally demonstrated the extensive borrowing of the text in the Protocols from Maurice Jolie’s anti-Napoleon III pamphlets (The Dialogue in Hell between Machiavelli and Montesquieu, 1864). At that time the French police managed to confiscate every single copy of the infamous pamphlet.

The Protocols came to the West from a Russia overtaken by the Civil War.

A journalistic fraud produced in the early 20th century (in 1900 or 1901), the Protocols were first published in 1903 in St. Petersburg. The mastermind behind them is thought to be P. I. Rachkovsky, the 1884-1902 head of the Foreign Intelligence unit of the Police Department; their production is attributed to Matvei Golovinsky, a secret agent from 1892 and son of V. A. Golovinsky, who was a member of Petrashevsky Circle. [The latter was a Russian literary discussion group of progressive-minded commoner-intellectuals in St. Petersburg organized by Mikhail Petrashevsky, a follower of the French utopian socialist Charles Fourier. Among the members were writers, teachers, students, minor government officials, army officers. While differing in political views, most of them were opponents of the Tsarist autocracy and the Russian serfdom. Among those connected to the circle were writers Dostoyevsky]. (Still, new theories about the origin of the Protocols appear all the time). Although the Protocols were published and re-published in 1905, 1906, 1911, they had little success in pre-revolutionary Russia: “they did not find broad support in Russian society…. The Court did not give support to distribution either.”[39] After many failed attempts, the Protocols were finally presented to Nicholas II in 1906 and he was very impressed. His notes on the margins of the book included: “What a foresight!’, ‘What precise execution!’, “It is definitely them who orchestrated the [revolutionary] events of 1905!’, ‘There can be no doubt about their authenticity.’ But when the right-wing activists suggested using the Protocols for the defence of the monarchy, Prime Minister P. A. Stolypin ordered a secret investigation into their origins. It showed they were a definite fabrication. The monarch was shocked by Stolypin’s report, but wrote firmly: “remove the Protocols from circulation. You cannot defend a noble cause with dirty means.”[40] And since then “Russia’s rulers’ dismissal of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion came into force: no reference to the ‘Protocols’ was allowed … even during the Beilis Trial.”[41]

However “1918 changed everything for the Protocols.[42]” After the Bolsheviks seized power, after the murder of the royal family and the beginning of the Civil War, the popularity of the Protocols surged. They were printed and re-printed  by the OsvAg [White Army counter-intelligence agency in the South of Russia] in Novocherkassk, Kharkov, Rostov-on-Don, Omsk, Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, and were widely circulated among both the Volunteer Army and the population (and later Russian emigrants, especially in Sofia and Belgrade).

“After the Bolshevik victory the selling of Protocols was banned in Russia” and become a criminal offence, but “in Europe the Protocols brought in by the White emigration played an ominous role in the development of right-wing ideology, especially National Socialism in Germany.”[43]

Exposure of the Protocols as forgery, and general denial of identity between Bolsheviks and Jews constituted a major share of liberal emigrant journalism of the 1920s and 1930s. We see several prominent Russians there: Milyukov, Rodichev, Burtsev and Kartashev.

A.V. Kartashev, historian of religion, Orthodox theologian and at the same time, a public figure, wrote about the unacceptability of anti-Semitism for a Christian in the pre-revolutionary collection Shchit [Shield],[44] which I have often cited. In 1922, in emigration, he wrote the foreword to Yu. Delevsky’s book on the Protocols.[45] In 1937 Burtsev too asked him to write a foreword for his book. Kartashev wrote in it: “A man with common sense, good will and a little scientific discipline cannot even discuss the authenticity of this police and journalistic forgery, though certainly a talented forgery, able to infect the ignorant…. It’s unfair to continue supporting this obvious deceit after it has been so unambiguously exposed. Yet it is equally unfair to do the opposite, to exploit the easy victory over the Protocols authenticity to dismiss legitimate concerns…. A half-truth is a lie. The whole truth is that the Jewish question is posed before the world as one of the tragic questions of history. And it cannot be resolved either by savage pogroms, or by libel and lies, but only by honest and open efforts of all mankind. Pogroms and slander make a sensible and honest raising of the question more difficult, degrading it to outright stupidity and absurdity. They confuse the Jews themselves, who constantly emphasize their ‘oppressed innocence’ and expect from everybody else nothing but sympathy and some sort of obligatory Judeophilia.” Kartashev certainly regarded debunking of this “sensational apocrypha” as a “moral duty,” but also thought that “in washing out the dust of Protocols from the eyes of the ignorant, it is unacceptable to impair their vision anew by pretending that this obliterates the Jewish question itself.”[46]

Indeed, the “Jewish question” cannot be removed by either books or articles. Consider the new reality faced in the 1920s by Jews in the Baltic countries and Poland. In Baltics, although “Jews managed to maintain for a while their influential position in trade and industry”[47] they felt social pressure. “A good half of Russian Jewry lived in the newly independent states…. New states trumpet their nationalism all the louder the less secure they feel.”[48] There “Jews feel themselves besieged by a hostile, energetic and restless popular environment. One day, it is demanded that there be no more Jews percentage-wise in the institutions of higher learning than in the army … the next, the air of everyday life becomes so tense and stressful that Jews can no longer breathe…. In the self-determined nations, the war against Jews is waged by the society itself: by students, military, political parties, and ordinary people.” I. Bikerman concluded that “in leading the charge for self-determination, Jews were preparing the ground for their own oppression by virtue of higher dependence on the alien society.”[49] “The situation of Jews in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania is literally tragic. Yesterday’s oppressed are today’s oppressors, what is more – extremely uncouth oppressors, entirely unashamed of their lack of culture.”[50]

So it transpired “that the breakup of Russia also meant the breakup of Russian Jewry” as the history paradoxically showed that the Jews were better off in the united Russian Empire despite all the oppression. So now in these splintered border countries “Jews became the faithful guardians of the Russian language, Russian culture, impatiently waiting for the restoration of the great Russia. Schools that still teach in Russian became filled with Jewish children,” to the exclusion of learning the languages of the newly-formed states. “In these tiny countries, the Russian Jew, accustomed to life in the open swathes of a great empire, feels uncomfortable, squeezed and diminished in his social status, despite all the civil rights and autonomy…. Indeed our people’s fate is bound up with the fate of the great Russia.”[51]

Still, the position of Jewry in the circles of international post-war politics was strong, especially in Paris, and in particular regarding Zionism. “In July 1922 the League of Nations recognised the World Zionist Organization as the ‘Jewish Agency,’” which first and foremost represented the interests of Zionists, and secondly of non-Zionists, and also provided support to the European Jews.[52]

Bikerman accused the Zionists of seeing a “fragmented Russia … as an ideal. This is why the organization of Russian Zionists calls itself not Russian, but Russo-Ukrainian. This is why the Zionists and related Jewish groups so assiduously fraternized with the Ukrainian separatists.”[53]


After the Civil War, Soviet Russia sank into a heavy silence. From this point and for decades to follow, all independent voices were squashed and only the official line could be heard. And the less was heard from Russia, the louder was the voice of emigration. All of them, from anarchists to monarchists, looked back in pain and argued intensely: who and to what extent was to blame for what had happened?

Discussion developed within emigrant Jewry as well.

In 1923 Bikerman noted: “Jews answer everything with a familiar gesture and familiar words: we know, we’re to blame; whenever something goes wrong, you’ll look for a Jew and find one. Ninety percents of what is written in the contemporary Jewish press about Jews in Russia is just a paraphrase of this stereotype. And because it’s impossible that we’re always to blame for everything, Jews take from this the flattering and at first glance quite convenient conclusion that we’re always and everywhere in the right.”[54]

However, consider: “Before the revolution, the Jewish society passionately argued that a revolution would save the Jews, and we still ardently adhere to this position.” When the Jewish organizations gather resources in the West to aid their co-ethnics, suffering in the USSR, they “denounce, belittle, and slander everything about pre-revolutionary Russia, including the most positive and constructive things; See, “the Bolshevik Russia has now become the Promised Land,” egalitarian and socialist. Many Jews who emigrated from Russia settled in the United States, and “pro-Bolshevik attitudes spread quickly among them.”[55] The general Jewish mood was that Bolshevism was better than restoration of monarchy. It was widely believed “that the fall of Bolshevism in Russia would inevitably engender a new wave of bloody Jewish pogroms and mass extermination…. And it is on this basis that Bolshevism is preferred as the lesser evil.”[56]

Then, as if to confirm that Bolsheviks are changing for the better, that they can learn, the NEP came! They’ve loosened their suffocating grip on the economy, and that made them all the more acceptable. “First NEP, then some concessions – hopefully, it’ll all work out for us.”[57]

We cannot call the entire Jewish emigration pro-Bolshevik. Yet they did not see the Bolshevik state as their main enemy, and many still sympathized with it.

Yet a noteworthy incident, mockingly described in Izvestiya, happened to Goryansky, a Jewish emigrant writer.[58] In 1928, the already famous Babel (and already well-known for his links to the Cheka) was “temporarily residing” in Paris to muster creative inspiration. While in the Cafe Rotonda he noticed his “old acquaintance,” probably from Odessa, who magnanimously offered his hand to him: “Greetings, Goryansky.” But Goryansky stood up and contemptuously turned away from the offered hand.

Rise of Hitlerism in Germany naturally and for a long time reinforced the preference for Bolshevism in the social mind of the European Jewry.

The First International Jewish Congress took place in Vienna in August 1936. M. Vishnyak disapprovingly suggested that the collective attitude toward the Bolshevik regime was perfectly exemplified by the opinion of N. Goldman: if all sorts of freedom-loving governments and organizations “flatter and even fawn before the Bolsheviks … why shouldn’t supporters of Jewish ethnic and cultural independence follow the same path? … Only Moscow’s open support for anti-Jewish violence in Palestine slightly cooled the Congress leaders’ disposition toward the Soviet state. Even then … they only protested the banning of Hebrew … and the banning of emigration from the USSR to Palestine, and, finally, they objected to the continuing suffering of Zionists in political prisons and concentration camps. Here N. Goldman found both the necessary words and inspiration.”[59] In 1939 on the eve of the World War II, S. Ivanovich noted: “It cannot be denied that among emigrant Russian Jews” the mood was to “rely on the perseverance of the Soviet dictatorship” if only to prevent pogroms.[60]

What of Jewish Bolsheviks? I. Bikerman: “Prowess doesn’t taint – that is our attitude to Bolsheviks who were raised among us and to their satanic evil. Or the modern version: Jews have the right to have their own Bolsheviks”; “I have heard this declaration a thousand times”; at a meeting of Jewish emigrants in Berlin “one after the other, a respected Kadet, a Democrat, a Zionist ascended the podium” and each “proclaimed this right of Jews to have their own Bolsheviks … their right to monstrosity.”[61]

“Here are the consequences of these words: Jewish opinion across the world turned away from Russia and accepted the Bolsheviks”; “when a famous, old, and well respected Jewish public figure – a white crow – suggested to a high Jewish dignitary in one of the European capitals organizing a protest against the executions of Orthodox priests in Russia [i.e. in the USSR], the latter, after reflecting on the idea, said that it would mean struggling against Bolshevism, which he considers an impossible thing to do because the collapse of Bolshevik regime would lead to anti-Jewish pogroms.”[62]

But if they can live with Bolsheviks, what do they think of the White movement? When Josef Bikerman spoke in Berlin in November 1922 at the fifth anniversary of the founding of the White Army, Jewish society in general was offended and took this as a slight against them.

Meanwhile, Dr. D. S. Pasmanik (who fought on the German front until February 1917, then in the White Army until May 1919, when he left Russia) had already finished and in 1923 published in Paris his book Russian Revolution and Jewry: Bolshevism and Judaism (I cited it here), where he passionately argued against the commonplace explanation that Bolshevism originated from the Jewish religion. “The identification of Judaism with Bolshevism is a grave global danger.” In 1923, together with I. M. Bikerman, G. A. Landau, I. O. Levin, D. O. Linsky (also an ex-member of the White Army) and V. C. Mandel, Pasmanik founded the National Union of Russian Jews Abroad. This group published an appeal To the Jews of the World! in the same year, and soon after published a collection Russia and the Jews in Berlin.

Here is how they describe the task they undertook and their feelings. Pasmanik said: “The unspeakable pain of the Jew and the unending sorrow of the Russian citizen” motivated this work. “Because of the dark events of the recent years, it was difficult to find a balanced point of view on both Russian and Jewish questions. We … attempted to merge the interests of the renewed Russia and of the afflicted Russian Jewry.”[63] Linsky: “Unfathomed sorrow” dwells in the souls of those who “realize their Jewishness while similarly identifying as Russians.” It is much easier when “one of the two streams of your national consciousness dries up, leaving you only a Jew or only a Russian, thus simplifying your position toward Russia’s tragic experience….The villainous years of the revolution killed … the shoots of hope” for rapprochement between Jews and Russians that had appeared just before the war; now “we witness active … Russo-Jewish divergence.”[64] Levin: “It is our duty to honestly and objectively examine the causes of and the extent of Jewish involvement in the revolution. This … might have certain effect on future relations between Russians and Jews.”[65] The co-authors of the collection rightly warned Russians not to mix up the meaning of the February Revolution and Jewish involvement in it. Bikerman if anything minimised this involvement (the power balance between the Executive Committee of the Soviet of Soldiers’ and Workers’ Deputies and the Provisional Government was for the most part unclear to contemporaries). However he thought that after the October Bolshevik coup “the Jewish right to have their Bolsheviks implies a duty to have also their right-wingers and extreme right-wingers, the polar opposites of the Bolsheviks.”[66] Pasmanik: “In all its varieties and forms, Bolshevik communism … is an evil and true foe of Jewry, as it is first of all the enemy of personal identity in general and of cultural identity in particular.”[67] “Bound by a plethora of intimate connections to our motherland, to its political system, economy and culture, we cannot flourish while the country disintegrates around us.”[68]

Obviously, these authors were fully aware of the significance of the Russian catastrophe. In describing those years, I heavily relied on the work of these people with the hope that their bitter, but not at all “self-hating,” reflections can finally be understood and comprehended in their entirety.

Their 1923 Proclamation stated: “The National Union of Russian Jews Abroad firmly believes that the Bolsheviks epitomize the greatest evil for the Jews as well as for all other peoples of Russia…. It is time for the Jew to stop tremble at the thought of going against the revolution…. Rather, the Jew should fear going against his motherland [Russia] and his people [Jewish].”[69]

However, the authors of Russia and the Jews saw the Jewish national consciousness of the early 1920s as something very different from what they’ve thought it should have been. “Almost all circles and classes of Russian society are now engaged in grievous self-reflections, trying to comprehend what has happened….Whether these self-accusations and admissions of guilt are fair or not, they at least reveal the work of thought, conscience, and aching hearts…. But it would be no exaggeration to claim that such spiritual work is the least noticeable among the Jewish intelligentsia, which is no doubt a symptom of certain morbidity…. For an outsider it appears that a typical Jewish intellectual has no concerns.”[70] For this intellectual “everyone else is to blame – the government, the generals, the peasants, etc. He has nothing to do with all this…. In no way did he forge his own destiny and the destinies of those around him; he is just a passersby, hit on the head by a falling brick”; “so they were complicit in destroying [the world around them], but after it was finished they became unaware of their role in it.”[71]

Jewish Bolsheviks was a particular pain for the authors. “A sin that carries the seed of its own nemesis, … what greater affliction is there for a people than to see its sons debauched?”[72] “It is not just that the Russian upheaval needed people of a certain sort for its perpetuation, or that the Jewish society provided this sort of people; what is most important is that they were not rebuffed, did not meet enough opposition from within their own society.”[73] “It is our duty to shoulder the struggle specifically against the Jewish Bolsheviks, against all kinds of YevSeks [the ‘Jewish Section,’ the name given to officials appointed by the Soviets to deal with Jewish affairs], and against Jewish commissars in general.”[74]

It should be noted that these authors were not alone in arguing that Russian (and now emigrant) Jews should fight against the Bolsheviks. From the pages of the Jewish Tribune: “If Bolshevism was swept from power in Russia by a wave of popular wrath, Jewry might be held, in the eyes of the masses, responsible for prolonging Bolshevism’s lifespan…. Only active participation in the struggle to liquidate Bolshevism can secure Jews a safe position in the common cause of saving Russia.”[75]

Bikerman warned: if we support the Bolsheviks “on the principle that your own shirt is closer to the body” then “we should not forget that we thus allow the Russian to take care of his own shirt that is closer to his body; that it justifies the call, ‘Slaughter Yids, Save Russia.’”[76]

What of the Jewish attitudes toward the White Army? “This unworthy attitude that Jews have towards people who have taken upon their shoulders the endlessly difficult task of fighting for Russia, for the millions of the sheepish and weak-willed, points out to the complete moral disintegration, to a sort of perversion of mind….” While “all of us, Jews and non-Jews alike, placed ourselves obediently under the communist yoke and our backs under the whip, there were some Russians, courageous and proud, who overcame all obstacles, gathered from what remained of the breached and ripped apart fronts [of World War I], consolidated and raised the banner of resistance…. Just that they were willing to fight under these circumstances alone immortalizes them for the history. And these people became an object for abuse” on the side of so many Jews, “libeled by every loquacious tongue”; so “instead of appreciation the tragedy, we see epidemic mindlessness, endless laxity of speech, and triumphant superficiality.” And yet “the Russia for which the Whites fought is not alien to us; it is ‘our shirt’ too.”[77] “Jewry should have fought for the White cause as for the cause of Jewish salvation, for … only in the restoration and swift rescue of Russian statehood can Jews find salvation from that death that has never been as close as in these days.”[78]

(Death was indeed approaching, although from another direction).

Who would deny these conclusions today, after decades of Soviet regime? But at that time, only few authors, Jewish or Russian, could see so far ahead. The Jewish emigrant community as a whole rejected these thoughts. And thus they had failed the test of history. It might be objected that it did not cause Jewry a noticeable, significant harm, and certainly it was not the Holocaust brought by Hitlerism. Yes, it did not bring commeasurable physical harm, but, historically, its spiritual harm was noticeable; take, for instance, the success of Bolshevism in the expulsion of the Jewish religion from the country where it had once deeply spread its sacred roots. And there was more – the Jews, by “betting on Bolshevism” influenced the overall course of events in Europe.

The authors of the Russia and the Jews appealed in vain: “In the many centuries of Jewish dispersion … there has not been a political catastrophe as deeply threatening to our national existence as the breaking of the Russian Power, for never have the vital forces of the Jewish people been as united as in the bygone, living Russia. Even the breakup of the Caliphate can scarcely compare with the current disaster.”[79]For the united Russian Jewry the breakup of Russia into separate sovereign states is a national calamity.”[80] “If there is no place for the Jews in the great spaces of the Russian land, in the boundlessness of the Russian soul, then there is no space [for Jews] anywhere in the world…. Woe to us, if we do not wise up.”[81]

Of course, by the very end of the 20th century we can easily reject these grim prophecies, if only as a matter of fact – just as enough space has been found on earth for formerly Russian Jews, so a Jewish state has been founded and secured itself, while Russia still lies in ruin, so powerless and humiliated. The warnings of the authors on how Russia should be treated already appear a great exaggeration, a failed prophecy. And now we can reflect on these words only in regard of the spiritual chord that so unexpectedly bound the two our peoples together in History.

“If Russia is not our motherland, then we are foreigners and have no right to interfere in her national life.”[82] “Russia will survive; her renaissance must become our national concern, the concern of the entire … Russian Jewry.”[83] And in conclusion: “The fate of Russian Jewry is inextricably linked to the fate of Russia; we must save Russia, if we want to save Jewry …. The Jews must fight the molesters of the great country shoulder to shoulder with all other anti-Bolshevik forces; a consolidated struggle against the common enemy will heal the rifts and substantially reduce the current dramatic and ubiquitous growth of anti-Semitism; only by saving Russia, can we prevent a Jewish catastrophe.”[84]

Catastrophe! – this was said ten years before Hitler’s ascension to power, eighteen years before his stunning sweep across the USSR and before the start of his program of Jewish extermination. Would it have been possible for Hitler to preach hatred of “Jews and communists” in Germany so easily and successfully, to claim Jews and communists are the same, if the Jews were among the most prominent and persistent opponents of the Soviet regime? The spiritual search of the authors of Russia and the Jews led them to prophetically sense the shadow of the impending Jewish Catastrophe, though erring in its geographical origin and failing to predict other fateful developments. Yet their dreadful warning remained unheard.

I am not aware of anything else close to Russia and the Jews in the history of Russian-Jewish relations. It shook the Jewish emigration. Imagine how hurtful it was to hear such things coming from Jewish lips, from within Jewry itself.

On the part of Russians, we must learn a lesson from this story as well. We should take Russia and the Jews as an example of how to love our own people and at the same time be able to speak about our mistakes, and to do so mercilessly if necessary. And in doing that, we should never alienate or separate ourselves from our people. The surest path to social truth is for each to admit their own mistakes, from each, from every side.

Having devoted much time and thought to these authors (and having dragged the reader along with me), I would like here to leave a brief record of their lives.

Josef Menassievich Bikerman (1867-1942) came from a poor petty bourgeois family. He attended a cheder, then a yeshiva, provided for himself from the age of fifteen; educated himself under difficult circumstances. In 1903 he graduated from the historical-philological faculty of the Imperial Novorossiya University (after a two-year-exclusion gap for participation in student unrest). He opposed Zionism as, in his opinion, an illusory and reactionary idea. He called on Jews to unite, without relinquishing their spiritual identity, with progressive forces in Russia to fight for the good of the common motherland. His first article was a large tract on Zionism published in the Russkoe Bogatstvo [Russian Treasure] (1902, issue 7), which was noticed and debated even abroad. In 1905 he was deeply involved into the Liberation movement. He worked in several periodicals: Syn Otechestva [Son of the Fatherland], Russkoe Bogatstvo, Nash Den [Our day], Bodroe Slovo [Buoyant Word]. As an emigrant he was printed in the Paris Vozrozhdenie, when it was run by P. B. Struve.

Daniil Samoilovich Pasmanik (1869-1930) was a son of Melamed (a teacher in a cheder). In 1923 he graduated from the medical faculty of Zurich University and then practiced medicine in Bulgaria for seven years. In 1899-1905 he was the freelance lecturer in the medical faculty at Geneva University. He joined Zionist movement in 1900 and became one of its leading theorists and publicists. He returned to Russia in 1905 and passed the medical license exam. He participated in the struggle for civil rights for Jews; he opposed the Bund and worked on the program for Poale-Zion; in 1906-1917 he was a member of the Central Committee of the Russian Zionist organization. He was a member of editorial boards of Evreiskaya Zhizn [Jewish Life], and then of Rassvet. He wrote many articles for Evreisky Mir [Jewish World] and the Jewish Encyclopaedia. He published his medical works in specialized journals in German and French. Pasmanik was in Vienna when the WWI broke out in 1914, from where he with great difficulty managed to return to Russia; he joined the army and served in field hospitals until February 1917. He joined the Kadets after the February Revolution; he supported General Kornilov and the White movement; in 1918-1919 he was involved in the White government of the Crimea, was elected chairman of the Union of the Jewish Communities of the Crimea. In 1919 he emigrated from Russia to France. In 1920-1922 in Paris he together with V. L. Burtsev edited the White émigré newspaper Obshchee Delo [The Common Cause]. Overall, he authored hundreds of articles and tens of books; the most notable of them include Wandering Israel: The Psychology of Jewry in Dispersion (1910), Fates of the Jewish People: The Problems of Jewish Society (1917), The Russian Revolution and Jewry: Bolshevism and Judaism (1923) The Revolutionary Years in Crimea (1926), What Is Judaism? (French edition, 1930).

Isaak Osipovich Levin (1876-1944) was a historian and publicist. Before the revolution, he worked as a foreign affairs commentator for Russkie Vedomosti [Russian Journal] and for the P. B. Struve’s magazine, Russkaya Mysl [Russian Thought]. He emigrated first to Berlin. He was a member of the Russian Institute of Science, worked in the Rul, Russkie Zapiski and in the historical-literary almanac Na Chuzhoi Storone [In the Foreign Land]; he regularly gave presentations (in particular on the topic of the rise of German anti-Semitism). He moved to Paris in 1931 or 1932. He was widowed and lived in poverty. Among his works are Emigration during the French Revolution and a book in French about Mongolia. During the German occupation he registered according to his “racial origins” as was required by authorities; he was arrested in the early 1943, for a short time was held in a concentration camp near Paris, then deported; he died in a Nazi concentration camp in 1944.

Grigory (Gavriel) Adolfovich Landau (1877-1941) was son of the well-known publicist and publisher A. E. Landau. He graduated from the law faculty of the St. Petersburg University in 1902. He wrote for periodicals from 1903 (the newspapers Voskhod [Sunrise], Nash Den, Evreiskoe Obozrenie [Jewish Observer], the magazines Bodroe Slovo, Evreisky Mir, Vestnik Evropy [European Herald], Sovremennik, Severnye Zapiski [Northern Notes], the yearly almanac Logos). He was one of the founders of the Jewish Democratic Group in 1904 and the Union for Equal Rights for Jews in Russia in 1905. He was an outstanding Kadet, member of the Central Committee of the Kadet Party. In August 1917 he participated in the Government Conference in Moscow; from December 1917 he was a member of the Executive Committee of the Jewish Community of Petrograd. He emigrated to Germany in 1919; from 1922 to 1931he was I. V. Gessen’s deputy at Rul. Apart from Rul, he also wrote for the magazine, Russkaya Mysl, the weekly, Russia and the Slavs, the collection Chisla [Dates], etc. He often lectured at émigré evenings (in 1927 in the talk titled The Eurasian Delusion he criticised “eurasianism” as the movement contrary to the values of Russian history and leading to ideological Bolshevism). From Nazi Germany he fled for Latvia, where he worked for the Riga newspaper Segodnya [Today]. He was arrested by the NKVD in June 1941 and died in the Usollag camp (near Solikamsk) in November.[85] Among his works the most influential were Clownish Culture (in Nash Den, 1908), the article Twilight of Europe (Severnye Zapiski, 1914, issue 12), which antedated “much of what would later bestow worldwide fame on Oswald Spengler”[86] (and later a book with the same title (Berlin, 1923)), Polish-Jewish Relations (1915), On Overcoming Evil (in the collection book The Works of Russian Scholars Abroad, Berlin, 1923), The Byzantine and the Hebrew (Russkaya Mysl, 1923, issues 1 and 2), Theses Against Dostoevsky (Chisla, volume 6, Paris, 1932), Epigraphs (Berlin, 1927). Much of what he wrote was dismissed by contemporaries. He was too conservative in spirit to be accepted by progressive public. He was a sagacious thinker.

We could not find any substantial information about D. O. Linsky (he served in the White Army during the Civil War) or V. C. Mandel (active participant in Russian political life 1907-1918, he emigrated to Berlin and died in 1931).


In Russia and the Jews the behavior of Jewish emigrants during 1920s was explicitly and harshly admonished. The authors called on their co-ethnics to “admit their own mistakes and not to judge the Great Russia in which they had lived and which they had made a home for hundreds of years”; “remember how they demanded justice for themselves and how upset they are when they are collectively accused for the acts of some individuals”[87]; Jews should not be afraid “to acknowledge some responsibility for all that has happened.”[88] “First of all we must determine precisely our share of responsibility and so counter anti-Semitic slander….This is absolutely not about becoming accustomed to anti-Semitism, as claimed by some Jewish demagogues…. This admission is vital for us, it is our moral duty.”[89] “Jewry has to pick righteous path worthy of the great wisdom of our religious teachings which will lead us to brotherly reconciliation with the Russian people…. to build the Russian house and the Jewish home so they might stand for centuries to come.”[90]

But “we spread storms and thunder and expect to be cradled by gentle zephyrs…. I know you will shriek that I am justifying pogroms! … I know how much these people are worth, who think themselves salt of the earth, the arbiters of fate, and at the very least the beacons of Israel…. They, whose every whisper is about Black Hundreds and Black Hundreders, they themselves are dark people, their essence is black, viri obscure indeed, they were never able to comprehend … the power of creativity in human history….” It is imperative for us “to make less of a display of our pain, to shout less about our losses. It is time we understood that crying and wailing … is mostly [evidence] of emotional infirmity, of a lack of culture of the soul…. You are not alone in this world, and your sorrow cannot fill the entire universe … when you put on a display only your own grief, only your own pain it shows … disrespect to others’ grief, to others’ sufferings.”[91]

It could have been said today, and to all of us.

These words cannot be obviated either by the millions lost in the prisons and camps of the GULag, nor by the millions exterminated in the Nazi death camps.

The lectures of the authors of Russia and the Jews at that year’s National Union of Jews “were met with great indignation” on the part of emigrant Jewry. “Even when explicitly or tacitly accepting the truth of the facts and the analysis, many expressed indignation or surprise that anyone dared to bring these into the open. See, it was not the right time to speak of Jews, to criticise them, to determine their revolutionary misdeeds and responsibility, when Jewry has just suffered so much and may suffer even more in the future.”[92] The collection’s authors “were almost declared ‘enemies of the [Jewish] people,’ the abetters of reaction and allies of the pogromists.”[93]

The Jewish Tribune replied them from Paris a few months later: “The question of ‘Jewish responsibility for the Russian revolution’ has hitherto only been posed by anti-Semites.” But now “there is a whole penitent and accusative movement,” apparently “we have to ‘not only blame others, but also admit our own faults’”; yet there is nothing new apart from “the same old boring ‘name counting’ [of Jews among Bolsheviks].” “Too late … did Mr. Landau come to love” “the old ‘statehood’”; “‘penitent’ Jews turned reactionaries”; their “words are incompatible with the dignity of the Jewish people … and are completely irresponsible.”[94] Especially offensive was this attempt to “separate the ‘popular’ anti-Semitism from the ‘official’ one”, attempting to prove that “the people, the society, the country – the entire populace hates the Jews and considers them the true culprit responsible for all national woes”; just like those who connived the pogroms, they repeat “the old canard about the ‘popular anger.’”[95] Sometimes it descended into the outright abuse: “this group of Berlin journalists and activists, which has nearly disappeared from the Jewish public life by now …  craves to put themselves into limelight again … and for that they could think of no better way than to attack their own compatriots, Russian Jews”; this “tiny group of loyalists Jews … are blinded by a desire to turn the wheel of history backwards,” they write “indecencies,” give “comical advice,” take on themselves the “ridiculous role of healers to cure national wounds.” They should remember that “sometimes it is better to stay quiet.”[96]

One sophisticated modern critic could find a better assessment for that collection than a “severe hysteria.” Both that attempt “and their later journey are genuine tragedies,” in his opinion, and he explains this tragedy as a “self-hatred complex.”[97]

Yet was Bikerman hateful when he wrote, on his “later tragic journey,” that: “The Jewish people … is not a sect, not an order, but a whole people, dispersed over the world but united in itself; it has raised up the banner of peaceful labour and has gathered around this banner, as around the symbol of godly order”?[98]

However it is not true that European or émigré Jews did not at all hark to such explanations or warnings. A similar discussion had taken place a little earlier, in 1922. In the re-established Zionist publication Rassvet the nationalist G. I. Shekhtman expressed his incomprehension at how the intelligentsia of other nationalities could be anything other than nationalistic. An intelligentsia is invariably connected to its own nationality and feels its pains. A Jew cannot be a “Russian democrat”, but naturally a “Jewish democrat.” “I do not recognise dual national or democratic loyalties.” And if the Russian intelligentsia “does not identify with its nationality” (Herzen), it is simply because until now it “has not had the opportunity or need to feel sharp pains over its national identity, to worry about it. But that has changed now.” Now the Russian intelligentsia “has to cast aside its aspirations to be a universal All-Russian intelligentsia, and instead to regard itself as the Great Russian democracy.[99]

It was difficult to counter. The gauntlet was picked up by P. N. Milyukov, though not very confidently. We remember (see Chapter 11) that back in 1909 he had also expressed horror at the unveiling of this stinging, unpleasant national question “who benefits?” But now this new awkward situation (and not a change in Milyukov’s views), when so many Russian intellectuals in emigration suddenly realized that they lost their Russia, forced Milyukov to amend his previous position. He replied to Shekhtman, though in a rather ambiguous manner and not in his own (highly popular) Poslednie Novosti, but in the Jewish Tribune with much smaller circulation, to the effect that a Russian Jew could and had to be a “Russian democrat.” Milyukov treaded carefully: “but when this demand … is fulfilled, and there appears a ‘new national face’ of Russian Democracy (the Great Russian),” well, wouldn’t Shekhtman be first to get scared at the prospect of “empowerment of ethnically conscious Great Russian Democracy with imperial ambitions.” Do we then need these phantoms? Is this what we wish to ruin our relations over?[100]

The émigrés lived in an atmosphere of not just verbal tension. There was a sensational murder trial in Paris in 1927 of a clock-maker Samuel Shvartsbard, who lost his whole family in the pogroms in Ukraine, and who killed Petliura with five bullets.[101] (Izvestiya sympathetically reported on the case and printed Shvartsbard’s portrait.[102]) The defence raised the stakes claiming that the murder was a justified revenge for Petliura’s pogroms: “The defendant wished and felt a duty to raise the issue of anti-Semitism before the world’s conscience.”[103] The defence called many witnesses to testify that during the Civil War Petliura had been personally responsible for pogroms in Ukraine. The prosecution suggested that the murder had been ordered by Cheka. “Shvartsbard, agitated, called out from his place: ‘[the witness] doesn’t want to admit that I acted as a Jew, and so claims I’m a Bolshevik.’”[104] Shvartsbard was acquitted by the French court. Denikin [a leading White general during the Civil War] was mentioned at that trial, and Shvartsbard’s lawyer proclaimed: “If you wish to bring Denikin to trial, I am with you”; “I would have defended the one who would have taken revenge upon Denikin with the same passionate commitment as I am here defending the man who had taken revenge upon Petliura.”[105] And as Denikin lived in Paris without guards, anyone wishing to take revenge upon him had an open road. However Denikin was never put on trial. (A similar murder happened later in Moscow in 1929, when Lazar Kolenberg shot the former White general Slashchev, [who after the Civil War returned to Russia and served in Soviet military], for doing nothing to stop pogroms in Nikolayev. “During the investigation, the accused was found to be mentally incompetent to stand trial and released.”[106]) During Shvartsbard’s trial the prosecutor drew a parallel to another notorious case (that of Boris Koverda): for Petliura had previously lived in Poland, but “you [speaking to Shvartsbard] did not attempt to kill him there, as you knew that in Poland you would be tried by military tribunal.”[107] In 1929, a young man, Boris Koverda, also “wishing to present a problem before the world’s conscience,” had killed the Bolshevik sadist Voikov; he was sentenced to ten years in jail and served his full term.

A White émigré from Revolutionary Terrorist Boris Savinkov’s group, Captain V. F. Klementiev, told me that in Warsaw at that time former Russian officers were abused as “White-Guard rascals” and that they were not served in Jewish-owned shops. Such was the hostility, and not just in Warsaw.

Russian émigrés all over Europe were flattened by scarcity, poverty, hardship, and they quickly tired of the showdown over “who is more to blame?” Anti-Jewish sentiments among them abated in the second half of the 1920s. During these years Vasily Shulgin wrote: “Are not our ‘visa ordeals’ remarkably similar to the oppression experienced by Jews in the Pale of Settlement? Aren’t our Nansen passports [internationally recognized identity cards first issued by the League of Nations to stateless refugees], which are a sort of wolf ticket obstructing movement, reminiscent of the ‘Jewish religion’ label, which we stamped in Jewish passports in Russia, thereby closing many doors to them? Do we not resort to all kinds of middleman jobs when we are unable to attain, because of our peculiar position, a civil servant post or a certain profession? … Are we not gradually learning to ‘work around’ laws that are inconvenient for us, precisely as Jews did with our laws, and for which we criticized them?”[108]

Yet during these same years anti-Jewish sentiments were on the rise in the USSR and were even reported in the Soviet press, causing distress among Jewish émigrés. So in May 1928 a public “debate on anti-Semitism” was organized in Paris among them. A report of it was placed in the Milyukov’s newspaper.[109] (Bikerman’s and Pasmanik’s group, already non-active, did not participate.)

The formal reason for the debate was “a strong rise of Judeophobia in Russia, a phenomenon that periodically occurs there.” The Socialist Revolutionary N. D. Avksentiev chaired the debate, and there were “more Russians than Jews” among the public. Mark Slonim explained that “the long oppressed Russian Jewry, having finally attained freedom, has dashed to secure formerly prohibited positions,” and this annoys Russians. “In essence, the past fatefully determined the present.” “Bad things” of the past (Tsarist times) “resulted in bad consequences.” S. Ivanovich stated that Jews were now tormented in the USSR, because it has become impossible to torment “the bourgeois” thanks to the NEP. But what is worrying is that the Russian intelligentsia in the USSR, although neutral on the Jewish question, now takes the liberty to think: good, “it will begin with anti-Semitism, and lead to the Russian freedom. What a dangerous and foolish illusion.”

Such apologetic ideas outraged the next orator, V. Grosman: “It is as if Jewry stands accused!” The question needs to be considered more deeply: “There is no reason to distinguish Soviet anti-Semitism from the anti-Semitism of old Russia,” that is to say there is still the same Black Hundredism so dear to Russian hearts. “This is not a Jewish question, but a Russian one, a question of Russian culture.”

(But if it is so quintessentially Russian, entirely Russian, inherently Russian problem, then what can be done? What need then for a mutual dialogue?)

The author of the debate report, S. Litovtsev, regretted post factum that it was necessary to find for the debate “several honest people, brave enough to acknowledge their anti-Semitism and frankly explain why they are anti-Semites … Who would say simply, without evasiveness: ‘I don’t like this and that about Jews…’ Alongside there should have been several equally candid Jews who would say: ‘and we don’t like this and that about you…’ Rest assured, such an honest and open exchange of opinions, with goodwill and a desire for mutual comprehension, would be really beneficial for both Jews and Russians – and for Russia….”[110]

Shulgin replied to this: “Now, among Russian émigrés, surely one needs more bravery to declare oneself a philo-Semite.” He extended his answer into a whole book, inserting Litovtsev’s question into the title, What we don’t like about them.[111]

Shulgin’s book was regarded as anti-Semitic, and the proposed “interexchange of views” never took place. Anyway, the impending Catastrophe, coming from Germany, soon took the issue of any debate off the table.

A Union of Russian-Jewish Intelligentsia was created in Paris as if in the attempt to preserve a link between the two cultures. Yet it soon transpired that “life in exile had created a chasm between fathers and sons, and the latter no longer understand what a “Russian-Jewish intelligentsia” is.[112] So the fathers sadly acknowledged that “the Russian Jews, who used to lead global Jewry in spiritual art and in the nation building, now virtually quit the stage.”[113] Before the war, the Union had managed to publish only the first issue of collection Jewish world. During the war, those who could, fled across the ocean and untiringly created the Union of Russian Jews in New York City, and published the second issue of the Jewish World. In the 1960s, they published the Book of Russian Jewry in two volumes, about pre- and post-revolutionary Jewish life in Russia. The bygone life in the bygone Russia still attracted their minds.

In this work I cite all these books with gratitude and respect.

[1] Kratkaja Evreiskaja Entsiklopedija [The Short Jewish Encyclopedia (henceforth—SJE)]. Jerusalem, 1996. v. 8, p. 294.

[2] James Parkes. The Jew and his Neighbour: a Study of the Causes of Antisemitism. Paris: YMCA-Press, 1932, p. 44.

[3] D. Kharuv. Evreiskaja emigratsija iz Rossiiskoj imperii i Sovetskogo Sojuza: statisticheskij aspect [Jewish Emigration from the Russian Empire and Soviet Union: statistical aspect] // Russkoe evreistvo v zarubezhje: Statji, publikatsii, memuary i esse [Russian Jewry in Exile: Articles, Publications, Memoires, and Essays]. Jerusalem, 1998, v. 1 (6), p. 352.

[4] Gleb Struve. Russkaja literatura v izgnanii [Russian Literature in Exile]. The 2nd edition. Paris, YMCA-Press, 1984, p. 24.

[5] A. Sedykh. Russkie evrei v emigrantskoj literature [Russian Jews in the émigré Literature] // Kniga o russkom evrejstve: 1917-1967 [The Book of Russian Jewry: 1917-1967 (henceforth — BRJ-2)]. New York: Association of Russian Jews, 1968, p. 426-427.

[6] Ibid., p. 426.

[7] Evrei v culture Russkogo Zarubezhja: Statji, publikatsii, memuary i esse [Jews in the Culture of Russia-in-Exile: Articles, Publications, Memoires, and Essays]. In 5 volumes, Jerusalem, 1992-1996, complied by M. Parkhomovskij. See also Russkoe evreistvo v zarubezhje: Statji, publikatsii, memuary i esse [Russian Jewry in Exile: Articles, Publications, Memoires, and Essays]. Jerusalem, 1998, compiled and edited by M. Parkhomovskij.

[8] Roman Gul. Ya unes Rossiju [I Have Carried Russia with Me]. New York, Most, 1984, v. 2: Russia in France, p. 99.

[9] M. Osorgin. Russkoe odinochestvo [Russian Loneliness]. Publication of A. Razgon. // Jews in the Culture of Russia-in-Exile: Articles, Publications, Memoires, and Essays. V. 1, p. 15-17. (Reprinted from Rassvet. Paris, January 15, 1925 (7)).

[10] M. Osorgin. Russkoe odinochestvo [Russian Solitude]. // Jews in the Culture of Russia-in-Exile. V. 1, p. 18-19.

[11] A. Sedykh. Russkie evrei v emigrantskoj literature [Russian Jews in the émigré Literature] // BRJ-2, p. 427.

[12] Ibid., 429, 430.

[13] I. Levitan. Russkie izdatelstva v 20-kh gg. v Berline [Russian Publishing Houses in Berlin in 1920s]. // BRJ-2, p. 448.

[14] A. Sedykh. Russkie evrei v emigrantskoj literature [Russian Jews in the émigré Literature] // BRJ-2, p. 431, 432.

[15] Ibid., p. 431, 432-434.

[16] V. V. Shulgin. “Chto nam v nikh ne nravitsya…: ob antisemitizme v Rossii” [What we don’t like about them: on Anti-Semitism in Russia (henceforth – V. V. Shulgin]. Paris, 1929, p. 210.

[17] A. Sedykh. Russkie evrei v emigrantskoj literature [Russian Jews in the émigré Literature] // BRJ-2, p. 432, 434.

[18] Ibid., p. 435-436.

[19] SJE, v.9, p. 253.

[20] Roman Gul. Ya unes Rossiju [I Have Carried Russia with Me]. New York, Most, 1984, v. 2: Russia in France, p. 100.

[21] Gleb Struve. Russkaja literatura v izgnanii [Russian Literature in Exile]. The 2nd edition. Paris, YMCA-Press, 1984, p. 230.

[22] SJE, v.9, p. 255.

[23] A. Sedykh. Russkie evrei v emigrantskoj literature [Russian Jews in the émigré Literature] // BRJ-2, p. 443.

[24] Ibid., p. 432.

[25] S. S. Moslov. Rossija posle chetyrekh let revolutsii [Russia After Four Years of Revolution]. Paris: Russkaya Pechat [Russian Press], 1922, v. 2, p. 37.

[26] B. Mirsky. Chernaja sotnya [The Black Hundred]. // Evreiskaja tribuna: Ezhenedelnik, posvyashchenny interesam russkikh evreev [The Jewish Tribune: A Weekly Dedicated to the Interests of Russian Jews]. Paris, February 1, 1924, p. 3.

[27] S. Litovtsev. Disput ob antisemitizme [Debate on Anti-Semitism]. // Poslednie Novosti, May 29, 1928, p. 2.

[28] D. S. Pasmanik. Russkaja revolutsia i evreistvo: (Bolshevism i iudaizm) [Russian Revolution and Jewry: Bolshevism and Judaism]. Paris, 1923, p. 9.

[29] Ibid.

[30] I. M. Bikerman. Rossija i russkoe evreistvo [Russia and Russian Jewry]. // 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. 11-12 [The 1st Edition: Berlin, Osnova, 1924].

[31] To the Jews of the World! // RJ, p. 6.

[32] Georges Batault. Leproblemejuif. Sedition, Paris, 1921.

[33] D. S. Pasmanik. Russkaja revolutsia i evreistvo: (Bolshevism i iudaizm) [Russian Revolution and Jewry: Bolshevism and Judaism]. Paris, 1923, p. 15-16, 95.

[34] Hilaire Belloc. The Jews. London, 1922.

[35] D. S. Pasmanik. Russkaja revolutsia i evreistvo: (Bolshevism i iudaizm) [Russian Revolution and Jewry: Bolshevism and Judaism]. Paris, 1923, p. 16, 78.

[36] Ibid., p. 11-13.

[37] M. Daursky. Ideologiya national-bolshevizma [Ideology of National Bolshevism]. Paris. YMCA-Press, 1980, p. 195.

[38] Norman Cohn. Warrant for Genocide: The Myth of the Jewish World Conspiracy and the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. Russian translation. Moscow, Progress, 1990, p. 24

[39] SJE, v.6, p. 846.

[40] This information was obtained by V. L. Burtsev in 1934 from General K. I. Globachev, the former head of St. Petersburg Guard Department (from February 1915 until March 1917). Burtsev published this information in 1938 in Paris in his study of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. See V. L. Burtsev. V pogone za provokatorami. “Protokoly sionskikh mudretsov” – dokazanny podlog [Chasing the Provocateurs. Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a proven forgery]. Foreword by Yu. V. Davydov, annotation by L. G. Aronov. Moscow, 1991.

[41] SJE, v.6, p. 847.

[42] Ibid.

[43] SJE, v.6, p. 848.

[44] A. V. Kartashev. Izbrannye i pomilovannye [The Chosen and the Pardoned]. // Sheet: Literaturny sbornik [Shield: Literary Collection]. Edited by L. Andreev, M. Gorky and F. Sologub. The 3rd Enlarged Edition. Moscow, Russian Society on Study of Jewish Life, 1916, p. 110-115.

[45] Yu. Delevsky. Protokoly sionskikh mudretsov: istorija odnogo podloga [Protocols of the Elders of Zion: the History of a Forgery]. Berlin, 1923.

[46] State Archive of the Russian Federation, fonds 5802, catalog 1, file 31, p. 417-421. The foreword by A. V. Kartashev was not published by V. L. Burtsev in 1938 but was preserved among his papers. We discovered the fact of existence of this foreword from the article of O. Budnitsky “Evreiskij vopros” v emigranskoj publitsistike 1920-1930-kh [“The Jewish Question” in Emigrant Journalism of 1920-1930s]. // Evrei i russkaja revolutsia: Materialy i issledovanija [Jews and the Russian Revolution: Materials and Studies]. Edited by O. V. Budnitsky; Moscow, Jerusalem. Gesharim, 1999.

[47] I. Gar. Evrei v Pribaltijskikh stranakh pod nemetskoj okkupatsiej [Jews in the Baltic countries under German Occupation]. // BRJ-2, p. 95.

[48] To the Jews of the World! // RJ, p. 6.

[49] I. M. Bikerman. Rossija i russkoe evreistvo [Russia and Russian Jewry]. // RJ, p. 87-89.

[50] D. S. Pasmanik. Chego zhe my dobivaemsya [What Do We Want to Achieve?]. // RJ, p. 219.

[51] I. M. Bikerman. Rossija i russkoe evreistvo [Russia and Russian Jewry]. // RJ, p. 84, 89.

[52] SJE, v.7, p. 890.

[53] I. M. Bikerman. Rossija i russkoe evreistvo [Russia and Russian Jewry]. // RJ, p. 40.

[54] Ibid., p. 12.

[55] Ibid., p. 47, 48, 72.

[56] Yu. Delevsky. Menshee li zlo bolsheviki? [Are Bolsheviks the Lesser Evil?] // The Jewish Tribune, September 19, 1922, p. 2.

[57] D. S. Pasmanik. Chego zhe my dobivaemsya [What Do We Want to Achieve?]. // RJ, p. 221.

[58] G. Ryklin. Sluchai s babelem [An Incident with Babel]. // Izvestiya, March 16, 1928, p. 5.

[59] Poslednie Novosti. August 13, 1936.

[60] S. Ivanovich. Evrei i sovetskaya diktatura [Jews and the Soviet Dictatorship]. //

[61] I. M. Bikerman. Rossija i russkoe evreistvo [Russia and Russian Jewry]. // RJ, p. 23-24.

[62] Ibid., p. 54-55.

[63] D. S. Pasmanik. Russkaja revolutsia i evreistvo: (Bolshevism i iudaizm) [Russian Revolution and Jewry: Bolshevism and Judaism]. Paris, 1923, p. 7, 14.

[64] D. O. Linsky. O natsionalnom samosoznanii russkogo evreja [On the National Consciousness of the Russian Jew]. // RJ, p. 141, 144-145.

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

[66] I. M. Bikerman. Rossija i russkoe evreistvo [Russia and Russian Jewry]. // RJ, p. 24.

[67] D. S. Pasmanik. Chego zhe my dobivaemsya [What Do We Want to Achieve?]. // RJ, p. 215.

[68] To the Jews of the World! // RJ, p. 5.

[69] Ibid., p. 7-8.

[70] G. A. Landau. Revolutsionnye idei v evreiskoi obshchestvennosti [Revolutionary Ideas in Jewish Society]. // RJ, p. 100.

[71] Ibid., p. 104.

[72] To the Jews of the World! // RJ, p. 6.

[73] G. A. Landau. Revolutsionnye idei v evreiskoi obshchestvennosti [Revolutionary Ideas in Jewish Society]. // RJ, p. 118.

[74] D. S. Pasmanik. Chego zhe my dobivaemsya [What Do We Want to Achieve?]. // RJ, p. 225.

[75] Yu. Delevsky. Menshee li zlo bolsheviki? [Are Bolsheviks the Lesser Evil?] // The Jewish Tribune, September 19, 1922, p. 3.

[76] I. M. Bikerman. Rossija i russkoe evreistvo [Russia and Russian Jewry]. // RJ, p. 78.

[77] Ibid., p. 52, 53-54.

[78] D. O. Linsky. O natsionalnom samosoznanii russkogo evreja [On the National Consciousness of the Russian Jew]. // RJ, p. 149.

[79] I. M. Bikerman. Rossija i russkoe evreistvo [Russia and Russian Jewry]. // RJ, p. 92.

[80] V. S. Mandel. Konservativnye i razrushitelnye elementy v evreisve [Conservative and Subversive Forces among Jewry]. // RJ, p. 202.

[81] D. O. Linsky. O natsionalnom samosoznanii russkogo evreja [On the National Consciousness of the Russian Jew]. // RJ, p. 153, 154.

[82] D. S. Pasmanik. Chego zhe my dobivaemsya [What Do We Want to Achieve?]. // RJ, p. 227-228.

[83] I. M. Bikerman. Rossija i russkoe evreistvo [Russia and Russian Jewry]. // RJ, p. 93.

[84] D. S. Pasmanik. Chego zhe my dobivaemsya [What Do We Want to Achieve?]. // RJ, p. 217-218.

[85] The information about G. A. Landau’s arrest and death was taken from V. Gessen. Iosif Gessen: jurist, politik i zhurnalist [Josef Gessen: an attorney, politician and journalist]. // Jews in the Culture of Russia-in-Exile: Articles, Publications, Memoires, and Essays. Jerusalem, 1993, v. 2, p. 543.

[86] Fyodor Stepun. Byvshee i nesbyvsheesja [What Have Been and What Might-have-been]. The 2nd Edition. London, Overseas Publications, 1990, v. 1, p. 301.

[87] V. S. Mandel. Konservativnye i razrushitelnye elementy v evreisve [Conservative and Subversive Forces among Jewry]. // RJ, p. 204.

[88] D. S. Pasmanik. Chego zhe my dobivaemsya [What Do We Want to Achieve?]. // RJ, p. 210.

[89] Ibid., p. 212, 213.

[90] D. O. Linsky. O natsionalnom samosoznanii russkogo evreja [On the National Consciousness of the Russian Jew]. // RJ, p. 152.

[91] I. M. Bikerman. Rossija i russkoe evreistvo [Russia and Russian Jewry]. // RJ, p. 74-75.

[92] G. A. Landau. Revolutsionnye idei v evreiskoi obshchestvennosti [Revolutionary Ideas in Jewish Society]. // RJ, p. 100-101.

[93] D. S. Pasmanik. Chego zhe my dobivaemsya [What Do We Want to Achieve?]. // RJ, p. 226.

[94] A. Kulisher. Ob otvetstvennosti i bezotvetstvennosti [On Responsibility and Irresponsibility]. // The Jewish Tribune, April 6, 1923, p. 3-4.

[95] B. Mirsky. “I6 punktov” [“16 Points”]. // The Jewish Tribune, April 7, 1924, p. 2.

[96] S. Pozner. V chem zhe delo? [So What’s the problem?] // The Jewish Tribune, April 7, 1924, p. 1-2.

[97] Sh. Markish. O evreiskoj nenavisti k Rossii [On the Jewish Hatred Toward Russia]. // “22”: Obshchestvenno-politichesky i literaturny zhurnal evreyskoj intelligentsii iz SSSR v Izraile [Social, Political and Literary Journal of the Jewish Intelligentsia from the USSR in Israel]. Tel-Aviv, 1984, (38), p. 218.

[98] I. M. Bikerman. K samopoznaniju evreya: chem. my byli, chem. my stali, chem. my dolzhny stat [On the Self-knowledge of the Jew: Who We Were, Who We Are, Who We Must Become]. Paris, 1939, p. 25.

[99] P. N. Milyukov. Natsionalnost i natsia [Ethnicity and Nation]. // The Jewish Tribune, September 1, 1922, p. 1-2.

[100] Ibid.

[101] Poslednie Novosti. October 14, 1927, p. 2; October 19, 1927, p. 1-2.

[102] Izvestiya, October 21, p. 3.

[103] Izvestiya, October 22, p. 1.

[104] Izvestiya, October 23, p. 1.

[105] Poslednie Novosti. October 25, 1927, p. 2; October 26, 1927, p. 1.

[106] Russian Jewish Encyclopedia. The 2nd Revised and Enlarged Edition. Moscow, 1995, v. 2, p. 59.

[107].Poslednie Novosti. October 23, 1927, p. 1.

[108] V. V. Shulgin, p. 156.

[109] Poslednie Novosti. May 29, 1928.

[110] S. Litovtsev. Disput ob antisemitizme [Debate on Anti-Semitism]. // Poslednie Novosti, May 29, 1928, p. 2.

[111] V. V. Shulgin, p. 11.

[112] S. M. Ginzburg. O russko-evreiskoi intelligentsia [On Russian Jewish Intelligentsia]. // JW-1, p. 33.

[113] Foreword // JW-1, p. 7.

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Chapter 25. Accusing Russia

The Jewish break from the Soviet communism was doubtless a movement of historical significance.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the fusion of the Soviet Jewry and Bolshevism seemed permanent. Then suddenly, they diverge? What a joy!

Of course, as is always true for both individuals and nations, it is unreasonable to expect words of remorse from Jews regarding their past involvement. But I absolutely could not expect that the Jews, while deserting Bolshevism, rather than expressing even a sign of repentance or at least some embarrassment, instead angrily turned on the Russian people: it is the Russians who had ruined democracy in Russia (i.e., in February 1917), it is the Russians who are guilty of support of this regime from 1918 on.

Sure, they claim, it is we (the Russian people) who are the guilty! Actually, it was earlier than 1918 – the dirty scenes of the radiant February Revolution were tale-telling. Yet the neophyte anti-communists were uncompromising – from now on everyone must accept that they have always fought against this regime, and no one should recall that it used to be their favorite and should not mention how well they had once served this tyranny. Because it was the “natives” who created, nurtured and cared for it:

“The leaders of the October Coup … were the followers rather than the leaders. [Really? The New Iron Party was made up of the “followers”?] They simply voiced the dormant wishes of the masses and worked to implement them. They did not break with the grassroots.” “The October coup was a disaster for Russia. The country could evolve differently…. Then [in the stormy anarchy of the February Revolution] Russia saw the  signs of law, freedom and respect for human dignity by the state, but they all were swept away by the people’s wrath.”[1]

Here is a more recent dazzling treatment of Jewish participation in Bolshevism: “The Bolshevism of Lenin and Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party of Bolsheviks was just an intellectual and civilized form of ‘plebian’ Bolshevism. Should the former fail, the latter, much more dreadful, would prevail.” Therefore, “by widely participating in the Bolshevik Revolution, providing it with cadres of intellectuals and organizers, the Jews saved Russia from total mob rule. They came out with the most humane of possible forms of Bolshevism.”[2] Alas, “just as the rebellious people had used the Party of Lenin to overthrow the democracy of intellectuals [when did that exist?], the pacified people used Stalin’s bureaucracy to get rid of … everything still harboring free intellectual spirit.”[3] Sure, sure: “the guilt of the intelligentsia for the subsequent dismal events of Russian history is greatly exaggerated.” And in the first place, “the intelligentsia is liable to itself,”[4] and by no means to the people. On the contrary, “it would be nice if the people realized their guilt before the intelligentsia.”[5]

Indeed, “the totalitarian rule … in its essence and origin is that of the people.”[6] “This is a totalitarian country … because such was the choice of Russian people.”[7]

It is all because the “Tatar’s wild spirit captured the soul of Orthodox Russia,”[8] that is, the “Asian social and spiritual structure, inherited by the Russians from the Mongols … is stagnant and incapable of development and progress.”[9] (Well, Lev Gumilev also developed a theory that instead of the Tatar yoke, there was a friendly alliance of Russians and Tatars. However, Russian folklore, in its many proverbs referring to Tatars as to enemies and oppressors, provided an unambiguous answer to that question. Folklore does not lie; it is not pliant like a scientific theory.) Therefore, “the October coup was an unprecedented breakthrough of the Asian essence [of Russians].”[10]

For those who want to tear and trample Russian history, Chaadayev is the favorite theoretician (although he is undoubtedly an outstanding thinker). First Samizdat and later émigré publications carefully selected and passionately quoted his published and unpublished texts which suited their purposes. As to the unsuitable quotations and to the fact that the main opponents of Chaadayev among his contemporaries were not Nicholas I and Benckendorff, but his friends – Pushkin, Vyazemsky, Karamzin, and Yazikov – these facts were ignored.

In the early 1970s, the hate against all things Russian was gathering steam. Derogatory expressions about Russian culture entered Samizdat and contemporary slang. “Human pigsty” – so much contempt for Russia as being spoiled material was expressed in the anonymous Samizdat article signed by “S. Telegin” (G. Kopylov)! Regarding the forest fires of 1972, the same “Telegin” cursed Russia in a Samizdat leaflet: “So, the Russian forests burn? It serves Russia right for all her evil-doing!! “The entire people consolidate into the reactionary mass” (G. Pomerants). Take another sincere confession: “The sound of an accordion [the popular Russian national instrument] drives me berserk; the very contact with these masses irritates me.”[11] Indeed, love cannot be forced. “‘Jews,’‘Jewish destiny’ is just the rehash of the destiny of intelligentsia in this country, the destiny of her culture; the Jewish orphanage symbolizes loneliness because of the collapse of the traditional faith in ‘the people.’”[12](What a transformation happened between the 19th and mid-20th century with the eternal Russian problem of “the people”! By now  they view “the people” as an indigenous mass, apathetically satisfied with its existence and its leaders. And by the inscrutable providence of Fate, the Jews were forced to live and suffer in the cities of their country. To love these masses is impossible; to care about them – unnatural.) The same Khazanov (by then still in the USSR) reasoned: The Russia which I love is a Platonic idea that does not exist in reality. The Russia which I see around is abhorrent”; “she is a unique kind of Augean stables”; “her mangy inhabitants”; “there’ll be a day of shattering reckoning for all she is today.”[13]

Indeed, there will be a day of reckoning, though not for the state of adversity that had fallen on Russia much earlier.


In the 1960s, many among intelligentsia began to think and talk about the situation in the USSR, about its future and about Russia itself. Due to strict government censorship these arguments and ideas were mentioned only in private or in mostly pseudonymous Samizdat articles. But when Jewish emigration began, the criticisms of Russia openly and venomously spilled across the free Western world, as it formed one of the favorite topics among the émigrés and was voiced so loudly that often nothing else could be heard.

In 1968, Arkady Belinkov fled abroad. He was supposedly a fierce enemy of the Soviet regime and not at all of the Russian people. Wasn’t he? Well, consider his article The Land of Slaves, the Land of Masters in The New Bell, a collection he edited himself. And at what did he direct his wrath? (It is worth considering that the article was written back in the USSR and the author did not have enough courage to accuse the regime itself.) Belinkov does not use the word “Soviet” even once, instead preferring  a familiar theme: eternally enslaved Russia, freedom “for our homeland is worse than gobbling broken glass” and in Russia “they sometimes hang the wrong people, sometimes the wrong way, and never enough.” Even in the 1820s “it was much evident that in the process of evolution, the population of [Russia] …would turn into a herd of traitors, informers, and torturers”; “it was the “Russian fear” – to prepare warm clothes and to wait for a knock at the door” – note that even here it was not the “Soviet fear.” (Yet who before the Bolshevik revolution had ever waited for a knock on the door in the middle of the night?) “The court in Russia does not judge, it already knows everything. Therefore, in Russia, it only condemns.”[14] (Was it like that even during the Alexandrine reforms?…. And what about juries and magistrates? Hardly a responsible, balanced judgment!)

Indeed, so overwhelming is the author’s hate and so bitter his bile that he vilifies such great Russian writers as Karamzin, Zhukovsky, Tyutchev and even Pushkin, not to mention Russian society in general for its insufficient revolutionary spirit: “a pathetic society of slaves, descendants of slaves and ancestors of slaves,” “the cattle trembling from fear and anger,” “rectum-pipers, shuddering at the thought of possible consequences,” “the Russian intelligentsia always been willing to help stifle freedom.”[15]

Well, if, for Belinkov, it was all “masked anti-Soviet sentiments,” a sly wink, then why did he not rewrite it abroad? If Belinkov actually thought differently, then why print it in this form?
No, that is the way he thought and what he hated.
So was this how dissident Jews repudiated Bolshevism?

Around the same time, at the end of the 1960s, a Jewish collection about the USSR was published in London. It included a letter from the USSR: “In the depths of the inner labyrinths of the Russian soul, there is always a pogromist…. A slave and a thug dwell there too.”[16] Belotserkovsky happily repeats someone else’s joke: “the Russians are a strong nation, except for their heads.”[17] “Let all these Russians, Ukrainians … growl drunkenly with their wives, gobble vodka and get happily misled by communist lies … without us … They were crawling on all fours worshipping wood and stone when we gave them the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”[18]

“Oh, if only you would have held your peace! This would have been regarded as your wisdom.” (Job 13:5).

(Let us note that any insulting judgment about the “Russian soul” in general or about the “Russian character” generally does not give rise to the slightest protest or doubt among civilized people. The question “of daring to judge nations as one uniform and faceless whole” does not arise. If someone does not like all things Russian or feels contempt for them, or even expresses in progressive circles the belief that “Russia is a cesspool,” this is no sin in Russia and it does not appear reactionary or backward. And no one immediately appeals to presidents, prime ministers, senators, or members of Congress with a reverent cry, “What do you think of such incitement of ethnic hatred?” We’ve said worse of ourselves since the 19th century and right up to the revolution. We have a rich tradition of this.)

Then we learn of “semi-literate preachers of their religion,” and that “Russian Orthodoxy hasn’t earned the credence of intellectuals” (from “Telegin”). The Russians “so easily abandoned the faith of their forefathers, indifferently watched how their temples were destroyed in front of their eyes.” Oh, here is a guess: “Perhaps, the Russian people only temporarily submitted to the power of Christianity?” That is for 950 years! “And they only waited for the moment to get rid of it,”[19] that is, for the revolution? How much ill will must accumulate in someone’s heart to utter something like that! (Even Russian publicists often slipped into this trap of distorted consciousness. The eminent early emigrant journalist S. Rafalsky, perhaps even a priest’s son, wrote that “Orthodox Holy Russia allowed its holy sites to be easily crushed.”[20] Of course, the groans of those mowed down by Chekists’ machine guns during Church riots in 1918 were not heard in Paris. There have been no uprisings since. I would like to have seen this priest’s son try to save the sacred sites in the 1920s himself.)

Sometimes it is stated bluntly: “Russian Orthodoxy is a Hottentot religion” (Grobman). Or, “idiocy perfumed by Rublev, Dionysius and Berdyaev”; the idea of the “restoration” of traditional Russian historical orthodoxy “scares many…. This is the darkest future possible for the country and for Christianity.”[21] Or, as novelist F. Gorenshtein said: “Jesus Christ was the Honorary Chairman of the Union of the Russian People [pre-revolutionary Russian Nationalist organization], whom they perceived as a kind of universal ataman [Cossack chieftain].”[22]

Don’t make it too sharp – you might chip the blade!

However, one must distinguish from such open rudeness that velvet soft Samizdat philosopher-essayist Grigory Pomerants who worked in those years. Presumably, he rose above all controversies – he wrote about the fates of nations in general, about the fate of the intelligentsia generally; he suggested that nowadays no such thing as people exists, save, perhaps, Bushmen. I read him in 1960s Samizdat saying: “The people are becoming more and more vapid broth and only we, the intelligentsia, remain the salt of the earth.” “Solidarity of the intelligentsia across the borders is a more real thing than the solidarity of the intelligentsia and its people.”

It sounded very modern and wise. And yet, in Czechoslovakia in 1968 it was precisely the unity of the intelligentsia with the “vapid broth” of its non-existent people that created a spiritual stronghold long unheard of in Europe. The presence of two-thirds of a million Soviet troops couldn’t break their spirit; it was their communist leaders who eventually gave in. (And 12 years later, the same thing happened in Poland.)

In his typically ambiguous manner of constructing endless parallel arguments that never merge into a clear logical construct, Pomerants never explicitly addressed the national question. He extensively dwelt on the Diaspora question, in the most abstract and general manner, not specifying any nation, hovering aloft in relativism and agnosticism. He glorified the Diaspora: “Everywhere, we are not exactly strangers. Everywhere, we are not exactly natives.”… “An appeal to one faith, tradition and nation flies in the face of another.”  He complained: “According to the rules established for the Warsaw students, one can love only one nation” but “what if I am related by blood to this country, but love others as well?”[23]

This is a sophisticated bait-and-switch. Of course, you can love not only one, but ten or more countries and nations. However, you can belong to and be a son of only one motherland, just as you can only have one mother.

To make the subject clearer, I want to describe the letter exchange I had with the Pomerants couple in 1967. By that year, my banned novel The First Circle circulated among the Samizdat – and among the first who had sent me their objections were G. S.  Pomerants and his wife, Z. A. Mirkin. They said that I hurt them by my inept and faulty handling of the Jewish question, and that I had irreparably damaged the image of Jews in the novel – and thus my own image.  How did I damage it? I thought I had managed to avoid showing those cruel Jews who reached the heights of power during the early Soviet years. But Pomerants’ letters abounded with undertones and nuances, and they accused me of insensitivity to Jewish pain.

I replied to them, and they replied to me. In these letters we also discussed the right to judge entire nations, even though I had done no such thing in my novel.

Pomerants suggested to me then – and to every writer in general as well as to anyone who offers any personal, psychological or social judgment – to behave and to reason as if no nation has ever existed in the world – not only to abstain from judging them as a whole but to ignore every man’s nationality. “What is natural and excusable for Ivan Denisovich (to see Cesar Markovich as a non-Russian) – is a disgrace for an intellectual, and for a Christian (not a baptized person but a Christian) is a great sin: ‘There is no Hellene and no Jew for me.’”

What an elevated point of view. May God help us all reach it one day. After all, without it, would not the meaning of united humanity, and so Christinaity, have been useless?

Yet we have already been aggressively convinced once that there are no nations, and were instructed to quickly destroy our own, and we madly did it back then.

In addition, regardless of the argument, how can we portray specific people without referring to their nationality? And if there are no nations, are there no languages? But no writer can write in any language other than his native one. If nations would wither away, languages would die also.

One cannot eat from an empty bowl.

I noticed that it was more often Jews than any others who insisted that we pay no attention to nationality! What does “nationality” have to do with anything? What “national characteristics,” what “national character” are you talking about?

And I was ready to shake hands on that: “I agree! Let’s ignore it from now on….”

But we live in our unfortunate century, when perhaps the first feature people notice in others for some reason is exactly their nationality. And, I swear, Jews are the ones who distinguish and closely monitor it most jealously and carefully. Their own nation….

Then, what should we do with the fact – you have read about it above – that Jews so often judge Russians precisely in generalized terms, and almost always to condemn? The same Pomerants writes about “the pathological features of the Russian character,” including their “internal instability.” (And he is not concerned that he judges the entire nation. Imagine if someone spoke of “pathological features of the Jewish character”… What would happen then?) The Russian “masses allowed all the horrors of Oprichnina to happen just as they later allowed Stalin’s death camps.”[24] (See, the Soviet internationalist bureaucratic elite would have stopped them – if not for this dull mass….) More sharply still, “Russian Nationalism will inevitably end in an aggressive pogrom,”[25] meaning that every Russian who loves his nation already has the potential for being pogromist.

We can but repeat the words of that Chekhov’s character: “Too early!”

Most remarkable was how Pomerants’s second letter to me ended. Despite his previously having so insistently demanded that it is not proper to distinguish between nations, in that large and emotionally charged letter, (written in a very angry, heavy hand), he delivered an ultimatum on how I could still save my disgusting The First Circle. The offered remedy was this: to turn Gerasimovich [the hero] into a Jew! So a Jew would commit the novel’s greatest act of spiritual heroism! “It is absolutely not important that Gerasimovich had been drawn from a Russian prototype,” says our indifferent-to-nations author (italics added). In truth, he did give me an alternative: if I still insisted on leaving Gerasimovich Russian, then I must add an equally powerful image of a noble, self-sacrificing Jew to my story. And if I would not follow any of his advice, Pomerants threatened to open a public campaign against me. (I ignored it at this point.)

Notably, he conducted this one-sided battle, calling it “our polemic,” first in foreign journals and, when it became possible, in the Soviet magazines, often repeating and reprinting the same articles, although taking care each time to exorcise the blemishes his critics had picked up the last time. In the course of this he uttered another pearl of wisdom: there was only one Absolute Evil in the world and it was Hitlerism – in this regard, our philosopher was not a relativist, not at all. But as to communism, this former prisoner of the camps and by no means a Communist himself, suddenly proclaims that communism – is not an unquestionable evil (and even “some spirit of democracy surrounded the early Cheka”), and he does so harder and harder over the years  (reacting to my intransigence towards communism).[26] On the other hand, hard core anti-communism is undoubtedly evil, especially if it builds upon the Russian Nationalism (which, as he had reminded us earlier, cannot be separated from pogroms).

That is where Pomerants’s smooth high-minded and “non-national” principles led.

Given such a skewed bias, can mutual understanding between Russians and Jews be achieved?

“You mark the speck in your brother’s eye, but ignore the plank in your own.”

In those same months when I corresponded with Pomerants, some liberal hand in the Leningrad Regional Party Committee copied a secret memorandum signed by Shcherbakov, Smirnov, and Utekhin on the matter of alleged “destructive Zionist activity in the city” with “subtle forms of ideological subversion.” My Jewish friends asked me “How should we deal with this?” “It is clear, how,” – I replied before even reading the paper – “Openness! Publish it in Samizdat! Our strength is transparency and publicity!” But my friends hesitated: “We cannot do it just like that because it would be misunderstood.”

After reading the documents, I understood their anxiety. From the reports, it was clear that the youth’s literary evening at the Writers’ House on January 30, 1968 had been politically honest and brave – the government with its politics and ideology had been both openly and covertly ridiculed. On the other hand, the speeches had clear national emphases (perhaps, the youth there were mostly Jewish); they contained explicit resentment and hostility, and even, perhaps, contempt for Russians, and longing for Jewish spirituality. It was because of this that my friends were wary of publishing the document in Samizdat.

I was suddenly struck by how true these Jewish sentiments were. “Russia is reflected in the window glass of a beer stand,” – the poet Ufland had supposedly said there. How horrifyingly true! It seemed that the speakers accused the Russians, not directly, but by allusions, of crawling under counters of beer pubs and of being dragged from the mud by their wives; that they drink vodka until unconscious, they squabble and steal….

We must see ourselves objectively, see our fatal shortcomings. Suddenly, I grasped the Jewish point of view; I looked around and I was horrified as well: Dear God, where we, the Jews? Cards, dominoes, gaping at TV…. What cattle, what animals surround us! They have neither God nor spiritual interests. And so much feeling of hurt from past oppression rises in your soul.

Only it is forgotten, that the real Russians were killed, slaughtered and suppressed, and the rest were stupefied, embittered, and driven to the extremes by Bolshevik thugs and not without the zealous participation of the fathers of today’s young Jewish intellectuals. Modern day Jews are irritated by those mugs who have become the Soviet leadership since the 1940s – but they irritate us as well. However, the best among us were killed, not spared.

“Do not look back!” – Pomerants lectured us later in his Samizdat essays; do not look back like Orpheus who lost Eurydice this way.

Yet we have already lost more than Eurydice.

We were taught since the 1920s to throw away the past and jump on board modernity.

But the old Russian proverb advises – go ahead but always look back.

We must look back. Otherwise, we would never understand anything.


Even if we had tried not to look back, we would always be reminded that the “core [Russian issue] is in fact the inferiority complex of the spiritless leaders of the people that has persisted throughout its long history,” and this very complex “pushed the Russian Tsarist government towards military conquests…. An inferiority complex is disease of mediocrity.”[27] Do you want to know why the Revolution of 1917 happened in Russia? Can you guess? Yes, “the same inferiority complex caused a revolution in Russia.”[28] (Oh, immortal Freud, is there nothing he hasn’t explained?)

They even stated that “Russian socialism was a direct heir of Russian autocracy”[29] – precisely a direct one, it goes without saying. And, almost in unison, “there is direct continuity between the Tsarist government and communism … there is qualitative similarity.”[30] What else could you expect from “Russian history, founded on blood and provocations?”[31] In a review of Agursky’s interesting book, Ideology of National Bolshevism, we find that “in reality, traditional, fundamental ideas of the Russian national consciousness began to penetrate into the practice and ideology of the ruling party very early”; “the party ideology was transformed as early as the mid-1920s.” Really? Already in the mid-1920s? How come we missed it at the time? Wasn’t it the same mid-1920s when the very words “Russian,” “I am Russian” had been considered counter-revolutionary? I remember it well. But, you see, even back then, in the midst of persecution against all that was Russian and Orthodox, the party ideology “began in practice to be persistently guided by the national idea”; “outwardly preserving its internationalist disguise, Soviet authorities actually engaged in the consolidation of the Russian state.”[32] Of course! “Contrary to its internationalist declarations, the revolution in Russia has remained a national affair.”[33] This “Russia, upturned by revolution, continued to build the people’s state.”[34]

People’s state? How dare they say that, knowing of the Red Terror, of the millions of peasants killed during collectivization, and of the insatiable Gulag?

No, Russia is irrevocably condemned for all her history and in all her forms. Russia is always under suspicion, the “Russian idea” without anti-Semitism “seems to be no longer an idea and not even the Russian one.” Indeed, “hostility towards culture is a specific Russian phenomenon”; “how many times have we heard that they are supposedly the only ones in the whole world who have preserved purity and chastity, respecting God in the middle of their native wilderness”[35]; “the greatest soulful sincerity has supposedly found shelter in this crippled land. This soulful sincerity is being presented to us as a kind of national treasure, a unique product like caviar.”[36]

Yes, make fun of us Russians; it is for our own good. Unfortunately, there is some truth to these words. But, while expressing them, do not lapse into such hatred. Having long been aware of the terrifying decline of our nation under the communists, it was precisely during those 1970s that we gingerly wrote about a hope of revival of our morals and culture. But strangely enough, the contemporary Jewish authors attacked the idea of Russian revival with a relentless fury, as if (or because?) they feared that Soviet culture would be replaced by the Russian one. “I am afraid that the new ‘dawn’ of this doomed country would be even more repugnant than its current [1970-1980s] decline.”[37]

Looking back from the “democratic” 1990s, we can agree that it was a prophetic declaration. Still, was it said with compassion or with malice?

And here is even more: “Beware, when someone tells you to love your homeland: such love is charged with hatred…. Beware of stories that tell you that in Russia, Russians are the worst off, that Russians suffered the most, and that the Russian population is dwindling“ – sure, as we all know, this is a lie! “Be careful when someone tells you about that great statesman … who was assassinated” (i.e., Stolypin) – is that also a deception? No, it is not a deception:  “Not because the facts are incorrect” – nevertheless, do not accept even these true facts: “Be careful, be aware!”[38]

There is something extraordinary in this stream of passionate accusations.

Who would have guessed during the fiery 1920s that after the enfeeblement and downfall of that “beautiful” (i.e., Communist) regime in Russia, those Jews, who themselves had suffered much from communism, who seemingly cursed it and ran away from it, would curse and kick not communism, but Russia itself – blast her from Israel and from Europe, and from across the ocean!? There are so many, such confident voices ready to judge Russia’s many crimes and failings, her inexhaustible guilt towards the Jews – and they so sincerely believe this guilt to be inexhaustible – almost all of them believe it! Meanwhile, their own people are coyly cleared of any responsibility for their participation in Cheka shootings, for sinking the barges and their doomed human cargo in the White and Caspian seas, for their role in collectivization, the Ukrainian famine and in all the abominations of the Soviet administration, for their talented zeal in brainwashing the “natives.” This is not contrition.

We, brothers or strangers, need to share that responsibility.

It would have been cleanest and healthiest to exchange contrition for everything committed.

I will not stop calling the Russians to do that.

And I am inviting the Jews to do the same. To repent not for Trotsky, Kamenev and Zinoviev; they are known and anyway can be brushed aside, “they were not real Jews!” Instead, I invite Jews to look honestly into the oppressive depths of the early Soviet system, at all those “invisible” characters such as Isai Davidovich Berg, who created the infamous “gas wagon”[39] which later brought so much affliction on the Jews themselves, and I call on them to look honestly on those many much more obscure bureaucrats who had pushed papers in the Soviet apparatus, and who had never appeared in light.

However, the Jews would not be Jews if they all behaved the same.

So other voices were heard.

As soon as the great exodus of Jews from the USSR began there were Jews who – fortunately for all, and to their honor – while remaining faithful to Judaism, went above their own feelings and looked at history from that vantage point. It was a joy to hear them, and we hear them still. What hope for the future it gives! Their understanding and support are especially valuable in the face of the violently thinned and drastically depleted ranks of Russian intelligentsia.

A melancholy view, expressed at end of 19th century, comes to mind: “Every country deserves the Jews it has.”[40]

It depends where you look.

If it were not for voices from the third wave of emigration and from Israel, one would despair of dialogue and of possibility for mutual understanding between Russians and Jews.

Roman Rutman, a cybernetics worker, had his first article published in the émigré Samizdat in 1973. It was a bright, warm story of how he first decided to emigrate and how it turned out – and even then he showed distinct warmth towards Russia. The title was illustrative: “A bow to those who has gone and my brotherhood to those who remain.”[41] Among his very first thoughts during his awakening was “Are we Jews or Russians?”; and among his thoughts on departure there was “Russia, crucified for mankind.”

Next year, in 1974, in an article The Ring of Grievances, he proposed to revise “some established ideas on the ‘Jewish question’” and “to recognize the risk of overemphasizing these ideas.” There were three: (1) “The unusual fate of the Jewish people made them a symbol of human suffering”; (2) “A Jew in Russia has always been a victim of unilateral persecution”; and (3) “Russian society is indebted to the Jewish people.” He quoted a phrase from The Gulag Archipelago: “During this war we discovered that the worst thing on earth is to be a Russian” and recognized that the phrase is not artificial or empty, that it is based on war losses, on the revolutionary terror before that, on hunger, on “the wanton destruction of both the nation’s head – its cognitive elite, and its feet, the peasantry.” Although modern Russian literature and democratic movements preach about the guilt of Russian society before Jews, the author himself prefers to see the “circle of grievances” instead of “the saccharine sentimentality about the troubles and talents of the Jewish people.” “To break this “‘circle of grievances’ one must pull at it from both sides.”[42]

Here it is – a thoughtful, friendly and calm voice.

And over these years, we many times heard the firm voice of Michael Kheifetz, a recent GULag prisoner. “A champion of my people, I cannot but sympathize with the nationalists of other peoples.”[43] He had the courage to call for Jewish repentance: “The experience of the German people, who have not turned away from their horrifying and criminal past, and who never tried to lay the blame for Nazism on some other culprits, on strangers, etc. but, instead constantly cleansed itself in the fire of national repentance, and thus created a German state that for the first time was admired and respected by all mankind; this experience should, in my opinion, become a paragon for the peoples that participated in the crimes of Bolshevism, including the Jews.” “We, Jews, must honestly analyze the role we played in other nations’ affairs, the role so extraordinarily foretold by Z. Jabotinsky.”[44]
M. Kheifetz demonstrated a truly noble soul when he spoke of “the genuine guilt of assimilated Jews before the native peoples of those countries where they live, the guilt, which cannot and must not allow them to live comfortably in the Diaspora.” About Soviet Jewry of the 1920s and 1930s he said: “Who if not us, their bitterly remorseful descendants, has the right to condemn them for this historic mistake [zealous participation in building communism] and the settling of historical scores with Russia for the Pale of Settlement and the pogroms?”[45] (Kheifetz also mentioned that B. Penson and M. Korenblit, who had served labor camp terms along with him, shared his views.)

Almost simultaneously with the words of Kheifetz, by then already an emigrant, Feliks Svetov vividly called out for Jewish repentance from inside the Soviet Union in a Samizdat novel Open the doors to me.[46] (It was no accident that F. Svetov, due to his Jewish perceptivity and intelligence, was one of the first to recognize the beginning of Russian religious revival.)

Later, during a passionate discourse surrounding the dispute between Astafiev and Edelman, Yuri Shtein described “our Ashkenazi-specific personality traits, formed on the basis of our belief of belonging to the chosen people and an insular, small town mentality. Hence, there is a belief in the infallibility of our nation and our claim to a monopoly on suffering…. It is time for us to see ourselves as a normal nation, worthy but not faultless, like all the other peoples of the world. Especially now, that we have our own independent state and have already proved to the world that Jews can fight and plow better than some more populous ethnic groups.”[47]

During the left liberal campaign against V. Astafiev, V. Belov, and V. Rasputin, literary historian Maria Shneyerson, who, after emigrating, continued to love Russia dearly and appreciate Russian problems, offered these writers her enthusiastic support.[48]

In the 1970s, a serious, competent, and  forewarning book on the destruction of the environment in the USSR under communism was published in the West. Written by a Soviet author, it was naturally published under a pseudonym, B. Komarov. After some time, the author emigrated and we learned his name – Zeev Wolfson. We discovered even more: that he was among the compilers of the album of destroyed and desecrated churches in Central Russia.[49]

Few active intellectuals remained in the defeated Russia, but friendly, sympathetic Jewish forces supported them. With this shortage of people and under the most severe persecution by the authorities, our Russian Public Foundation was established to help victims of persecution; I donated all my royalties for The Gulag Archipelago to this fund; and, starting with its first talented and dedicated manager, Alexander Ginzburg, there were many Jews and half-Jews among the Fund’s volunteers. (This gave certain intellectually blind extreme Russian nationalists sufficient reason to brand our Foundation as being “Jewish.”)

Similarly, M. Bernshtam, then Y. Felshtinsky and D.Shturman were involved in our study of modern Russian history.

In the fight against communist lies, M. Agursky, D.Shturman, A. Nekrich, M. Geller, and A. Serebrennikov distinguished themselves by their brilliant, fresh, and  fair-minded journalism.

We can also recall the heroism of the American professor Julius Epstein and his service to Russia. In self-centered, always self-righteous, and never regretful of any wrongdoings America, he single-handedly revealed the mystery of Operation Keelhaul, how after the end of the war and from their own continent, Americans handed over to Stalinist agents and therefore certain death, hundreds and thousands of Russian Cossacks, who had naively believed that since they reached the ‘land of free’ they had been saved.[50]

All these examples should encourage sincere and mutual understanding between Russians and Jews, if only we would not shut it out by intolerance and anger.

Alas, even the mildest remembrance, repentance, and talk of justice elicits severe outcries from the self-appointed guardians of extreme nationalism, both Russian and Jewish. “As soon as Solzhenitsyn had called for national repentance” – meaning among Russians, and the author didn’t mind that – “here we are! Our own people are right there in the front line.” He did not mention any name specifically but he probably referred to M. Kheifetz. “See, it turns out that we are more to blame, we helped … to install … no, not helped, but simply established the Soviet regime ourselves … were disproportionately present in various organs.”[51]

Those who began to speak in a voice of remorse were furiously attacked in an instant. “They prefer to extract from their hurrah-patriotic gut a mouthful of saliva” – what a style and nobility of expression! – “and to thoroughly spit on all ‘ancestors,’ to curse Trotsky and Bagritsky, Kogan, and Dunaevsky”; “M. Kheifetz invites us to ‘purge ourselves in the fire of national repentance.’”[52]

And what a thrashing F. Svetov received for the autobiographical hero of his novel: “A book about conversion to Christianity … will contribute not to an abstract search for repentance, but to a very specific anti-Semitism…. This book is anti-Semitic.” Yes, and what is there to repent? –The indefatigable David Markish angrily exclaims. Svetov’s hero sees a “betrayal” in the fact that “we desert the country, leaving behind a deplorable condition which is entirely our handiwork: it is we, as it turns out, who staged a bloody revolution, shot the father-tsar, befouled and raped the Orthodox Church and in addition, founded the GULag Archipelago,” isn’t that right? First, these “comrades” Trotsky, Sverdlov, Berman, and Frenkel are not at all related to the Jews. Second, the very question about someone’s collective guilt is wrong.[53] (As to blaming Russians, you see, it is a different thing  altogether: it was always acceptable to blame them en masse, from the times of the elder Philotheus.)

David’s brother, Sh. Markish reasons as follows, “as to the latest wave of immigrants from Russia … whether in Israel or in the U.S., they do not exhibit real Russophobia … but a self-hatred that grows into direct anti-Semitism is obvious in them only too often.”[54]

See, if Jews repent – it is anti-Semitism. (This is yet another new manifestation of that prejudice.)

The Russians should realize their national guilt, “the idea of national repentance cannot be implemented without a clear understanding of national guilt…. The guilt is enormous, and there is no way to shift it on to others. This guilt is not only about the things of past, it is also about the vile things Russia commits now, and will probably continue committing in the future,” as Shragin wrote in the early 1970s. [55]

Well, we too tirelessly call the Russians to repent; without penitence, we will not have a future. After all, only those who were directly affected by communism recognized its evils. Those who were not affected tried not to notice the atrocities and later on to forget and forgive them, to the extent that now they do not even understand what to repent of. (Even more so those who themselves committed the crimes.)

Every day we are burning with shame for our unsettled people.

And we love it too. And we do not envision our lives without it.

And yet, for some reason, we have not lost all faith in it.

Still, is it absolutely certain that you had no part in our great guilt,  in our unsuccessful history?

Here, Shimon Markish referred to Jabotinsky’s1920s article. “Jabotinsky several times (on different occasions) observed that Russia is a foreign country to us, our interest in her should be detached, cool, though sympathetic; her anxiety, grief and joy are not ours, and our feelings are foreign to her too.” Markish added: “That’s also my attitude towards Russian worries.” And he invites us to “call a spade a spade. However, regarding this delicate point even free western Russians are not awesomely courageous…. I prefer to deal with enemies.”[56]

Yet this sentence should be divided into two: is it the case that to “call a spade a spade” and to speak frankly mean being an enemy? Well, there is a Russian proverb: do not love the agreeable; love the disputers.

I invite all, including Jews, to abandon this fear of bluntness, to stop perceiving honesty as hostility. We must abandon it historically! Abandon it forever!

In this book, I “call a spade a spade”. And at no time do I feel that in doing so it is being hostile to the Jews. I have written more sympathetically than many Jews write about Russians.

The purpose of this book, reflected even in its title, is this: we should understand each other, we should recognize each other’s standpoint and feelings. With this book, I want to extend a handshake of understanding – for all our future.

But we must do so mutually!

This interweaving of Jewish and Russian destinies since the 18th century which has so explosively manifested itself in the 20th century, has a profound historical meaning, and we should not lose it in the future. Here, perhaps, lies the Divine Intent which we must strive to unravel – to discern its mystery and to do what must be done.

And it seems obvious that to know the truth about our shared past is a moral imperative for Jews and Russians alike.

[1] B. Shragin. Protivostoyanie dukha [Standoff of the Spirit (hereinafter — B. Shragin)]. London: Overseas Publications, 1977, p. 160, 188-189.

[2] Nik. Shulgin. Novoe russkoe samosoznanie [The New Russian Mind]. // Vek 20 i mir [The 20th Century and the World]. Moscow, 1990, (3), p. 27.

[3] M. Meyerson-Aksenov. Rozhdeniye novoi intelligentsii [The Birth of New Intelligentsia]. // Samosoznanie: Sb. statei. [Self-consciousness: The Collection of Articles]. New York: Chronicles, 1976, p. 102.

[4] B. Shragin, p, 246, 249.

[5] O. Altaev. Dvoinoe soznanie intelligentsii i psevdo-kultura [Dual Mind of Intelligentsia and Pseudo-Culture]. // Vestnik Russkogo Studencheskogo Khristianskogo Dvizheniya [Herald of Russian Student Christian Movement]. Paris – New York, 1970, (97), p. 11.

[6] M. Meyerson-Aksenov. Rozhdeniye novoi intelligentsii [The Birth of New Intelligentsia]. // Samosoznanie: Sb. statei. [Self-consciousness: The Collection of Articles]. New York: Chronicles, 1976, p. 102.

[7] Beni Peled. My ne smozhem zhdat escho dve tysyachi let! [We cannot wait for another two thousand years!]. [Interview] // “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]. Tel-Aviv, 1981, (17), p. 114.

[8] N. Prat. Emigrantskie kompleksy v istoricheskom aspekte [Emigrant’s Fixations in the Historical Perspective]. // Vremya i my: Mezhdunarodny zhurnal literatury i obshchestvennykh problem [Epoch and We (hereinafter – EW): International Journal of Literature and Social Problems]. New York, 1980, (56), p. 191.

[9] B. Shragin, p, 304.

[10] Ibid., p. 305

[11]M. Deich.  Zapiski postoronnego [Commentaries of an Outsider]. // “22”, 1982, (26), p. 156.

[12] B. Khazanov. Novaya Rossiya [new Russia]. // EW, Tel-Aviv, 1976, (8), p. 143.

[13] Ibid., p. 141, 142, 144.

[14] A. Belinkov. Strana rabov, strana gospod [The land of slaves, the land of masters]. // The New Bell: The Collection of Literary and Opinion Writings. London, 1972, p. 323, 339, 346, 350.

[15] Ibid., p. 325-328, 337, 347, 355.

[16] N. Shapiro. Slovo ryadovogo sovetskogo evreya [The Word of an Ordinary Soviet Jew]. // The Russian Anti-Semitism and Jews. Collection of essays. London, 1968, p. 50-51.

[17] The New American, New York, 1982, March 23-29, (110), p. 11.

[18] Jakob Yakir. Ya pishu Viktoru Krasinu [I Write to Viktor Krasin]. // Our Country, Tel Aviv, 1973, December 12. Cited from the New Journal, 1974, (117), p. 190.

[19] Amram. Reaktsiya ottorzheniya [The Reaction of Rejection]. // “22”, 1979, (5), p. 201.

[20] The New Russian Word, New York, 1975, November 30, p. 3.

[21] M. Ortov. Pravoslavnoe gosudarstvo I tserkov [The orthodox State and the Church]. The Way: The Orthodox Almanac. New York, 1984, May-June, (3), p. 12, 15.

[22] F. Gorenshtein. Shestoi konets krasnoi zvezdy [The Sixs Point of the Red Star]. // EW, New York, 1982, (65), p. 125.

[23] G. Pomerants. Chelovek niotkuda [The Man from Nowhere]. From G. Pomerants, Unpublished. Frankfurt, Posev, 1972, p. 143, 145, 161-162.

[24] G. Pomerants. Sny zemli [Nightdreams of Earth]. // “22”, 1980, (12), p. 129.

[25] G. Pomerants. Chelovek niotkuda [The Man from Nowhere]. From G. Pomerants, Unpublished. Frankfurt, Posev, 1972, p. 157.

[26] G. Pomerants. Son o spravedlivom vozmezdii [A Dream about Recompense]. // Syntaksis: Journalism, Critique, Polemic. Paris, 1980, (6), p. 21.

[27] L. Frank. Eshche raz o “russkom voprose” [The “Russian Question” Once Again]. // Russkaya mysl [The Russian Thinker], 1989, May 19, p. 13.

[28] Amrozh. Sovetskii antisemitism – prichiny i prognozy [Soviet Anti-Semitism: Causes and Prospects]. Seminar. // “22”, 1978, (3), p. 153.

[29] V. Gusman. Perestroika: mify i realnost [Perestroika: Myths and the Reality]. // “22”, 1990, (70), p. 139, 142.

[30] B. Shragin, p, 99.

[31] M. Amusin. Peterburgskie strasti [Passions of St. Petersburg]. // “22”, 1995, (96), p. 191.

[32] I. Serman. Review. // “22”, 1982, (26), p. 210-212.

[33] B. Shragin, p, 158.

[34] M. Meyerson-Aksenov. Rozhdeniye novoi intelligentsii [The Birth of New Intelligentsia]. // Samosoznanie: Sb. statei. [Self-consciousness: The Collection of Articles] New York: Chronicles, 1976, p. 102.

[35] B. Khazanov. Pisma bez stempelya [The Letters without Postmark]. // EW, New York, 1982, (69), p. 156, 158, 163.

[36] B. Khazanov. Novaya Rossiya [New Russia]. // EW, Tel Aviv, 1976, (8), p. 142.

[37] M. Vaiskopf. Sobstvenny Platon [Our Own Platon]. // “22”, 1981, (22), p. 168.

[38] B. Khazanov. Po kom zvonit zatonuvshy kolokol [For Whom the Sunken Bell Tolls]. // Strana i mir: Obshchestvenno-politichesky, economichesky i kulturno-filosofsky zhurnal [Country and World: Social, Political, Economic and Cultural-Philosophical Journal (henceforth – Country and World]. Munich, 1986, (12), p. 93-94.

[39] E. Zhirnov. “Protsedura kazni nosila omerzitelny kharakter” [The Execution was Abominable]. // Komsomolskaya Pravda, 1990, October 28, p. 2.

[40] M. Morgulis. Evreisky vopros v ego osnovaniyakh i chastnostyakh [The Basics and Details of the Jewish Question]. // Voskhod, St. Petersburg, January 1881, Book 1, p. 18.

[41] R. Rutman. Ukhodyashchemu – poklon, ostayushchemusya – bratstvo [A bow to those who has gone and my brotherhood to those who remain]. // New Journal, New York, 1973, (112), p. 284-297.

[42] R. Rutman. Koltso obid [Circle of Grievances]. // New Journal, New York, 1974, (117), p. 178-189; and in English: Soviet Jewish Affairs, London, 1974, Vol. 4, No. 2, p. 3-11.

[43] M. Kheifetz. Russkii patriot Vladimir Osipov [Russian Patriot Vladimir Osipov]. // Kontinent: Literaturny, obshchestvenno-politichesky i religiozny zhurnal [Continent: Literary, Social, Political and Religious Journal (henceforth – Continent]. Paris, 1981, (27), p. 209.

[44] M. Kheifetz. Nashi obshchie uroki [The Lessons We Shared].  // “22”, 1980, (14), p. 162-163.

[45] M. Kheifetz. Evreiskie zametki [The Jewish Notes]. Paris. Tretya volna [The Third Wave], 1978, p. 42, 45.

[46] Feliks Svetov. Open the doors to me. Paris: Editeurs Reunls, 1978.

[47] Yu. Shtein. Letter to Editor.  // Country and World, 1987, (2), p. 112.

[48] M. Shneyerson. Razreshennaya pravda [Allowable Truth]. // Continent, 1981, (28); see also: M. Shneyerson. Khudozhestvenny mir pisatelya i pisatel v miru [The Artistic World of an Author and the Author in the World]. // Continent, 1990, (62).

[49] B. Komarov. Unichtozhenie prirody [Destruction of the Nature]. Frankfurt: Posev, 1978; Razrushennye i oskvernennye khramy: Moskva i Srednyaya Rossia [Destroyed and Desecrated Churches: Moscow and Central Russia]. Afterword: Predely vandalizma [The Limits of Vandalism]. Frankfurt: Posev, 1980.

[50] Julius Epstein. Operation Keelhaul: The Story of Forced Repatriation from 1944 to the Present. Old Greenwich, Connecticut: Devin-Adair, 1973.

[51] V. Zeev. Demonstratsiya objektivnosti [Pretending to be Evenhanded]. // New American, 1982, June 1-7, (120), p. 37.

[52] V. Boguslavsky. V zashchitu Kunyaeva [In Defence of Kunyaev].  // “22”, 1980, (16), p. 166-167, 170.

[53] D. Markish. Vykrest [Convert to Christianity]. // “22”, 1981, (18), p. 210.

[54] Sh. Markish. O evreiskoi nenavisti k Rossii [On the Jewish Hatred towards Russia]. // “22”, 1984, (38), p. 218.

[55] B. Shragin, p, 159.

[56] Sh. Markish. Eshche raz o nenavisti k samomu sebe [Once Again on Self-Hatred]. “22”, 1980, (16), p. 178-179, 180.

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Chapter 26. The Exodus Begins

The Age of Exodus, as Jews themselves would soon name it, began rather silently: its start can be traced to a December 1966 article in Izvestiya, where the Soviet authorities magnanimously approved “family reunification,” and under this “banner the Jews were given the right to leave the USSR”[1]. And then, half a year later, the historic Six-Day War broke out. “Like any epic, this Exodus began with a miracle. And as it should be in an epic, three miracles were revealed to the Jews of Russia – to the Exodus generation”: the miracle of the foundation of Israel, “the miracle of the Purim 1953” (that is, Stalin’s death), and “the miracle of the joyous, brilliant, intoxicating victory of 1967.”[2]

The Six-Day War gave a strong and irreversible push to the ethnic consciousness of the Soviet Jews and delivered a blow to the desire of many to assimilate. It created among Jews a powerful motivation for national self-education and the study of Hebrew (within a framework of makeshift centers) and gave rise to pro-emigration attitudes.

How did the majority of Soviet Jews perceive themselves by the end of the 1960s, on the eve of Exodus? No, those who retrospectively write of a constant feeling of oppression and stress do not distort their memories: “Hearing the word ‘Jew,’ they cringe, as if expecting a blow…. They themselves use this sacramental word as rarely as possible, and when they do have to say it, they force the word out as quickly as possible and in a suppressed voice, as if they were seized by the throat…. Among such people there are those who are gripped by the eternal incurable fear ingrained in their mentality.”[3] Or take a Jewish author who wrote of spending her entire professional life worrying that her work would be rejected only because of her nationality [ethnicity in American terminology].[4] Despite having an apparently higher standard of living than the general population, many Jews still harbored this sense of oppression.

Indeed, cultivated Jews complained more of cultural rather than economic oppression. “The Soviet Jews are trying … to retain their presence in the Russian culture. They struggle to retain the Russian culture in their inner selves.”[5] Dora Shturman recalls: “When the Russian Jews, whose interests are chained to Russia, are suddenly deprived – even if only on paper or in words – of their right to engage in the Russian life, to participate in the Russian history, as if they were interlopers or strangers, they feel offended and bewildered. With the appearance of Tamizdat [a Russian neologism for dissident self-published (Samizdat) literature, published outside the USSR (from the Russian word, ‘tam’, meaning ‘there’ or ‘out there’)] and Samizdat, the xenophobia felt by some Russian authors toward Jews who sincerely identified themselves as Russians manifested itself for the first time in many years, not only on the street level and on the level of state bureaucracy, but appeared on the elite intellectual level, even among dissidents. Naturally, this surprised Jews who identified with Russians.”[6] Galich: “Many people brought up in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s used to regard themselves as Russians from their earliest years, in fact from birth, and indeed … they share all their values and thoughts with the Russian culture.”[7]

Another author drew the portrait of “the average modern Russian Jew,” who “would serve this country with good faith and fidelity. He … had carefully examined and identified his own flaws. He had become aware of them…. And now he tries to get rid of them … he has stopped arms flourishing. He has gotten rid of his national peculiarities of speech which were carried over into Russian…. At some point he would aspire to become equal with the Russians, to be indistinguishable from them.” And so: “You might not hear the word ‘Jew’ for years on end. Perhaps, many have even forgotten that you are a Jew. Yet you can never forget it yourself. It is this silence that always reminds you who you are. It creates such an explosive tension inside you, that when you do hear the word ‘Jew,’ it sounds like fate’s blow.” This is a very telling account. The same author describes the cost of this transformation into a Russian. “He had left behind too much” and become spiritually impoverished. “Now, when he needs those capacious, rich and flexible words, he can’t find them….When he looks for but can’t find the right word, something dies inside him,” he had lost “the melodic intonation of Jewish speech” with all its “gaiety, playfulness, mirth, tenacity, and irony.”[8]

Of course, these exquisite feelings did not worry each Soviet Jew; it was the lot of the tiniest minority among them, the top cultural stratum, those who genuinely and persistently tried to identify with Russians. It was them who G. Pomeranz spoke about (though he made a generalization for the whole intelligentsia): “Everywhere, we are not quite out of place. Everywhere, we are not quite in our place”; we “have become something like non-Israeli Jews, the people of the air, who lost all their roots in their mundane existence.”[9]

Very well put.

A. Voronel develops the same theme:  “I clearly see all the sham of their [Jews’] existence in Russia today.”[10]

If there’s no merging, there will always be alienation.

Nathan Sharansky often mentioned that from a certain point he started to feel being different from the others in Russia.

During the Dymshits–Kuznetsov hijacking affair trial in December 1970, L. Hnoh openly stated what he had apparently nurtured for quite a while: “It became unbearable for me to live in a country I don’t regard as my own.”

What integrity of mind and courage of word!

So it was this feeling that grew among the Soviet Jews, and now increasingly among the broad Jewish masses.

Later, in 1982, another Jewish journalist put it like thus: “I am a stranger. I am a stranger in my own country which I love abstractly but fear in reality.”[11]

In the beginning of the 1970s, in a conversation with L.K. Chukovskaya she told me (I made a note at the time): “This Exodus was forced on Jewry. I pity those whom the Russians made feel Jewish. The Soviet Jews have already lost their sense of Jewishness and I consider this artificial awakening of their national sense to be specious.”

This was far from the truth. Despite the fact that she socialized with many Jews from both capitals, Chukovskaya was mistaken. This Jewish national awakening was not artificial or forced; it was an absolutely natural and even necessary milestone of Jewish history. It was the sudden realization that “one can say ‘Jew’ proudly!”[12]

Another Jewish publicist reflected on the experience of his generation of young people in the USSR: “So what are we – the ‘grandchildren’ and heirs of that cruel experiment, who broke through the shell and hatched here in Israel – what are we to say about our fathers and grandfathers? Should we blame them that they didn’t raise us in Jewish way? Yet our very sense of Jewishness was in great part the result of their (as well as our) failures, catastrophes and despair. So let us appreciate this past…. Is it up to us to throw stones at the shattered skulls of the romantics of yesterday?”[13]

This sincerely and honestly expressed intergenerational connection to the fathers and grandfathers, who were so enthusiastic in the early Soviet years, greatly supplements the whole picture. (You can read between the lines the author’s rejection of the benefits and advantages of the ‘new class’ that has replaced those ‘romantics.’)

A Samizdat article properly pointed out: “The opinion that the current rise in Jewish ethnic consciousness among assimilated Soviet Jews is just a reaction to the re-emergence of anti-Semitism seems deeply mistaken. What we have here is more likely a coincidence.”[14]

Different contemporaries described the development of their Jewish self-identification somewhat differently. Some wrote that “nearly everyone agreed that nothing was happening in the 1960s” in the sense of national revival, though “after the war of 1967 things began to change.” Yet it was the plane hijacking incident that led to the breakthrough.[15] Others suggest that “Jewish groups were already forming in the mid-1960s in Leningrad, Moscow, and Riga,” and that by the end of the decade a Jewish “underground center” was established in Leningrad. Yet what kind of conspiracy could it be? “Makeshift centers to study Hebrew and Jewish history were formed … and not really for study of Hebrew, but rather for the socialization of people who wished to study it. Actual language usually was learnt not beyond two to three hundred words…. As a rule, all participants were state functionaries, and, like their entire milieu, far removed from the Jewish religion and national traditions alike.” “The Jews of the 1960s had only a vague conception of Zionism.” And yet, “we felt ourselves to be sufficiently Jewish, and saw no need whatsoever for any sort of additional ‘Jewish educational remedy.’” In response to the barrage of anti-Israeli propaganda, “the inner sympathy towards Jewry and to Israel” grew. “Even if we were told then that Israel had abandoned Judaism, it would make no difference for us.” And then the movement “began to transform from an underground to a mass, open … ‘parlour’ phenomenon.” Still, “then nobody believed in the possibility of emigration, at least in our time, yet everyone considered a quite real possibility of ending up in a camp.”[16] (The interviewer comments: “Alas, it is too short a step from conspiracy to ‘devilry‘. I saw this in the Jewish movement of the 1970s, after the trials in Leningrad.”)[17]

Thus, the return to Jewish culture started and continued without counting on emigration and initially did not affect the everyday life of the participants. “I’m not sure that Aliyah [return to Israel] began because of Zionists,” as those first Zionist groups were too weak for this. “To a certain extent, it was the Soviet government that triggered the process by raising a tremendous noise around the Six-Day War. The Soviet press painted the image of a warlike invincible Jew, and this image successfully offset the inferiority complex of the Soviet Jews.”[18]

But “hide your ‘Judaic terror’ from your co-workers’ eyes, from your neighbors’ ears!” At first, there was a deep fear: “these scraps of paper, bearing your contact details, were as if you were signing a sentence for yourself, for your children, for your relatives.” Yet soon “we ceased whispering, we began to speak aloud,” “to prepare and celebrate” the Jewish holidays and “study history and Hebrew.” And already from the end of 1969 “the Jews by the  tens and hundreds began signing open letters to the ‘public abroad.’ They demanded to be ‘released’ to Israel.”[19] Soviet Jewry, “separated from world Jewry, trapped in the melting pot of the despotic Stalinist empire … was seemingly irredeemably lost for Jewry – and yet suddenly the Zionist movement was reborn and the ancient Moses’ appeal trumpeted again: ‘Let my people go!’”[20]

“In 1970 the whole world began to talk about Russian Jews.” They “rose, they became determined….There is only one barrier separating them from their dream – the barrier of governmental prohibition. To break through, to breech it, to fly through it was their only wish…. ‘Flee from Northern Babylon!’” was the behest of the arrested plane hijackers, the group led by E. Kuznetsov and M. Dymshits.[21] In December 1970 during their trial in Leningrad “they weren’t silent, they didn’t evade, they openly declared that they wanted to steal a plane to fly it across the border to Israel. Remember, they faced the death sentence! Their ‘confessions’ were in essence the declarations of Zionism.”[22] A few months later in May 1971, there was a trial of the ‘Zionist organizations of Leningrad,’ soon followed by similar trials in Riga and Kishinev.

These trials, especially the two Leningrad trials, became the new powerful stimulus for the development of the Jewish ethnic consciousness. A new Samizdat journal, The Jews in the USSR, began to circulate soon afterwards, in October 1972. It vividly reported on the struggle for the legalization of emigration to Israel and covered the struggle for the right to freely develop Jewish culture in the USSR.

But even at this point only a minority of Jews were involved in the nascent emigration movement. “It seems that the life was easier for the Soviet Jews when they knew that they had no choice, that they only could persevere and adapt, than now, when they’ve got a choice of where to live and what to do…. The first wave that fled from Russia at the end of the 1960s was motivated only by the goal of spending the rest of their lives in the only country without anti-Semitism, Israel.”[23] (As the author noted, this does not include those who emigrated for personal enrichment.)

And “a part of Soviet Jewry would happily repudiate their national identity, if they were allowed to do so.”[24] – so scared they were. This section included those Jews who cursed ‘that Israel,’ claiming that it is because of Israel that law-abiding Jews are often being prevented from career advancement: “because of those leaving, we too will suffer.”

The Soviet government could not but be alarmed by this unexpected (for them as for the whole world) awakening of ethnic consciousness among Soviet Jews. It stepped up propaganda efforts against Israel and Zionism, to scare away the newly conscious. In March 1970 it made use of that well-worn Soviet trick, to get the denunciation from the mouths of the “people themselves,” in this case from the people of “Jewish nationality.” So the authorities staged a denunciatory public press-conference and it was dutifully attended not only by the most hypocritical “official Jews” such as Vergelis, Dragunsky, Chakovsky, Bezymensky, Dolmatovsky, the film director Donsky, the propagandists Mitin and Mintz, but also by prominent people who could easily refuse to participate in the spectacle and in signing the “Declaration” without significant repercussions for themselves. Among the latter were: Byalik: the members of Academy, Frumkin and Kassirsky: the internationally renowned musicians, Fliyer and Zak; the actors, Plisetskaya, Bystritskaya, and Pluchek. But sign it they did. The “Declaration” “heaped scorn on the aggression carried by the Israeli ruling circles … which resurrects the barbarism of the Hitlerites”; “Zionism has always been an expression of the chauvinist views of the Jewish bourgeois and its Jewish raving”; and the signatories intend “to open the eyes of the gullible victims of Zionist propaganda”: “under the guidance of the Leninist party, working Jews have gained full freedom from the hated Tsarism.” Amazing, see who was the real oppressor? The one already dead for half a century!

But times had changed by this point. The “official Jews” were publicly rebuked by I. Zilberberg, a young engineer who had decided to irrevocably cut ties with this country and leave. He circulated an open letter in response to the “Declaration” in Samizdat, calling its signatories “lackey souls”, and repudiated his former faith in communism: “we naively placed our hopes in ‘our’ Jews – the Kaganovichs, the Erenburgs, etc.” (So, after all, they had once indeed placed their hopes there?) At the same time he criticised Russians: after the 1950s, did “Russians repent and were they contrite … and, after spilling a meagre few tears about the past … did they swear love and commitment to their new-found brothers?” In his mind there was no doubt that Russian guilt Jews was entirely one-sided.

Such events continued. Another Samizdat open letter became famous a year later, this one by the hitherto successful film director Mikhail Kalik, who had now been expelled from the Union of Soviet film-makers because he declared his intention to leave for Israel. Kalik unexpectedly addressed  a letter about his loyalty to Jewish culture “to the Russian intelligentsia.” It looked as if he had spent his life in the USSR not among the successful, but had suffered for years among the oppressed, striving for freedom. And now, leaving, he lectured this sluggish Russian intelligentsia from the moral high ground of his victimhood. “So you will stay … with your silence, with your ‘obedient enthusiasm?’ Who then will take care for the moral health of the nation, the country, the society?”

Six months later there was another open letter, this time from the Soviet writer Grigory Svirsky. He was driven to this by the fact that he hadn’t been published for several years and even his name had been removed from the Encyclopaedia of Literature in punishment for speaking out against anti-Semitism at the Central Literary House in 1968. This punishment he termed “murder,” with understandable fire, though he forgot to glance back and to see how many others suffered in this regard. “I do not know how to live from now on,” he wrote to the Union of Writers. (This was a sentiment common to all 6,000 members of the union: they all believed that the government was bound to feed them for their literary work). These were “the reasons which made me, a man of Russian culture, what is more a Russian writer and an expert on Russian literature, feel myself to be a Jew and to come to the irrevocable decision to leave with my family to Israel”; “I wish to become an Israeli writer.” (But he achieved no such transformation of his profession from one nation to another. Svirsky, like many previous emigrants, had not realized how difficult he would find adjusting to Israel, and chose to leave there too.)

The hostile anti-Russian feelings and claims we find in so many voices of the awakened Jewish consciousness surprise and bewilder us, making our hearts bleed. Yet in these feelings of the “mature ferocity” we do not hear any apology proffered by our Jewish brothers for at least the events of 1920s. There isn’t a shadow of appreciation that Russians too are a wronged people. However, we heard some other voices among the “ferocious” in the previous chapter. Looking back on those times when they were already in Israel, they sometimes gave a more sober account: “we spent too much time settling debts with Russia in Jews in the USSR” at the expense even of devoting “too little to Israel and our life there … and thinking too little about the future.”[25]


For the ordinary mundane and unarmed living, the prospect of breaking the steel shell that had enveloped the USSR seemed an impossible and hopeless task. But then they despaired – and had to try – and something gave! The struggle for the right to emigrate to Israel was characterised throughout by both determination and inventiveness: issuing complaints to the Supreme Soviet, demonstrations and hunger strikes by the “refuseniks” (as Jews who had been refused exit to Israel called themselves); seminars by fired Jewish professors on the pretext of wanting “to maintain their professional qualifications”; the organization in Moscow of an international symposium of scientists (at the end of 1976); finally, refusal to undergo national service.

Of course, this struggle could only be successful with strong support from Jewish communities abroad. ”For us the existence in the world of Jewish solidarity was a startling discovery and the only glimmer of hope in that dark time” remembers one of the first refuseniks.[26] There was also substantial material assistance: “among refuseniks in Moscow there was born a particular sort of independence, founded on powerful economic support from Jews abroad.”[27] And so they attached even more hopes to assistance from the West, now expecting similarly powerful public and even political help.

This support had its first test in 1972. Somebody in the higher echelons of the Soviet government reasoned as follows: here we have the Jewish intelligentsia, educated for free in the Soviet system and then provided with opportunities to pursue their academic careers, and now they just leave for abroad to work there with all these benefits subsidized by the Soviet state. Would it not be just to institute a tax on this? Why should the country prepare for free educated specialists, taking up the places loyal citizens might have had, only to have them use their skills in other countries? And so they started to prepare a law to institute this tax. This plan was no secret, and quickly became known and widely discussed in Jewish circles. It became law on August 3, 1972 in the Order of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR “On the compensation by citizens of the USSR, who are leaving to permanently live abroad, of the government expenditure on their education.” The amount proscribed was between 3,600 and 9,800 roubles, depending on the rank of the university (3,600 was in those days the yearly salary of an ordinary senior researcher without a doctorate).

A storm of international indignation erupted. During the 55 years of its existence, none of the monstrous list of the USSR’s crimes had caused as united an international protest as this tax on educated emigrants. American academics, 5,000 in number, signed a protest (Autumn 1972); and two thirds of American senators worked together to stop an expected favorable trade agreement with the USSR. European parliamentarians behaved similarly. For their part, 500 Soviet Jews sent an open letter to UN General Secretary Kurt Waldheim (nobody yet suspected that he too would soon be damned) describing: “serfdom for those with a higher education.” (In reaching for a phrase they failed to realize how this would sound in a country which had genuine kolkhoz serfdom).

The Soviet government buckled, and consigned the order to the scrapheap.

As to the agreement on trade? In April 1973, union leader George Meany argued that the agreement was neither in the interest of the USA nor would it ease international tensions, but the senators were concerned only about Soviet Jews and ignored these arguments. They passed the agreement but adding the “Jackson amendment,” which stated that it would only be agreed to once Jews were allowed to leave the USSR freely. And so the whole world heard the message coming from the American capital: we will help the Soviet government if they release from their country, not everyone, but specifically and only Jews.

Nobody declared loud and clear: gentlemen, for 55 years it has been but a dream to escape from under the hated Soviet regime, not for hundreds of thousands but for millions of our fellow citizens; but nobody, ever had the right to leave. And yet the political and social leaders of the West never showed surprise, never protested, never moved to punish the Soviet government with trade restrictions. (There was one unsuccessful attempt in 1931 to organise a campaign against Soviet dumping of lumber, a practise made possible only by the use of cheap convict labour, but even this campaign was apparently motivated by commercial competition). 15 million peasants were destroyed in the “dekulakisation,” 6 million peasants were starved to death in 1932, not even to mention the mass executions and millions who died in the camps; and at the same time it was fine to politely sign agreements with Soviet leaders, to lend them money, to shake their “honest hands”, to seek their support, and to boast of all this in front of your parliaments. But once it was specifically Jews that became the target, then a spark of sympathy ran through the West and it became clear just what sort of regime this was. (In 1972 I made a note on a scrap of paper: “You’ve realized [what’s going on], thank God. But for how long will your realisation last? All it takes is for the problems Jews had with emigrating to be resolved, and you’ll become deaf, blind and uncomprehending again to the entirety of what is going on, to the problems of Russia and of communism.”)

“You cannot imagine the enthusiasm with which it [the Jackson amendment] was met by Jews in Russia…. ‘Finally a lever strong enough to shift the powers in the USSR is discovered.’”[28] Yet suddenly in 1975 the Jackson amendment became an irrelevance, as the Soviet government unexpectedly turned down the offer of the trade agreement with the US. (Or it rather calculated that it could get more advantages from other competing countries).

The Soviet refusal made an impression on Jewish activists in the USSR and abroad, but not for long. Both in America and Europe support for Jewish emigration out of the USSR became louder. “The National Conference in Defence of Soviet Jews.” “The Union on Solidarity with Soviet Jewry.” “The Student Committee of Struggle for Soviet Jewry.” On the “Day of National Solidarity with Soviet Jews” more than 100,000 demonstrated in Manhattan, including senators Jackson and Humphrey (both were running for the Democratic nomination for President.) “Hundreds different protests took place…. The  largest of these were the yearly ‘Solidarity Sundays’ – demonstrations and rallies in New York which were attended by up to 250,000 people (these ran from 1974-1987).”[29] A three day meeting of 18 Nobel laureates in support of the Corresponding Member of Academy Levich took place in Oxford. Another 650 academics from across the world gave their support – and Levich was allowed to emigrate. In January 1978 more than a hundred American academics sent a telegram to Brezhnev demanding that he allow professor Meiman to go abroad. Another worldwide campaign ended in another success: the mathematician Chudnovsky received permission to leave for a medical procedure unavailable in the USSR. It was not just the famous: often a name until then unheard of would be trumpeted across the world and then returned to obscurity. For example, we heard it especially loudly in May 1978, when the world press told us a heart-rending story: a seven year old Moscow girl Jessica Katz had an incurable illness, and her parents were not allowed to go to the States! A personal intervention from Senator Edward Kennedy followed, and presto! Success! The press rejoiced. The main news on every television channel broadcast the meeting at the airport, the tears of happiness, the girl held aloft. The Russian Voice of America devoted a whole broadcast to how Jessica Katz was saved (failing to notice that Russian families with sick children still faced the same impenetrable wall). A medical examination later showed that Jessica wasn’t ill at all, and that her cunning parents had fooled the whole world to ensure her leaving. (A fact acknowledged through gritted teeth on the radio, and then buried. Who else would be forgiven such a lie?) Similarly, the hunger strike of V. Borisov (December 1976) who had already spent nine years in a ‘mental asylum’ was reported by the Voice of America no differently from the 15 days of imprisonment of Ilya Levin, and if anything, more attention was given to the latter. All a few refuseniks had to do was sign a declaration about their inability to leave the USSR and it was immediately reported by the Freedom, Voice of America, the BBC and by the other most important sources of mass information, so much so that it is hard now to believe how loudly they were trumpeted.

Of course it has to be noted that all the pomp surrounding the appearance of a Soviet Jewish movement served to awaken among worldwide Jewry, including those in America, an exciting conception of themselves as a nation. “Prophetic obsession of the first Zionists” in the USSR “induced exulting sympathy among the Western Jews.” “The Western Jews saw their own ideals in action. They began to believe in Russian Jews … that meant for them believing in their own best qualities…. All that which Western Jews wanted to see around themselves and … didn’t see.”[30] Others said, with a penetrating irony: “The offered product (an insurrectionary Jewish spirit) found a delighted buyer (American Jews). Neither America, nor American Jews are at all interested in Jews from the USSR in themselves. The product bought was precisely the spirit of Jewish revolt. The Jews of America (and with them the Jews of London, Amsterdam, Paris, etc.), whose sense of Jewishness had been excited by the Six-Day War triumph … saw the chance to participate…. It was a comfortable ‘struggle’… that moreover did not involve any great exertion.”[31]

However, it cannot be denied that these inspirations both here and there merged, and worked together to destabilise the walls of the steel shell of the old Soviet Union.


It is the general opinion that mass Jewish emigration from the USSR began in 1971, when 13,000 people left (98% to Israel). It was 32,000 in 1972, 35,000 in 1973 (the proportion going to Israel varying from 85% to 100%)[32]. However these were for the most part not from the ethnically Russian areas, but from Georgia and the Baltic. (A Jewish delegate to an international congress declared that “Georgia is a country without anti-Semitism”; many Georgian Jews later became disappointed with their move to Israel and wanted to go back). There was no mass movement from the central part of the USSR. Later, when leaving was made more difficult, some expressed a serious regret (R. Nudelman):  the “tardy courage of future refuseniks might have, perhaps, been unnecessary if they had taken advantage of the breech made when they‘d had the chance.” Someone disagrees: “But people need time to mature! … See how long it took before we understood that we must not stay, that it is simply a crime against your own children.”[33]

“Ho, ho, [come forth], and flee from the land of the north, saith the LORD.” (Zech 2:6)

Nonetheless, the excitement of Jewish emigration took root in Russian and Ukrainian towns too. By March 1973, 700,000 requests to emigrate had been registered. However, autumn 1973 saw the Yom Kippur War, and the desire of many to emigrate suddenly diminished. “Israel’s image changed sharply after the Yom Kippur War. Instead of a secure and brave rich country, with confidence in tomorrow and a united leadership, Israel unexpectedly appeared before the world as confused, flabby, ripped apart by internal contradictions. The standard of living of the population fell sharply.”[34]

As a result only 20,000 Jews left the USSR in 1974. In 1975-76, “up to 50% of emigrating Soviet Jews” once in the stopover  point of Vienna “went … past Israel. This period saw the birth of the term ‘directists’” – that is to say those who went directly to the United States.[35] After 1977, their numbers “varied from 70 to 98 percent.”[36]

“Frankly, this is understandable. The Jewish state had been conceived as a national refuge for Jews of the whole world, the refuge which, to begin with, guarantees them a safe existence. But this did not transpire. The country was in the line of fire for many years.”[37]

What is more “it soon became clear that Israel needed not intellectual Soviet Jews … but a national Jewish intelligentsia.” At this point “thinking Jews … realised with a horror that in the way they had defined themselves their whole life they had no place in Israel,” because as it turned out for Israel you had to be immersed in Jewish national culture – and so only then “the arrivals realised their tragic mistake: there had been no point to leaving Russia”[38] (although this was also due to the loss of social position) – and letters back warned those who hadn’t left yet of this. “Their tone and content at that time was almost universally negative. Israel was presented as a country where the government intervenes in and seeks to act paternally in all aspects of a citizen’s life.”[39] “A prejudice against emigration to Israel began to form among many as early as the mid-1970s.”[40] “The firm opinion of Israel that the Moscow and Leningrad intelligentsia began to acquire was of a closed, spiritually impoverished society, buried in its own narrow national problems and letting today’s ideological demands have control over the culture…. At best … it is a cultural backwater, at worst … yet another totalitarian government, lacking only a coercive apparatus.”[41] “Many Soviet Jews gained the impression, not without reason, that in leaving the USSR for Israel they were exchanging one authoritarian regime for another.”[42]

When in 1972-73 more than 30,000 Soviet Jews had left for Israel per year, Golda Meir used to meet them personally at the airport and wept, and the Israeli press called their mass arrivals “the Miracle of the 20th century.” Back then “everyone left for Israel. Those who took the road to Rome,” that is to say not to Israel, “were pointed out. But then the number of arrivals started to fall from year to year. It decreased from tens of thousands to thousands, from thousands to hundreds, from hundreds to a few lone individuals. In Vienna, it was no longer those taking the road to Rome [the next stop on the road to the final desired destination, usually the U.S.] who were pointed out, it was those ‘loners,’ those ‘clowns,’ those ‘nuts,’ who still left for Israel.”[43] “Back then Israel used to be the ‘norm’ and you had to explain why you were going ‘past’ it, but it was the other way round now: it was those planning to leave for Israel that often had to explain their decision.”[44]

“Only the first wave was idealistic”; “starting with 1974, so to speak the second echelon of Jews began to leave the USSR, and for those Israel might have been attractive, but mainly from a distance.”[45] Another’s consideration: “Perhaps the phenomenon of neshira [neshira – dispersal on the way to Israel; noshrim – the dispersed ones] is somehow connected to the fact that initial emigration used to be from the hinterlands [of the USSR], where [Jewish] traditions were strong, and now it’s more from the centre, where Jews have substantially sundered themselves from their traditions.”[46]

Anyway, “the more open were the doors into Israel, the less Jewish was the efflux,” the majority of activists barely knowing the Hebrew alphabet.[47] ”Not to find their Jewishness, but to get rid of it … was now the main reason for emigration.”[48] They joked in Israel that “the world has not been filled with the clatter of Jewish feet running to settle in their own home…. Subsequent waves quickly took into account the mistake of the vanguard, and instead enthusiastically leapt en masse to where others’ hands had already built their own life. En masse, it should be noted, for here finally was that much spoken of ‘Jewish unity.’”[49] But of course these people “left the USSR in search of ‘intellectual freedom,’ and so must live in Germany or England” or more simply in the United States.[50] And a popular excuse was that the Diaspora is needed as “somebody has to give money to resource-less Israel and to make noise when it is being bullied! But on the other hand, the Diaspora perpetuates anti-Semitism.”[51]

A. Voronel made a broader point here: “”The situation of Russian Jews and the problem of their liberation is a reflection of the all-Jewish crisis…. The problems of Soviet Jews help us to see the disarray in our own ranks”; “the cynicism of Soviet Jews” in using calls from made up relatives in Israel instead of “accepting their fate, the Way of Honour, is nothing more than a reflection of the cynicism and the rot affecting the whole Jewish (and non-Jewish) world”; “questions of conscience move further and further into background under the influence of the business, the competition and the unlimited possibilities of the Free World.”[52]

So it’s all quite simple – it was just a mass escape from the harsh Soviet life to the easy Western one, quite understandable on a human level. But then what’s about “repatriation?” And what is the “spiritual superiority” of those who dared to leave over those who stayed in the “country of slaves”? In fighting in those days for emigration Soviet Jews loudly demanded: “Let my people go!” But that was a truncated quote. The Bible said: “Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.” (Ex. 5:1) Yet somehow too many of those released went not into the desert, but to the abundance of America.


Can we nonetheless say that in the early years of sudden and successful emigration to Israel, it was the Zionists beliefs and ambitions that acted as the prime stimulus for Jews to leave? The testimony of various Jewish writers would suggest not.

“The Soviet situation of the end of the 1960s was one of Aliyah, not of a Zionist movement. There were many people psychologically ready to flee the USSR. What can be called a Zionist movement was entirely subsidiary to this group of people.”[53] Those who joined makeshift centres dedicated to the actual study of Jewish history and culture “were mostly characterised by a complete lack of the careerism so common among the Soviet-Jewish intelligentsia. This was why they dedicated the entirety of their free time to Jewish affairs.”[54] For them the “era of the Hebrew teachers” had started even as early as the end of the 1970s, and by the beginning of the 1980s these “Torah teachers were the only ones who still influenced the minds.”[55]

The motives of many others who emigrated are explained as follows: “The Soviet government has placed obstacles in the way of achieving the most important things – professional advancement,” and so “Jewry is in danger of degradation.”[56] “They were driven into Jewishness, and then into Zionism … by their faceless bureaucratic nemesis.”[57] “Many … had never encountered anti-Semitism or political persecution. What burdened them was the dead end that their lives as Soviet Jews had become – as bearers of a contradiction from which they could free themselves neither by ‘assimilation’ nor by their ‘Jewishness’”[58] “There was a growing sense of incompatibility and sorrow”; “dozens and dozens of dolts … are dragging you into insignificance … are pushing you to the bottom.”[59] So came the longing to escape the Soviet Union. “This bright hope, when a man under the complete control of the Soviet government could in three months become free … was genuinely exhilarating.”[60]

Of course, a complex emotional environment developed around the act of departure. A writer says: the majority of Soviet Jews are “using the same ‘Zionist’ door … they sadly leave that familiar, that tolerant Russia” (a slip, but one that is closer to the truth, as the author had meant to say “tolerated by” Jews)[61]. Or said thusly: “The vast majority decided to emigrate with their heads, while their insides,” that is to say concern with being part of a country and its traditions, “were against.”[62] No one can judge to what extent this was a “majority.” But as we’ve seen the mood varied from the good poetry of Liya Vladimorova:

But for you my beloved, for you the proud,

I bequest the memories and the departure

to the then-popular joke: “Could the last person to leave please turn off the lights.”

This growing desire to emigrate among Soviet Jews coincided with the beginning of the “dissident” movement in the USSR. These developments were not entirely independent: “for some of them [Jewish intellectuals] ‘Jewish ethnic consciousness in the USSR’ was a new vector of intellectual development … a new form of heterodoxy,”[63] and they regarded their own impatient escape from the country as also a desperately important political cause. In essence, the dilemma facing the Zionists at the start of the 20th century was repeated: if it is your aim to leave Russia, should you at the same time maintain a political struggle within it? Back then, most had answered “yes” to the struggle; now, most answered “no.” But an increasingly daredevil attitude to emigration could not but feed a similarly daredevil attitude to politics, and sometimes the daredevils were one and the same. So for example (in 1976) several activists in the Jewish movement — V. Rubin, A. Sharansky, V. Slepak — together made an independent decision to support the “Helsinki Group” of dissidents, “but this was regarded in Jewish circles as an unjustifiable and unreasonable risk,” as it would lead “to the immediate and total escalation of the government’s repression of Jewish activism,” and would moreover turn the Jewish movement “into the property of dissidents.”[64]

On the other side, many dissidents took advantage of the synchronicity of the two movements, and used emigration as a means of escape from their political battlefield for their own safety. They found theoretical justifications for this: “Any honest man in the USSR is an eternal debtor to Israel, and here is why…. The emigration breech was made in the iron curtain thanks to Israel … it protects the rear of those few people willing to oppose the tyranny of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union [CPSU] and to fight for human rights in the USSR. The absence of this ‘emergency exit’ would be deadly to the current democratic movement.”[65]

It has to be admitted that this is a very cynical justification, and that it says little good of the dissident movement as a whole. A hostile critic then noted: “these ‘opponents’ [of the CPSU] are playing an odd game: they become involved in the democratic movement, already sure of an ‘emergency exit’ for themselves. But by this they demonstrate the temporary and inconsequential character of their activity. Do potential emigrants have the right to speak of changing Russia, or especially on behalf of Russia?”[66]

One dissident science fiction author (and later, after emigration, a Russian Orthodox priest) suggested this formulation, that Jewish emigration creates “a revolution in the mind of Soviet man”; “the Jews, in fighting for the right to leave, become transformed into fighters for freedom” in general….”The Jewish movement serves as a social gland that begins to secrete the hormones of rights awareness;” it has become “a sort of ferment perpetuating dissidence.” “Russia is becoming ‘deserted,’” “that ‘abroad,’ so mythical before, is becoming populated by our own people,” “the Jewish Exodus … is gradually leading totalitarian Soviet Moscow to the plains of freedom.”[67]

This view was readily accepted and in the coming years came to be loudly trumpeted:  “the right to emigrate is the primary human right.” It was repeated often and in unison that this was an “enforced escape,” and “talk about the privileged position Jews occupy with regards to emigration is slander.”[68]

Yes, taking a lifeboat from a sinking ship is indeed an act of necessity. But to own a lifeboat is a great privilege, and after the gruelling ordeals of half a century in the USSR Jews owned one, while the rest did not. Those more perceptive expressed a more conscientious feeling: “It is fine to fight for the repatriation of Jews, it is understandable, and it is fine to fight for the right to emigrate for everyone – that too is understandable; but you cannot fight for the right to emigrate but, for some reason, only for Jews.[69] Contrary to the self-satisfied theoreticians of emigration, and their belief that it brought all Soviet people closer to emigrating abroad and so partly freed them, in reality those unable to emigrate came to feel more hopeless, to an even greater extent fooled and enslaved. There were emigrants who understood this: “What is cruellest about this situation is that it is Jews who are leaving. It has bizarrely become a question of something akin to a certificate of authenticity.”[70]

Precisely. But they chose to blind themselves to this.

What could the remaining residents of “totalitarian Moscow” think? There was a great variety of responses, from grievance (“You, Jews, are allowed to leave and we aren’t…”) to the despair of intellectuals. L.K Chukovksaya expressed it in conversation to me: “Dozens of valuable people are leaving, and as a result human bonds vital for the country are ripped apart. The knots that hold together the fabric of culture are being undone.”

To repeat the lesson: “Russia is becoming deserted.”

We can read the thoughtful comments of an emigrant Jewish author about this Departure: “Russian Jewry were pathfinders in their experiment to merge with the Russian people and Russian culture, they became involved in Russia’s fate and history, and, repulsed away as if by a similarly charged body, left.” (What an accurate and penetrating comparison!) “What is most stunning about this Departure is how, at the moment of greatest assimilation, voluntary it was…. The pathetic character of the Russian Aliyah of the 1970s … was that we were not exiled from the country on a king’s order or by the decision of party and parliament, and we were not fleeing to save ourselves from the whips of an enraged popular pogrom … this fact is not immediately obvious to the participants in this historical event.”[71]

No doubt, the Jewish emigration from the USSR ushered in a great historical shift. The beginning of the Exodus drew a line under an epoch lasting two centuries of coerced co-existence between Jews and Russians. From that point every Soviet Jew was free to choose for himself — to live in Russia or outside it. By the second half of the 1980s each was entirely free to leave for Israel without struggle.

The events that took place over two centuries of Jewish life in Russia – the Pale of Settlement,the escape from its stultifying confines, the flowering, the ascension to the ruling circles of Russia, then the new constraints, and finally the Exodus – none of these are random streams on the outskirts of history. Jewry had completed its spread from its origin on the Mediterranean Sea to as far away as Eastern Europe, and it was now returning back to its point of origin.

We can see in both this spread and in its reversal a supra-human design. Perhaps those that come after us will have the opportunity to see it more clearly and to solve its mystery.

[1] F. Kolker. Novyi plan pomoshchi sovetskomu evreistvu [A New Plan for Assistance to the Soviet Jewry].  // “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, 1983, (31), p. 145.

[2] V. Boguslavsky. Otsy i deti russkoi alii [Fathers and Children of Russian Aliyah]. // “22”, 1978, (2), p. 176.

[3] I. Domalsky. Tekhnologiya nenavisti [The Technology of Hate].  // Vremya i my: Mezhdunarodny zhurnal literatury i obshchestvennykh problem [Epoch and We: International Journal of Literature and Social Problems (henceforth – EW)]. Tel Aviv, 1978, (25), p. 106-107.

[4] Ya. Voronel. U kazhdogo svoi dom [Everyone Has a Home].  // “22”, 1978, (2), p. 150-151.

[5] I. Domalsky. Tekhnologiya nenavisti [The Technology of Hate].  // EW. Tel Aviv, 1978, (25), p. 129.

[6] D. Shturman. Razmyshleniya nad rukopisyu [Mulling over the Manuscript].  // “22”, 1980, 812), p. 133.

[7] Aleksandr Galich. Pesni. Stikhi. Poemy. Kinopovest. Piesa. Statii [Songs. Verses. Poems. Movie-essay. Piece. Essays]. Ekaterinburg, U-Faktoriya, 1998, p.586.

[8] Rani Aren. V russkom galute [In the Russian Galuth].  // “22”, 1981, (19), p. 133-135, 137.

[9] G. Pomerantz. Chelovek niotkuda [A Man from Nowhere]. From G. Pomerantz, Unpublished. Frankfurt: Posev, 1972, p. 161, 166.

[10] A. Voronel. Trepet iudeiskikh zabot [The Thrills of Jewish Worries]. 2nd Edition, Ramat-Gahn: Moscow-Jerusalem, 1981, p. 122.

[11] M. Deich. Zapiski postoronnego [Notes of an outsider] // “22,” 1982, (26), p. 156.

[12] R. Rutman. Ukhodyashchemu – poklon, ostayushchemusya – bratstvo [Farewell to those who leaves, brotherhood to those who stay].  // The New Journal, 1973, (112), p. 286.

[13] V. Boguslavsky. V zashchitu Kunyaeva [In Defence of Kunyaev].  // “22”, 1980, (16), p. 176.

[14] N. Ilsky. Istoriya i samosoznanie [The History and Consciousness].  // The Jews in the USSR, 1977, (15): citation from “22”, 1978, (1), p. 202.

[15] A. Eterman. Tretye pokolenie [The Third Generation]. Interview. // “22”, 1986, (47), p. 124.

[16] V. Boguslavsky. U istokov [At the Origins]. Interview. // “22”, 1986, (47), p. 102, 105-108.

[17] Ibid., p. 109.

[18] V. Boguslavsky. Oglyanis v razdumye [Look Behind and Think]. Panel discussion. // “22”, 1982, (24), p. 113.

[19] V. Boguslavsky. Otsy i deti russkoi alii [Fathers and Children of Russian Aliyah]. // “22”, 1978, (2), p. 176-177.

[20] I. Oren. Ispoved [Confession] // “22”, 1979, (7), p. 140.

[21] V. Boguslavsky. Otsy i deti russkoi alii [Fathers and Children of Russian Aliyah]. // “22”, 1978, (2), p. 177-178.

[22] V. Boguslavsky. U istokov [At the Origins]. Interview. // “22”, 1986, (47), p. 121.

[23] G. Fain. V roli vysokooplachivaemykh shveitzarov [In the Role of Highly Paid Doorkeepers]. // EW, Tel Aviv, 1976, (12), p. 135.

[24] I. Domalsky. Tekhnologiya nenavisti [The Technology of Hate].  // EW. Tel Aviv, 1978, (25), p. 106.

[25] R. Nudelman. Oglyanis v razdumye [Look Behind and Think]. Panel discussion. // “22”, 1982, (24), p. 141.

[26] N. Rubinshtein. Kto chitatel? [Who is the Reader?]  // EW, Tel Aviv, 1976, (7), p. 131.

[27] E. Manevich. Letter to the editor. // EW, New York, 1985, (85), p. 230-231.

[28] V. Perelman. Krushenie chuda: prichiny i sledstviya. Beseda s G. Rosenblyumom [Collapse of the Miracle: Causes and Consequences. Conversation with G. Rosenblum].  // EW, Tel Aviv, 1977, (24), p. 128.

[29] Kratkaya Evreiskaya Entsiklopediya [The Short Jewish Encyclopedia (henceforth—SJE)]. Jerusalem, 1996. v. 8, p. 380.

[30] A. Voronel. Vmesto poslesloviya [Instead of Afterword].  // “22”, 1983, (31), p. 140.

[31] V. Boguslavsky. Oni nichego ne ponyali [They still don’t get it]. // “22”, 1984, (38), p. 156.

[32] F. Kolker. Novy plan pomoshchi sovetskomu evreistvu [A New Plan for Assistance to the Soviet Jewry].  // “22”, 1983, (31), p. 144.

[33] Yu. Shtern. Situatsia neustoichiva i potomu opasna [The Situation is Unstable and Therefore Dangerous]. Interview. // “22”, 1984, (38), p. 132, 133.

[34] E. Manevich. Novaya emigratsiya: slukhi i realnost [New Emigration: the Rumors and Reality] . // EW, New York, 1985, (87), p. 107-108.

[35] F. Kolker. Novy plan pomoshchi sovetskomu evreistvu [A New Plan for Assistance to the Soviet Jewry].  // “22”, 1983, (31), p. 144.

[36] V. Perelman. Oglyanis v somnenii [Look Back in Doubt].  // EW, New York, 1982, (66), p. 152.

[37] S. Tsirulnikov. Izrail – god 1986 [Israel, the Year of 1986] . // EW, New York, 1986, (88), p. 135.

[38] G. Fain. V roli vysokooplachivaemykh shveitzarov [In the Role of Highly Paid Doorkeepers].  // EW, Tel Aviv, 1976, (12), p. 135-136.

[39] E. Manevich. Novaya emigratsiya: slukhi i realnost [New Emigration: the Rumors and Reality] . // EW, New York, 1985, (87), p. 111.

[40] E. Finkelshtein. Most, kotory rukhnul… [The Bridge that Had Collapsed].  // “22”, 1984, (38), p. 148.

[41] E. Sotnikova. Letter to Editor. // EW, Tel Aviv, 1978, (25), p. 214.

[42] M. Nudler. Oglyanis v razdumye [Look Behind and Think]. Panel discussion. // “22”, 1982, (24), p. 138.

[43] V. Perelman. Letter to Editor. // EW, Tel Aviv, 1977, (23), p. 217.

[44] Yu. Shtern. Dvoinaya otvetstvennost [Dual Liability]. Interview // “22”, 1981, (21), p. 126.

[45] E. Manevich. Novaya emigratsiya: slukhi i realnost [New Emigration: the Rumors and Reality].  // EW, New York, 1985, (87), p. 109-110.

[46] G. Freiman. Dialog ob alie i emigratsii [The Dialog (with Voronel) on Aliyah and Emigration]. // “22”, 1983, (31), p. 119.

[47] A. Eterman. Tretye pokolenie [The Third Generation] Interview // “22”, 1986, (47), p. 126

[48] B. Orlov. Puti-dorogi “rimskikh piligrimov” [The Ways and Roads of “Roman Pilgrims”] // EW, Tel Aviv, 1977, (14), p. 126.

[49] A. Voronel. Oglyanis v razdumye [Look Behind and Think]. Panel discussion. // “22”, 1982, (24), p. 117-118.

[50] E. Levin. Oglyanis v razdumye [Look Behind and Think]. Panel discussion. // “22”, 1982, (24), p. 127.

[51] A. Dobrovich. Letter to Editor. // “22”, 1989, (67), p. 218.

[52] A. Voronel. Vmesto poslesloviya [Instead of Afterword]. // “22”, 1983, (31), p. 139-141.

[53] V. Boguslavsky. Oglyanis v razdumye [Look Behind and Think]. Panel discussion. // “22”, 1982, (24), p. 139.

[54] V. Boguslavsky. U istokov [At the Origins]. Interview. // “22”, 1986, (47), p. 105.

[55] A. Eterman. Tretye pokolenie [The Third Generation]. Interview // “22”, 1986, (47), p. 136-140.

[56] A. Voronel. Dialog ob alie i emigratsii [The Dialog (with G. Freiman) on Aliyah and Emigration]. // “22”, 1983, (31), p. 119.

[57] Lev Kopelev. O pravde i terpimosti [On Truth and Tolerance]. New York: Khronika Press, 1982, с. 61.

[58] Editorial. (R. Nudelman] // “22”, 1979, (7), p. 97.

[59] E. Angenits. Spusk v bezdnu [Descend into Abyss]. // “22”, 1980, (15), p. 166, 167.

[60] A. Eterman. Tretye pokolenie [The Third Generation] Interview // “22”, 1986, (47), p. 125.

[61] V. Boguslavsky. V zashchitu Kunyaeva [In Defence of Kunyaev].  // “22”, 1980, (16), p. 175.

[62] V. Lyubarsky. Chto delat, a ne kto vinovat [The Question Is Not Who Is Guilty, But What to Do]. // EW, New York, 1990, (109), p. 129.

[63] B. Khazanov. Novaya Rossiya [The New Russia].  // EW, Tel Aviv, 1976, (8), p. 143.

[64] V. Lazaris. Ironicheskaya pesenka [Ironic Song]. // “22”, 1978, (2), p. 207.

[65] I. Melchuk. Letter to Editor // EW, Tel Aviv, 1977, (23), p. 213-214.

[66] V. Lazaris. Ironicheskaya pesenka [Ironic Song]. // “22”, 1978, (2), p. 200.

[67] M. Aksenov-Meerson. Evreiskii iskhod v rossiiskoi perspective [The Jewish Exodus from Russian Point of View]. // EW, Tel Aviv, 1979, (41).

[68] G. Sukharevskaya. Letter to Editor. // Seven Days, New York, 1984, (51).

[69] I. Shlomovich. Oglyanis v razdumye [Look Behind and Think]. Panel discussion. // “22”, 1982, (24), p. 138.

[70] B. Khazanov. Novaya Rossiya [The New Russia] // EW, Tel Aviv, 1976, (8), p. 143.

[71] B. Orlov. Ne te vy uchili alfavity [You Have Studied Wrong Alphabets]. // EW, Tel Aviv, 1975, (1), p. 127-128.


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Chapter 19. In the 1930s

The 1930s were years of an intense industrialized spurt, which crushed the peasantry and altered the life of the entire country. Mere existence demanded adaptation and development of new skills. But through crippling sacrifices, and despite the many absurdities of the Soviet organizational system, the horrible epic somehow led to the creation of an industrialized power.

Yet the first and second five-year plans came into existence and were carried out not through the miracle of spontaneous generation, nor as a result of the simple violent round-up of large masses of laborers. It demanded many technical provisions, advanced equipment, and the collaboration of specialists experienced in this technology. All this flowed plentifully from the capitalist West, and most of all from the United States; not in the form of a gift, of course, and not in the form of generous help. The Soviet communists paid for all of this abundantly with Russia’s mineral wealth and timber, with concessions for raw materials markets, with trade areas promised to the West, and with plundered goods from the Empire of the tsars. Such deals flowed with the help and approval of international financial magnates, most of all those on Wall Street, in a persistent continuation of the first commercial ties that the Soviet communists developed on the American stock exchanges as early as during the Civil War. The new partnership was strengthened  by shiploads of tsarist gold and treasures from the Hermitage.

But wait a second, were we not thoroughly taught by Marx that capitalists are the fierce enemies of proletarian socialism and that we should not expect help from them, but rather a destructive, bloody war? Well, it’s not that simple: despite the official diplomatic non-recognition, trade links were completely out in the open, and even written about in Izvestiya: “American merchants are interested in broadening of economic ties with the Soviet Union.”[1] American unions came out against such an expansion (defending their markets from the products of cheap and even slave Soviet labor). The “Russian-American Chamber of Commerce,” created at that time, simply did not want to hear about any political opposition to communism, or “to mix politics with business relations.”[2]

Anthony Sutton, a modern American scholar, researched the recently-opened diplomatic and financial archives and followed the connections of Wall Street with the Bolsheviks; he pointed to the amoral logic of this long and consistent relationship. From as early as the “Marburg” plan at the beginning of the 20th century, which was based on the vast capital of Carnegie, the idea was to strengthen the authority of international finance, through global “socialization,” “for control … and for the forced appeasement.” Sutton concluded that: “International financiers prefer to do business with central governments. The banking community least of all wants a free economy and de-centralized authority.” “Revolution and international finance do not quite contradict each other, if the result of revolution should be to establish a more centralized authority,” and, therefore, to make the markets of these countries manageable. And there was a second line of agreement: “Bolsheviks and bankers shared an essential common platform — internationalism.”[3]

In that light, the subsequent support of “collective enterprises and the mass destruction of individual rights by Morgan-Rockefeller” was not surprising. In justification of this support, they claimed in Senate hearings: “Why should a great industrial country, like America, desire the creation and subsequent competition of another great industrial rival?”[4] Well, they rightly believed that with such an obviously uncompetitive, centralized and totalitarian regime, Soviet Russia could not rival America. Another thing is that Wall Street could not predict further development of the Bolshevik system, nor its extraordinary ability to control people, working them to the very bone, which eventually led to the creation of a powerful, if misshapen, industry.

But how does this tie in with our basic theme? Because as we have seen, American financiers completely refused loans to pre-revolutionary Russia due to the infringement of the rights of Jews there, even though Russia was always a profitable financial prospect. And clearly, if they were prepared to sacrifice profits at that time, then now, despite all their counting on the Soviet markets, the “Morgan-Rockefeller Empire” would not assist the Bolsheviks if the persecution of the Jews was looming on horizon in the USSR at the start of the 1930s.

That’s just the point: for the West, the previously described Soviet oppression of the traditional Jewish culture and of Zionists easily disappeared under the contemporary general impression that the Soviet power would not oppress the Jews, but on the contrary, that many of them would remain at the levers of power.

Certain pictures of the past have the ability to conveniently rearrange in our mind in order to soothe our consciousness. And today a perception has formed that in the 1930s the Jews were already forced out of the Soviet ruling elite and had nothing to do with the administration of the country. In the 1980s we see assertions like this: in the Soviet times, the Jews in the USSR were “practically destroyed as a people; they had been turned into a social group, which was settled in the large cities “as a social stratum to serve the ruling class.”[5]

No. Not only far from “serving”, the Jews were to the large extent members of the “ruling class.” And the “large cities,” the capitals of the constituent Soviet republics, were the very thing the authorities bought off through improved provisioning, furnishing and maintenance, while the rest of the country languished from oppression and poverty. And now, after the shock of the Civil War, after the War Communism, after the NEP and the first five-year plan, it was the peace-time life of the country that was increasingly managed by the government apparatus, in which the role of the Jews was quite conspicuous, at least until 1937-38.

In 1936, at the 8th Congress of Soviets of the Soviet Union, Molotov, on orders from Stalin (perhaps to differ from Hitler in the eyes of the West) delivered this tirade: “Our brotherly feelings toward the Jewish people are determined by the fact that they begat the genius and the creator of the ideas of the communist liberation of Mankind,” Karl Marx; “that the Jewish people, alongside the most developed nations, brought forth countless prominent scientists, engineers, and artists [that undoubtedly had already manifested itself in the Soviet 1930s, and will be even more manifest in the post-war years], and gave many glorious heroes to the revolutionary struggle … and in our country they gave and are still giving new, remarkable, and talented leaders and managers in all areas of development and defense of the Cause of Socialism.[6]

The italics are mine. No doubt, it was said for propaganda purposes. But Molotov’s declaration was appropriate. And the “defense of the Cause of Socialism” during all those years was in the hands of the GPU, the army, diplomacy, and the ideological front. The willing participation of so many Jews in these organs continued in the early and mid-1930s, until 1937-38.

Here we will briefly review – according to contemporary newspapers, later publications, and modern Jewish encyclopedias – the most important posts and names that had emerged mainly in the 1930s. Of course, such a review, complicated by the fact that we know nothing about how our characters identified themselves in regard to nationality, may contain mistakes in individual cases and can in no way be considered comprehensive.

After the destruction of the “Trotskyite opposition,” the Jewish representation in the party apparatus became noticeably reduced. But that purge of the supreme party apparatus was absolutely not anti-Jewish. Lazar Kaganovich retained his extremely prominent position in the Politburo; he was an ominously merciless individual and, at the same time, a man of notoriously low proffessional level. (Nevertheless, from the mid-1930s he was the Secretary of the Central Committee, and simultaneously a member of the Organizational Bureau of the Central Committee —  only Stalin himself held both these positions at the same time). And he placed three of his brothers in quite important posts. Mikhail Kaganovich was deputy chair of the Supreme Soviet of the National Economy beginning in 1931; from 1937 he was narkom (narodny komissar, that is, “people’s commissar”) of the defense industry; later he simultaneously headed the aviation industry. Yuli Kaganovich, passing through the leading party posts in Nizhniy Novgorod (as all the brothers did), became deputy narkom of the foreign trade.[7] (Another, absolutely untalented brother, was a “big gun” in Rostov-on-Don. It reminds me of a story by Saltykov-Shchedrin, where  one Vooz Oshmyanskiy tried to place his brother Lazar in a profitable post). However, both the ethnic Russian opposition factions, that of Rykov, Bukharin and Tomsky, and that of Syrtsov, Ryutin, and Uglanov, were destroyed by Stalin in the beginning of the 1930s with support of the Jewish Bolsheviks — he drew necessary replacements from their ranks. Kaganovich was the principal and the most reliable of Stalin’s supporters in the Politburo: he demanded the execution of Ryutin (October 1932-January 1933) but even Stalin wasn’t able to manage it then.[8] The purge of 1930-1933 dealt with the Russian elements in the party.

Out of 25 members in the Presidium of the Central Control Commission after the 16th Party Congress (1930), 10 were Jews: A. Solts, “the conscience of the Party” (in the bloodiest years from 1934 to 1938 was assistant to Vyshinsky, the General Prosecutor of the USSR [9]); Z. Belenky (one of the three above-mentioned Belenky brothers); A. Goltsman (who supported Trotsky in the debate on trade unions); ferocious Rozaliya Zemlyachka (Zalkind); M. Kaganovich, another of the brothers; the Chekist Trilisser; the “militant atheist” Yaroslavsky; B. Roizenman; and A.P. Rozengolts, the surviving assistant of Trotsky. If one compares the composition of the party’s Central Committee in the 1920s with that in the early 1930s, he would find that it was almost unchanged — both in 1925 as well as after the 16th Party Congress, Jews comprised around 1/6 of the membership.[10]

In the upper echelons of the communist party after the 17th Congress (“the congress of the victors”) in 1934, Jews remained at 1/6 of the membership of the Central Committee; in the Party Control Commission — around 1/3, and a similar proportion in the Revision Commission of the Central Committee. (It was headed for quite a while by M. Vladimirsky. From 1934 Lazar Kaganovich took the reins of the Central Control Commission). Jews made up the same proportion (1/3) of the members of the Commission of the Soviet Control.[11] For five  years filled with upheaval (1934-1939) the deputy General Prosecutor of the USSR was Grigory Leplevsky.[12]

Occupants of many crucial party posts were not even announced in Pravda. For instance, in autumn 1936 the Secretary of the Central Committee of Komsomol (the Union of Communist Youth) was E. Fainberg.[13] The Department of the Press and Publishing of the Central Committee – the key ideological establishment – was managed by B. Tal. Previously, the department was headed by Lev Mekhlis, who had by then shifted to managing Pravda full-time; from 1937 Mekhlis became deputy narkom of defense and the head of Political Administration of the Red Army.

We see many Jews in the command posts in provinces: in the Central Asia Bureau, the Eastern Siberia Krai Party Committee (kraikom), in the posts of first secretaries of the obkoms [party committee of oblasts] of the Volga German Republic, the Tatar, Bashkir, Tomsk, Kalinin, and Voronezh oblasts and in many others. For example, Mendel Khatayevich (a member of the Central Committee from 1930) was consequently secretary of Gomel, Odessa, Tatar, and Dnepropetrovsk obkoms, secretary of the Middle Volga kraikom, and second secretary of the Communist Party of Ukraine. Yakov Chubin was secretary of the Chernigov and Akmolinsk obkoms and of the Shakhtinsk district party committee; later he served in several commissions of the Party Control in Moscow, Crimea, Kursk, and Turkmenia, and from 1937 he was the first secretary of the Central Committee of Turkmenia.[14] There is no need to list all such  names, but let’s not overlook the real contribution of these secretaries into the Bolshevik cause; also note their striking geographical mobility, as in the 1920s. Reliable cadres were still in much demand and indispensable. And there was no concern that they lacked knowledge of each new locality of which they took charge.

Yet much more power was in the hands of the narkoms. In 1936 we see nine Jewish narkoms in the Government. Take the worldwide-famous narkom of foreign affairs Litvinov (in the friendly cartoons in Izvestiya, he was portrayed as a knight of peace with a spear and shield taking a stand against foreign filth); no less remarkable, but only within the limits of the USSR, was the narkom of internal affairs Yagoda; the ascending and all-glorious “Iron Narkom” of railroads, Lazar Kaganovich; foreign trade was headed by A. Rozengolts(before that we saw him in the Central Control Commission); I.Ya. Weitser was in charge of domestic trade; M. Kalmanovich was in charge of sovkhozes [state owned farms that paid wages] (he was the foods-commissar from the end of 1917); I.E. Lyubimov was narkom of light industry; G. Kaminskiy was narkom of healthcare, his instructive articles were often published in Izvestiya; and the above-mentioned Z. Belenky was the head of the Commission of the Soviet Control.[15] In the same Government we can find many Jewish names among the deputy narkoms in various people’s commissariats: finance, communications, railroad transport, water, agriculture, the timber industry, the foodstuffs industry, education, justice. Among the most important deputy narkoms were: Ya. Gamarnik (defense), A. Gurevich (“he made a significant contribution to the creation of the metallurgical industry in the country”[16]); Semyon Ginzburg, he was deputy narkom of heavy industry, and later he became narkom of construction, and even later minister of construction of military enterprises.[17]

The famous “Great Turning Point”  took place place from the end of 1929 to the beginning of 1931. Murderous collectivization lay ahead, and at this decisive moment Stalin assigned Yakovlev-Epshtein as its sinister principal executive. His portraits and photos, and drawings by I. Brodsky, were prominently reproduced in newspapers then and later, from year to year.[18] Together with the already mentioned M. Kalmanovich, he was a member of the very top Soviet of Labor and Defense (there was hardly anyone apart from Stalin, Molotov, Mikoyan, Ordzhonikidze, Voroshilov in that organ).[19] In March of 1931, at the 6th Session of Soviets, Yakovlev reported on the progress of collectivization – about the development of sovkhozes and kolkhozes (that is, the destruction of the way of life of the people).[20] On this ‘glorious’ path to the ruination of Russia, among Yakovlev’s collaborators, we can see deputy narkom V.G. Feigin, members of the Board of the people’s commissariat of agriculture M.M. Volf, G.G. Roshal, and other ‘experts’. The important organization, the Grain Trust, was attached to the people’s commissariat of agriculture to pump out grain from peasants for the state; the chairman of the board of directors was M.G. Gerchikov, his portraits appeared in Izvestiya, and Stalin himself sent him a telegram of encouragement.[21] From 1932 the People’s Commissariat of Sovkhozes and Kolkhozes with M. Kalmanovich at the helm was separated from the people’s commissariat of agriculture.[22] From 1934 the chairman of the national Soviet of Kolkhozes was the same Yakovlev-Epshtein.[23] The chairman of the Commission of Purveyance was I. Kleiner (who was awarded the Order of Lenin). During the most terrible months of collectivization, M. Kalmanovich was deputy narkom of agriculture. But at the end of 1930 he was transferred into the People’s Commissariat of Finance as deputy narkom; he also became chairman of the board of the Gosbank [The State Bank], for in monetary matters a strong will was also much needed. In 1936, Lev Maryasin became chairman of the board of the Gosbank; he was replaced in that post by Solomon Krutikov in 1936.[24]

In November 1930 the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Trade was created, and A.P. Rozengolts served for seven years as its head. Jews comprised one-third of its board members. Among them was Sh. Dvoylatsky, who simultaneously served in the Central Commissions on Concessions; in 1934-1936 he became the Soviet trade representative in France.[25] At the end of 1930 the People’s Commissariat of Supply was created with A. Mikoyan at the helm; on its board we see M. Belenky — that is another, actually the fifth, man with the surname “Belenky” encountered here; soon he himself became the narkom, replacing Mikoyan. In general, in the People’s Commisariats of Trade and Supply, the Jewish component was higher than in the upper party echelons — from a quarter to a half. Still let’s not overlook the Tsentrosoyuz (the bureaucratic center of Soviet pseudo-cooperation). After Lev Khichuk in the 1920s, it was managed from 1931 to 1937 by I.A. Zelensky, whom we met earlier as a member of the board of the people’s commissariat of foodstuffs.[26]

Let me point it out once more: all these examples are for illustrative purposes only. They should not be taken to create the impression that there were no members of other nationalities on all those boards and in the presidiums; of course there were. Moreover, all the above-mentioned people occupied their posts only for a while; they were routinely transferred between various important positions.

Let’s look at transport and communications. First, railroads were managed by M. Rukhimovich (his portraits could be found in the major newspapers of the time[27]); later he became narkom of defense industry (with M. Kaganovich as his deputy), while the command over railroads was given to L. Kaganovich.[28] There were important changes in the Coal Trust: I. Schwartz was removed from the board and M. Deych was assigned to replace him.[29] T. Rozenoer managed Grozneft [Grozny Oil]. Yakov Gugel headed the construction of the Magnitogorsk metallurgical giant; Yakov Vesnik was the director of the Krivoy Rog Metallurgical industrial complex; and the hell of the Kuznetsk industrial complex with its 200,000 hungry and ragged workers was supervised by S. Frankfurt, and after him by I. Epshtein (the latter was arrested in 1938 but landed on his feet because he was sent to take command over the construction of the Norilsk industrial complex).[30]

The Supreme Soviet of the National Economy still existed, but its significance waned. After Unshlikht, it was headed by A. Rozengolts, and then by Ordzhonikidze, with Jews comprising the majority of its board.[31]

At that time, the Gosplan [state planning ministry] gathered strength. In 1931, under the chairmanship of Kuibyshev, Jews comprised more than half of its 18-member board.[32]

Let’s now examine the top posts in economy during the “last burgeoning year” of Stalin’s era, 1936. In 1936 Izvestiya published[33] the complete roster of the board of the people’s commissariat of domestic trade. Those 135 individuals had essentially ruled over the entire domestic trade in the USSR (and they were hardly disinterested men). Jews comprised almost 40% of this list, including two deputies to the narkom, several trade inspectors, numerous heads of food and manufactured goods trades in the oblasts, heads of consumer unions, restaurant trusts, cafeterias, food supplies and storage, heads of train dining cars and railroad buffets; and of course, the head of Gastronom No.1 in Moscow (“Eliseyevsky”) was also a Jew. Naturally, all this facilitated smooth running of the industry in those far from prosperous years.

In the pages of Izvestiya one could read headlines like this: “The management of the Union’s Fishing Trust made major political mistakes.” As a result, Moisei Frumkin was relieved of his post at the board of the People’s Commissariat of Ddomestic Trade (we saw him in the 1920s as a deputy of the Narkom of Foreign Trade). Comrade Frumkin was punished with a stern reprimand and a warning; comrade Kleiman suffered the same punishment; and comrade Nepryakhin was expelled from the party.[34]

Soon after that, Izvestiya published[35] an addendum to the roster of the People’s Commissariat of Heavy Industry with 215 names in it. Those wishing to can delve into it as well. A present-day author thus writes about those people: by the 1930s “the children of the déclassé Jewish petty bourgeois succeeded … in becoming the ‘commanders’ of the “great construction projects.” And so it appeared to those who, putting in 16 hours a day for weeks and months,  never leaving the foundation pits, the swamps, the deserts, and taiga …, that it was “their country.”[36] However, the author is wrong: it was the blackened hard-workers and yesterday’s peasants, who had no respite from toiling in foundation pits and swamps, while the directors only occasionally promenaded there; they mainly spent time in offices enjoying their special provision services (“the bronze foremen”). But undoubtedly, their harsh and strong-willed decisions helped to bring these construction projects to completion, building up the industrial potential of the USSR.

Thus the Soviet Jews obtained a weighty share of state, industrial, and economic power at all levels of government in the USSR.


The personality of B. Roizenman merits particular attention. See for yourself: he received the Order of Lenin “in recognition of his exceptional services” in the adjustment of the state apparatus “to the objectives of the large-scale offensive for Socialism.”  What secrets, inscrutable to us, could be hidden behind this “offensive”?  We can glance into some of them from the more direct wording: for carrying out “special missions of top state importance on the clean-up of state apparatus in the Soviet diplomatic missions abroad.”[37]

Now let’s look at the state of affairs in diplomacy. The 1920s were examined in the preceding chapter. Now we encounter other important people. For example, in spring of 1930, Izvestiya reported on page 1 and under a separate heading that “F.A. Rotshtein, the board member of the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs, returned from vacation and resumed his duties.”[38] (Well, didn’t they only write this way about Stalin? To the best of my knowledge, neither Ordzhonikidze, nor Mikoyan – other very top functionaries – was honored in such a way?) Yet very soon Rotshtein made a slip and his career ended just two months later, in July 1930. With the designation of Litvinov as narkom, Rotshtein was removed from the board (even though, we may remember, he claimed credit for the creation of the British Communist Party). In the 1930s, at the peak of Litvinov’s power, a new generation appeared. The Jewish Encyclopedia writes: “there was a notion of ‘the Litvinov school of diplomacy’” that included the outstanding personalities of K. Umansky, Ya. Surits, B. Shtein (he was already successful by the beginning of the 1920s) and E. Gnedin (son of Parvus).[39] Ehrenburg added here the name of E. Rubinin. Just as in the 1920s diplomacy attracted a cadre of Jews, so it did through the early and mid-1930s. From the moment the USSR was accepted into the League of Nations, we see Litvinov, Shtein, Gnedin, and also Brenner, Stashevsky, Marcus, Rozenberg, and Svanidze (a Georgian) as the senior members of the Soviet delegation. It was these people who represented Soviet Russia at that forum of nations. There were Soviet plenipotentiaries in Europe of Jewish origin: in England — Maisky; in Germany (and later in France)—Ya. Surits; in Italy—B. Shtein (after Kamenev); we also see Jewish plenipotentiaries in Spain, Austria, Romania, Greece, Lithuania, Latvia, Belgium, Norway, and in Asia. For example, the above-mentioned Surits represented the Soviet Union in Afghanistan as early as the Russian Civil War; later, from 1936, B. Skvirsky served in Afghanistan; for many years  he was was the unofficial Soviet representative in Washington.[40] In the early and mid-1930s, a great number of Jews successfully continued to work in Soviet trade delegations. (Here we find another Belenky, already the sixth individual of that name, B.S.Belenky, who was the trade representative in Italy from 1934 to 1937).[41]

Concerning the Red Army, the aforementioned Israeli researcher, Aron Abramovich, writes that in the 1930s “a significant number of Jewish officers served” in the army. “There were many of them, in particular in the Revolutionary Military Soviet, in the central administrations of the people’s commissariat of defense, in the general staff, and at lower levels – in the military districts, in the armies, corps, divisions, brigades, and all military units. The Jews still played a prominent role in the political organs.”[42] The entire Central Political Administration of the Red Army came under command of the trustworthy Mekhlis after the suicide of the trustworthy Gamarnik. Here are several names from the cream of the Political Administration: Mordukh Khorosh was the deputy director of the Political Administration of the Red Army in the 1930s, and later, until his arrest, he was in charge of the Political Administration of the Kiev military district. From 1929 through to 1937, Lazar Aronshtam headed the political administration of the Belorussian military district, then of the Special Far Eastern Army, and later – of the Moscow military district. Isaak Grinberg was the Senior Inspector of the Political Administration of the Red Army, and later the deputy director of the Political Administration of the Leningrad district. Boris Ippo (he participated in the pacification of Central Asia during the Civil War as the head of the Political Administration of the Turkestan Front and later of the Central-Asian district) was the head of the political administration of the Caucasus Red Army; and later the director of the Military Political Academy. The already-mentioned Mikhail Landa from 1930 to 1937 was the chief editor of Krasnaya Zvezda (The Red Star, the official newspaper of the Soviet military).Naum Rozovsky was a military prosecutor since the Civil War; by 1936 he was the chief military prosecutor of the Red Army.[43]

Gamarnik remained the deputy to Voroshilov, the chairman of the Revolutionary Military Soviet until 1934 (when the organization was disbanded). In the 1930s, in addition to those named in the previous chapter, among the heads of the central administrations of the Red Army, we encounter the following individuals: Abram Volp (the head of the Administrative Mobilization Administration; in the previous chapter he was identified as the chief of staff of the Moscow military district), Semyon Uritsky (of the Military Intelligence Administration, until 1937), Boris Feldman – the head of the Central Personnel Administration, and Leontiy Kotlyar — the head of the Central Military Engineering Administration in the pre-war years. Among the commanders of the branches of the military we find A. Goltsman, the head of military aviation from 1932 (we already saw him in the Central Control Commission, and as a union activist; he died in a plane crash). Among the commanders of the military districts we again see Iona Yakir (Crimean district, and later the important Kiev District), and Lev Gordon (Turkestan district).[44] Although we have no data on Jewish representation in the lower ranks, there is little doubt that when a structure (be it a political administration of the army, a supply service, or a party or a commissariat apparatus) was headed by a Jew, it was accompanied, as a rule, by a quite noticeable Jewish presence among its staff.

Yet service in the army is not a vice; it can be quite constructive. So what about our good old GPU-NKVD? A modern researcher, relying on archives, writes: “The first half of the 1930s was characterized by the increasingly important role of Jews in the state security apparatus.” And “on the eve of the most massive repressions … the ethnic composition of the supreme command of the NKVD … [can be understood with the help of] the list of decorated Chekists on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Cheka-OGPU-NKVD. The list of 407 senior officials published in the central press contained 56 Jews (13.8%), and 7 Latvians (1.7%).”[45]

When the GPU was reformed into the NKVD (1934) with Yagoda at the head, they twice published the names of the supreme commissars of the NKVD (what a rare chance to peek behind a usually impenetrable wall[46]!): commissars of State Security of the 1st Rank Ya.S. Agranov (the first deputy to Yagoda), V.A. Balitsky, T.D. Deribas, G.E. Prokovev, S.F. Redens, L.M. Zakovsky; of the 2nd Rank: L.N. Belskiy, K.V. Pauker (they were already decorated in 1927 on the decennial of the Cheka), M.I. Gay, S.A. Goglidze, L.B. Zalin, Z.B. Katsnelson, K.M. Karlson, I.M. Leplevsky, G.A. Molchanov, L.G. Mironov, A.A. Slutsky, A.M. Shanin, and R.A. Pillyar. Of course, not all of them were Jews but a good half were. So, the Jewish Chekists were still there; they didn’t leave, nor were they forced out of the NKVD, the same NKVD which was devouring the country after the death of Kirov, and which later devoured itself.

A.A. Slutsky was the director of the NKVD’s foreign section; that is, he was in charge of espionage abroad. “His deputies were Boris Berman and Sergey Shpigelglas.” Pauker was a barber from Budapest, who connected with the communists while he was a Russian POW in 1916. Initially, he was in charge of the Kremlin security and later became the head of the operations section of the NKVD.[47] Of course, due to secrecy and the non-approachability of these highly placed individuals, it is difficult to judge them conclusively. Take, for instance, Naum (Leonid) Etingon, who orchestrated the murder of Trotsky and was the organizer of the “Cambridge Five” espionage ring and who oversaw the nuclear espionage after the war — a true ace of espionage.[48]

Or take Lev Feldbin (he used a catchy pseudonym of ‘Aleksandr Orlov’). A prominent and long-serving Chekist, he headed the economic section of the foreign department of GPU, that is, he supervised all foreign trade of the USSR. He was a trusted agent, of those who were instructed in the shroud of full secrecy on how “to extract false confessions [from the victims].” “Many [of the NKVD investigators] ended up being subordinate to him.”[49] And yet he was completely hidden from the public and became famous only later, when he defected to the West. And how many such posts were there?

Or take Mikhail Koltsov-Fridlyand (“the political advisor” to the Republican government of Spain)[50], who took part in some of the major GPU adventures.

M. Berman was assigned as deputy to the Narkom of Internal Affairs Ezhov within three days after the latter was installed on September 27, 1936. Still, Berman remained the director of the GULag.[51] And along with Ezhov, came his handymen. Mikhail Litvin, his long-time associate in the Central Committee of the party, became the director of the personnel department of the NKVD; by May 1937 he rose to the unmatched rank of director of the Secret Political section of the Main Directorate of State Security of the NKVD. In 1931-36, Henrikh Lyushkov was the deputy director of that section; he deserted to Japan in 1938 and was then killed by a Japanese bullet in 1945 – by the end of the war the Japanese did not want to give him back and had no option but shoot him. In this way, we can extensively describe the careers of each of them. In the same section, Aleksandr Radzivilovsky was an “agent for special missions.” Another long-time Ezhov colleague, Isaak Shapiro, was Ezhov’s personal assistant from 1934, and then he became the director of the NKVD Secretariat, and later was the director of the infamous Special Section of the Main Directorate of State Security of the NKVD.[52]

In December 1936, among the heads of ten sections (for secrecy, designated only by number) of the Main Directorate of State Security of the NKVD, we see seven Jews: the Security section (section #1)—K. Pauker; Counter-Intelligence (3) — L. Mironov; Special section (5)—I. Leplevsky; Transport (6)—A. Shanin; Foreign section (7) — A. Slutsky; Records and Registration (8)—V. Tsesarsky; Prisons (10)—Ya. Veinshtok. Over the course of the meat-grinding year of 1937 several other Jews occupied posts of directors of those sections: A. Zalpeter—Operations section (2); Ya. Agranov, followed by M. Litvin—Secret Political section (4); A Minaev-Tsikanovsky—Counter-Intelligence (3); and I. Shapiro – Special section (9).[53]

I named the leadership of the GULag in my book, GULag Archipelago. Yes, there was a large proportion of Jews among its command. (Portraits of the directors of construction of the White Sea-Baltic Canal, which I reproduced from the Soviet commemorative corpus of 1936, caused outrage: they claimed that I have selected the Jews only on purpose. But I did not select them, I’ve just reproduced the photographs of all the High Directors of the BelBaltlag [White Sea – Baltic Canal camp administration] from that immortal book. Am I guilty that they had turned out to be Jews? Who had selected them for those posts? Who is guilty?) I will now add information about three prominent men, whom I did not know then. Before the BelBaltlag, one Lazar Kogan worked as the head of the GULag; Zinovy Katsnelson was the deputy head of the GULag from 1934 onward; Izrail Pliner was the head of the GULag from 1936, and later he oversaw the completion of construction of the Moscow-Volga Canal (1937).[54]

It can’t be denied that History elevated many Soviet Jews into the ranks of the arbiters of the fate of all Russians.


Never publicized information about events of different times flows from different sources: about the regional Plenipotentiaries of GPU-NKVD in the 1930s (before 1937). The names of their offices fully deserved to be written in capital letters, for it was precisely them and not the secretaries of the obkoms, who were the supreme masters of their oblasts, masters of the life and death of any inhabitant, who reported directly only to the central NKVD in Moscow. The full names of some of them are known, while only initials remain from others; and still of others, we know only their last names. They moved from post to post, between different provinces. (If we could only find the dates and details of their service! Alas, all this was done in secret). And in all of the 1930s, many Jews remained among those provincial lords. According to the recently published data, in the regional organs of State Security, not counting the Main Directorate of State Security, there were 1,776 Jews (7.4% of the total members serving).[55]

A few Jewish plenipotentiaries are listed here: in Belorussia – Izrail Leplevsky (brother of the deputy General Prosecutor Grigory Leplevsky, we already saw him in the Cheka; later, he worked in a senior post in the GPU as a Commissar of State Security of 2nd Rank; and now we see him as the Narkom of Internal Affairs of Belorussia from 1934 to 1936); in the Western Oblast – I.M. Blat, he later worked in Chelyabinsk; in the Ukraine – Z. Katsnelson, we saw him in the Civil War all around the country, from the Caspian Sea to the White Sea. Now he was the deputy head of the GULag; later we see him as Deputy Narkom of Internal Affairs of Ukraine; in 1937 he was replaced by Leplevsky. We see D.M. Sokolinsky first In Donetsk Oblast and later in Vinnitsa Oblast; L.Ya. Faivilovich and Fridberg – in the Northern Caucasus; M.G. Raev-Kaminsky and Purnis – in Azerbaijan; G. Rappoport  – in Stalingrad Oblast; P.Sh. Simanovsky – in Orlov Oblast; Livshits  – in Tambov Oblast; G.Ya. Abrampolsky – in Gorkov Oblast; A.S. Shiyron, supervising the round-up of the dispossessed kulaks – in Arkhangel Oblast; I.Z. Ressin – in the German Volga Republic; Zelikman  – in Bashkiriya; N. Raysky – in Orenburg Oblast; G.I. Shklyar – in Sverdlovsk Oblast; L.B. Zalin  – in Kazakhstan; Krukovsky – in Central Asia; Trotsky  – in Eastern Siberia, and Rutkovsky – in the Northern Krai.

All these high placed NKVD officials were tossed from one oblast to another in exactly the same manner as the secretaries of obkoms. Take, for instance, Vladimir Tsesarsky: was plenipotentiary of the GPU-NKVD in Odessa, Kiev and in the Far East. By 1937 he had risen to the head of the Special section of the Main Directorate of State Security of the NKVD (just before Shapiro). Or look at S. Mironov-Korol: in 1933-36 he was the head of the Dnepropetrovsk GPU-NKVD; in 1937 he was in charge of the Western Siberian NKVD; he also served in the central apparatus of the GPU-NKVD.[56] In the mid-1930s, we see L. Vul as the head of Moscow and later of Saratov Police. The plenipotentiary in Moscow was L. Belsky (after serving in Central Asia); later, he had risen to the head of the Internal Service Troops of the NKVD. In the 1930s we see many others: Foshan was in charge of the border troops; Meerson was the head of the Economic Planning section of the NKVD; L.I. Berenzon and later L.M. Abramson headed the finance department of the GULag; and Abram Flikser headed the personnel section of the GULag. All these are disconnected pieces of information, not amenable to methodical anal Moreover, there were special sections in each provincial office of the NKVD. Here is another isolated bit of information: Yakov Broverman was the head of Secretariat of the Special Section of the NKVD in Kiev; he later worked in the same capacity in the central NKVD apparatus.[57]

Later, in 1940, when the Soviets occupied the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, the head of the Dvinsk NKVD was one Kaplan. He dealt so harshly with the people there, that in 1941, when the Red Army had hardly left and before the arrival of Germans, there was an explosion of public outrage against the Jews.

In the novel by D.P. Vitkovsky, Half-life, there is a phrase about the Jewish looks of investigator, Yakovlev (the action is set during Khrushchev’s  regime). Vitovsky put it rather harshly so that Jews, who by the end of the 1960s were already on the way of breaking away from communism and in their new political orientation developed sympathy to any camp memoirs, were nonetheless repulsed by such a description. I remember V. Gershuni asked me how many other Jewish investigators did Vitovsky come across during his 30-year-long ordeal?

What an astonishing forgetfulness betrayed by that rather innocent slip! Would not it have been more appropriate to mention not the “30 years” but 50 years, or, at least, 40 years? Indeed, Vitovsky might not have encountered many Jewish investigators during his last thirty years, from the end of the 1930s (though they could still be found around even in the 1960s). Yet Vitovsky was persecuted by the Organs for forty years; he survived the Solovki camp; and he apparently did not forget the time when a Russian investigator was a less frequent sight than a Jewish or a Latvian one.

Nevertheless, Gershuni was right in implying that all these outstanding and not so outstanding posts were fraught with death for their occupants; the more so, the closer it was to 1937-38.


Our arbiters confidently ruled from their heights and when they were suddenly delivered a blow, it must have seemed to them like the collapse of the universe, like the end of the world. Wasn’t there anyone among them before the onslaught who reflected on the usual fate of revolutionaries?

Among the major communist functionaries who perished in 1937-38, the Jews comprise an enormous percentage. For example, a modern historian writes that if “from 1 January 1935 to 1 January 1938 the members of this nationality headed more than 50% of the main structural units of the central apparatus of the people’s commissariat of internal affairs, then by 1 January 1939 they headed only 6%.”[58]

Using numerous “execution lists” that were published over the recent decades, and the biographical tomes of the modern Russian Jewish Encyclopedia, we are able to trace to some degree the fates of those outstanding and powerful Chekists, Red commanders, Soviet party officials, diplomats, and others, whom we mentioned in the previous chapters of this book.

Among the Chekists the destruction was particularly overwhelming (the names of those executed are italicized):

G.Ya. Abrampolsky; L.M. Abramson, died in prison in 1939; Yakov Agranov, 1938;[59] Abram Belenky, 1941; Lev Belsky-Levin, 1941; Matvey Berman, 1939; Boris Berman, 1939; Iosif Blat, 1937; Ya. Veinshtok, 1939; Leonid Vul, 1938, Mark Gai-Shtoklyand, 1937; Semyon Gendin, 1939; Benjamin Gerson, 1941; Lev Zadov-Zinkovsky, 1938; Lev Zalin-Levin, 1940; A. Zalpeter, 1939; Lev Zakharov-Meyer, 1937; N.Zelikman, 1937; Aleksandr Ioselevich, 1937, Zinovy Katsnelson, 1938; Lazar Kogan, 1939; Mikhail Koltsov-Fridlyand, 1940; Georg Krukovsky, 1938; Izrail Leplevsky, 1938; Natan Margolin, 1938; A. Minaev-Tsikanovsky, 1939; Lev Mironov-Kagan, 1938; Sergey Mironov-Korol, 1940; Karl Pauker, 1937; Izrail Pliner, 1939; Mikhail Raev-Kaminsky, 1939; Aleksandr Radzivilovsky, 1940; Naum Raysky-Lekhtman, 1939; Grigoriy Rappoport, 1938; Ilya Ressin, 1940; A. Rutkovsky; Pinkhus Simanovsky, 1940; Abram Slutsky, poisoned in 1938; David Sokolinsky, 1940; Mikhail Trilisser; Leonid Fayvilovich, 1936; Vladimir Tsesarsky, 1940; A. Shanin, 1937; Isaak Shapiro, 1940; Evsey Shirvindt, 1938; Grigoriy Shklyar; Sergey Shpigelglas, 1940; Genrikh Yagoda, 1938.

Nowadays entire directories, containing lists of the highest officials of the Central Apparatus of the Main Directorate of State Security of the NKVD who fell during the Ezhov’s period of executions and repressions, are published. There we see many more Jewish names.[60]

But only accidentally, thanks to the still unbridled glasnost that began in the beginning of the 1990s, we learn about several mysterious biographies formerly shrouded in secrecy. For example, from 1937, professor Grigory Mayranovsky, a specialist in poisons, headed the “Laboratory X” in the Special Section of Operations Technology of the NKVD, which carried out death sentences through injections with poisons by “the direct decision of the government in 1937-47 and in 1950”; the executions were performed in a special prisoner cell at “Laboratory X” as well as abroad even in the 1960s and 1970s.[61] Mayranovsky was arrested only in 1951; from his cell he wrote to Beria: “Dozens of sworn enemies of the Soviet Union, including all kinds of nationalists, were destroyed by my hand.”[62] And from the astonishing disclosure in 1990 we learned that the famous mobile gas chambers were invented, as it turns out, not by Hitler during the World War II, but in the Soviet NKVD in 1937 by Isai Davidovich Berg, the head of the administrative and maintenance section of the NKVD of Moscow Oblast (sure, he was not alone in that enterprise, but he organized the whole business). This is why it is also important to know who occupied middle-level posts. It turns out, that I.D. Berg was entrusted with carrying out the sentences of the “troika” of the NKVD of Moscow Oblast; he dutifully performed his mission, which involved shuttling prisoners to the execution place. But when three “troikas” began to work simultaneously in the Moscow Oblast, the executioners became unable to cope with the sheer number of executions. Then they invented a time-saving method: the victims were stripped naked, tied, mouths plugged, and thrown into a closed truck, outwardly disguised as a bread truck. On the road the exhaust fumes were redirected into the prisoner-carrying compartment, and by the time the van arrived to the burial ditch, the prisoners were “ready.” (Well, Berg himself was shot in 1939, not for those evil deeds, of course, but for “the anti-Soviet conspiracy”. In 1956 he was rehabilitated without any problem, though the story of his murderous invention was kept preserved and protected in the records of his case and only recently discovered by journalists)[63]

There are so many individuals with outstanding lives and careers in the list above! Bela Kun, the Butcher of Crimea, himself fell at that time, and with him the lives of twelve Commissars of the communist government of Budapest ended.[64]

However, it would be inappropriate to consider the expulsion of Jews from the punitive organs as a form of persecution. There was no anti-Jewish motif in those events. (Notwithstanding, that if Stalin’s praetorians valued not only their present benefits and power but also the opinion of the people whom they governed, they should have left the NKVD and not have waited until they were kicked out. Still, this wouldn’t have spared many of them death, but surely it would have spared them the stigma?) The notion of purposeful anti-Jewish purge doesn’t hold water: “according to available data, at the end of the 1930s the Jews were one of the few national minorities, belonging to which did not constitute a “crime” for an NKVD official. There were still no regulations on national and personnel policy in the state security agencies that was enforced … from the end of the 1940s to the early 1950s”[65]


Many Party activists fell under the destructive wave of 1937-1938. From 1936-37 the composition of the Soviet of People’s Commissars began to change noticeably as the purges during the pre-war years ran through the prominent figures in the people’s commissariats. The main personage behind collectivization, Yakovlev, had met his bullet; the same happened to his comrades-in-arms, Kalmanovich and Rukhimovich, and many others. The meat-grinder devoured many old “honored” Bolsheviks, such as the long-retired Ryazanov or the organizer of the murder of the Tsar Goloshchekin, not to mention Kamenev and Zinovyev. (Lazar Kaganovich was spared although, he himself was the “iron broom” in several purges during 1937-38; for example, they called his swift purge of the city of Ivanov the “Black Tornado.”)[66]

They offer us the following interpretation: “This is a question about the victims of the Soviet dictatorship; they were used by it and then mercilessly discarded when their services became redundant.”[67] What a great argument! So for twenty years these powerful Jews were really used? Yet weren’t they themselves the zealous cogs in the mechanism of that very dictatorship right up to the very time when their “services became redundant”? Did not they make the great contribution to the destruction of religion and culture, the intelligentsia, and the multi-million peasantry?

A great many Red Army commanders fell under the axe. “By the summer of 1938 without exception all… commanders of military districts … who occupied these posts by June 1937 disappeared without a trace.” The Political Administration of the Red Army “suffered the highest losses from the terror” during the massacre of 1937, after the suicide of Gamarnik. Of the highest political officers of the Red Army, death claimed all 17 army commissars, 25 out of 28 corps commissars, and 34 out of 36 brigade (divisional) commissars.[68] We see a significant percentage of Jews in the now-published lists of military chiefs executed in 1937-38.[69]

Grigory Shtern had a very special military career; he advanced along the political officer’s  path. During the Civil War he was military commissar at regimental, brigade, and divisional levels. In 1923-25 he was the head of all special detachments in the Khorezm [a short-lived republic after the Bolshevik revolution] troops during the suppression of rebellions in Central Asia. Until 1926, he was the head of the political administration division. Later he studied at the military academy for senior military officers [and thus became eligible for proper military posts]; in 1929-34 he was a “military advisor to the Republican government in Spain” (not to be confused with Manfred Shtern, who also distinguished himself among the Red Spaniards under the alias of “General Kleber”). Later he was the Chief of Staff of the Far Eastern Front and conducted bloody battles at Lake Khasan in 1938 together with Mekhlis, at the same time conspiring against Marshall Blücher, whom he ruined and whose post of the front commander he took over after the arrest of the latter. In March 1939, at the 18th Party Congress, he made this speech: “Together we have destroyed a bunch of good-for-nothings— the Tukhachevskys, Gamarniks, Uborevichs [former Soviet Marshalls[ and similar others.” Well, he himself was shot later, in autumn 1941.[70] Shtern’s comrade-in-arms in aviation, Yakov Smushkevich, also had a head-spinning career. He too began as a political officer (until the mid-1930s); then he studied at the academy for top officers. In 1936-37 he had also fought in Spain, in aviation, and was known as “General Douglas”. In 1939 he was commander of the aviation group at Khalkhin Gol [on the Manchurian-Mongolian border, site of Soviet-Japanese battles won by the Russians]. After that he rose to the commander of all air forces of the Red Army – the General Inspector of the Air Force; he was arrested in May 1941 and executed in the same year.[71]

The wave of terror spared neither administrators, nor diplomats; almost all of the diplomats mentioned above were executed.

Let’s name those party, military, diplomatic, and managerial figures whom we mentioned before on these pages who now were persecuted (the names of the executed are italicized):

Samuil Agursky, arrested in 1938; Lazar Aronshtam, 1938; Boris Belenky, 1938; Grigory Belenky, 1938; Zakhar Belenky,1940;  Mark Belenky, 1938; Moris Belotsky, 1938; German Bitker, 1937; Aron Vainshtein, 1938; Yakov Vesnik, 1938; Izrail Veitser, 1938; Abram Volpe, 1937; Yan Gamarnik, committed suicide in 1937; Mikhail Gerchikov, 1937; Evgeny Gnedin, arrested in 1939; Philip Goloshchekin, 1941; Ya. Goldin, 1938; Lev Gordon, arrested in 1939; Isaak Grinberg, 1938; Yakov Gugel, 1937; Aleksandr Gurevich, 1937; Sholom Dvoilatsky, 1937; Maks Deych, 1937; Semyon Dimanshtein, 1938; Efim Dreitser, 1936; Semyon Zhukovsky, 1940; Samuil Zaks, 1937; Zinovy Zangvil, Isaak Zelensky, 1938; Grigory Zinovyev, 1936; S. Zorin-Gomberg, 1937; Boris Ippo, 1937; Mikhail Kaganovich, committed suicide in expectation of arrest, 1941; Moisey Kalmanovich, 1937; Lev Kamenev, 1936; Abram Kamensky, 1938; Grigoriy Kaminsky, 1938; Ilya Kit-Viytenko, arrested in 1937 and spent 20 years in camps; I.M. Kleiner, 1937; Evgeniya Kogan, 1938; Aleksandr Krasnoshchyokov-Tobinson, 1937; Lev Kritsman, 1937; Solomon Kruglikov, 1938; Vladimir Lazarevich, 1938; Mikhail Landa, 1938; Ruvim Levin, 1937; Yakov Livshits, 1937; Moisey Lisovsky, arrested in 1938; Frid Markus, 1938; Lev Maryasin, 1938; Grigory Melnichansky, 1937; Aleksandr Minkin-Menson, died in camp in 1955; Nadezhda Ostrovskaya, 1937; Lev Pechersky, 1937; I. Pinson, 1936; Iosif Pyatnitsky-Tarshis, 1938; Izrail Razgon, 1937; Moisey Rafes, 1942; Grigory Roginsky, 1939; Marsel Rozenberg, 1938; Arkady Rozengolts, 1938; Naum Rozovsky, 1942; Boris Royzenman, 1938; E. Rubinin, spent 15 years in camps; Yakov Rubinov, 1937; Moisey Rukhimovich, 1938; Oskar Ryvkin, 1937; David Ryazanov, 1938; Veniamin Sverdlov, 1939; Boris Skvirsky, 1941; Iosif Slavin, 1938; Grigoriy Sokolnikov-Brilliant, killed in prison, 1939; Isaak Solts, died in confinement in 1940; Naum Sokrin, 1938; Lev Sosnovsky, 1937; Artur Stashevsky-Girshfeld, 1937; Yury Steklov-Nakhamkis, 1941; Nikolay Sukhanov-Gimmer, 1940; Boris Tal, 1938; Semyon Turovsky, 1936; Semyon Uritsky, 1937; Evgeny Fainberg, 1937; Vladimir Feigin, 1937; Boris Feldman, 1937; Yakov Fishman, arrested in 1937; Moisey Frumkin, 1938; Maria Frumkina-Ester, died in camp, 1943; Leon Khaikis, 1938; Avenir Khanukaev; Moisey Kharitonov, died in camp, 1948; Mendel Khataevich, 1937; Tikhon Khvesin, 1938; Iosif Khodorovsky, 1938; Mordukh Khorosh, 1937; Isay Tsalkovich, arrested in 1937; Efim Tsetlin, 1937; Yakov Chubin; N. Chuzhak-Nasimovich; Lazar Shatskin, 1937; Akhiy Shilman, 1937; Ierokhim Epshtein, arrested in 1938; Iona Yakir, 1937; Yakov Yakovlev-Epshtein, 1938; Grigory Shtern, 1941.

This is indeed a commemoration roster of many top-placed Jews.

Below are the fates of some prominent Russian Jewish socialists, who did not join the Bolsheviks or who even struggled against them.

Boris Osipovich Bogdanov (born 1884) was an Odessan, the grandson and son of lumber suppliers. He graduated from the best commerce school in Odessa. While studying, he joined Social Democrat societies. In June 1905, he was the first civilian who got on board the mutinous battleship, Potemkin, when she entered the port of Odessa; he gave a speech for her crew, urging sailors to join Odessa’s labor strike; he delivered letters with appeals to consulates of the European powers in Russia. He avoided punishment by departing for St. Petersburg where he worked in the Social Democratic underground; he was a Menshevik. He was sentenced to two 2-year-long exiles, one after another, to Solvychegodsk and to Vologda. Before the war, he entered the elite of the Menshevik movement; he worked legally on labor questions. In 1915 he became the secretary of the Labor Group at the Military Industrial Committee, was arrested in January 1917 and freed by the February Revolution. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies of Petrograd, and regularly chaired its noisy sessions which attracted thousands of people. From June 1917 he was a member of the Bureau of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and persistently opposed ongoing attempts of the Bolsheviks to seize power. After the failed Bolshevik rebellion in July 1917 he accepted the surrender of the squad of sailors besieged in the Petropavlovsk Fortress. After the October coup, in 1918 he was one of the organizers of anti-Bolshevik workers movement in Petrograd. During the Civil War he lived in Odessa. After the Civil War he tried to restart the Menshevik political activity, but at the end of 1920 he was arrested for one year. That was the beginning of many years of unceasing arrests and sentences, exiles and camps, and numerous transfers between different camps — the so-called “Great Road” of so many socialists in the USSR. And all that was just for being a Menshevik in the past and for having Menshevik convictions even though by that time he no longer engaged in politics and during brief respites simply worked on economic posts and just wanted a quiet life; however, he was suspected of economic “sabotage.” In 1922 he requested permission to emigrate, but shortly before departure was arrested again. First he was sent to the Solovki prison camp and later exiled to the Pechora camp [in the Urals]; his sentences were repeatedly extended by three years; he experienced solitary confinement in the Suzdal camp and was repeatedly exiled. In 1931 they attempted to incriminate him in the case of the “All-Soviet Bureau of Mensheviks,” but he was lucky and they left him alone. Yet he was hauled in again in 1937, imprisoned in the Omsk jail (together with already-imprisoned communists), where he survived non-stop interrogations which sometimes continued without a pause for weeks, at any time of the day or night (there were three shifts of investigators); he served out 7 years in the Kargopol camp (several other Mensheviks were shot there); later he was exiled to Syktyvkar; in 1948 he was again sentenced and exiled to Kazakhstan. In 1956 he was rehabilitated; he died in 1960, a worn-out old man.

Boris Davidovich Kamkov-Kats (born 1885) was the son of a country doctor. From adolescence, he was a member of the Socialist Revolutionary Party. Exiled in 1905 to the Turukhan Krai, he escaped. Abroad, he graduated from the Heidelberg University School of Law. He was a participant in the Zimmerwald [Switzerland] Conference of socialists (1915). After the February Revolution he returned to Russia. He was one of the founders of the Left Socialist Revolutionary Party; at the time of the October coup he entered into a coalition with the Bolsheviks. He took part in the dispersal of the Russian Constituent Assembly in January 1918. From April he urged breaking the alliance with the Bolsheviks; in June he already urged “a revolutionary uprising against them. After the failed rebellion of the Socialist Revolutionaries, he went underground. After a brief arrest in 1920, he was arrested again in 1921, and exiled in 1923. Between exiles he spent two years in prison and experienced the same “Great Road.” In 1933 he was exiled to Archangel; he was arrested again in 1937 and executed in 1938.

Abram Rafailovich Gots (born 1882) was the grandson of a millionaire tea merchant, V.Ya. Visotsky. From the age of 14, he was in the the Socialist Revolutionary movement from the very creation of the SR party in 1901 (his brother Mikhail was the party leader). From 1906, he was a terrorist, a member of the militant wing of the SRs. From 1907-1915 he was in hard labor camps; he spent some time sitting in the infamous Aleksandrovsky Central. He was a participant of the February Revolution in Irkutsk and later in Petrograd. He was a member of the executive committees of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies of Petrograd and of the Soviet Peasant’s Deputies and a member of the Presidium of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee. From 25 October 1917 he headed the anti-Bolshevik Committee for the Salvation of the Motherland and Revolution. During the Civil War he continued his struggle against Bolsheviks. In 1920 he was arrested; at the trial of the Socialist Revolutionaries in 1922 he was sentenced to death, commuted to 5 years of imprisonment. Later he experienced the “Great Road” of endless new prison terms and exiles. In 1939 he was sentenced to 25 years in the camps and died in one a year later.

Mikhail Yakovlevich Gendelman (born 1881) was an attorney-at-law and a Socialist Revolutionary from 1902. He participated in the February Revolution in Moscow, was a member of the Executive Committee of the Soviet of Soldiers’ and Workers’ Deputies, a member of the Presidium of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, and a member of the Central Committee of the Socialist Revolutionary Party. On 25 October 1917, he left the meeting of the 2nd All-Russian Congress of the Soviets in protest against the Bolsheviks. He was elected to the Constituent Assembly and participated in its only session, on 5 January 1918. Later in Samara he participated in the Committee of Members of the Constituent Assemby. He was arrested in 1921; in 1922 he was sentenced to death at the trial of the Socialist Revolutionaries, commuted to 5 years in prison. After numerous prison terms and exiles, he was shot in 1938.

Mikhail Isaakovich Liber-Goldman (born 1880) was one of the founders of the Bund (1897), a member of the Central Committee of the [General Jewish Labor] Bund of Lithuania, Poland and Russia in Emigration; he represented the Bund at the congresses of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party. He participated in the revolution of 1905-06. In 1910 he was exiled for three years to Vologda Province, fled soon thereafter and emigrated again. He was a steady and uncompromising opponent of Lenin. He returned to Russia after 1914, and joined the Socialist “Defender” movement (“Defense of the Motherland in War”). After the February revolution, he was a member of the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet of Soldiers’ and Workers’ Deputies, and later he was a member of the Presidium of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee. (He left the latter post after the October coup). Then he briefly participated in the Social Democratic Workers’ Party of the Mensheviks. He worked on economic positions andwas one of the leaders of the Menshevik underground in the USSR. His “Great Road” arrests and exiles began in1923. He was arrested again and executed in Alma-Ata in 1937.

For many, there was a similar fate, with repeated sentences and exiles, right up to the climax of 1937-38.

Yet in those years purges swept all over the country, destroying the lives of countless ordinary people, including Jews, people who had nothing to do with politics or authority. Here are some of the Jews who perished:

Nathan Bernshtein (born 1876) a music scholar and critic; he taught the history of music and aesthetics and wrote a number of books; arrested in 1937, he died in prison.

Matvei Bronshtein (born 1906) a talented theoretical physicist, Doctor of Science, who achieved extraordinary results. He was the husband of Lyudmila K. Chukovskaya. Arrested in 1937, he was executed in 1938.

Sergey Ginter (born 1870) an architect and engineer; arrested in 1934, exiled to Siberia, arrested again in 1937 and executed.

Veniamin Zilbermints (born 1887) a mineralogist and geochemist; specialist on rare elements, he laid the foundation for semi-conductor science; he was persecuted in 1938.

Mikhail Kokin (born 1906) an Orientalist, Sinologist and historian, arrested in 1937 and executed.

Ilya Krichevsky (born 1885) a microbiologist, immunologist (also trained in physics and mathematics), Doctor of Medical Sciences, founder of a scientific school, chairman of the National Association of Microbiologists; arrested in 1938 and died in 1943.

Solomon Levit (born 1894), geneticist; he studied the role of heredity and environment in pathology. Arrested in 1938 and died in prison.

Iokhiel Ravrebe (born 1883), an Orientalist,  Judaist, one of the founders of the reestablished Jewish Ethnographic Society in 1920. Accused of creating a Zionist organization, he was arrested in 1937 and died in prison.

Vladimir Finkelshtein (born 1896), a chemical physicist, professor, corresponding member of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences; he had many works in applied electrical chemistry; persecuted in 1937.

Ilya Khetsrov (born 1887), a hygienist and epidemiologist; he studied environmental hygiene, protection of water resources, and community hygiene. Arrested in 1938 and executed.

Nakhum Schwartz (born 1888), a psychiatrist, studied Jewish psychology. In 1921-23 he taught Hebrew and wrote poetry in Hebrew. Accused of Zionist activity, he was arrested in 1937 and later died in prison.

Here are the fates of the three brothers Shpilrein from Rostov-on-Don. Jan (born 1887) was a mathematician; he applied mathematical methods in electrical and heat engineering, he was professor at the Bauman Moscow State Technical University and later the dean of its Electrical Engineering Department. He was persecuted and died in 1937. Isaak (born 1891) was a psychologist, Doctor of Philosophy. In 1927 he became the head of the All-Russian Society of Psychotechnology and Applied Psychophysiology; he performed extensive psychological analysis of professions and optimization of working environment. He was arrested in 1935 and later executed. Emil (born 1899) was a biologist, the dean of the Biology Department of Rostov University. He was shot in 1937.

Leonid Yurovsky (born 1884) Doctor of Political Economy, one of the authors of the monetary reform of 1922-24.  A close friend to A.V. Chayanov and N.D. Kondratev [prominent Russian scientists], he was arrested in 1930, freed in 1935, then arrested again in 1937 and executed.


Despite the overwhelming percentage of high-placed, “aristocratic” Jews, who fell under Stalin’s axe, the free Western press did not perceive the events as specifically the persecution of Jews: the Jews were massacred simply because of their abundance in the top tiers of the Soviet hierarchy. Indeed, we read such a stipulation in the collection of works Evreysky Mir [The Jewish World] (1939): “No doubt that the Jews in the USSR have numerous opportunities, which they did not have before the revolution, and which they do not have even now in some democratic countries. They can become generals, ministers, diplomats, professors, the most high-ranking and the most servile aristocrats.” Opportunities but “in no way rights”, because of the absence of such rights, “Yakir, Garmanik, Yagoda, Zinovyev, Radek, Trotsky” and the rest fell from their heights and lost their very lives.”[72] Still, no nationality enjoyed such a right under the communist dictatorship; it was all about the ability to cling to power.

The long-time devoted socialist, emigrant S. Ivanovich (S.O. Portugeis), admitted: “Under the Tsars, the Jews were indeed restricted in their ‘right of living’; yet their ‘right to live’ was incomparably greater then than under Bolshevism.” Indeed. However, at the same time, despite being perfectly aware of collectivization, he writes that the “awkward attempts to establish ‘socialism’ in Russia took the heaviest toll from the Jews”; that “the scorpions of Bolshevism did not attack any other people with such brutal force as they attacked Jews.”[73]

Yet during the Great Plague of dekulakization, it was not thousands but millions of peasants who lost both their ‘right of living’ and the ‘right to live’. And yet all the Soviet pens (with so many Jews among them) kept complete silence about this cold-blooded destruction of the Russian peasantry. In unison with them, the entire West was silent. Could it be really out of the lack of knowledge? Or was it for the sake of protecting the Soviet regime? Or was it simply because of indifference? Why, this is almost inconceivable: 15 million peasants were not simply deprived of entering the institutes of higher learning or of the right to study in graduate school, or to occupy nice posts — no! They were dispossessed and driven like cattle out of their homes and sent to certain death in the taiga and tundra. And the Jews, among other passionate urban activists, enthusiastically took the reins of the collectivization into their hands, leaving behind them persistent evil memory. And who had raised their voices in defense of the peasants then? And now, in 1932-33, in Russia and Ukraine – on the very outskirts of Europe, five to six million people died from hunger! And the free press of the free world maintained utter silence… And even if we take into account the extreme Leftist bias of the contemporary Western press and its devotion to the socialist “experiment” in the USSR, it is still impossible not to be amazed at the degree to which they could go to be blind and insensitive to the sufferings of even tens of millions of fellow humans.

If you don’t see it, your heart doesn’t cry.

During the 1920s, the Ukrainian Jews departed from their pro-Russian-statehood mood of 1917-1920, and by the end of the 1920s “the Jews are among Ukrainian chauvinists and separatists, wielding enormous influence there—but only in the cities.”[74] We can find such a conclusion: the destruction of Ukrainian-language culture in 1937 was in part aimed against Jews, who formed “a genuine union” with Ukrainians “for the development of local culture in Ukrainian language.”[75] Nevertheless, such a union in cultural circles could not soften the attitudes of the wider Ukrainian population toward Jews. We have already seen in the previous chapter how in the course of collectivization “a considerable number of Jewish communists functioned in rural locales as commanders and lords over life and death.”[76] This placed a new scar on Ukrainian-Jewish relations, already tense for centuries. And although the famine was a direct result of Stalin’s policy, and not only in Ukraine (it brutally swept across the Volga Region and the Urals), the suspicion widely arose among Ukrainians that the entire Ukrainian famine was the work of the Jews. Such an interpretation has long existed (and the Ukrainian émigré press adhered to it until the 1980s). “Some Ukrainians are convinced that 1933 was the revenge of the Jews for the times of Khmelnitsky.”[77] [A 17th century Cossack leader who conducted bloody anti-Jewish pogroms in Ukraine].

Don’t expect to reap wheat where the weed was sewn. The supreme authority of so many Jews along with only a small number of Jews being touched by the grievances which afflicted the rest of population could lead to all sorts of interpretations.

Jewish authors who nervously kept an eye on anti-Semitism in the USSR did not notice this trampled ash, however, and made rather optimistic conclusions. For instance, Solomon Schwartz writes: “From the start of the 1930s, anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union quickly abated”, and “in the mid-1930s it lost the character of a mass phenomenon …anti-Semitism reached the all-time low point.” He explains this, in part, as the result of the end of the NEP (the New Economic Policy) and thereby the disappearance of Jewish businessmen and petty Jewish merchants. Later, “forced industrialization and lightning-fast collectivization,” which he favorably compares with a kind of “shock therapy, i.e., treatment of mental disorders with electric shocks,” was of much help. In addition he considers that in those years the ruling communist circles began to struggle with Great-Russian “chauvinism.” (Well, they did not begin; they just continued the policy of Lenin’s intolerance). Schwartz soundly notes that the authorities were “persistently silent about anti-Semitism”, “in order to avoid the impression that the struggle against Great-Russian chauvinism is a struggle for the Jews.”[78]

In January 1931, first the New York Times,[79] and later the entire world press published a sudden and ostentatious announcement by Stalin to the Jewish Telegraph Agency: “The Communists, as consistent internationalists, cannot help but be an irreconcilable and sworn enemy of anti-Semitism. In the USSR, anti-Semitism is strictly prosecuted by law as a phenomenon deeply hostile to the Soviet order. Active anti-Semites are punished, according to the laws of the USSR, with the death penalty.”[80] See, he addressed the democratic West and did not mind specifying the punishment. And it was only one nationality in the USSR that was set apart by being granted such a protection. And world opinion was completely satisfied with that.

But characteristically, the announcement by the Leader was not printed in the Soviet press (because of his cunning reservations); it was produced for export and he hid this position from his own citizens; in the USSR it was only printed at the end of 1936.[81] Then Stalin sent Molotov to make a similar announcement at the Congress of Soviets.

A contemporary Jewish author, erroneously interpreting Molotov’s speech, suggests that  speaking on behalf of the government he threatened to punish “anti-Semitic feelings” with death.[82] Feelings! No, Molotov did not mention anything like that; he did not depart from Stalin’s policy of persecuting “active anti-Semites.” We are not aware of any instance of death penalty in the 1930s for anti-Semitism, but people were sentenced for it according to the Penal Code. (People whispered that before the revolution the authorities did not punish as harshly even for libels against the Tsar.)

But now S. Schwartz observes a change: “In the second half of the 1930s, these sentiments [people’s hostility toward Jews] became much more prevalent … particularly in the major centers, where the Jewish intelligentsia and semi-intelligentsia were concentrated…. Here again the legend about “Jewish domination” gradually began to come back to life, and they began to spread exaggerated notions about the role of Jews in the middle and top ranks of government.” Well, whether or not it was really a legend, he immediately attempted to explain it, though in a quite naïve manner, suggesting the same old excuse that the Jewish intelligentsia and semi-intelligentsia simply had almost no other source of livelihood  under Soviet conditions except the government service.”[83]

This is so shameful to read. What oppression and despair! See, they had almost no other sources of livelihood, only privileged ones. And the rest of population was absolutely free to toil on kolkhoz fields, to dig pits, and to roll barrows at the great construction projects of the 5-year plans…

In official policy, nothing had changed in the 1930s in the Jewish Question from the time of the revolution; no official hostility toward Jews existed. Indeed, they used to dream and proclaim about the impending end of all national conflicts.

And the foreign Jewish circles did not and could not sense any oppression of the Jews in the USSR. In the article The Jews and the Soviet Dictatorship, S. Ivanovich wrote: “Abroad, many believe that there is no anti-Semitism in Russia, and on that basis they are favorably disposed toward the Soviet authorities. But in Russia they know that this is not true.” However, Jews “pray for the long-life of the Soviet regime … and are strongly afraid of its demise,” for “Stalin protects them from pogroms and hopefully would protect them in future.” The author sympathizes with such an opinion, although he considers it flawed: “If the Bolshevik dictatorship falls, no doubt there will be wild anti-Semitic ravages and violence …The fall of the Soviet regime would be a catastrophe for the Jews, and any friend of the Jewish people should reject such a prospect with horror”; yet at the same time he remarks that “the Soviet dictatorship is already embarrassed by the Judeophilia and Jewish dominance attributed to it.”[84]

The resolution on Stalin’s report at the 16th Party Congress provided the general political direction for the 1930s, calling for an energetic struggle against chauvinism, and primarily against the Great Russian chauvinism. The Party language was easily understood by all. And for several more years this struggle was enthusiastically carried on. Yet what kind of Stalinist madness was it? By that time there was no trace left of the Great Russian chauvinism. Stalin was not able to envision the immediate future [of WWII] – when only Russian patriotism would save him from imminent doom.

Then they have already started to sound the alarm about the danger of any rebirth of Russian patriotism. In 1939, S. Ivanovich claimed to notice a trend “of this dictatorship returning to some national traditions of Moscovite  Russ and Imperial Russia”; he caustically cited several stamps that entered popular discourse around that time such as the “‘love for the Motherland’, ‘national pride’ etc.”[85]

See, this is where the mortal danger for Russia lurked then, immediately before Hitler’s assault – in that ugly Russian patriotism!

This alarm did not leave the minds of Jewish publicists for the next half century, even when they looked back at that war, when mass patriotism blazed up, at the war which saved Soviet Jewry. So in 1988 we read in an Israeli magazine: “Vivid traditions of the Black Hundreds … were the foundation of ‘vivifying Soviet patriotism’, which blossomed later, during the Great Patriotic War”[86] [the official Russian designation for the Eastern front in WWII].

Looking back at that war of 1941-1945, let’s admit that this is a highly ungrateful judgment.

So, even the purest and most immaculate Russian patriotism has no right to exist – not now, not ever?

Why is it so? And why it is that Russian patriotism is thus singled out?


An important event in Jewish life in the USSR was the closing of the YevSek at the Central Committee of the All-Russian Communist Party of Bolsheviks in 1930. Though in accord with the Soviet blueprint, this act blocked any separate development of a Jewish society having “national, cultural, and individual Jewish autonomy.” From now on Jewish cultural development lay within the Soviet mainstream. In 1937-38 the leading Yevseks – Dimanshtein, Litvakov, Frumkina-Ester and their associates Motl Kiper, Itskhok Sudarsky, Aleksandr Chemerissky – who, in words of Yu. Margolina, “in the service of the authorities carried out the greatest pogrom against Jewish culture,”[87] were arrested and soon executed. Many Yevseks, “occupying governing positions in the central and local departments of the Society for Settling Toiling Jews on the Land (OZET) and in the Jewish community, Jewish cultural and educational structures,” also fell under the juggernaut. In 1936-39, the majority of them were persecuted.”[88] The poisonous atmosphere of 1930s now reached these levels too. During open public meetings they began to accuse and expose prominent Jewish communists, who at some time before were members either of the Bund or of the Zionist Socialist Party, or even of Poale-Zion, all of which were crippled under the Soviet regime. Was there anyone, whose past the Bolsheviks did not try to criminalize? “Who have you been before…?” In 1938 Der Emes was closed also.

What about education? “Right up to 1933 the number of Jewish schools and Jewish students in them increased despite the early (1920s) critique  “of nationalistic over-zealousness”’ in the actions of the Yevseks on the ‘forced transition of Jewish education into Yiddish.’”[89] From 1936 to 1939 a “period of accelerated decline and even more accelerated inner impoverishment” of the schools in Yiddish was noted.[90] After 1936-37 “the number of Jewish schools began to decline quickly even in Ukraine and Belorussia”; the desire of parents to send their children to such schools had diminished. “Education in Yiddish was seen as less and less prestigious; there was an effort to give children an education in the Russian language.” Also, from the second half of the 1930s the number of institutions of higher education lecturing in Yiddish began to decline rapidly”; “almost all Jewish institutions of higher education and technical schools were closed by 1937-38.”[91]

At the start of 1930s the Jewish scientific institutes at the academies of science of Ukraine and Belorussia were closed; in Kiev ‘The Institute of Jewish Proletarian Culture’ fell into desolation.” And soon after this arrests followed (Mikhail Kokin of the Leningrad Institute of Philosophy, literature and History was executed; Iokhiel Rabrebe, formerly of the Petrograd Institute of Higher Jewish Studies, who in the 1930s headed the Jewish Section of the Public Library, was sentenced to 8 years and died in the transit camp).[92]

Persecutions spread to writers in Yiddish: Moyshe Kulbak was persecuted in 1937; Zelik Akselrod, in 1940; Abram Abchuk, a teacher of Yiddish and a critic, in 1937; writer Gertsl Bazov , was persecuted in 1938. Writer I. Kharik and critic Kh. Dunets were persecuted also.

Still, “literature in Yiddish was actively published until the end of the 1930s. Jewish publishers were working in Moscow, Kiev, and Minsk.” Yet what kind of literature was it? In the 1930s “the overwhelming majority of works were written stereotypically, in accordance with the unshakable principles of ‘socialist realism.’”[93] Literature in Yiddish “from the 1930s up to June 1941 … was marked by the cult of Stalin. Unbridled flattery for Stalin flowed from the bosom of Jewish poetry…”[94] Itsik Feder “managed to light up even official propaganda with lyrical notes. These monstrous sayings are ascribed to his pen: ‘You betrayed your father — this is great!’, and ‘I say ‘Stalin’ but envision the sun.’”[95] Most of these writers, who zealously tried to please Stalin, were arrested ten years later. But some of them, as mentioned above, had already drawn this lot.

Similarly, “the ideological press of official communist doctrine signified for many Jewish artists and sculptors a complete break up, quite often tragic, with the national Jewish traditions.” (Still, what culture in the USSR was not touched by this?) So it comes as little surprise that “the overwhelming majority … of Jewish theaters devoted much attention to propaganda performances.” This included all 19 aforementioned professional Yiddish theaters and “numerous independent collectives, studios, and circles.”[96]

Concerning Hebrew culture  which preserved the national traditions: it was by now conclusively banished and went underground.

It has already been mentioned that the Zionist underground was crushed by the beginning of the 1930s. Many Zionists were already rounded up, but still many others were accused of “the Zionist conspiracy.” Take Pinkhas Dashevsky (from Chapter 8) – in 1933 he was arrested as a Zionist. Pinkhas Krasny was not a Zionist but was listed as such in his death sentence. He was former Minister of Petliura’s Directorate, emigrated but later returned into the USSR. He was executed in 1939. Volf Averbukh, a Poale-Zionist from his youth, left for Israel in 1922, where “he collaborated with the communist press.” In 1930, he was sent back to the USSR, where he was arrested.[97]

“Most of the semi-legal cheder schools and yeshivas were shut down” around that time. Arrests rolled on from the late 1920s in the Hasidic underground. Yakov-Zakharia Maskalik was arrested in 1937, Abrom-Levik Slavin was arrested in 1939. By the end of 1933, “237 synagogues were closed, that is, 57% of all existing in the first years of Soviet authority … In the mid-1930s, the closure of synagogues accelerated.” From 1929, “the authorities began to impose excessive tax on matzo baking.” In 1937, “the Commission on the Questions of Religions at the Central Executive Committee of the USSR prohibited baking matzo in Jewish religious communities.” In 1937-38 “the majority of clergy of the Jewish religious cult were persecuted. There were no rabbis in the majority of still-functioning synagogues.”[98] “In 1938 a ‘hostile rabbinical nest’ was discovered in the Moscow Central Synagogue; the rabbis and a number of parishioners were arrested.”[99] The Rabbi of Moscow, Shmuel-Leib Medalia, was arrested and executed in 1938. (His son, Moishe Medalia, was arrested at the same time). In 1937, the Rabbi of Saratov, Iosif Bogatin, was arrested.[100]

In the early 1930s, when the Jewish religion was restricted in the USSR, the closing of thousands of Orthodox Christian temples and the destruction of many of them rolled along throughout the entire country. They especially hurried to “liberate” Soviet Moscow from the church; Boris Iofan was in charge of that “reconstruction.” In that bitter and hungry year of devastating breakdown of the country, they promoted projects for a grand Palace of Soviets in place of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Izvestiya reports: “So far, eleven projects are presented at the exhibition. Particularly interesting among them are the works of architects Fridman, B. Iofan, Bronshtein, and Ladovsky.”[101] Later, the arrests reached the architects as well.

The move toward ”settling the toiling Jews on the land” gradually became irrelevant for Soviet Jews. ”The percentage of Jewish settlers abandoning lands given to them remained high.” In 1930-32, the activity of foreign Jewish philanthropic organizations such as Agro-Joint, OKG, and EKO in the USSR, had noticeably decreased.” And although in 1933-38 it had still continued within the frameworks of new restrictive agreements, “in 1938 the activity ceased completely.” “In the first half of 1938, first the OZET and then the Committee for Settling the Toiling Jews on the Land (KomZET) were dissolved. The overwhelming majority of remaining associates of these organizations, who were still at liberty, were persecuted.” By 1939, “the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine decided to liquidate …’the artificially’ created national Jewish districts and boroughs.”[102]

Nonetheless, the idea of a Jewish colony in Birobidzhan was not abandoned in the 1930s and was even actively advanced by government. In order to put spirit into the masses, the authorities staged the Second All-Union Congress of the OZET in Moscow in December 1930.[103] By the end of 1931, the general population of that oblast was 45,000 with only 5,000 Jews among them, although whole villages with homes were built for their settlement and access roads were laid (sometimes by inmates from the camps nearby; for example, the train station of Birobidzhan was constructed in this manner).[104] Yet non-Jewish colonization of the region went faster than Jewish colonization.

In order to set matters right, in autumn of 1931 the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee of the RSFSR decreed that another 25,000 Jews should be settled in Birobidzhan during the next two years, after which it would be possible to declare it the Jewish Autonomous Republic. However, in the following years the number of Jews who left exceeded the number of Jews arriving, and by the end of 1933, after six years of colonization, the number of settled Jews amounted only to 8,000; of them only 1,500 lived in rural areas, i.e. worked in kolkhozes; that is, the Jews comprised less than 1/5 of all kolkhoz workers there. (There is also information that the land in the Jewish kolkhozes was fairly often tilled by hired Cossacks and Koreans). The oblast could not even provide enough agricultural products for its own needs.[105]

Nevertheless, in May 1934, when the non-Jewish population had already reached 50,000, Birobidzhan was loudly declared a Jewish Autonomous Oblast. (It still did not qualify for the status of a “republic.”)

Thus, there was no “national enthusiasm among the Jewish masses, which would ease the overcoming of the enormous difficulties inherent in such colonization.” There was no industry in Birobidzhan, and “the economic and social structure” of the settlers “resembled that of contemporary Jewish towns and shtetls in Ukraine and Belorussia” This was particularly true for the city of Birobidzhan, especially considering ”the increased role of the Jews in the local administrative apparatus.”[106]

Culture in Yiddish had certainly developed in the autonomous oblast – there were Jewish newspapers, radio, schools, a theater named after Kaganovich (its director was the future author E. Kazakevich), a library named after Sholem Aleichem, a museum of Jewish culture, and public reading facilities. Perets Markish had published the exultant article, A People Reborn, in the central press.”[107] (In connection with Birobidzhan, let’s note the fate of the demographer Ilya Veitsblit. His position was that “the policy of recruitment of poor urban Jews in order to settle them in rural areas should end”; “there are no declassé individuals among the Jews, who could be suitable for Birobidzhan.” He was arrested in 1933 and likely died in prison).[108]

Yet the central authorities believed that that the colonization should be stimulated even further; and from 1934 they began a near compulsory recruitment among Jewish artisans and workers in the western regions, that is, among the urban population without a slightest knowledge of agriculture. The slogan rang out: “The entire USSR builds the Jewish Autonomous Oblast!” – meaning that recruitment of non-Jewish cadres is needed for quicker development. The ardent Yevsek Dimanshtein wrote that “we do not aim to create a Jewish majority in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast as soon as possible; … this would contradict to the principles of internationalism.”[109]

But despite all these measures, during the next three years only another 11,000 to eight or nine thousand Jews were added to those already living there; still, most of newcomers preferred to stay in the oblast capital closer to its railroad station and looked for opportunities to escape). Yet as we know, the Bolsheviks may not be defeated or dispirited. So, because of dissatisfaction with the KomZET, in 1936 the “Central Executive Committee of the USSR decided to partially delegate the overseeing of Jewish resettlement in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast to the resettlement department of the NKVD.”[110] In August of 1936, the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR proclaimed that “for the first time in the history of the Jewish people, their ardent desire to have their own homeland has been realized and their own national statehood has been established.”[111] And now they began planning resettlement of 150,000 more Jews to Birobidzhan.

Looking back at it, the Soviet efforts to convert the Jews to agriculture suffered the same defeat as the Tsarist efforts a century before.

In the meantime, the year 1938 approached. KomZET was closed, OZET was disbanded, and the main Yevseks in Moscow and the administrators of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast were arrested. Those Birobidzhan Jews who could left for the cities of the Far East or for Moscow. According to the 1939 Census, the general population of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast consisted of 108,000 people; however, “the number of Jews there remained secret … the Jewish population of Birobidzhan was still low.” Presumably, eighteen Jewish kolkhozes still existed, of 40-50 families each,[112] but in those kolkhozes … they conversed and corresponded with the authorities in Russian.

Yet what could Birobidzhan have become for Jews? Just forty-five years later, the Israeli General Beni Peled emphatically explained why neither Birobidzhan nor Uganda could give the Jewish people a sense of connection with the land: “I simply feel that I am not ready to die for a piece of land in Russia, Uganda, or New Jersey!…”[113]

This sense of connection, after thousands of years of estrangement, was restored by Israel.


The migration of Jews to the major cities did not slow down in the 1930s. The Jewish Encyclopedia reports that, according to the Census of 1926, there were 131,000 Jews in Moscow; in 1933, there were 226,500; and in 1939, there were 250,000 Jews. “As a result of the massive resettlement of Ukrainian Jews, their share among Moscow Jewry increased to 80%.”[114] In the Book on the Russian Jewry (1968), we find that in the 1930s up to a half-million Jews “were counted among government workers, sometimes occupying prominent posts, primarily in the economy.”[115] (The author also reports, that in the 1930s “up to a half-million Jews became involved in industry, mainly in manual labor.” On the other hand, Larin provides another figure, that among the industrial workers there were only 2.7% Jews or 200,000[116] or 2.5 times less than the first estimate). “The flow of Jews into the ranks of office workers grew constantly. The reason for this was the mass migration to cities, and also the sharp increase of the educational level, especially of Jewish youth.”[117] The Jews predominantly lived in the major cities, did not experience artificial social restrictions, so familiar to their Russian peers, and, it needs to be said, they studied devotedly, thus preparing masses of technical cadres for the Soviet future.

Let’s glance into statistical data: “in 1929 the Jews comprised 13.5% of all students in the higher educational institutions in the USSR; in 1933—12.2%; in 1936—13.3% of all students, and 18% of graduate students” (with their share of the total population being only 1.8%);[118] from 1928 to 1935, “the number of Jewish students per 1,000 of the Jewish population rose from 8.4 to 20.4 [while] per 1,000 Belorussians there were 2.4 students, and per 1,000 Ukrainians – 2.0”; and by 1935 “the percentage of Jewish students exceeded the percentage of Jews in the general population of the country by almost seven times, thus standing out from all other peoples of the Soviet Union.”[119] G.V. Kostirchenko, who researched Stalin’s policies on Jews, comments on the results of the 1939 census: “After all, Stalin could not disregard the fact that at the start of 1939 out of every 1,000 Jews, 268 had a high school education, and 57 out of 1,000 had higher education” (among Russians the figures were, respectively, 81 and 6 per 1,000).[120] It is no secret that “highly successful completion of higher education or doctoral studies allowed individuals to occupy socially-prestigious positions in the robustly developing Soviet economy of the 1930s.”[121]

However, in The Book on Russian Jewry we find that “without exaggeration, after Ezhov’s purges, not a single prominent Jewish figure remained at liberty in Soviet Jewish society, journalism, culture, or even in the science.”[122] Well, it was absolutely not like that, and it is indeed a gross exaggeration. (Still, the same author, Grigory Aronson, in the same book, only two pages later says summarily about the 1930s, that “the Jews were not deprived of general civil rights … they continued to occupy posts in the state and party apparatus”, and “there were quite a few Jews … in the diplomatic corps, in the general staff of the army, and among the professors in the institutions of higher learning…Thus we enter into the year 1939.”[123]

The voice of Moscow was that of the People’s Artist, Yury Levitan – “the voice of the USSR”, that incorruptible prophet of our Truth, the main host of the radio station of the Comintern and a favorite of Stalin. Entire generations grew up, listening to his voice: he read Stalin’s speeches and summaries of Sovinformburo [the Soviet Information Bureau], and the famous announcements about the beginning and the end of the war.[124]

In 1936 Samuil Samosud became the main conductor of the Bolshoi Theatre and served on that post for many years. Mikhail Gnesin continued to produce music “in the style of modern European music and in the style of the so-called ‘New Jewish music’”; Gnesin’s sisters successfully ran the music school, which developed into the outstanding Musical Institute. The ballet of Aleksandr Krein was performed in the Mariinsky and Bolshoi theatres. Well, Krein distinguished himself by his symphony, Rhapsody, that is, a Stalin’s speech set to music. Krein’s brother and nephew flourished also.[125] A number of brilliant musicians rose to national and later to international fame: Grigory Ginzburg, Emil Gilels, Yakov Zak, Lev Oborin, David Oistrakh, Yakov Flier and many others. Many established theatre directors, theatre and literary critics, and music scholars continued to work without hindrance.

Examining the culture of the 1930s, it is impossible to miss the extraordinary achievements of the songwriter composers. Isaak Dunaevsky, “a founder of genres of operetta and mass song in Soviet music”, “composed easily digestible songs … routinely glorifying the Soviet way of life (The March of Merry Lads, 1933; The Song of Kakhovka, 1935; The Song about Homeland, 1936; The Song of Stalin, 1936, etc.). Official propaganda on the arts declared these songs … the embodiment of the thoughts and feelings of millions of Soviet people.”[126] Dunaevsky’s tunes were used as the identifying melody of Moscow Radio. He was heavily decorated for his service: he was the first of all composers to be awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labour and elected to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR in the notorious year 1937. Later he was also awarded the Order of Lenin. He used to preach to composers that the Soviet people do not need symphonies.[127]

Matvey Blanter and the brothers Daniil and Dmitry Pokrass were famous for their complacent hit song If War Strikes Tomorrow (“we will instantly crush the enemy”) and for their earlier hit the Budyonny March. There were many other famous Jewish songwriters and composers in 1930s and later: Oskar Feltsman, Solovyev-Sedoy, Ilya Frenkel, Mikhail Tanich, Igor Shaferan, Yan Frenkel and Vladimir Shainsky, etc. They enjoyed copy numbers in the millions, fame, royalties — come on, who dares to name those celebrities among the oppressed? And after all, alongside the skillfully written songs, how much blaring Soviet propaganda did they churn out, confusing, brainwashing, and deceiving the public and crippling good taste and feelings?

What about movie industry? The modern Israeli Jewish Encyclopedia states that in the 1930s “the main role of movies was to glorify the successes of socialism; a movie’s entertainment value was minimal. Numerous Jewish filmmakers participated in the development of standards of a unified and openly ideological film industry, conservative in form and obsessively didactic. Many of them were already listed in the previous chapter; take, for example, D. Vertov’s Symphony of the Donbass, 1931, released immediately after the Industrial Party Trial. Here are a few of the then-celebrated names: F. Ermler (The Coming, The Great Citizen, Virgin Soil Upturned), S. Yutkevich (The Coming, The Miners), the famous Mikhail Romm (Lenin in October, Lenin in 1918), L. Arnshtam (Girlfriends, Friends), I. Trauberg (The Son of Mongolia, The Year 1919), A. Zarkhi and I. Kheifits (Hot Days, Ambassador of the Baltic).[128] Obviously, filmmakers were not persecuted in the 1930s, though many cinematography, production and film distribution managers were arrested; two high-ranking bosses of the central management of the cinema industry, B. Shumyatsky and S. Dukelsky, were even shot.[129]

In the 1930s, Jews clearly comprised a majority among filmmakers. So, who was really the victim – deceived viewers, whose souls were steamrolled with lies and rude didactics, or the filmmakers, who “forged documentaries, biographies and produced pseudo-historical and essentially unimportant propaganda films,” characterized by “phony monumentality and inner emptiness”? The Jewish Encyclopedia adds sternly: “Huge numbers of Jewish operators and directors were engaged in making popular science, educational, and documentary films, in the most official sphere of the Soviet cinematography, where adroit editing helped to produce a “genuine documentary” out of a fraud. For example, R. Karmen, did it regularly without scruples.”[130] (He was a glorified Soviet director, producer of many documentaries about the civil war in Spain and the Nuremberg Trials; he made “the anniversary-glorifying film The Great Patriotic War”, Vietnam, and a film about Cuba; he was a recipient of three USSR State Prizes (the Stalin Prize) and the Lenin Prize; he held the titles of the People’s Artist of the USSR and the Hero of the Socialist Labor).[131] Let’s not forget filmmaker Konrad Wolf, the brother of the famous Soviet spy, Marcus Wolf.[132]

No, the official Soviet atmosphere of 1930s was absolutely free of ill will toward Jews. And until the war, the overwhelming majority of Soviet Jewry sympathized with the Soviet ideology and sided with the Soviet regime. “There was no Jewish Question indeed in the USSR before the war – or almost none”; then the “open anti-Semites were not yet in charge of newspapers and journals … they did not control personnel departments”[133] (quite the opposite – many such positions were occupied by Jews).

Sure, then Soviet “culture” consisted of “Soviet patriotism,” i.e., of producing art in accordance with directives from above. Unfortunately, many Jews were engaged in that pseudo-cultural sphere and some of them even rose to supervise the Russian language culture. In the early 1930s we see B.M. Volin-Fradkin at the head of the Main Administration for Literary and Publishing Affairs (GlavLit), the organ of official censorship, directing the development of the culture. Many of the GlavLit personnel were Jewish. For example, in GlavLit, from 1932 to 1941 we see A.I. Bendik, who would become the Director of the Book Palace during the war.[134] Emma Kaganova, the spouse of Chekist Pavel Sudoplatov was “trusted to manage the activities of informants among the Ukrainian intelligentsia.”[135] After private publishers were abolished, “a significant contribution to the organization and management of Soviet government publishers was made by S. Alyansky, M. Volfson, I. Ionov (Bernshtein), A. Kantorovich, B. Malkin, I. Berite, B. Feldman, and many others.”[136] Soon all book publishing was centralized in the State Publishing House and there was no other place for an author to get his work published.

The Jewish presence was also apparent in all branches of the printed propaganda Works of the clumsy caricaturist Boris Efimov could be found in the press everyday (he produced extremely filthy images of Western leaders; for instance, he had portrayed Nicholas II in a crown carrying a rifle, trampling corpses). Every two to three days, sketches of other dirty satirists, like G. Riklin, the piercingly caustic D. Zaslavsky, the adroit Radek, the persistent Sheinin and the brothers Tur, appeared in press. A future writer L. Kassil wrote essays for Izvestiya. There were many others: R. Karmen, T. Tess, Kh. Rappoport, D. Chernomordikov, B. Levin, A. Kantorovich, and Ya. Perelman. These names I found in Izvestiya only, and there were two dozen more major newspapers feeding the public with blatant lies. In addition, there existed a whole sea of ignoble mass propaganda brochures saturated with lies. When they urgently needed a mass propaganda brochure devoted to the Industrial Party Trial (such things were in acute demand for all of the 1930s), one B. Izakson knocked it out under the title: “Crush the viper of intervention!” Diplomat E. Gnedin, the son of Parvus, wrote lying articles about the “incurable wounds of Europe” and the imminent death of the West. He also wrote a rebuttal article, Socialist Labor in the Forests of the Soviet North,in response to Western “slanders” about the allegedly forced labor of camp inmates felling timber. When in the 1950s Gnedin returned from a camp after a long term (though, it appears, not having experienced tree felling himself), he was accepted as a venerable sufferer and no one reminded him of his lies in the past.

In 1929-31 Russian historical science was destroyed; the Archaeological Commission, the Northern Commission, Pushkin House, the Library of the Academy of Sciences were all abolished, traditions were smashed, and prominent Russian historians were sent to rot in camps. (How much did we hear about that destruction?) Third and fourth-rate Russian historians then surged in to occupy the vacant posts and brainwash us for the next half a century. Sure, quite a few Russian slackers made their careers then, but Jewish ones did not miss their chance.

Already in the 1930s, Jews played a prominent role in Soviet science, especially in the most important and technologically-demanding frontiers, and their role was bound to become even more important in the future. “By the end of 1920s, Jews comprised 13.6% of all scientists in the country; by 1937 their share increased to 17.6%”; in 1939 there were more than 15,000 or 15.7% Jewish scientists and lecturers in the institutions of higher learning.”[137]

In physics, member of the Academy A. F. Ioffe nurtured a highly successful school. As early as 1918, he founded the Physical-Technical Institute in Petrograd. Later, “fifteen affiliated scientific centers were created”; they were headed by Ioffe’s disciples. “His former students worked in many other institutes, in many ways determining the scientific and technological potential of the Soviet Union.”[138] (However, repressions did not bypass them. In 1938, in the Kharkov Physics-Technological Institute, six out of eight heads of departments were arrested: Vaisberg, Gorsky, Landau, Leipunsky, Obreimov, Shubnikov; a seventh—Rueman—was exiled; only Slutskin remained).[139] The name of Semyon Aisikovich, the constructor of Lavochkin fighter aircraft, was long unknown to the public.[140] Names of many other personalities in military industry were kept secret as well. Even now we do not know all of them. For instance, M. Shkud “oversaw development of powerful radio stations,”[141] yet there were surely others, whom we do not know, working on the development of no less powerful jammers.)

Numerous Jewish names in technology, science and its applications prove that the flower of several Jewish generations went into these fields. Flipping through the pages of biographical tomes of the Russian Jewish Encyclopedia, which only lists the Jews who were born or lived in Russia, we see an abundance of successful and gifted people with real accomplishments (which also means the absence of obstacles to career entry and advancement in general).

Of course, scientists had to pay political tribute too. Take, for example, ”the First National Conference for the Planning of Science” in 1931. Academician Ioffe stated that “modern capitalism is no longer capable of a technological revolution,” it is only possible as a result of a social revolution, which has “transformed the once barbaric and backward Russia into the Socialist Union of Republics.” He praised the leadership of the proletariat in science and said that science can be free only under Soviet stewardship. “Militant philosopher” E. Ya. Kolman (“one of main ideologists of Soviet science in the 1930s”; he fulminated against the Moscow school of mathematics) asserted that “we should … introduce labor discipline in the sciences, adopt collective methods, socialist competition, and shock labor methods; he said that science advances “thanks to the proletarian dictatorship,” and that each scientist should study Lenin’s Materialism and Empirico-criticism. Academician A.G. Goldman (Ukraine) enthusiastically chimed in: “The academy now became the leading force in the struggle for the Marxist dialectic in science!”[142]

The Jewish Encyclopedia summarizes: “At the end of 1930s, the role of the Jews in the various spheres of the Soviet life reached its apogee for the entire history of the Soviet regime.” According to the 1939 census, 40% of all economically active Jews were state  employees. Around 364,000 were categorized among the intelligentsia. Of them, 106,000 were engineers or technologists, representing 14% of all professionals of this category country-wide; 139,000 were managers at various levels, 7% of all administrators in the USSR; “39,000 doctors, or slightly less than 27% of all doctors; 38,000 teachers, or more than 3% of all teachers; “more than 6,500 writers, journalists, and editors; more than 5,000 actors and filmmakers; more than 6,000 musicians; a little less than 3,000 artists and sculptors; and more than 5,000 lawyers.”[143]

In the opinion of the Encyclopedia, such impressive representation by a national minority, even in the context of official internationalism and brotherhood of the peoples of the USSR, created the prerequisites for the backlash by the state.”[144]


During his political career, Stalin often allied with Jewish leaders of the communist party and relied on many Jewish back-benchers. By the mid-1930s he saw in the example of Hitler all the disadvantages of being a self-declared enemy of the Jews. Yet he likely harbored hostility toward them (his daughter’s memoirs support this), though even his closest circle was probably unaware of it. However, struggling against the Trotskyites, he, of course, realized this aspect as well –– his need to further get rid of the Jewish influence in the party. And, sensing the war, he perhaps was also grasping that “proletarian internationalism” alone would not be sufficient and that the notion of the “homeland,” and even the “Homeland”, would be much needed.

S. Schwartz lamented about anti-revolutionary transformation of the party as the “unprecedented ‘purge’ of the ruling party, the virtual destruction of the old party and the establishment of a new communist party under the same name in its place – new in social composition and ideology.” From 1937 he also noted a “gradual displacement of Jews from the positions of power in all spheres of public life.” “Among the old Bolsheviks who were involved in the activity before the party came to power and especially among those with the pre-revolutionary involvement, the percentage of Jews was noticeably higher than in the party on average; in younger generations, the Jewish representation became even smaller… As a result of the purge, almost all important Jewish communists left the scene.”[145] Lazar Kaganovich was the exception. Still, in 1939, after all the massacres, the faithful communist Zemlyachka was made the deputy head of the Soviet of People’s Commissars, and S. Dridzo-Lozovsky was assigned the position of Deputy to the Narkom of Foreign Affairs.[146] And yet, in the wider picture, Schwartz’s observations are reasonable as was demonstrated above.

S. Schwartz adds that in the second half of 1930s Jews were gradually barred from entering “institutions of higher learning, which were preparing specialists for foreign relations and foreign trade, and were barred from military educational institutions.”[147] The famous defector from the USSR, I.S. Guzenko, shared rumors about a secret percentage quota on Jewish admissions to the institutions of higher learning which was enforced from 1939.

In the 1990s they even wrote that Molotov, taking over the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs in the spring of 1939, publicly announced during the general meeting with the personnel that he “will deal with the synagogue here,” and that he began firing Jews on the very same day. (Still, Litvinov was quite useful during the war in his role as Soviet ambassador to the U.S. They say that upon his departure from the U.S. in 1943 he even dared to pass a personal letter to Roosevelt suggesting that Stalin had unleashed an anti-Semitic campaign in the USSR).[148]

By the mid-1930s the sympathy of European Jewry toward the USSR had further increased. Trotsky explained it in 1937 on his way to Mexico: “The Jewish intelligentsia … turns to the Comintern not because they are interested in Marxism or Communism, but in search of support against aggressive [German] anti-Semitism.”[149] Yet it was this same Comintern that approved the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the pact that dealt a mortal blow to the East European Jewry!

“In September 1939, hundreds of thousands of Polish Jews fled from the advancing German armies, fleeing further and further east and trying to head for the territory occupied by the Red Army…. For the first two months they succeeded because of the favorable attitude of the Soviet authorities. The Germans quite often encouraged this flight.” But “at the end of November the Soviet government closed the border.”[150]

In different areas of the front things took shape differently: in some areas, the Soviets would not admit Jewish refugees at all; in other places they were welcomed but later sometimes sent back to the Germans. Overall, it is believed that around 300,000 Jews managed to migrate from the Western to the Eastern Poland in the first months of the war, and later the Soviets evacuated them deeper into the USSR. They demanded that Polish Jews register as Soviet citizens, but many of them did not rush to accept Soviet citizenship: after all, they thought, the war would soon be over, and they would return home, or go to America, or to Palestine. (Yet in the eyes of the Soviet regime they thereby immediately fell under the category of “suspected of espionage,” especially if they tried to correspond with relatives in Poland).[151] Still, we read in the Chicago Sentinel that the Soviet Union gave refuge to 90% of all European Jewish refugees fleeing from Hitler.”[152]

According to the January 1939 census, 3,020,000 Jews lived in the USSR. Now, after occupation of the Baltics, annexation of a part of Poland, and taking in Jewish refugees, approximately two million more Jews were added, giving a total of around 5 million.[153] Before 1939, the Jews were the seventh largest people in the USSR number-wise; now, after annexation of all Western areas, they became the fourth largest people of the USSR, after the three Slavic peoples, Russian, Ukrainian, and Belorussian. “The mutual non-Aggression Pact of 23 August 1939 between the Third Reich and the Soviet Union evoked serious fear about the future of Soviet Jewry, though the policy of the Soviet Union toward its Jewish citizens was not changed.” And although there were some reverse deportations, overall, “the legal status of Jewish population remained unchanged during the 20 months of the Soviet-German collaboration.”[154]

With the start of war in Poland, Jewish sympathies finally crystallized and Polish Jews, and the Jewish youth in particular, met the advancing Red Army with exulting enthusiasm. Thus, according to many testimonies (including M. Agursky’s one), Polish Jews, like their co-ethnics in Bessarabia, Bukovina and Lithuania, became the main pillar of the Soviet regime, supporting it tooth and nail.

Yet how much did these East European Jews know about what was going on in the USSR?

They unerringly sensed that a catastrophe was rolling at them from Germany, though still not fully or clearly recognized, but undoubtedly a catastrophe. And so the Soviet welcome appeared to them to embody certain salvation.

[1] Izvestiya, January 22, 1928, p. 1.

[2] Izvestiya, January 26, 1928, p. 3.

[3] A. Sutton. Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution. Moscow, 1998; p. 210, 212.

[4] Ibid, p. 214, 215.

[5] A. Voronel // “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, 1986, (50), p. 160.

[6] Izvestiya, November 30, 1936, p. 2.

[7] Rossiyskaya Evreiskaya Entsiklopediya [The Russian Jewish Encyclopedia (henceforth— RJE)]. 2nd Ed. Moscow, 1994. v.1, p. 527-528.

[8] Robert Conquest. Bolshoy Terror [The Great Terror]. Firenze: Edizioni Aurora, 1974, p. 70, 73.

[9] RJE, v. 3, p. 95.

[10] Izvestiya, July 14, 1930, p. 1.

[11] Izvestiya, February 11, 1934, p. 1-2.

[12] RJE, v. 2, p. 163.

[13] RJE, v. 3, p. 189.

[14] Ibid., p. 283, 344.

[15] Izvestiya, January 18, 1936, p. 1 and February 6, 1936, p. 3.

[16] RJE, V. 1, p. 394.

[17] Ibid., p. 313.

[18] See, for example: Izvestiya, June 12, 1930; March 14 and 17, 1931; January 6, 1934; January 10 and February 21, 1936.

[19] Izvestiya, December 25, 1930, p. 1.

[20] Izvestiya, March 14, 1931, p. 3-4; March 17, p. 1-2.

[21] Izvestiya, February 2, 1931, p. 4; May 30, p. 1.

[22] Izvestiya, February 20, 1936, p. 4.

[23] RJE, v. 3, p. 497.

[24] RJE, v. 2, p. 98, 256.

[25] RJE, v. 1, p. 418.

[26] Ibid., p. 483.

[27] See, for example: Izvestiya, May 17, 1931, p. 3.

[28] Izvestiya, December 9, 1936, p. 1.

[29] Izvestiya, July 7, 1930, p. 2.

[30] RJE, v.1, p. 222, 387; v. 3, p. 237, 464.

[31] Izvestiya, November 14, 1930, p. 2; November 16, p. 4.

[32] Izvestiya, February 13, 1931, p. 3.

[33] Izvestiya, April 9, 1936, p. 2.

[34] Izvestiya, November 5, 1930, p. 2; November 11, p. 5.

[35] Izvestiya, June 11, 1936, p. 2.

[36] V. Boguslavskiy. V zashchitu Kunyayeva [In Defense of Kunyayev] // “22”, 1980, (16), p. 174.

[37] Izvestiya, April 24, 1931, p. 2.

[38] Izvestiya, May 18, 1930, p. 1.

[39] Kratkaya Evreiskaya Entsiklopediya [The Short Jewish Encyclopedia (henceforth—SJE)]. Jerusalem, 1976-2001. v. 4, p. 879.

[40] RJE, v. 3, p. 58.

[41] RJE, v. 1, p. 101.

[42] Aron Abramovich. V reshayushchey voyne: Uchastie i rol evreyev SSSR v voyne protiv natsizma [In the Deciding War: Participation and Role of Soviet Jews in the War against Nazism]. 2nd Edition. Tel-Aviv, 1982. v.1, p. 61.

[43] RJE, v. 1, p. 63, 376, 515; v. 2, p. 120, 491; v. 3, p. 300-301.

[44] RJE, v. 1, p. 244, 350; v. 2, p. 78; v. 3, p. 179, 206-207, 493-494. See also Aron Abramovich. V reshayushchey voyne. [In the Deciding War], v. 1, p. 62.

[45] L.Yu. Krichevsky. Evrei v apparate VChK-OGPU v 20-e gody [The Jews in the apparatus of the Cheka-OGPU in the 1920s] // Evrei i russkaya revolyutsia: Materiali i issledovaniya [Jews and the Russian Revolution: Materials and Research] Compiled by O.V. Budnitsky. Moscow; Jerusalem: Gesharim, 1999, p. 343-344; see also Izvestiya, December 20, 1937, p. 2.

[46] Izvestiya, November 27, 1935, p. 1; November 29, p. 1.

[47] Robert Conquest. Bolshoy terror [The Great Terror], p. 187.

[48] RJE, v. 3, p. 473.

[49] Aleksandr Orlov. From the introduction to the book Taynaya istoriya stalinskikh prestupleniy [The Secret History of Stalin’s Crimes] // Vremya i my: Mezhdunarodny zhurnal literatury i obshchestvennykh problem [Epoch and We: International Journal of Literature and Social Problems (henceforth – EW)]. New York, 1982, No.67, p. 202.

[50] RJE, v. 2, p. 62.

[51] Izvestiya, September 27, 1936, p. 1; September 30, p. 3. See also RJE, v. 1, p. 124.

[52] RJE, v. 2, p. 187, 218, 432; v. 3, p. 358.

[53] A. Kokurin, N. Petrov. NKVD: struktura, funktsii, kadry [The NKVD: Organization, Functions, Cadres] // Svobodnaya mysl [Free Thought], 1997, (6), p. 113-116.

[54] RJE, v. 2, p. 22, 51-52, 389.

[55] A. Kokurin, N. Petrov. NKVD: struktura, funktsii, kadry [The NKVD: Organization, Functions, Cadres] // Svobodnaya mysl [Free Thought], 1997, (6), p. 118.

[56] RJE, v. 2, p. 293; v. 3, p. 311.

[57] RJE, v. 1, p. 170.

[58] G.V. Kostirchenko. Taynaya politika Stalina: Vlast i antisemitizm [Stalin’s Secret Policy: Power and Anti-semitism]. Moscow: Mezhdunarodnie otnosheniya [International Relations], 2001, p. 210.

[59] The names of those executed and the year of execution are italicized throughout the text; in other instances the date indicates the year of arrest; those who committed suicide on the eve of arrest and those who died in custody are mentioned specifically.

[60] See for example: NV. Petrov, K.V. Skorkin. Kto rukovodil NKVD: 1934-1941: Spravochnik [Who Ran the NKVD: 1934-1941. Information Book]. Moscow: Zvenya, 1999.

[61] Pavel Sudoplatov. Spetsoperatsii: Lubyanka i Kreml: 1930s-1950s [Special Operations: Lubyanka [Prison] and the Kremlin: the 1930s through the 1950s]. Moscow: OLMA-Press, 1997, p. 440-441.

[62] Izvestiya, May 16, 1992 p. 6.

[63] E. Zhirnov. “Protsedura kazni nosila omerzitelniy kharakter” [A Horrible Execution] // Komsomolskaya Pravda, October 28, 1990, p. 2.

[64] Robert Conquest. Bolshoy Terror [The Great Terror], p. 797-798.

[65] L.Yu. Krichevsky. Evrei v apparate VChK-OGPU v 20-e gody [The Jews in the apparatus of the Cheka-OGPU in the 1920s] // Evrei i russkaya revolyutsia: Materiali i issledovaniya [Jews and the Russian Revolution], p. 343, 344.

[66] Robert Conquest. Bolshoy Terror [The Great Terror], p. 459.

[67] Yu. Margolin. Tel-Avivskiy bloknot [Tel-Aviv Notebook] // Novoe Russkoe Slovo [The New Russian Word], New York, August 5, 1968.

[68] Robert Conquest. Bolshoy Terror [The Great Terror], p. 427-428, 430.

[69] See for example: O.F. Suvenirov. Tragediya RKKA: 1937-1938. [The Tragedy of the Red Army: 1937-1938] Moscow, Terra, 1998.

[70] RJE, v. 3, p. 430. See also Aron Abramovich. V reshayushchey voyne. [In the Deciding War], v. 1, p. 66.  See also V. Katuntsev, I. Kots. Intsident: Podopleyka Khasanskikh sobitiy [The Incident: the Causes of the Lake Khasan Conflict] // Rodina, 1991, (6), p. 17.

[71] RJE, v. 3, p. 82. See also Aron Abramovich, V reshayushchey voyne. [In the Deciding War] v. 1, p. 64-66.

[72] St. Ivanovich. Evrei i sovetskaya diktatura [The Jews and the Soviet Dictatorship] // Evreyskiy Mir: Ezhegodnik na 1939 [Jewish World: Yearbook for 1939]. (henceforth — JW-1). Paris: Obedinenie russko-evreyskoy intelligentsii [Association of the Russo-Jewish Intelligentsia], p. 43.

[73] Ibid., p. 44-46.

[74] Pismo V.I. Vernadskogo I.I. Petrunkevichu ot 14 Iyunya 1927 [A letter from V.I. Vernadsky to I.I. Petrunkevich of June 14, 1927] // Novy Mir [New World], 1989, (12), p. 220.

[75] Mikhail Kheyfetz. Uroki proshlogo [Lessons of the Past] // “22”, 1989, (63), p. 202.

[76] Sonja Margolina. Das Ende der Lügen: Russland und die Juden im 20. Jahrhundert. Berlin: Siedler Verlag, 1992, S. 84.

[77] M. Tsarinnik. Ukrainsko-evreyskiy dialog [Ukraino-Jewish Dialogue] // “22”, 1984, (37), p. 160.

[78] S.M. Schwartz. Antisemitizm v Sovetskom Soyuze [Anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union]. New York: Chekov’s Publishing House, 1952, p. 8, 98-99, 107-108.

[79] New York Times, January 15, 1931, p. 9.

[80] I.V. Stalin. Sochineniya (v 13 tomakh) [Written Works (in 13 volumes)]. M.: Gospolitizdat, 1946-1951. v. 13, p. 28.

[81] Izvestiya, November 30, 1936, p. 2.

[82] S. Pozner. Sovetskaya Rossiya [The Soviet Russia] // JW-1, p. 260.

[83] S.M. Schwartz. Antisemitizm v Sovetskom Soyuze [Anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union]. New York: Chekov’s Publishing House, 1952,p. 118.

[84] St. Ivanovich. Evrei i Sovetskaya diktatura [The Jews and the Soviet Dictatorship] // JW-1, p. 50, 51, 52.

[85] Ibid., p. 51-52.

[86] B. Orlov. Rossiya bez evreyev [Russia without Jews] // “22”, 1988, (60), p. 160.

[87] Yu. Margolin. Tel-Avivskiy bloknot [Tel-Aviv Notebook] // Novoe Russkoe Slovo [The New Russian Word], New York, August 5, 1968.

[88] SJE, v. 8, p. 167.

[89] Ibid., p. 176.

[90] Yu. Mark. Evreyskaya shkola v Sovetskom Soyuze [The Jewish School in the Soviet Union] // Kniga o russkom evreystve: 1917-1967 [The Book of Russian Jewry: 1917-1967 (henceforth — BRJ)]. New York: Association of Russian Jews, 1968, p. 239.

[91] SJE, v. 8, p. 176, 177, 179.

[92] RJE, v. 2, p. 58, 432.

[93] SJE, v. 8, p. 179, 181.

[94] Yu. Mark. Literatura na idish v Sovetskoy Rossii [Literature in Yiddish in Soviet Russia] // BRJ, p. 216.

[95] Ibid., p. 230.

[96] SJE, v. 8, p. 182-183.

[97] RJE, v. 1, p. 15, 417; v. 2, p. 84.

[98] SJE, v. 8, p. 198-199.

[99] Gershon Svet. Evreiskaya religiya v Sovetskoy Rossii [The Jewish Religion in Soviet Russia] // BRJ, p. 209.

[100] RJE, v. 1, p. 145; v. 2, p. 260.

[101] Izvestiya, July 19, 1931, p. 2.

[102] SJE, v. 8, p. 173, 190, 193.

[103] Izvestiya. December 12, 1930, p. 2.

[104] S.M. Schwartz, Birobidjan // BRJ, p. 170-171, 200.

[105] Ibid., p. 177-78.

[106] S.M. Schwartz, Birobidjan // BRJ, p. 173, 180.

[107] Izvestiya, October 26, 1936, p. 3.

[108] RJE, v. 1, p. 214.

[109] S.M. Schwartz. Birobidjan // BRJ, p. 176.

[110] SJE, v. 8, p. 190.

[111] S.M. Schwartz. Birobidjan // BRJ, p. 177.

[112] Ibid., p. 178, 179.

[113] Beni Peled. Mi ne mozhem zhdat eshcho dve tisyachi let! [We Cannot Wait Two Thousand Years More!] [Interview] // “22”, 1981, (17), p. 116.

[114] SJE, v. 5, p. 477-478.

[115] G. Aronson. Evreyskiy vopros v epokhu Stalina [The Jewish Question in the Stalin’s Era] // BRJ, p. 137

[116] Yu. Larin. Evrei i anti-Semitism v SSSR [The Jews and Anti-Semitism in the USSR]. M.; L.: GIZ, 1929, p. 245.

[117] SJE, v. 8, p. 190.

[118] Ibid.

[119] S. Pozner. Sovetskaya Rossiya [The Soviet Russia] // JW-1, p. 264.

[120] G. Kostirchenko. Taynaya politika Stalina [The Secret Policy of Stalin], p. 198.

[121] SJE, v. 8, p. 190.

[122] G. Aronson. Evreyskiy vopros v epokhu Stalina [The Jewish Question in the Stalin’s Era] // BRJ, p. 138.

[123] Ibid., p. 140-141.

[124] RJE, v. 2, p. 150.

[125] Gershon Svet. Evrei v russkoy muzikalnoy culture v sovetskiy period [The Jews in Russian Musical Culture in the Soviet Period] // BRJ, p. 256-262.

[126] SJE, v. 2, p. 393-394.

[127] Yuriy Elagin. Ukroshchenie iskusstv [Conquest of the Arts] / Introduction by M. Rostropovich. New York: Ermitazh, 1988, p. 340-345.

[128] SJE, v. 4, p. 277.

[129] Ibid., p. 275.

[130] Ibid., p. 277-278.

[131] SJE, v. 4, p. 116.

[132] RJE, v. 1, p. 245-246.

[133] Lev Kopelev. O pravde i terpimosti [Of Truth and Tolerance]. New York: Khronika Press, 1982, p. 56-57.

[134] RJE, v. 1, p. 108, 238-239.

[135] Pavel Sudoplatov. Spetsoperatsii: Lubyanka i Kreml: 1930s-1950s [Special Operations: Lubyanka [Prison] and the Kremlin: the 1930s through the 1950s]. Moscow: OLMA-Press, 1997, p. 19.

[136] SJE, v. 4, p. 397.

[137] SJE, v. 8, p. 190-191.

[138] L.L. Mininberg. Sovetskie evrei v nauke i promishlennosti SSSR v period Vtoroi mirovoi voyny (1941-1945) [Soviet Jews in the Soviet Science and Industry during the Second World War (1941-1945)]. Moscow, 1995, p. 16.

[139] Alexander Weissberg. Conspiracy of Silence. London, 1952, p. 359-360.

[140] SJE, v. 4, p. 660.

[141] RJE, v. 3, p. 401.

[142] Izvestiya, April 7, 1931, p. 2; April 11, p. 3; April 12, p. 4. See also RJE, v. 2, p. 61-62.

[143] SJE, v. 8, p. 191.

[144] SJE, v. 8, p. 191.

[145] S.M. Schwartz. Antisemitizm v Sovetskom Soyuze [Anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union]. New York: Chekov’s Publishing House, 1952, p.  111-112, 114, 121-122.

[146] RJE, v. 1, p. 486; v. 2, p. 196.

[147] S.M. Schwartz. Evrei v Sovetskom Soyuze s nachala Vtoroi mirovoi voyny (1939-1965) [Jews in the Soviet Union after the Beginning of the Second World War (1939-1965)]. New York: Publication of the American Jewish Workers Committee, 1966, p. 410.

[148] Z. Sheinis, M.M. Litvinov. Poslednie dni [The Last Days] // Sovershenno Sekretno [Top Secret]. Moscow, 1992, (4), p. 15.

[149] Lev Trotsky. Pochemu oni kayalis [Why They Repented] // EW, New York, 1985, (87), p. 226.

[150] E. Kulisher. Izgnanie i deportatsiya evreev [The Expulsion and Deportation of the Jews] // Evreiskiy mir [The Jewish World], v. 2 (henceforth—JW-2). New York: Soyuz russkikh evreyev v New Yorke [The Union of Russian Jews in New York], 1944, p. 259.

[151] S.M. Schwartz. Evrei v Sovetskom Soyuze s nachala Vtoroi mirovoi voyny (1939-1965) [Jews in the Soviet Union after the Beginning of the Second World War (1939-1965)]. New York: Publication of the American Jewish Workers Committee, 1966, p. 33-34.

[152] The Sentinel, Chicago, Vol. XXXXIII, (13), 1946, 27 June, p.5.

[153] G. Aronson. Evreyskiy vopros v epokhu Stalina [The Jewish Question in the Stalin’s Era] // BRJ, p. 141.

[154] I. Shekhman. Sovetskoe evreystvo v germano-sovetskoy voyne [Soviet Jewry in the Russo-German War] // JW-2, p. 221-222.

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Chapter 27. About the Assimilation. Author’s afterword

When and how did this extraordinary Jewish status of “guests everywhere” begin? The conventional wisdom suggests that the centuries-old Jewish diaspora should be dated from the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in AD70; and that, after being thrown out of their native land, the Jews began wandering around the world. However, it is not true because “the great majority of the Jews were already dispersed by that time; hardly more than one-eighth of the nation lived in Palestine.”[1] The Jewish Diaspora had begun much earlier: “The Jews were mainly a dispersed nation by the time of the Babylonian captivity [6th century B.C.] and, possibly, even earlier; Palestine was only a religious and, to certain extent, a cultural center.”[2]

Scattering of the Jews was already foretold in the Pentateuch. “I will scatter you among the nations” (Leviticus 26:33). “Yahweh will scatter you among the peoples, and you shall be left few in number among the nations” (Deuteronomy 4:27).

“Only a small part of the Jews had returned from the [Babylonian] captivity; many had remained in Babylon as they did not want to abandon their property.” Large settlements were established outside of Palestine; “large numbers of Jews concentrated … in major trade and industrial centers of the ancient world.” (For example, in Alexandria under Ptolemaic dynasty, Jews accounted for two-fifth of the population.) “They were, mainly, traders and craftsmen.”[3] The Jewish-Hellenistic philosopher Philo Judaeus (who died in the middle of the 1st century, 20 years before the destruction of the Temple) states: “[The Jews] regard the Holy City as their metropolis because the Holy Temple of Almighty God is situated there, and they call “homeland” the countries where they live, and where their fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers and ancient forebears lived, and where they were born and brought up.”[4]

Mikhail Gershenzon mused on the fates of the Jewish nation after the Babylonian captivity: “[The Jews] took roots in foreign lands and, contrary to expectations, didn’t aspire to return to their old homeland.” “Just recall: the Kingdom of Judah was still there, yet most of the Jews were already scattered across the whole Middle East; the Second Temple still stood in all its splendor, but the Language of the Bible was no longer heard on the streets and in the houses of Jerusalem; everybody spoke either Syrian or Greek there.” Even back then the Jews were inclined to think: “We should not hold dear our national independence, we should learn to live without it, under foreign rule; we should not become attached to a land or to a single language.”[5]

Modern Jewish authors agree: “The Jews in the ancient world were scattered and established large centers in the Diaspora even before the collapse of Jewish nationhood.”[6] “The nation which was given the Law did not want to return to its native country. There is some very profound and still not understood meaning in it. It is much easier to chat about Jewish values and about the preservation of Jewry than to explain the true reasons for such a long Galut.”[7] (Even in the mid-20th century the Hebrew language still had no word for “Diaspora” as for the living in the voluntary scattering, there was only “Galut,” referring to the forced exile.)

From the historical evidence we see that the scattering of the Jews was not solely their unfortunate fate, but also a voluntary quest. Indeed, it was a bemoaned disaster, but could it also be a method of making life easier? This is an important question in attempting to understand the Diaspora.

The Jews still do not have a generally accepted view on the Diaspora, whether it has been blessing for them or a bane.

Zionism, from the very moment of its birth, responded to this question firmly (and fully in line with its essence): “Our scattering is our biggest curse; it brings us no good, and no advantages and no peace to others as well…. We are guests everywhere … and we are still unwanted, everybody wants to get rid of us.”[8] “To be a homeless man, feeling as a guest everywhere — this is the true curse of exile, its real bitterness!”[9] “Some say that having several ‘homes’ improves chances to survive for the Jews. In my view, a nation staying in many other’s homes and not caring about its own cannot expect security. The availability of many homes corrupts.”[10]

Yet the opposite opinion is even more prevalent, and it seems to be more credible. “Perhaps, the Jewish nation had survived and persevered not in spite of its exile, but because of it; the Jewish Diaspora is not an episode, but the organic ‘ingredient’ of Jewish history.”[11]

“Was the Jewish nation preserved in all its uniqueness in spite of the exile and scattering or because of it? The tragedy of Jerusalem in AD70 destroyed the state, yet it was necessary to save the people”; “the extraordinarily intensified instinct of national self-preservation” prompted Jews toward salvation through Diaspora.”[12] “Jewry was never able to fully comprehend its situation and the causes for it. They saw exile as the punishment for their sins, yet time and time again it turned out to be the dispensation by which the Lord has distinguished his nation. Through the Diaspora, the Jew worked out the mark of the Chosen he foresaw on his brow…. The scattered state of the nation is not unnatural for him…. Already in the periods of the most comfortable existence in their own state, Jewry was stationing garrisons on its route and spearheading vanguards in all directions, as if sensing its future dispersion and getting ready to retreat to the positions it had prepared in advance.” “Thus, the Diaspora is a special form of Jewish existence in space and time of this world.”[13] And look how awesomely mobile are the Jews in Diaspora. “The Jewish people never strike root in one place, even after several generations.”[14]

But after they were so widely scattered and had become small minorities among other nations, the Jews had to develop a clear position toward those nations — how to behave among them and how to relate to them, to seek ultimate bonding and merging with those nations, or to reject them and separate from them? The Holy Scripture contains quite a few covenants of isolation. The Jews avoided even their closest kindred neighbors, the Samaritans and Israelites, so irreconcilably that it was not permitted to even take a piece of bread from them. Mixed marriages were very strictly forbidden. “We will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons.” (Nehemiah 10:30) And Ezra had ordered them to dissolve even the existing marriages, even those with children.

Thus, living in Diaspora for thousands of years, the Jews did not mix with other nations, just as butter does not mix with water, but comes to the surface and floats. During all those long centuries, they perceived themselves as something distinct, and until the 18th century “the Jews as a nation have never shown any inclination for assimilation.” The pre-revolutionary Jewish Encyclopedia, while quoting Marx’s assertion that “the Jews had not assimilated, because they represented the highest economic class, that is the class of capitalists amidst the agricultural and petty bourgeois nations,” objects, saying that the economy was secondary: “the Jews of the Diaspora have consciously established their own economy which protected them from assimilation. They did it because they were conscious of their cultural superiority,” which, for its part, was created by “the spiritual meaning of Judaism in its most complete form. The latter protected them from imitation.”[15]

But “from the mid-18th century the Jews started to believe in assimilation, and that becomes … the ferment of decomposition of the Jewish nation in Western Europe of the 19th century.” Assimilation begins when “the surrounding culture reaches the height held by the Jewish culture, or when the Jewry ceases to create new values.” The national will of the European Jews was weakened by the end of the 18th century; it had lost ground because of extremely long waiting. Other nations began creating brilliant cultures that eclipsed Jewish culture.”[16] And exactly then Napoleon launched the Pan-European emancipation; in one country after another, the roads to social equality were opening before the Jews, and that facilitated assimilation. (There is an important caveat here: “There is no unilateral assimilation,” and “the assimilating Jews supplemented the host cultures with Jewish national traits.” Heine and Börne, Ricardo and Marx, Beaconsfield-Disraeli and Lassalle, Meyerbeer and Mendelssohn — “during their assimilation into the host cultures, they added Jewish elements to them.”[17])

In some cases, assimilation leads to a brighter creative personal self-fulfillment. But, overall, “assimilation was the price paid by the Jews for the benefit of having access to the European culture. Educated Jews convinced themselves that “the Jews are not a nation, but only a religious group.”[18] “The Jewish nation, after it joined the realm of European nations, began to lose its national uniqueness … only the Jew from the ghetto retained pronounced national traits … while the intelligent Jew tried with all his strength to look unlike a typical Jew.” Thus spread “the theory that there is no Jewish nation, but only ‘the Poles, Frenchmen and Germans of Mosaic Law.’”[19]

Marx, and then Lenin saw the solution of Jewish question in the full assimilation of the Jews in the countries of their residence.

In contrast to the clumsiness of those ideologues, the ideas of M.O. Gershenzon are much more interesting. He put them forward late in life, in 1920, and they are all the more interesting because the lofty thinker Gershenzon was a completely assimilated Russian Jew. Nevertheless, the Jewish question was alive and well in his mind. He explored it in his article The Destinies of the Jewish Nation.

Unlike the contemporary Jewish Encyclopedia, Gershenzon believes that Jewish assimilation is the ancient phenomenon, from time immemorial. One voice constantly “tempted him [the Jew] to blend with the environment — hence comes this ineradicable and ancient Jewish aspiration to assimilate.” Yet another voice “demanded above all things to preserve his national uniqueness. The whole story of scattering is the never-ending struggle of two wills within Jewry: the human will against the superhuman one, the individual against the collective…. The requirements of the national will towards the individual were so ruthless and almost beyond human power, that without having a great hope common to all Jewry, the Jew would succumb to despair every now and then, and would be tempted to fall away from his brethren and desert that strange and painful common cause.” Contrary to the view that it is not difficult to explain why assimilation began precisely at the end of the 18th century, Gershenzon is rather surprised: “Is it not strange that assimilation so unexpectedly accelerated exactly during the last one hundred years and it continues to intensify with each passing hour? Shouldn’t the temptation to fall apart be diminished greatly nowadays, when the Jews obtained equal rights everywhere?” No, he replies: “It is not the external force that splits the Jews; Jewry disintegrates from the inside. The main pillar of Jewry, the religious unity of the Jewish nation, is decayed and rotten.” So, what about assimilation, where does it lead to? “At first sight, it appears that … [the Jews] are imbued, to the marrow of their bones, with the cosmopolitan spirit or, at least, with the spirit of the local culture; they share beliefs and fixations of the people around them.” Yet it is not exactly like that: “They love the same things, but not in the same way…. They indeed crave to embrace the alien gods… They strive to accept the way of life of modern culture…. They pretend that they already love all that — truly love, and they are even able to convince themselves of that.” Alas! One can only love his own faith, “the one born in the throes from the depths of the soul.”[20]

Jewish authors genuinely express the spiritual torment experienced by the assimilating Jew. “If you decided to pretend that you are not a Jew, or to change your religion, you are doomed to unending internal struggle with your Jewish identity…. You live in terrible tension…. In a way, this is immoral, a sort of spiritual self-violation.”[21] (This inner conflict was amazingly described by Chekhov in his essay Tumbleweed.) “This evil stepmother — assimilation … forced the individual to adapt to everything: to the meaning of life and human relations, to demands and needs, to the way of life and habits. It crippled the psychology of the nation in general and … that of the national intelligentsia in particular.” It compelled people “to renounce their own identity, and, ultimately, led to self-destruction.”[22] “It is a painful and humiliating search of identity.”[23] But even “the most complete assimilation is ephemeral: it never becomes natural,” it does not liberate “from the need to be on guard” all the time.[24]

In addition to the lack of trust on the part of surrounding native people, assimilating Jews come under fire from their fellow Jews; they are accused of “consumerism and conformism,” of “the desire to desert their people, to dispose of their Jewish identity,” and of “the national defection.”[25]

Nevertheless, during the 19th century everything indicated that assimilation was feasible and necessary, that it was predetermined and even inevitable. Yet the emergence of Zionism cast a completely new light on this problem. Before Zionism, “every Jew suffered from painful duality,“[26] the dissonance between the religious tradition and the surrounding external world.

In the early 20th century Jabotinsky wrote: “When the Jew adopts a foreign culture … one should not trust the depth and strength of such conversion. The assimilated Jew cannot withstand a single onslaught, he abandons the ‘adopted’ culture without any resistance whatsoever, as soon as he sees that the power of that culture is over … he cannot be the pillar for such a culture.” He provided a shining example of the Germanized Austria-Hungary, when, with the growth of Czech, Hungarian and Polish cultures, Germanized Jews actively conformed to new ways of life. “It is all about certain hard realities of the natural relationship between a man and his culture, the culture created by his ancestors.”[27] This observation is true, of course, though “hard realities” sounds somewhat dry. (Jabotinsky not only objected to assimilation fiercely, he also insistently warned the Jews to avoid Russian politics, literature and art, cautioning that after a while the Russians would inevitably turn down such service.[28])

Many individual and collective examples, both in Europe and Russia, in the past and nowadays, illustrate the fragility of Jewish assimilation.

Consider Benjamin Disraeli, the son of a non-religious father; he was baptized in adolescence and he did not just display the English way of life, he became no less than the symbol of the British Empire. So, what did he dream about at leisure, while riding his novel-writing hobby-horse? He wrote about exceptional merits and Messianism of the Jews, expressed his ardent love to Palestine, and dreamt of restoring the Israeli homeland![29]

And what’s about Gershenzon? He was a prominent historian of Russian culture and an expert on Pushkin. He was even criticized for his “Slavophilism.” But, nevertheless, at the end of his life, he wrote: “Accustomed to European culture from a tender age, I deeply imbibed its spirit … and I truly love many things in it…. But deep in my mind I live differently. For many years a secret voice from within appeals to me persistently and incessantly: This is not yours! This is not yours! A strange will inside me sorrowfully turns away from [Russian] culture, from everything happening and spoken around me…. I live like a stranger who has adapted to a foreign country; the natives love me, and I love them too; I zealously work for their benefit … yet I feel I am a stranger, and I secretly yearn for the fields of my homeland.”[30]

After this confession of Gershenzon, it is appropriate to formulate the key thesis of this chapter. There are different types of assimilation: civil and domestic assimilation, when the assimilated individual is completely immersed in the surrounding life and accepts the interests of the native nation (in that sense, the overwhelming majority of Russian, European and American Jews would perhaps consider themselves assimilated); cultural assimilation; and, at the extreme, spiritual assimilation, which also happens, albeit rarely. The latter is more complex and does not result from the former two types of assimilation. (In the opinion of a critic, The Correspondence between Two Corners by Vyacheslav Ivanov and M.O. Gershenzon, that “small book of tremendous importance”, serves as “a proof of the inadequacy of Jewish assimilation, even in the case of apparently complete cultural assimilation.”[31])

Or take another individual, [M. Krol], a revolutionary in his youth and a “converted” émigré after the revolution, he marvels that the Russian Jews even in their new countries of emigration demonstrated “a huge amount of national energy” and were building an “original Jewish culture” there. Even in London the Jews had their own Yiddish schools, their own social organizations, and their own solid economics; they did not merge with the English way of life, but only accommodated to its demands and reinforced the original English Jewry. (The latter even had their own British Council of Jews, and called themselves the “Jewish community of the Great Britain” — note that all this was in England, where Jewish assimilation was considered all but complete.) He witnessed the same thing in France, and was particularly impressed by the similar “feat” in the United States.[32]

And there is also that unfailing and reliable Jewish mutual support, that truly outstanding ability that preserves the Jewish people. Yet it further weakens the stability of assimilation.

It was not only the rise of Zionism that prompted the Jews to reject assimilation. The very course of the 20th century was not conductive to assimilation.

On the eve of World War II in 1939, a true Zionist, Max Brod, wrote: “It was possible to argue in support of the theory of assimilation in the days of far less advanced statehood of the 19th century,” but “this theory lost any meaning in the era when the peoples increasingly consolidate”; “we, the Jews, will be inevitably crushed by bellicose nationalistic peoples, unless we take our fate into our hands and retreat in time.”[33]

Martin Buber had a very stern opinion on this in 1941: “So far, our existence had served only to shake the thrones of idols, but not to erect the throne of God. This is exactly why our existence among other nations is so mysterious. We purport to teach others about the absolute, but in reality we just say ‘no’ to other nations, or, perhaps, we are actually nothing more than just the embodiment of such negation. This is why we have turned into the nightmare of the nations.”[34]

Then, two deep furrows, the Catastrophe and the emergence of Israel soon afterwards, crossed the course of Jewish history, shedding new and very bright light on the problem of assimilation.

Arthur Koestler clearly formulated and expressed his thoughts on the significance of the state of Israel for world Jewry in his book Promise and Fulfillment: Palestine 1917-1949 and in an article, Judah at the Crossroads.

An ardent Zionist in his youth, Koestler left Vienna for a Palestinian kibbutz in 1926; he worked for a few years in Jerusalem as a Hebrew-writing columnist for Jabotinsky’s newspaper; he also reported for several German newspapers. And then he wrote: “If we exclude from the Jewish religion the mystical craving for the Promised Land, then the very basis and essence of this religion would disappear.” And further, “after the restoration of the Jewish state, most of the Jewish prayers, rites and symbols lost their meaning…. The God of Israel has abided by the treaty; he had returned the land of Canaan to Abraham’s seed…. If, however, [the religious Jew] defies the order to return to the land of his ancestors and thus violates the treaty, he consequently … anathematizes himself and loses his Jewishness.” On the other hand, it may be difficult for not very religious Jews to understand why they should make sacrifices to preserve “Jewish values” not included in the religious doctrine. “The [Jewish] religion loses any sense if you continue to pray about the return to Zion even after you have grimly determined not to go there.” A painful choice, yes, but “the choice that must be made immediately, for the sake of the next generation…. Do I want to move to Israel? If I do not, then what right do I have to continue calling myself a Jew and thus to mark my children with the stigma of isolation? The whole world would sincerely welcome the assimilation of the Jews,” and after three generations or so, “the Jewish question would fade away.”[35]

The London newspaper Jewish Chronicle objected to Koestler: perhaps, “it is much better, much more reasonable and proper for a Jew from the Diaspora to live as before, at the same time helping to build the State of Israel?” Yet Koestler remained adamant: “They want both to have their cake and eat it. This is the route to disaster.”[36]

Yet all previous attempts at assimilation ended in failure; so why it should be different this time? — argued the newspaper. Koestler replied: “Because all previous attempts of assimilation were based on the wrong assumption that the Jews could be adequate sons of the host nation, while at the same time preserving their religion and remaining ‘the Chosen people.’” But “ethnic assimilation is impossible if Judaism is preserved; and conversely Judaism collapses in case of ethnic assimilation. Jewish religion perpetuates the national isolation — there is nothing you can do about this fact.” Therefore, “before the restoration of Israel, the renunciation of one’s Jewish identity was equivalent to refusal to support the persecuted and could be regarded as a cowardly surrender.” But “now, we are talking not about surrender, but about a free choice.”[37]

Thus, Koestler offered a tough choice to the Diaspora Jews: “to become Israelis or to stop being Jews. He himself took the latter path.”[38] (Needless to say, Jews in the Diaspora met Koestler’s conclusions mainly with angry criticism.)

Yet those who had chosen the first option, the citizens of the State of Israel, obtained a new support and, from that, a new view at this eternal problem. For instance, a modern Israeli author writes sharply: “The Galut Jew is an immoral creature. He uses all the benefits of his host country but at the same time he does not fully identify with it. These people demand the status which no other nation in the world has — to be allowed to have two homelands: the one, where they currently live, and another one, where ‘their heart lives.’ And after that they still wonder why they are hated!”[39]

And they do wonder a lot: “Why, why are the Jews so disliked (true, the Jews are disliked, this is fact; otherwise, why strive for liberation?)? And from what? Apparently, not from our Jewishness….” “We know very well that we should liberate ourselves, it is absolutely necessary, though … we still cannot tell exactly what from.”[40]

A natural question — what should we do to be loved — is seldom asked. Jewish authors usually see the whole world as hostile to them, and so they give way to grief: “The world is now split into those who sympathize with the Jewish people, and those seeking to destroy the Jewish people.”[41] Sometimes, there is proud despair: “It is humiliating to rely on the authorities for the protection from the nation which dislikes you; it is humiliating to thank ingratiatingly the best and worthiest of this nation, who put in a good word for you.”[42]

Another Israeli disagrees: “In reality, this world is not solely divided on the grounds of one’s attitude toward Jews, as we sometimes think owing to our excessive sensitivity.” A. Voronel agrees: “The Jews pay too much attention to anti-Semites, and too little — to themselves.”[43]

Israel, the Jewish state, must become the center that secures the future of world Jewry. As early as in the 1920s no other than Albert Einstein wrote to no other than Pyotr Rutenberg, a former Social Revolutionary and possibly the main author of the revolutionary demands of January 9, 1905 (he accompanied Orthodox Father Gapon during the workers’ procession on that date but was later one of his executioners; still later, Rutenberg left Russia to rebuild Palestine): “First of all, your [Palestinian settlers’] lives must be protected, because you sacrifice yourselves for the sake of the Spirit and in the name the entire Jewish nation. We must demonstrate that we are a nation with the will to live and that we are strong enough for the great accomplishment that would consolidate our people and protect our future generations. For us and for our posterity, the State must become as precious as the Temple was for our ancestors.”[44]

Jewish authors support this conviction in many ways: “The Jewish problem, apparently, has no reliable solution without the Jewish state.”[45] ”Israel is the center that guarantees the future of the Jews of the whole world.”[46] Israel is the only correct place for Jews, one where their “historical activity does not result in historical fiasco.”[47]

And only a rumble coming from that tiny and endlessly beleaguered country betrays “the phantom of the Catastrophe, permanently imprinted in the collective unconscious of the Israelis.”[48]

* * *

And what is the  status of assimilation, the Diaspora, and Israel today?

By the 1990s, assimilation had advanced very far. For example, “for 80-90% of the American Jews, the modern tendencies of the Jewish life promise gradual assimilation.” This holds true not only for the United States: “Jewish life gradually disappears from most of the Diaspora communities.” Most  modern-day Jews “do not have painful memories of the Catastrophe…. They identify with Israel much less than their parents.” Doubtlessly, “the role of the Diaspora is shrinking disastrously, and this is fraught with inevitable loss of its essential characteristics.” “Will our grandchildren remain Jews…? Will the Diaspora survive the end of this millennium and, if so,  for how long? Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, one of the greatest teachers of our time … warns that the Jews of the Diaspora are no longer a group, ‘whose survival is guaranteed by being in jeopardy.’” And because of that, they, paradoxically, “are already on the road to extinction, participating in the ‘Catastrophe of self-destruction.’” Moreover, “anti-Semitism in Western countries cannot be anymore considered as the element that strengthens Jewish identity. Anti-Semitic discrimination in politics, business, universities, private clubs, etc. is for all practical purposes eliminated.”[49] In present-day Europe “there are many Jews who do not identify as Jews and who react idiosyncratically to any attempt to connect them with that artificial community.” “The assimilated Jew does not want to feel like a Jew; he casts away the traits of his race (according to Sartre).”[50] The same author offers a scorching assessment: “European Jews reject their Jewishness; they think it is anti-Semitism that compels them to be the Jews. Yet that is a contradiction: A Jew identifies as a Jew only when he is in danger. Then he escapes as a Jew. But when he himself becomes the source of danger, he is not a Jew.”[51]

Thus, “the contours of the collapse of the Diaspora take shape exactly when the Western Jews enjoy freedom and wealth unprecedented in Jewish history, and when they are, or appear to be, stronger than ever.” And “if the current trends do not change, most of the Diaspora will simply disappear. We have to admit a real possibility of the humiliating, though voluntary, gradual degradation of the Diaspora…. Arthur Koestler, the advocate of assimilation, who in the 1950s predicted the death of the Diaspora, might prove to be right after all.”[52]

Meanwhile, “the Jews of the world, sometimes even to their own surprise, feel like they are personally involved in the destiny of Israel.” “If, God forbid, Israel is destroyed, then the Jews in other countries will disappear too. I cannot explain why, but the Jews will not survive the second Catastrophe in this century.”[53] Another author attributes the “Jewish mythology of the imminent Catastrophe” precisely to life in the Diaspora, and this is why “American (and Soviet) Jews often express such opinions.” They prepare for the Catastrophe: should Israel fall, it will be they who will carry on the Jewish nation.[54] Thus, “almost all of many hypotheses attempting to explain the purpose of Jewish Diaspora … recognize that it makes Jewry nearly indestructible; it guarantees Jewry eternal life within the limits of the existence of mankind.”[55]

We also encounter quite a bellicose defense of the principle of Diaspora. American professor Leonard Fayne said: “We oppose the historical demand to make aliyah. We do not feel like we are in exile.” In June 1994 “the President of the World Jewish Congress, Shoshana S. Cardin, aggressively announced to the Israelis: ‘We are not going to become the forage for aliyah to Israel, and we doubt you have any idea about the richness and harmony of American Jewish life.’”[56] Others state: “We are interesting for the peoples of the world not because of peculiarities of our statehood, but because of our Diaspora which is widely recognized as one of the greatest wonders of world history.”[57] Others are rather ironic: “One rogue came up with … the elegant excuse that the “choseness” of the Jews is allegedly nothing else but to be eternally scattered.”[58] “The miracle of the restoration of Israel post factum gave new meaning to the Diaspora; simultaneously, it had brilliantly concluded the story that could otherwise drag on. In short, it had crowned the miracle of the Diaspora. It crowned it, but did not abolish it.”[59] Yet “it is ironic too, as the goals for which we struggled so hard and which filled us with such pride and feeling of difference, are already achieved.”[60]

Understanding the fate of the Diaspora and any successful prediction of its future largely depends on the issue of mixed marriages. Intermarriage is the most powerful and irreversible mechanism of assimilation. (It is no accident that such unions are so absolutely forbidden in the Old Testament: “They have dealt faithlessly with the Lord; for they have borne alien children.” (Hosea 5:7)) When Arnold J. Toynbee proposed intermarriage as a means to fight anti-Semitism, hundreds of rabbis opposed him: “Mass mixed marriage means the end of Jewry.”[61]

A dramatic growth of mixed marriages is observed in the Western countries: “Data documenting the statistics of ‘dissolution’ are chilling. In the 1960s ‘mixed marriages’ accounted for approximately 6% of Jewish marriages in the United States, the home of the largest Jewish community in the world. Today [in 1990s], only one generation later, this number reached 60% — a ten-fold increase. The share of ‘mixed marriages’ in Europe and Latin America is approximately the same…. Moreover, apart from the orthodox Jews, almost all Jewish families in Western countries have an extremely low birth rate.” In addition, “only a small minority of children from ‘mixed families’ are willing to adopt a distinctly Jewish way of life.”[62]

And what about Russia? The Shorter Jewish Encyclopedia provides the following statistics: in 1988 [still under the Soviet regime], in the RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic), 73% of married Jewish men, and 63% of married Jewish women had non-Jewish spouses (in 1978 these numbers were lower: 13% for men, and 20% for women.). “Actually, Jews in such marriages tend to lose their Jewish self-consciousness much faster; they more often identify themselves with other nationalities during census.”[63]

Thus, almost everywhere, to a greater or lesser degree, we have the “erosion of Jewish life,” “dilution of racial, religious and ethnic borders that, until recently, served as the barriers for assimilation and `intermarriage.´” Today, “when common anti-Semitism declined so abruptly, … the Jews have lost a many great principles that in past used to be strong pillars of self-identification.”[64]

The Jews of the Diaspora are often attacked by the Israelis. Thirty and forty years after the creation of the State of Israel, the Israelis ask Diaspora Jews mockingly and sometimes angrily: “So, what about modern Jews? Most likely, they will always remain in their true historical home, in the Galuth.”[65] “The Algerian Jews had preferred France to Israel, and then the majority of the Iranian Jews, who left Khomeini’s rule, gave a wide berth to Israel.” “By pulling up stakes, they search for countries with higher standards of living, and a higher level of civilization. The love of Zion is not sufficient in itself.”[66] “The eternal image of a classical ‘imminent catastrophe’ does not attract the Jews to Israel anymore.”[67] “The Jews are a nation corrupted by their stateless and ahistoric existence.”[68] “The Jews did not pass the test. They still do not want to return to their homeland. They prefer to stay in Galut and complain about anti-Semitism every time they are criticized…. And nobody may say a bad word about Israel, because to criticize Israel is ‘anti-Semitism!’ If they are so concerned about Israel, why do they not move here to live? But no, this is exactly what they try to avoid!”[69] “Most of the Jews of the world have already decided that they do not want to be independent…. Look at the Russian Jews. Some of them wanted independence, while others preferred to continue the life of a mite on the Russian dog. And when the Russian dog had become somewhat sick and angry, they have turned to the American dog. After all, the Jews lived that way for two thousand years.”[70]

And now, the the Diaspora Jew “is often nervous when confronted by an Israeli; he would rather feel guilty than … share his fate with Israel. This sense of inferiority is compensated by intensely maintaining his Jewish identity … through deliberate over-emphasizing of petty Jewish symbolism.” At the same time, “the Jew from the Diaspora alone shoulders the specific risk of confronting surrounding anti-Semitism.” Yet, “no matter how the Israel behaves, the Diaspora has no choice: it will quietly stand behind the Israelis like an unloved but faithful wife.”[71]

It was forecasted that “by 2021, the Diaspora will probably shrink by another million souls.” “The interior workings of Jewish history… indicate that, most likely, the size of world Jewry will further decrease with the gradual concentration of a Jewish majority in Zion and not in the Diaspora.”[72]

Yet couldn’t it be the other way around? Maybe, after all, the Russian Jew Josef Bikerman was right when he confidently claimed that the Diaspora is indestructible? “I accept Galut, where we have lived for two thousand years, where we have developed strong cohesion, and where we must live henceforth, to live and prove ourselves.”[73] Could it be that those two voices which, according to Gershenzon, always sound in Jewish ears — one calling to mix with the surroundings, and another demanding to preserve Jewish national uniqueness, — will sound forever?

A reputable historian noted (after World War II) “a paradox in the life of modern Jewry: ever-growing immersion of Jews in the life of other nations does not diminish their national identity and sometimes even intensifies it.”[74]

Below are few testimonies made by Russian Jews during the Soviet (“internationalist”) period.

“I always had an acute perception of my Jewishness…. From the age of 17, when I left the cradle of high school, I mixed in circles where the Jewish question was central.” “My father had a very strong Jewish spirit; despite that, he never observed traditions, Mitzvoth, did not know the language, and yet … everything, that he, a Jew, knew, was somehow subordinated to his Jewish identity.”[75]

A writer from Odessa, Arkady Lvov, remembers: “When I was a 10-year old boy, I searched for the Jews among scientists, writers, politicians, and first of all, as a Young Pioneer [a communist youth group in the former Soviet Union], I looked for them among the members of government.” Lazar Kaganovich was in third place, ahead of Voroshilov and Kalinin, “and I was proud of Stalin’s minister Kaganovich… I was proud of Sverdlov, I was proud of Uritsky… And I was proud of Trotsky — yes, yes, of Trotsky!” He thought that Ostermann (the adviser of Peter the Great) was a Jew, and when he found that Ostermann actually was German, he had “a feeling of disappointment, a feeling of loss,” but he “was openly proud that Shafirov was a Jew.”[76]

Yet there were many Jews in Russia who were not afraid “to merge with the bulk of the assimilating body,”[77] who devotedly espoused Russian culture:

“In the old days, only a handful of Jews experienced this: Antokolsky, Levitan, Rubinstein, and a few others. Later there were more of them. Oh, they’ve fathomed Russia so deeply with their ancient and refined intuition of heart and mind! They’ve perceived her shimmering, her enigmatic play of light and darkness, her struggles and sufferings. Russia attracted their hearts with her dramatic fight between good and evil, with her thunderstorms and weaknesses, with her strengths and charms. But several decades ago, not a mere handful, but thousands Jews entered Russian culture…. And many of them began to identify sincerely as Russians in their souls, thoughts, tastes and habits…. Yet there is still something in the Jewish soul … a sound, a dissonance, a small crack — something very small, but through it, eventually, distrust, mockery and hostility leaks from the outside, while from the inside some ancient memory works away.

So who am I? Who am I? Am I Russian?

No, no. I am a Russian Jew.”[78]

Indeed, assimilation apparently has some insurmountable limits. That explains the difference between full spiritual assimilation and cultural assimilation, and all the more so, between the former and widespread civic and social assimilation. Jews — fatefully for Jewry — preserve their identity despite all outward signs of successful assimilation, they preserve “the inner Jewish character” (Solomon Lurie).

The wish to fully merge with the rest of mankind, in spite of all strict barriers of the Law seems natural and vivid. But is it possible? Even in the 20th century some Jews believed that “the unification of the mankind is the ideal of Judaic Messianism.”[79] But is it really so? Did such an ideal ever exist?

Far more often, we hear vigorous objections to it: “Nobody will convince or compel me to renounce my Jewish point of view, or to sacrifice my Jewish interests for the sake of some universal idea, be it ‘proletarian internationalism,’ (the one we idiots believed in the 1920s) or ‘Great Russia,’ or ‘the triumph of Christianity,’ or ‘the benefit of all mankind,’ and so on.”[80]

Nearly assimilated non-Zionist and non-religious Jewish intellectuals often demonstrate a totally different attitude. For instance, one highly educated woman with broad political interests, T.M.L., imparted to me in Moscow in 1967 that “it would be horrible to live in an entirely Jewish milieu. The most precious trait of our nation is cosmopolitanism. It would be horrible if all Jews would gather in one militarist state. It is totally incomprehensible for assimilated Jews.” I objected timidly: “But it cannot be a problem for the assimilated Jews as they are not Jews anymore.” She replied: “No, we still have some [Jewish] genes in us.”

Yet it is not about the fatality of origin, blood or genes, it is about which pain — Jewish pain or that of the host nation — is closer to one’s heart. “Alas, nationality is more than just knowledge of language, or an introduction to the culture, or even an attachment to the nature and way of life of the country. There is another dimension in it — that of the commonality of historic destiny, determined for each individual by his involvement in the history and destiny of his own people. While for others this involvement is predetermined by birth, for the Jew it is largely a question of personal choice, that of a hard choice.”[81]

So far, assimilation has not been very convincing. All those who proposed various ways for universal assimilation have failed. The difficult problem of assimilation persists. And though on a global scale the process of assimilation has advanced very far, it by no means foredooms the Diaspora.

“Even Soviet life could not produce a fully assimilated Jew, the one who would be assimilated at the deepest, psychological level.”[82] And, as a Jewish author concludes, “Wherever you look, you will find insoluble Jewish residue in the assimilated liquid.”[83]

Yet individual cases of deep assimilation with bright life histories do occur. And we in Russia welcome them wholeheartedly.

* * *

“A Russian Jew … A Jew, a Russian…. So much blood and tears have been shed around this boundary, so much unspeakable torment with no end in sight piled up. Yet, at the same time, we have also witnessed much joy of spiritual and cultural growth…. There were and still are numerous Jews who decide to shoulder that heavy cross: to be a Russian Jew, and at the same time, a Russian. Two affections, two passions, two struggles…. Isn’t it too much for one heart? Yes, it is too much. But this is exactly where the fatal tragedy of this dual identity is. Dual identity is not really an identity. The balance here is not an innate but rather an acquired entity.”[84] That reflection on the pre-revolutionary Russia was written in 1927 in the Paris emigration.

Some fifty years later, another Jew, who lived in Soviet Russia and later emigrated to Israel, looked back and wrote: “We, the Jews who grew up in Russia, are a weird cross — the Russian Jews…. Others say that we are Jews by nationality and Russians by culture. Yet is it possible to change your culture and nationality like a garment…? When an enormous press drives one metal into another, they cannot be separated, not even by cutting. For decades we were pressed together under a huge pressure. My national identity is expressed in my culture. My culture coalesced with my nationality. Please separate one from another. I am also curious which cells of my soul are of the Russian color and which are of the Jewish one. Yet there was not only pressure, not only a forced fusion. There was also an unexpected affinity between these intercrossing origins, at some deep spiritual layers. It was as if they supplemented each other to a new completeness: like space supplements time, the spiritual breadth supplements the spiritual depth, and the acceptance supplements the negation; and there was a mutual jealousy about `choseness´. Therefore, I do not have two souls, which quarrel with each other, weaken each other, and split me in two. I have one soul … and it is not two-faced, not divided in two, and not mixed. It is just one.”[85]

And the response from Russia: “I believe that the contact of the Jewish and Slavic souls in Russia was not a coincidence; there was some purpose in it.”[86]


Author’s afterword


In 1990, while finishing April 1917 and sorting out the enormous amount of material not included in The Red Wheel, I decided to present some of that material in the form of a historical essay about Jews in the Russian revolution.

Yet it became clear almost immediately that in order to understand those events the essay must step back in time. Thus, it stepped back to the very first incorporation of the Jews into the Russian Empire in 1772. On the other hand, the revolution of 1917 provided a powerful impetus to Russian Jewry, so the essay naturally stretched into the post-revolutionary period. Thus, the title Two Hundred Years Together was born.

However, it took time for me to realize the importance of that distinct historical boundary drawn by mass emigration of the Jews from the Soviet Union that had begun in the 1970s (exactly 200 years after the Jews appeared in Russia) and which had become unrestricted by 1987. This boundary had been abolished, so that for the first time, the non-voluntary status of the Russian Jews no longer a fact: they ought not to live here anymore; Israel waits for them; all countries of the world are open to them. This clear boundary changed my intention to keep the narrative up to the mid-1990s, because the message of the book was already played out: the uniqueness of Russian-Jewish entwinement disappeared at the moment of the new Exodus.

Now, a totally new period in the history of the by-now-free Russian Jewry and its relations with the new Russia began. This period started with swift and essential changes, but it is still too early to predict its long-term outcomes and judge whether its peculiar Russian-Jewish character will persevere or it will be supplanted with the universal laws of the Jewish Diaspora. To follow the evolution of this new development is beyond the lifespan of this author.

[1] I.M. Bikerman. K samopoznaniyu evreya: Chem my byli, chem my stali, chem my dolzhny byt [To the Self-Knowledge of a Jew: What We Were, What We Became, What We Must Be]. Paris, 1939, p. 17.

[2] S.Ya. Lurye. Antisemitizm v drevnem mire [Anti-Semitism in the Ancient World]. Tel-Aviv: Sova, 1976, p. 160 [1st ed. – Petrograd: Byloye, 1922].

[3] Ibid.*, p. 64, 122, 159.

[4] S.Ya. Lurye. Antisemitizm v drevnem mire* [Anti-Semitism in the Ancient World], p. 160.

[5] M. Gershenzon. Sudby evreyskogo naroda [The Destinies of the Jewish Nation] // “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]. Tel-Aviv, 1981, (19), p. 109-110.

[6] S. Tsiryulnikov. Filosofiya evreyskoy anomalii [Philosophy of the Jewish Anomaly] // Vremya i my (daleye – VM): Mezhdunarodny zhurnal literatury i obshchestvennykh problem [Epoch and We (hereinafter – EW): International Journal of Literature and Social Problems]. New York, 1984, (77), p. 148.

[7] A.-B. Yoshua. Golos pisatelya [Voice of the Writer] // “22”, 1982, (27), p. 158.

[8] Max Brod. Lyubov na rasstoyanii [Love at the Distance] // TW, Tel-Aviv, 1976, (11), p. 197-198.

[9] Amos Oz. O vremeni i o sebe [On Time and on Me] // Kontinent: Literaturny, obshchestvenno-politicheskiy i religiozny zhurnal [Continent: Literary, Social, Political and Religious Journal]. Moscow, 1991, (66), p. 260.

[10] A.-B. Yoshua. Golos pisatelya [Voice of the Writer] // “22”, 1982, (27), p. 159.

[11] S. Tsiryulnikov. Filosofiya evreyskoy anomalii [Philosophy of the Jewish Anomaly] // EW, New York, 1984, (77), p. 149-150.

[12] P. Samorodnitskiy. Stranny narodets [Strange Little Nation] // “22”, 1980, (15), p. 153, 154.

[13] E. Fishteyn. Iz galuta s lyubovyu [From the Galut with Love] // “22”, 1985, (40), p. 112-114.

[14] M. Shamir. Sto let voyny [One Hundred Years of War] // “22”, 1982, (27), p. 167.

[15] Evreyskaya Entsiklopediya (daleye – EE) [The Jewish Encyclopedia (hereinafter – TJE)]: 16 volumes. Sankt-Petersburg.: Obshchestvo dlya Nauchnykh Evreyskikh Izdaniy i Izd-vo Brokgauz-Efron [St. Petersburg: Society for Scientific Jewish Publications and Publisher Brokgauz-Efron], 1906-1913. V. 3, p. 312.

[16] Ibid., p. 313.

[17] Ibid.

[18] M. Krol. Natsionalizm i assimilyatsiya v evreyskoy istorii [Nationalism and Assimilation in the Jewish History] // Evreyskiy mir: Ezhegodnik na 1939 g. (daleye – EM-1) [The Jewish World: Yearbook for 1939 (hereinafter – JW-1)]. Paris: Obyedineniye russko-evreyskoy intelligentsii [Association of Russian-Jewish Intelligentsia], p. 187.

[19] I.L. Klauzner. Literatura na ivrite v Rossii [Literature in Hebrew in Russia] // Kniga o russkom evreystve: Ot 1860-kh godov do Revolyutsii 1917 g. [Book on the Russian Jewry: From the 1860s until the 1917 Revolution]. New York: Soyuz Russkikh Evreyev [The Union of Russian Jews], 1960, p. 506.

[20] [20] M. Gershenzon. Sudby evreyskogo naroda [The Destinies of the Jewish Nation] // “22”, 1981, (19), p. 111-115.

[21] N. Podgorets. Evreyi v sovremennom mire [The Jews in the Modern World]: [Interview] // EM, New York, 1985, (86), p. 117.

[22] V. Levitina. Stoilo li szhigat’ svoy khram…. [Should We Really Burn Our Temple….] // “22”, 1984, (34), p. 194.

[23] Boguslavskiy. Zametki na polyakh [Marginal Notes] // “22”, 1984, (35), p. 125.

[24] O. Rapoport. Simptomy odnoy bolezni [Symptoms of One Disease] // “22”, 1978, (1), p. 122.

[25] L. Tsigel’man-Dymerskaya. Sovetskiy antisemitizm – prichiny i prognozy [Soviet Anti-Semitism – Causes and Forecasts]: [Seminar] // “22”, 1978, (3), p. 173-174.

[26] G. Shaked. Trudno li sokhranit’ izrail’skuyu kul’turu v konfrontatsii s drugimi kul’turami [Is It Difficult to Preserve Jewish Culture in Confrontation with Other Cultures] // “22”, 1982, (23), p. 135.

[27] Vl. Jabotinsky. Na lozhnom puti [On a False Road] // Vl. Jabotinsky. Felyetony [Feuilletons]. Sankt-Petersburg: Tipografiya “Gerold” [St. Petersburg: Gerold Printing Establishment], 1913, p. 251, 260-263.

[28] Vl. Jabotinsky. Chetyre statyi o “chirikovskom intsidente” [Four Articles on the “Chirikov Incident”] (1909) // Ibid., p. 76.

[29] TJE, V. 4, p. 560, 566-568.

[30] Vyacheslav Ivanov, M.O. Gershenzon. Perepiska iz dvukh uglov [The Correspondence Between The Two Corners]. Petrograd: Alkonost, 1921, p. 60, 61.

[31] O. Rapoport. Simptomy odnoy bolezni [The Symptoms of One Disease] // “22”, 1978, (1), p. 123.

[32] M. Krol. Natsionalizm i assimilyatsiya v evreyskoy istorii [Nationalism and Assimilation in the Jewish History] // JW-1, p. 191-193.

[33] Max Brod. Lyubov’ na rasstoyanii [Love at a Distance] // EW, Tel-Aviv, 1976, (11), p. 198-199.

[34] Martin Buber. Natsionalnye bogi i Bog Izrailya [The National Gods and the God of Israel] // EW, Tel-Aviv, 1976, (4), p. 117.

[35] Artur Koestler. Iuda na pereputye [Judah at the Crossroads] // EW, Tel-Aviv, 1978, (33), p. 104-107, 110.

[36] Ibid., p. 112.

[37] Ibid., p. 117, 126.

[38] V. Boguslavskiy. Galutu – s nadezhdoy [To the Galuth with Hope] // “22”, 1985, (40), p. 135.

[39] A.-B. Yoshua. Golos pisatelya [Voice of the Writer] // “22”, 1982, (27), p. 159.

[40] Yu. Viner. Khochetsya osvoboditsya [I Want to Become Free] // “22”, 1983, (32), p. 204-205.

[41] M. Goldshteyn. Mysli vslukh [Thoughts Aloud] // Russkaya mysl [Russian Thinker], 1968, February 29, p. 5.

[42] M. Kaganskaya. Nashe gostepriimstvo… [Our Hospitality…] // “22”, 1990, (70), p. 111.

[43] A. Voronel’. Oglyanis’ v razdumye… [Look Back in Reflection]: [Round Table] // “22”, 1982, (24), p. 131.

[44] A. Chernyak. Neizvestnoye pismo Einshteyna [The Unknown Letter of Einstein] // “22”, 1994, (92), p. 212.

[45] A. Katsenelenboygen. Antisemitizm i evreyskoye gosudarstvo [Anti-Semitism and the Jewish State] // “22”, 1989, (64), p. 180.

[46] I. Libler. Izrail — diaspora: Krizis identifikatsii [Israel — the Diaspora: The Crisis of Identification] // “22”, 1995, (95), p. 168.

[47] N. Gutina. Dvusmyslennaya svyaz [An Ambiguous Connection] // “22”, 1981, (19), p. 124.

[48] M. Kaganskaya. Mif protiv realnosti [Myth Against Reality] // “22”, 1988, (58), p. 141.

[49] I. Libler. Izrail — diaspora… [Israel — the Diaspora…] // “22”, 1995, (95), p. 149-150, 154, 157.

[50] Sonja Margolina. Das Ende der Lügen: Rußland und die Juden im 20. Jahrhundert. Berlin: Siedler Verlag, 1992, S. 95, 99.

[51] S. Margolina. Germaniya i evrei: vtoraya popytka [Germany and the Jews: The Second Attempt] // Strana i mir [The Country and the World], 1991, (3), p. 143.

[52] I. Libler. Izrail — diaspora… [Israel – the Diaspora…] // “22”, 1995, (95), p. 150, 155.

[53] N. Podgorets. Evreyi v sovremennom mire [The Jews in the Modern World]: [Interview] // EW, New York, 1985, (86), p. 113, 120

[54] Z. Bar-Sella. Islamskiy fundamentalizm i evreyskoye gosudarstvo [Islamic Fundamentalism and the Jewish State] // “22”, 1988, (58), p. 182-184.

[55] E. Fishteyn. Iz galuta s lyubovyu [From the Galuth with Love] // “22”, 1985, (40), p. 112.

[56] I. Libler. Izrail – diaspora… [Israel — the Diaspora…] // “22”, 1995, (95), p. 152.

[57] E. Fishteyn. Glyadim nazad my bez boyazni… [We Are Looking Back with No Fear] // “22”, 1984, No. 39, p. 135.

[58] A. Voronel. Oglyanis’ v razdumye… [Look Back in Reflection]: [Round Table] // “22”, 1982, (24), p. 118.

[59] E. Fishteyn. Iz galuta s lyubovyu [From the Galuth with Love] // “22”, 1985, (40), p. 114.

[60] I. Libler. Izrail — diaspora… [Israel –the Diaspora…] // “22”, 1995, (95), p. 156.

[61] Ed Norden. Pereschityvaya evreyev* [Recounting the Jews] // “22”, 1991, (79), p. 126.

[62] I. Libler. Izrail — diaspora… [Israel — the Diaspora…] // “22”, 1995, (95), p. 151, 152.

[63] Kratkaya Evreyskaya Entsiklopediya [The Shorter Jewish Encyclopedia]: Jerusalem: Obshchestvo po issledovaniyu evreyskikh obshchin [Society for Study of Jewish Communities], 1996, V. 8, p. 303, Table 15.

[64] I. Libler. Izrail — diaspora… [Israel — the Diaspora…] // “22”, 1995, (95), p. 156.

[65] N. Gutina. Dvusmyslennaya svyaz [An Ambiguous Connection] // “22”, 1981, (19), p. 125.

[66] S. Tsiryulnikov. Filosofiya evreyskoy anomalii [Philosophy of Jewish Anomaly] // EW, New York, 1984, (77), p. 148.

[67] I. Libler. Izrail — diaspora… [Israel — the Diaspora…] // “22”, 1995, (95), p. 165.

[68] Z. Bar-Sella. Islamskiy fundamentalizm i evreyskoye gosudarstvo [Islamic Fundamentalism and the Jewish State] // “22”, 1988, (58), p. 184.

[69] A.-B. Yoshua. Golos pisatelya [Voice of the Writer] // “22”, 1982, (27), p. 158.

[70] Beni Peled. Soglasheniye ne s tem partnyorom [Agreement with the Wrong Partner] // “22”, 1983, (30), p. 125.

[71] E. Fishteyn. Iz galuta s lyubovyu [From the Galuth with Love] // “22”, 1985, (40), p. 115, 116.

[72] Ed Norden. Pereschityvaya evreyev [Recounting the Jews] // “22”, 1991, (79), p. 120, 130-131.

[73] I.M. Bikerman. K samopoznaniyu evreya [To the Self-Knowledge of a Jew]. Ibid., p. 62.

[74] Sh. Ettinger. Noveyshiy period [Modern Period] // Istoriya evreyskogo naroda [History of the Jewish Nation] / Sh. Ettinger (Ed.). Jerusalem: Gesharim; Moscow: Mosty kultury [Bridges of Culture], 2001, p. 587.

[75] A. Eterman. Tretye pokoleniye [The Third Generation] [Interview] // “22”, 1986, (47), p. 123-124.

[76] A. Lvov. Vedi za soboy otsa svoyego [Lead the Way to Your Father] // EW, New York, 1980, (52), p. 183-184.

[77] Vl. Jabotinsky. Na lozhnom puti [On the Wrong Road] // Vl. Jabotinsky. Felyetony [Feuilletons]. Ibid., p. 251.

[78] Rani Aren. V russkom galute [In the Russian Galuth] // “22”, 1981, (19), p. 135-136.

[79] G.B. Sliozberg. Dela minuvshikh dney: Zapiski russkogo evreya [The Things of Days Bygone: The Memoirs of a Russian Jew]: 3 volumes. Paris, 1933-1934, V. 1, p. 4.

[80] Sh. Markish. Eshchyo raz o nenavisti k samomu sebe [Once Again on the Hate to Yourself] // “22”, 1980, (16), p. 189.

[81] L. Tsigelman-Dymerskaya. Sovetskiy antisemitizm — prichiny i prognozy [Soviet Anti-Semitism — Causes and Forecasts]: [Seminar] // “22”, 1978, (3), p. 175.

[82] Yu. Shtern. Dvoynaya otvetstvennost [Double Responsibility] // “22”, 1981, (21), p. 127.

[83] O. Rapoport. Simptomy odnoy bolezni [Symptoms of One Disease] // “22”, 1978, (1), p. 123.

[84] St. Ivanovich. Semyon Yushkevich i evreyi [Semyon Yushkevich and the Jews] / Publikatsiya Ed. Kapitaykina [Publication of Ed. Kapitaykin] // Evrei v kul’ture Russkogo Zarubezhya [The Jews in the Russian-Language Culture]. Jerusalem, 1992, V. 1, p. 29.

[85] [R. Nudelman] Kolonka redaktora [Editor’s Column] // “22”, 1979, (7), p. 95-96.

[86] L-skiy. Pisma iz Rossii [Letters from Russia] // “22”, 1981, (21), p. 150.

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Chapter 24. Breaking Away From the Bolshevism

At the beginning of the 20th century, Europe imagined itself to be on the threshold of worldwide enlightenment. No one could have predicted the strength with which nationalism would explode in that very century among all nations of the world. One hundred years later it seems nationalist feelings are not about to die soon (the very message that international socialists have been trying to drum into our heads for the whole century), but instead are gaining strength.

Yet, does not the multi-national nature of humanity provide variety and wealth? Erosion of nations surely would be an impoverishment for humanity, the entropy of the spirit. (And centuries of the histories of national cultures would then turn into irredeemably dead and useless antics.) The logic that it would be easier to manage such a uniform mankind fails by its petty reductionism.

However, the propaganda in the Soviet empire harped non-stop in an importunately-triumphant manner about the imminent withering away and amalgamation of nations, proclaiming that no “national question” exists in our country, and that there is certainly no “Jewish question.”

Yet why should not the Jewish question exist — the question of the unprecedented three-thousand-year-old existence of the nation, scattered all over the Earth, yet spiritulally soldered together despite all notions of the state and territoriality, and at the same time influencing the entire world history in the most lively and powerful way? Why should there not be a “Jewish question” given that all national questions come up at one time or other, even the “Gagauz question” [a small Christian Turkic people, who live in the Balkans and Eastern Europe]?

Of course, no such silly doubt could ever arise, if the Jewish question were not the focus of many different political games.

The same was true for Russia too. In pre-revolutionary Russian society, as we saw, it was the omission of the Jewish question that was considered “anti-Semitic.” In fact, in the mind of the Russian public the Jewish question — understood as the question of civil rights or civil equality — developed into perhaps the central question of the whole Russian public life of that period, and certainly into the central node of the conscience of every individual, its acid test.

With the growth of European socialism, all national issues were increasingly recognized as merely regrettable obstacles to that great doctrine; all the more was the Jewish question (directly attributed to capitalism by Marx) considered a bloated hindrance. Mommsen wrote that in the circles of “Western-Russian socialist Jewry,” as he put it, even the slightest attempt to discuss the Jewish question was branded as “reactionary” and “anti-Semitic” (this was even before the Bund).

Such was the iron standard of socialism inherited by the USSR. From 1918 the communists forbade (under threat of imprisonment or death) any separate treatment or consideration of the Jewish question (except sympathy for their suffering under the Tsars and positive attitudes for their active role in communism). The intellectual class voluntarily and willingly adhered to the new canon while others were required to follow it.

This cast of thought persisted even through the Soviet-German war as if, even then, there was not any particular Jewish question. And even up to the demise of the USSR under Gorbachev, the authorities used to repeat hard-headedly: no, there is no Jewish question, no, no, no! (It was replaced by the “Zionist question.”)

Yet already by the end of the World War II, when the extent of the destruction of the Jews under Hitler had dawned on the Soviet Jews, and then through Stalin’s “anti-cosmopolitan” campaign of the late 1940s, the Soviet intelligentsia realized that the Jewish question in the USSR does exist! And the pre-revolutionary understanding — that it is central to Russian society and to the conscience of every individual and that it is the “true measure of humanity”1 — was also restored.

In the West it was only the leaders of Zionism who confidently talked from the late 19th century about the historical uniqueness and everlasting relevance of the Jewish question (and some of them at the same time maintained robust links with diehard European socialism).
And then the emergence of the state of Israel and the consequent storms around it added to the confusion of naive socialist minds of Europeans.

Here I offer two small but at the time quite stirring and typical examples. In one episode of so-called “the dialogue between the East and the West” show (a clever Cold-War-period programme, where Western debaters were opposed by Eastern-European officials or novices who played off official nonsense for their own sincere convictions) in the beginning of 1967, a Slovak writer, Ladislav Mnacko, properly representing the socialist East, wittily noted that he never in his life had any conflict with the Communist authorities, except one case when his driver’s license was suspended for a traffic violation. His French opponent angrily said that at least in one other case, surely Mnacko should be in the opposition: when the uprising in neighboring Hungary was drowned in blood. But no, the suppression of Hungarian Uprising neither violated the peace of Mnacko’s mind, nor did it force him to say anything sharp or impudent. Then, a few months passed after the “dialogue” and the Six-Day War broke out. At that point the Czechoslovak Government of Novotny, all loyal Communists, accused Israel of aggression and severed diplomatic relations with it. And what happened next? Mnacko — a Slovak married to a Jew — who had calmly disregarded the suppression of Hungary before, now was so outraged and agitated that he left his homeland and as a protest went to live in Israel.

The second example comes from the same year. A famous French socialist, Daniel Meyer, at the moment of the Six-Day War had written in Le Monde, that henceforth he is: 1) ashamed to be a socialist — because of the fact that the Soviet Union calls itself a socialist country (well, when the Soviet Union was exterminating not only its own people but also other socialists — he was not ashamed); 2) ashamed of being a French (obviously due to the wrong political position of de Gaulle); and, 3) ashamed to be a human (wasn’t that too much?), and ashamed of all except being a Jew.2

We are ready to accept both Mnacko’s outrage and Meyer’s anger, yet we would like to point out at the extreme intensity of their feelings — given the long history of their obsequious condoning of communism. Surely, the intensity of their feelings is also an aspect of the Jewish question in the 20th century.

So in what way ”did the Jewish question not exist”?

If one listened to American radio broadcasts aimed at the Soviet Union from 1950 to the 1980s, one might conclude that there was no other issue in the Soviet Union as important as the Jewish question. (At the same time in the United States, where the Jews “can be described as … the most privileged minority” and where they “gained an unprecedented status, the majority of [American Jews] still claimed that hatred and discrimination by their Christian compatriots was a grim fact of the modern life”3; yet because it would sound incredible if stated aloud, then the Jewish question does not exist, and to notice it and talk about it is unnecessary and improper.)

We have to get used to talking about Jewish question not in a hush and fearfully, but clearly, articulately and firmly. We should do so not overflowing with passion, but sympathetically aware of both the unusual and difficult Jewish world history and centuries of our Russian history that are also full of significant suffering. Then the mutual prejudices, sometimes very intense, would disappear and calm reason would reign.

Working on this book, I can’t help but notice that the Jewish question has been omnipresent in world history and it never was a national question in the narrow sense like all other national questions, but was always — maybe because of the nature of Judaism? — interwoven into something much bigger.


When in the late 1960s I mused about the fate of the communist regime and felt that yes, it is doomed, my impression was strongly supported by the observation that so many Jews had already abandoned it.

There was a period when they persistently and in unison supported the Soviet regime, and at that time the future definitely belonged to it. Yet now the Jews started to defect from it, first the thinking individuals and later the Jewish masses. Was this not a sure sign that the years of the Soviet rule are numbered? Yes, it was.

So when exactly did it happen that the Jews, once such a reliable backbone of the regime, turned into almost its greatest adversary?

Can we say that the Jews always struggled for freedom? No, for too many of them were the most zealous communists.  Yet now they turned their backs on it. And without them, the ageing Bolshevist fanaticism had not only lost some of its fervor, it actually ceased to be fanatical at all, rather it became lazy in the Russian way.

After the Soviet-German War, the Jews became disappointed by Communist power: it turned out that they were worse off than before. We saw the main stages of this split. Initially, the support of the newborn state of Israel by the USSR had inspired the Soviet Jews. Then came the persecution of the “cosmopolitans” and the mainly Jewish intelligentsia (not the philistine masses yet) began to worry: communism pushes the Jews aside? oppresses them? The terrible threat of massacre by Stalin overwhelmed them as well — but it was short-lived and miraculously disappeared very soon. During the “interregnum,” [following Stalin’s death] and then under Khrushchev, Jewish hopes were replaced by dissatisfaction and the promised stable improvement failed to materialize.

And then the Six-Day War broke out with truly biblical force, rocking both Soviet and world Jewry, and the Jewish national consciousness began to grow like an avalanche. After the Six-Day War, “much was changed … the action acquired momentum. Letters and petitions began to flood Soviet and international organizations. National life was revived: during the holidays it became difficult to get into a synagogue, underground societies sprang up to study Jewish history, culture and Hebrew.”4

And then there was that rising campaign against “Zionism,” already linked to “imperialism,” and so the resentment grew among the Jews toward that increasingly alien and abominable and dull Bolshevism — where did such a monster come from?

Indeed, for many educated Jews the departure from communism was painful as it is always difficult to part with an ideal — after all, was not it a “great, and perhaps inevitable, planetary experiment initiated in Russia in 1917; an experiment, based on ancient attractive and obviously high ideas, not all of which were faulty and many still retain their beneficial effect to this day…. Marxism requires educated minds.”5

Many Jewish political writers strongly favored the term “Stalinism” — a convenient form to justify the earlier Soviet regime. It is difficult to part with the old familiar and sweet things, if it is really possible at all.

There have been attempts to increase the influence of intellectuals on the ruling elite. Such was the Letter to the XXIII Congress (of the Communist Party) by G. Pomerants (1966). The letter asked the Communist Party to trust the “scientific and creative intelligentsia,” that “desires not anarchy but the rule of law … that wants not to destroy the existing system but to make it more flexible, more rational, more humane” and proposed to establish an advisory think tank, which would generally consult the executive leadership of the country.6
The offer remained unanswered.

And many souls long ached for such a wasted opportunity with such a “glorious” past.

But there was no longer any choice . And so the Soviet Jews split away from communism. And now, while deserting it, they turned against it. And that was such a perfect opportunity — they could themselves, with expurgatory repentance, acknowledge their formerly active and cruel role in the triumph of communism in Russia.

Yet almost none of them did (I discuss the few exceptions below). The above-mentioned collection of essays, Russia and the Jews, so heartfelt, so much needed and so timely when published in 1924 was fiercely denounced by Jewry. And even today, according to the opinion of the erudite scholar, Shimon Markish: “these days, nobody dares to defend those hook-nosed and burry  commissars  because of fear of being branded pro-Soviet, a Chekist, a God-knows-what else…. Yet let me say in no uncertain terms: the behavior of those Jewish youths who joined the Reds is a thousand times more understandable than the reasons of the authors of that collection of works.”7

Still, some Jewish authors began to recognize  certain things of the past as they really were, though in the most cautious terms: “It was the end of the role of the `Russian-Jewish intelligentsia´ that developed in the prewar and early postwar years and that was — to some degree sincerely — a bearer of Marxist ideology and that professed, however timidly and implicitly and contrary to actual practice, the ideals of liberalism, internationalism and humanism.”8 A bearer of Marxist ideology? — Yes, of course. The ideals of internationalism? — Sure. Yet liberalism and humanism? — True, but only after Stalin’s death, while coming to senses.

However, very different things can be inferred from the writings of the majority of Jewish publicists in the late Soviet Union. Looking back to the very year of 1917, they find that under communism there was nothing but Jewish suffering! “Among the many nationalities of the Soviet Union, the Jews have always been stigmatized as the least `reliable´ element.”9

What incredibly short memory one should have to state such things in 1983? Always! And what about the 1920s? And the 1930s? To assert that they were then considered the least reliable?! Is it really possible to forget everything so completely?

“If … one takes a bird’s-eye view of the entire history of the Soviet era, then the latter appears as one gradual process of destruction of the Jews.” Note — the entire history! We investigated this in the previous chapters and saw that even without taking into account Jewish over-representation in the top Soviet circles, there had been a period of well-being for many Jews with mass migration to cities, open access to higher education and the blossoming of Jewish culture. The author proceeds with a reservation: “Although there were …  certain `fluctuations´, the overall trend continued … Soviet power, destroying all nationalities, generally dealt with the Jews in the most brutal way.”10

Another author considers a disaster even the early period when Lenin and the Communist Party called upon the Jews to help with state governance, and the call was heard, and the great masses of Jews from the shtetls of the hated Pale moved into the capital and the big cities, closer to the avant-garde [of the Revolution]”; he states that the “… formation of the Bolshevik regime that had turned the greater part of Jews into `déclassé´, impoverished and exiled them and destroyed their families” was a catastrophe for the “majority of the Jewish population.” (Well, that depends on one’spoint of view. And the author himself later notes: in the 1920s and 1930s, the “children of déclassé Jewish petty bourgeois were able to graduate from … the technical institutes and metropolitan universities and to become `commanders´ of the `great developments.´”) Then his reasoning becomes vague: “in the beginning of the century the main feature of Jewish activity was … a fascination … with the idea of building a new fair society”– yet the army of revolution “consisted of plain rabble — all those `who were nothing,´ [a quote from The Internationale].” Then, “after the consolidation of the regime” that rabble “decided to implement their motto and to `become all´ [also a quote from The Internationale], and finished off their own leaders….  And so the kingdom of rabble — unlimited totalitarianism — was established.” (And, in this context, the Jews had nothing to do with it, except that they were among the victimized leaders.) And the purge continued “for four decades” until the “mid-1950s”; then the last “bitter pill … according to the scenario of disappointments” was prescribd to the remaining “`charmed´ Jews.”11 Again we see the same angle: the entire Soviet history was one of unending oppression and exclusion of the Jews.

Yet now they wail in protest in unison: “We did not elect this regime!”

Or even “it is not possible to cultivate a loyal Soviet elite among them [the Jews].”12
Oh my God, was not this method working flawlessly for 30 years, and only later coming undone?  So where did all those glorious and famous names — whom we’ve seen in such numbers — came from?

And why were their eyes kept so tightly shut that they couldn’t see the essence of Soviet rule for thirty to forty years? How is that that their eyes were opened only now? And what opened them?

Well, it was mostly because of the fact that now that power had suddenly turned around and began pushing the Jews not only out of its ruling and administrative circles, but out of cultural and scientific establishements also. “The disappointment was so fresh and sore, that we did not have the strength, nor the courage to tell even our children about it. And what about the children? … For the great majority of them the main motivation was the same — graduate school, career, and so on.”13
Yet soon they would have to examine their situation more closely.


In the 1970s we see examples of rather amazing agreement of opinions, unthinkable for the past half a century.

For instance, Shulgin wrote in 1929: “We must acknowledge our past. The flat denial … claiming that the Jews are to blame for nothing — neither for the Russian Revolution, nor for the consolidation of Bolshevism, nor for the horrors of the communism — is the worst way possible….  It would be a great step forward if this groundless tendency to blame all the troubles of Russia on the Jews could be somewhat differentiated. It would be already great if any `contrasts´ could be found.”14

Fortunately, such contrasts, and even more — comprehension, and even remorse — were voiced by some Jews. And, combined with the honest mind and rich life experience, they were quite clear. And this brings hope.

Here’s Dan Levin, an American intellectual who immigrated to Israel: “It is no accident, that none of the American writers who attempted to describe and explain what happened to Soviet Jewry, has touched this important issue — the [Jewish] responsibility for the communism…. In Russia, the people’s anti-Semitism is largely due to the fact that the Russians perceive the Jews as the cause of all the evil of the revolution. Yet American writers — Jews and ex-Communists … do not want to resurrect the ghosts of the past. However, oblivion is a terrible thing.”15

Simultaneously, another Jewish writer, an émigré from the Soviet Union, published: the experience of the Russian (Soviet) Jewry, in contrast to that of the European Jewry, whose historical background  “is the experience of a collision with the forces of outer evil … requires a look not from inside out but rather of introspection and … inner self-examination.” “In this reality we saw only one Jewish spirituality — that of the Commissar — and its name was Marxism.” Or he writes about “our young Zionists who demonstrate so much contempt toward Russia, her rudeness and savagery, contrasting all this with [the worthiness of] the ancient Jewish nation.” “I saw pretty clearly, that those who today sing hosanna to Jewry, glorifying it in its entiriety (without the slightest sense of guilt or the slightest potential to look inside), yesterday were saying: ‘I wouldn’t be against the Soviet regime, if it was not anti-Semitic,´ and two days ago they beat their breasts in ecstasy: `Long live the great brotherhood of nations! Eternal Glory to the Father and Friend, the genius Comrade Stalin!´”16

But today, when it is clear how many Jews were in the iron Bolshevik leadership, and how many more took part in the ideological guidance of a great country to the wrong track — should the question not arise [among modern Jews] as to some sense of responsibility for the actions of those [Jews]? It should be asked in general: shouldn’t there be a kind of moral responsibility — not a joint liability, yet the responsibility to remember and to acknowledge? For example, modern Germans accept liability to Jews directly, both morally and materially, as perpetrators are liable to the victims: for many years they have paid compensation to Israel and personal compensation to surviving victims.

So what about Jews? When Mikhail Kheifets, whom I repeatedly cite in this work, after having been through labor camps, expressed the grandeur of his character by repenting on behalf of his people for the evil committed by the Jews in the Soviet Union in the name of communism — he was bitterly ridiculed.

The whole educated society, the cultured circle, had genuinely failed to notice any Russian grievances in the 1920s and 1930s; they didn’t even assume that  such could exist — yet they instantly recognized the Jewish grievances as soon as those emerged. Take, for example, Victor Perelman, who after emigrating published an anti-Soviet Jewish journal Epoch and We and who served the regime in the filthiest place, in Chakovsky’s Literaturnaya Gazeta — until  the Jewish question had entered his life. Then he opted out….

At a higher level, they generalized it as “the crash of … illusions about the integration [of Jewry] into the Russian social movements, about making any change in Russia.”17

Thus, as soon as the Jews recognized their explicit antagonism to the Soviet regime, they turned into its intellectual opposition — in accord to their social role. Of course, it was not them who rioted in Novocherkassk, or created unrest in Krasnodar, Alexandrov, Murom, or Kostroma. Yet the filmmaker Mikhail Romm plucked up his heart and, during a public speech, unambiguously denounced the “anti-cosmopolitan” campaign — and that became one of the first Samizdat documents (and Romm himself, who in so timely a manner rid himself of his ideological impediments, became a kind of spiritual leader for the Soviet Jewry, despite his films Lenin in October (1937), Lenin in 1918 (1939), and despite being a fivefold winner of the Stalin Prize). And after that the Jews had become reliable supporters and intrepid members of the “democratic” and “dissident” movements.

Looking back from Israel at the din of Moscow, another witness reflected: “A large part of Russian democrats (if not the majority) are of Jewish origin…. Yet they do not identify [themselves] as Jews and do not realize that their audience is also mostly Jewish.”“18

And so the Jews had once again become the Russian revolutionaries, shouldering the social duty of the Russian intelligentsia, which the Jewish Bolsheviks so zealously helped to exterminate during the first decade after the revolution; they had become the true and genuine nucleus of the new public opposition. And so yet again no progressive movement was possible without Jews.

Who had halted the torrent of false political (and often semi-closed) court trials? Alexander Ginzburg, and then Pavel Litvinov and Larisa Bogoraz did. I would not exaggerate if I claim that their appeal “To world public opinion” in January 1968, delivered not through unreliable Samizdat, but handed fearlessly to the West in front of Cheka cameras, had been a milestone of Soviet ideological history. Who were those seven brave souls who dragged their leaden feet to Lobnoye Mesto [a stone platform in Red Square] on Aug. 25, 1968? They did it not for the greater success of their protest, but to wash the name of Russia from the Czechoslovak disgrace by their sacrifice. Four out of the seven were Jews. (Remember, that the percentage of Jews in the population of the country then was less than 1%) We should also remember Semyon Gluzman, who sacrificed his freedom in the struggle against the “nuthouses” [dissidents were sometimes incarcerated in psychiatric clinics]. Many Jewish intellectuals from Moscow were among the first punished by the Soviet regime.

Yet very few dissidents ever regretted the past of their Jewish fathers. P. Litvinov never mentioned his grandfather’s role in Soviet propaganda. Neither would we hear from V. Belotserkovsky how many innocents were slaughtered by his Mauser-toting father. Communist Raisa Lert, who became a dissident late in life, was proud of her membership in that party even after The Gulag Archipelago; the party “she had joined in good faith and enthusiastically” in her youth; the party to which she had “wholly devoted herself” and from which she herself had suffered, yet nowadays it is ”not the same” party anymore.19 Apparenty she did not realize how appealing the early Soviet terror was for her.

After the events of 1968, Sakharov joined the dissident movement without a backward glance. Among his new dissident preoccupations were many individual cases; in particular, personal cases of Jewish refuseniks [those, overwhelming Jewish, dissidents who requested, but were refused the right to emigrate from the Soviet Union]. Yet when he tried to expand the business (as he had innocently confided to me, not realizing all the glaring significance of what he said), Gelfand, a member of the Academy of Science, told him that “we are tired of helping these people to resolve their problems,” while another member, Zeldovich, said: “I’m not going to sign any petition on behalf of victims of any injustice — I want to retain the ability to protect those who suffer for their nationality.” Which means — to protect the Jews only.

There was also a purely Jewish dissident movement, which was concerned only with the oppression of the Jews and Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union (more about it — later).


A trasformation in public consciousness often pushes forward outstanding individuals as representatives, symbols and spokesmen of the age. So in the 1960s Alexander Galich became such a typical and accurate representative of the processes and attitudes in the Soviet intellectual circles. (“`Galich´ is a pen name, explains N. Rubinstein. It is made of syllables of his real name — Ginsburg Alexander Arkadievich. Choosing a pen name is a serious thing.”20 Actually, I assume that the author was aware that, apart from being “just a combination of syllables,” “Galich” is also the name of the ancient Russian city from the very heart of Slavic history.) Galich enjoyed the general support of Soviet intelligentsia; tape recordings of his guitar performances were widely disseminated; and they have almost become the symbol of the social revival of the 1960s expressing it powerfully and vehemently. The opinion of the cultural circle was unanimous: “the most popular people’s poet,” the “bard of modern Russia.”

Galich was 22 when the Soviet-German War broke out. He says that he was exempt from military service because of poor health; he then moved to Grozny, where he “unexpectedly easily became the head of the literature section of the local Drama Theatre”; he also “organized a theater of political satire”; then he evacuated through Krasnovodsk to Chirchik near Tashkent; in 1942, he moved from there to Moscow with a front-line theatrical company under formation and spent the rest of the war with that company.

He recalled how he worked on hospital trains, composing and performing couplets for wounded soldiers; how they were drinking spirits with a trainmaster…. “All of us, each in his own way, worked for the great common cause: we were defending our Motherland.”21 After the war he became a well-known Soviet scriptwriter (he worked on many movies) and a playwright (ten of his plays were staged by “many theaters in the Soviet Union and abroad” [216] [references in square brackets refer to the page number in the source 21]. All that was in 1940s and 1950s, in the age of general spiritual stagnation — well, he could not step out of the line, could he? He even made a movie about Chekists, and was awarded for his work.

Yet in the early 1960s, Galich abruptly changed his life. He found courage to forsake his successful and well-off life and “walk into the square.” [98] It was after that that he began performing guitar-accompanied songs to people gathering in private Moscow apartments. He gave up open publishing, though it was, of course, not easy: “[it was great] to read a name on the cover, not just someone else’s, but mine!” [216]

Surely, his anti-regime songs, keen, acidic, and and morally demanding, were of benefit to the society, further destabilizing public attitudes.

In his songs he mainly addressed Stalin’s later years and beyond; he usually did not deplore the radiant past of the age of Lenin (except one instance: “The carts with bloody cargo / squeak by Nikitsky Gate” [224]). At his best, he calls the society to moral cleansing, to resistance (“Gold-digger’s waltz” [26], “I choose liberty” [226], “Ballad of the clean hands” [181], “Our fingers blotted from the questionnaires” [90], “Every day silent trumpets glorify thoughtful vacuity” [92]). Sometimes he sang the hard truth about the past (“In vain had our infantry perished in 1943, to no avail” [21]), sometimes — “Red myths,” singing about poor persecuted communists (“There was a time — almost a third of the inmates came from the Central Committee, / There was a time when for the red color / they added ten years [to the sentence]!”[69]). Once he touched dekulakization (“Disenfranchised ones were summoned in first” [115]). Yet his main blow was against the current establishment (“There are fences in the country; behind fences live the leaders” [13]). He was justly harsh there; however, he oversimplified the charge by attacking their privileged way of life only: here they eat, drink, rejoice [151-152]. The songs were embittering, but in a narrow-minded way, almost like the primitive “Red proletarian” propaganda of the past. Yet when he was switching his focus from the leaders to “the people”, his characters were almost entirely boobies, fastidious men, rabble and rascals — a very limited selection.

He had found a precise point of perspective for himself, perfectly in accord with the spirit of the time: he impersonalized himself with all those people who were suffering, persecuted and killed (“I was a GI and as a GI I’ll die” [248], “We, GIs, are dying in battle”). Yet with his many songs narrated from the first person of a former camp inmate, he made a strong impression that he was an inmate himself (“And that other inmate was me myself” [87]; “I froze like a horseshoe in a sleigh trail / Into ice that I picked with a hammer pick / After all, wasn’t it me who spent twenty years / In those camps” [24]; “as the numbers [personal inmate number tattooed on the arm] / we died, we died”; “from the camp we were sent right to the front!”[69]). Many believed that he was a former camp inmate and “they have tried to find from Galich when and where he had been in camps.”22

So how did he address his past, his longstanding participation in the stupefying official Soviet lies? That’s what had struck me the most: singing with such accusatory pathos, he had never expressed a single word of his personal remorse, not a word of personal repentance, nowhere! Didn’t he realize that when he sang: “Oh Party’s Iliad! What a giftwrapped groveling!” [216], he sang about himself? And when he crooned: “If you sell the unction” [40], as though referring to somebody else, did it occur to him that he himself was “selling unction” for half of his life. Why on earth would he not renounce his pro-official plays and films? No! “We did not sing glory to executioners!” [119] Yet, as the matter of fact, they did. Perhaps he did realize it or he gradually came to the realization, because later, no longer in Russia, he said: “I was a well-off screenwriter and playwright and a well-off Soviet flunky. And I have realized that I could no longer go on like that. Finally, I have to speak loudly, speak the truth …” [639].

But then, in the sixties, he intrepidly turned the pathos of the civil rage, for instance, to the refutation of the Gospel commandments (“do not judge, lest ye be judged”): “No, I have contempt for the very essence / Of this formula of existence!” And then, relying on the sung miseries, he confidently tried on  a prosecutor’s robe: “I was not elected. But I am the judge!” [100] And so he grew so confident, that in the lengthy Poem about Stalin (The Legend of Christmas), where he in bad taste imagined Stalin as Christ, and presented the key formula of his agnostic mindset — his really famous, the clichéd -quotes, and so harmful lines: “Don’t be afraid of fire and hell, / And fear only him / Who says: `I know the right way!´” [325].

But Christ did teach us the right way…. What we see here in Galich’s words is just boundless intellectual anarchism that muzzles any clear idea, any resolute offer. Well, we can always run as a thoughtless (but pluralistic) herd, and probably we’ll get somewhere.

Yet the most heartrending and ubiquitous keynote in his lyrics was the sense of Jewish identity and Jewish pain (“Our train leaves for Auschwitz today and daily”). Other good examples include the poems By the rivers of Babylon and Kadish. (Or take this: “My six-pointed star, burn it on my sleeve and on my chest.” Similar lyrical and passionate tones can be found in the The memory of Odessa (“I wanted to unite Mandelstam and Chagall). “Your kinsman and your cast-off / Your last singer of the Exodus” — as he addressed the departing Jews.)

The Jewish memory imbued him so deeply that even in his non-Jewish lyrics he casually added expressions such as: “Not a hook-nosed”; “not a Tatar, not a Yid” [115, 117]”; “you are still not in Israel, dodderer?” [294]; and even Arina Rodionovna [Pushkin’s nanny, immortalized by the poet in his works] lulls him in Yiddish [101]. Yet he doesn’t mention a single prosperous or non-oppressed Jew, a well-off Jew on a good position, for instance, in a research institute, editorial board, or in commerce — such characters didn’t even make a passing appearance in his poems. A Jew is always either humiliated, or suffering, or imprisoned and dying in a camp. Take his famous lines: “You are not to be chamberlains, the Jews … / Neither the Synod, nor the Senate is for you / You belong in Solovki and Butyrki” [the latter two being political prisons] [40].

What a short memory they have — not only Galich, but his whole audience who were sincerely, heartily taking in these sentimental lines! What about those twenty years, when Soviet Jewry was not nearly in the Solovki, when so many of them did parade as chamberlains and in the Senate!?

They have forgotten it. They have sincerely and completely forgotten it. Indeed, it is so difficult to remember bad things about yourself.

And inasmuch as among the successful people milking the regime there were supposedly no Jews left, but only Russians, Galich’s satire, unconsciously or consciously, hit the Russians, all those Klim Petroviches and Paramonovs; all that social anger invoked by his songs targeted them, through the stressed ”russopyaty” [derogatory term for Russians] images and details, presenting them as informers, prison guards, profligates, fools or drunks. Sometimes it was more like a caricature, sometimes more of a contemptuous pity (which we often indeed deserve, unfortunately): “Greasy long hair hanging down, / The guest started “Yermak” [a song about the cossack leader and Russian folk hero] … he cackles like a cock  / Enough to make a preacher swear / And he wants to chat /  About the salvation of Russia” [117-118]. Thus he pictured the Russians as always drunk, not distinguishing kerosene from vodka, not interested in anything except drinking, idle, or simply lost, or foolish individuals.Yet he was considered a folk poet…. And he didn’t image a single Russian hero-soldier, workman, or intellectual, not even a single decent camp inmate (he assigned the role of the main camp inmate to himself), because, you know, all those “prison-guard seed” [118] camp bosses are Russians. And here he wrote about Russia directly: “Every liar is a Messiah! / <…> And just dare you to ask — / Brothers, had there even been / Any Rus in Russia?” — “It is abrim with filth.” — And then, desperately: “But somewhere, perhaps, / She does exist!?” That invisible Russia, where “under the tender skies / Everyone shares / God’s word and bread.” “I pray thee: / Hold on! / Be alive in decay, / So in the heart, as in Kitezh, / I could hear your bells!” [280-281]

So, with the new opportunity and the lure of emigration, Galich was torn between the submerged legendary Kitezh [legendary Russian invisble city] and today’s filth: “It’s the same vicious circle, the same old story, the ring, which cannot be either closed, or open!” [599]. He left with the words: “I, a Russian poet, cannot be separated from Russia by `the fifth article´ [the requirement in the Soviet internal passport – “nationality”]!” [588]

Yet some other departing Jews drew from his songs a seed of aversion and contempt for Russia, or at least, the confidence that it is right to break away from her. Heed a voice from Israel: “We said goodbye to Russia. Not without pain, but forever…. Russia still holds us tenaciously. But … in a year, ten years, a hundred years — we’ll escape from her and find our own home. Listening to Galich, we once again recognize that it is the right way.”23

1 В. Левитина. Русский театр и евреи. Иерусалим: Библиотека – Алия, 1988. Т. 1, с. 24.

2 Daniel Mayer. J’ai honte d’etre socialist // Le Monde, 1967, 6 Juin, p. 3.

3 Michael Medved. The Jewish Question // National Review, 1997, July 28, p. 53.

4 Михаил Хейфец. Место и время (еврейские заметки). Париж: Третья волна, 1978, с. 174.

5 Ю. Колкер // Русская мысль, 24 апреля 1987, с. 12.

6 Г. Померанц. Проект письма XXIII съезду // Неопубликованное. Frankfurt/Main: Посев, 1972, с. 269-276.

7 Ш. Маркиш. Ещё раз о ненависти к самому себе // “22”: Общественно-политический и литературный журнал еврейской интеллигенции из СССР в Израиле. Тель-Авив, 1980, № 16, с. 188.

8 Р. Нудельман. Советский антисемитизм — причины и прогнозы: [Семинар] // “22”, 1978, № 3, с. 147.

9 Ф. Колкер. Новый план помощи советскому еврейству // “22”. 1983, № 31, с. 145.

10 ЮШтерн. Ситуация неустойчива и потому опасна: [Интервью] // “22”, 1984, № 38, с. 130.

11 В. Богуславский. В защиту Куняева // “22”, 1980. № 16, с. 169-174.

12 Ю. Штерн. Ситуация неустойчива… // “22”, 1984, № 38, с. 130.

13 В. Богуславский. В защиту Куняева // “22”, 1980. № 16. с. 175.

14 В.В. Шульгин. «Что нам в них не нравится…»: Об Антисемитизме в России. Париж, 1929, с.49-50.

15 Дан Левин. На краю соблазна: [Интервью] // “22”, 1978, № 1, с. 55.

16 А. Суконик. О религиозном и атеистическом сознании // Вестник Русского Христианского Движения. Париж-Нью-Йорк-Москва, 1977, № 123, с. 43-46.

17 Р. Нудельман. Оглянись в раздумье…: [Круглый стол] // “22 . 1982, № 24, с. 112.

18 А. Воронель. Будущее русской алии // “22”, 1978, № 2, с. 186.

19 Р. Лерт. Поздний опыт // Синтаксис: Публицистика, критика, полемика. Париж, 1980, № 6, с. 5-6.

20 Н. Рубинштейн. Выключите магнитофон — поговорим о поэте // Время и мы (далее — ВМ): Международный журнал литературы и общественных проблем. Тель-Авив, 1975, № 2, с. 164.

21 Александр Галич. Песни. Стихи. Поэмы. Киноповесть. Пьеса. Статьи. Екатеринбург: У-Фактория, 1998 (далее — Галич), с. 552, 556, 561-562. Страницы в тексте в квадратных скобка; Указаны также по этому изданию.

22 В. Волин. Он вышел на площадь // Галич, с. 632.

23 Н. Рубинштейн. Выключите магнитофон — поговорим о поэте // ВМ, Тель-Авив, 1975, № 2, с. 177.

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Chapter 23. Before the Six-Day War

On the next day after Stalin’s death, on March 6, the MGB (Ministry of State Security) “ceased to exist”, albeit only formally, as Beria had incorporated it into his own Ministry of Interior Affairs (MVD). This move allowed him “to disclose the abuses” by the MGB, including those of the still publicly unanounced MGB Minister, Ignatiev (who secretly replaced Abakumov). It seems that after 1952 Beria was losing Stalin’s trust and had been gradually pushed out by Ignatiev-Ryumin during the `Doctors’ Plot´. Thus, by force of circumstances, Beria became a magnet for the new anti-Stalin opposition.  And now, on April 4, just a month after Stalin’s death, he enjoyed enough power to dismiss the “Doctors’ Plot” and accuse Ryumin of its fabrication. Then three months later the diplomatic relations with Israel were restored.

All this reinvigorated hope among the Soviet Jews, as the rise of Beria could be very promising for them. However, Beria was soon ousted.

Yet because of the usual Soviet inertia, “with the death of Stalin … many previously fired Jews were reinstalled in their former positions”; “during the period called the “thaw”, many old Zionists … were released from the camps”; “during the post-Stalin period, the first Zionist groups started to emerge – initially at local levels.”1

Yet once again the things began to turn unfavorably for the Jews. In March 1954, the Soviet Union vetoed the UN Security Council attempt to open the Suez Canal to Israeli ships. At the end of 1955, Khrushchev declared a pro-Arab,  anti-Israel turn of Soviet foreign policy. In February 1956, in his famous report at the 20th Party Congress, Khrushchev, while speaking profusely about the massacres of 1937-1938, did not point any attention to the fact that there were so many Jews among the victims; he did not name Jewish leaders executed in 1952; and when speaking of the “Doctors’ Plot,” he did not stress that it was specifically directed against the Jews. “It is easy to imagine the bitter feelings this aroused among the Jews,” they “swept the Jewish communist circles abroad and even the leadership of those Communist parties, where Jews constituted a significant percentage of members (such as in the Canadian and US Communist parties).”2 In April 1956 in Warsaw, under the communist regime (though with heavy Jewish influence), the Jewish newspaper Volksstimme published a sensational article, listing the names of Jewish cultural and social celebrities who perished from 1937-1938 and from 1948-1952.  Yet at the same time the article also condemned the “capitalist enemies”, “Beria’s period” and welcomed the return of “Leninist national policy.” “The article in Volksstimme had unleashed a storm.”3

International communist organizations and Jewish social circles loudly began to demand an explanation from the Soviet leaders. “Throughout 1956, foreign visitors to the Soviet Union openly asked about Jewish situation there, and particularly why the Soviet government has not yet abandoned the dark legacy of Stalinism on the Jewish question?”4 It became a recurrent theme for the foreign correspondents and visiting delegations of “fraternal communist parties”. (Actually, that could be the reason for the loud denouncement in the Soviet press of the “betrayal” of Communism by Howard Fast, an American writer and former enthusiastic champion of Communism. Meanwhile, “hundreds of Soviet Jews from different cities in one form or another participated in meetings of resurgent Zionist groups and coteries”; “old Zionists with connections to relatives or friends in Israel were active in those groups.”5

In May 1956, a delegation from the French Socialist Party arrived in Moscow. “Particular attention was paid to the situation of Jews in the Soviet Union.”6 Khrushchev found himself in a hot corner – now he could not afford to ignore the questions, yet he knew, especially after experiencing postwar Ukraine, that the Jews are not likely to be returned to their [high] social standing like in 1920s and 1930s. He replied: “In the beginning of the revolution, we had many Jews in executive bodies of party and government …. After that, we have developed new cadres …. If Jews wanted to occupy positions of leadership in our republics today, it would obviously cause discontent among the local people …. If a Jew, appointed to a high office, surrounds himself with Jewish colleagues, it naturally provokes envy and hostility toward all Jews.” (The French publication Socialist Herald calls “strange” and “false” the Khrushchev’s point about “surrounding himself with Jewish colleagues”.)  In the same discussion, when Jewish culture and schools were addressed, Khrushchev explained that “if Jewish schools were established, there probably would not be many prospective students. The Jews are scattered all over the country …. If the Jews were required to attend a Jewish school, it certainly would cause outrage. It would be understood as a kind of a ghetto.”7

Three months later, in August 1956, a delegation of the Canadian Communist Party visited the USSR – and it stated outright that it had “a special mission to achieve clarity on the Jewish question”. Thus, in the postwar years, the Jewish question was becoming a central concern of the western communists. “Khrushchev rejected all accusations of anti-Semitism as a slander against him and the party.” He named a number of Soviet Jews to important posts, “he even mentioned his Jewish daughter-in-law,” but then he “quite suddenly … switched to the issue of “good and bad features of each nation” and pointed out “several negative features of Jews”, among which he mentioned “their political unreliability.” Yet he neither mentioned any of their positive traits, nor did he talk about other nations.8

In the same conversation, Khrushchev expressed his agreement with Stalin’s decision against establishing a Crimean Jewish Republic,  stating that such [Jewish] colonization of the Crimea would be a strategic military risk for the Soviet Union. This statement was particularly hurtful to the Jewish community. The Canadian delegation insisted on publication of a specific statement by the Central Committee of Communist Party of the Soviet Union about the sufferings of Jews, “but it was met with firm refusal” as “other nations and republics, which also suffered from Beria’s crimes against their culture and intelligentsia, would ask with astonishment why this statement covers only Jews?” (S. Schwartz dismissively comments: “The pettiness of this argumentation is striking.”9)

Yet it did not end at that. “Secretly, influential foreign Jewish communists tried” to obtain “explanations about the fate of the Jewish cultural elite”, and in October of the same year, twenty-six Western “progressive Jewish leaders and writers” appealed publicly to Prime-Minister Bulganin and “President” Voroshilov, asking them to issue “a public statement about injustices committed [against Jews] and the measures the goverment had designed to restore the Jewish cultural institutions.”10

Yet during both the “interregnum” of 1953-1957 and then in Khrushchev’s period, the Soviet policies toward Jews were inconsistent, wary, circumspect and ambivalent, thus sending signals in all directions.

In particular, the summer of 1956, which was filled with all kinds of social expectations in general, had also became the apogee  of Jewish hopes. One Surkov, the head of the Union of Writers, in a conversation with a communist publisher from New York City mentioned plans to establish a new Jewish publishing house, theater, newspaper and quarterly literary magazine; there were also plans to organize a countrywide conference of Jewish writers and cultural celebrities. It also noted  that a commission for reviving the Jewish literature in Yiddish had been already established. In 1956, “many Jewish writers and journalists gathered in Moscow again.”11 The Jewish activists later recalled that “the optimism inspired in all of us by the events of 1956 did not quickly fade away.”12

Yet the Soviet government continued with its meaningless and aimless policies, discouraging  any development of an independent Jewish culture. It is likely that Khrushchev himself was strongly opposed to it.

And then came new developments – the Suez Crisis, where Israel, Britain and France allied in attacking Egypt (“Israel is heading to suicide,” formidably warned the Soviet press), and the Hungarian Uprising, with its anti-Jewish streak, nearly completely concealed by history,13 (resulting, perhaps, from the overrepresentation of Jews in the Hungarian KGB). (Could this be also one of the reasons, even if a minor one, for the complete absence of Western support for the rebellion? Of course, at this time the West was preoccupied with the Suez Crisis. And yet wasn’t it a signal to the Soviets suggesting that it would be better if the Jewish theme be kept hushed?)

Then, a year later, Khrushchev finally overpowered his highly placed enemies within the party and, among others, Kaganovitch was cast down.

Could it really be such a big deal? The latter was not the only one ousted and even then, he was not the principal figure among the dethroned; and he was definitely not thrown out because of his Jewishness. Yet “from the Jewish point of view, his departure symbolized the end of an era”. Some looked around and counted – “the Jews disappeared not only from the ruling sections of the party, but also from the leading governmental circles.”14

It was time to pause and ponder thoroughly – what did the Jews really think about such new authorities?

David Burg, who emigrated from the USSR in 1956, came upon a formula on how the Jews should treat the Soviet rule. (It proved quite useful for the authorities): “To some, the danger of anti-Semitism `from below´ seems greater than the danger of anti-Semitism `from above´”; “though the government oppresses us, it nevertherless allows us to exist. If, however, a revolutionary change comes, then during the inevitable anarchy of the transition period we will simply be exterminated. Therefore, let’s hold on to the government no matter how bad it is.”15

We repeatedly encountered similar concerns in the 1930s – that the Jews should support the Bolshevik power in the USSR because without it their fate would be even worse. And now, even though the Soviet power had further deteriorated, the Jews had no other choice but hold on to it as before.

The Western world and particularly the United States always heeded such recommendations, even during the most strained years of the Cold War. In addition, socialist Israel was still full of communist sympathizers and could forgive the Soviet Union a lot for its role in the defeat of Hitler. Yet how then could Soviet anti-Semitism be interpreted? In this aspect, the recommendation of D. Burg stood up to the acute “social demand” – to move emphasis from the anti-Semitism of the Soviet government to the “anti-Semitism of the Russian people” – that ever-present curse.

So now some Jews have even fondly recalled  the long-disbanded YevSek [the “Jewish Section” of the Central Committee, dismantled in 1930 when Dimanshtein and its other leaders were shot]. Even though back in the 1920s it seemed overly pro-Communist, the YevSek was “to certain extent a guardian of Jewish national interests … an organ that produced some positive work as well.”16

In the meantime, Khrushchev’s policy remained equivocal; it is reasonable to assume that though Khrushchev himself did not like Jews, he did not want to fight against them, realizing the international political counter-productivity of such an effort. In 1957-1958, Jewish musical performances and public literary clubs were authorized and appeared in many cities countrywide.  (For example, “in 1961, Jewish literary soirees and Jewish song performances were attended by about 300,000 people.”17) Yet at the same time, the circulation of Warsaw’s Volksstimme was discontinued in the Soviet Union, thus cutting the Soviet Jews off from an outside source of Jewish information.18 In 1954, after a long break, Sholom Aleichem’s The Adventures of Mottel was again published in Russian, followed by several editions of his other books and their translations into other languages; in 1959 a large edition of his collected works was produced as well. In 1961 in Moscow, the Yiddish magazine Sovetish Heymland was established (though it strictly followed the official policy line). Publications of books by Jewish authors, who were executed in Stalin’s times, were resumed in Yiddish and Russian, and one even could hear Jewish tunes on the broadcasts of the All-Soviet Union radio.19 By 1966, “about one hundred Jewish authors were writing in Yiddish in the Soviet Union,” and “almost all of the named authors simultaneously worked as Russian language journalists and translators,” and “many of them worked as teachers in the Russian schools.”20 However, the Jewish theater did not re-open until 1966. In 1966, S. Schwartz defined the Jewish situation [in the USSR] as “cultural orphanhood.”21 Yet another author bitterly remarks: “The general lack of enthusiasm and interest … from the wider Jewish population … toward those cultural undertakings …  cannot be explained solely by official policies ….” “With rare exceptions, during those years the Jewish actors performed  in half-empty halls. Books of   Jewish writers were not selling well.”22

Similarly ambivalent, but more hostile policies of the Soviet authorities in Khrushchev’s period were implemented against the Jewish religion. It was a part of Khrushchev’s general anti-religious assault; it is well known how devastating it was for the Russian Orthodox Church. Since the 1930s, not a single theological school functioned in the USSR. In 1957 a yeshiva – a school for training rabbis – opened in Moscow. It accommodated only 35 students, and even those were being consistently pushed out under various pretexts such as withdrawal of residence registration in Moscow. Printing of prayer books and manufacturing of religious accessories was hindered. Up to 1956, before the Jewish Passover matzah was baked by state-owned bakeries and then sold in stores. Beginning in 1957, however, baking of matzah was obstructed and since 1961 it was banned outright almost everywhere. One day, the authorities would not interfere with receiving parcels with matzah from abroad, another day, they stopped the parcels at the customs, and even demanded recipients to express in the press their outrage against the senders.23 In many places, synagogues were closed down. “In 1966, only 62 synagogues were functioning in the entire Soviet Union.”24 Yet the authorities did not dare to shut down the synagogues in Moscow, Leningrad, Kiev and in the capitals of the republics. In the 1960s, there used to be extensive worship services on holidays with large crowds of 10,000 to 15,000 on the streets around synagogues.25 C. Schwartz notes that in the 1960s Jewish religious life was in severe decline, yet he large-mindedly reminds us that it was the result of the long process of secularization that began in Russian Jewry in the late 19th Century. (The process, which, he adds, has also succeeded in extremely non-communist Poland between the First and Second World Wars.26) Judaism in the Soviet Union lacked a united control center; yet when the Soviet authorities wanted to  squeeze out a political show from the leading rabbis for foreign policy purposes, be it about the well-being of Judaism in the USSR or outrage against the nuclear war, the government was perfectly able to stage it.27 “The Soviet authorities had repeatedly used Jewish religious leaders for foreign policy goals.” For example, “in November 1956 a group of rabbis issued a protest against” the actions of Israel during the Suez War.28

Another factor, which aggravated the status of Judaism in the USSR after the Suez War, was the growing fashionability of what was termed the “struggle against Zionism.” Zionism, being, strictly speaking, a form of socialism, should naturally had been seen as a true brother to the party of Marx and Lenin. Yet after the mid-1950s, the decision to secure the friendship of the Arabs drove the Soviet leaders toward persecution of Zionism. However, for the Soviet masses Zionism was a distant, unfamiliar and abstract phenomenon. Therefore, to flesh out this struggle, to give it a distinct embodiment, the Soviet government presented Zionism as a caricature composed of the characteristic and eternal Jewish images. The books and pamphlets allegedly aimed against Zionism also contained explicit anti-Judaic and anti-Jewish messages. If in the Soviet Union of 1920-1930s Judaism was not as brutally persecuted as the Russian Orthodox Christianity, then in 1957 a foreign socialist commentator noted how that year signified “a decisive intensification of the struggle against Judaism,” the “turning point in the struggle against the Jewish religion,” and that “the character of struggle betrays that it is directed not only against Judaism, but against the Jews in general.”29 There was one stirring episode: in 1963 in Kiev, the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences published 12,000 copies of a brochure Unadorned Judaism in Ukrainian, yet it was filled with such blatant anti-Jewish caricatures that it provoked a large-scale international outcry, joined even by the communist “friends” (who were financially supported by Moscow), such as the leaders of the American and British communist parties, newspapers L’Humanite, L’Unita, as well as a pro-Chinese communist newspaper from Brussels, and many others. The UN Human Rights Commission demanded an explanation from its Ukrainian representative. The World Jewish Cultural Association called for the prosecution of the author and the cartoonist. The Soviet side held on for awhile, insisting that except for the drawings, “the book deserves a generally positive assessment.”30 Finally, even Pravda had to admit that it was indeed “an ill-prepared … brochure” with “erroneous statements … and illustrations that may offend feelings of religious people or be interpreted as anti-Semitic,” a phenomenon that, “as is universally known, does not and cannot exist in our country.”31 Yet at the same time Izvestia stated that although there were certain drawbacks to the brochure, “its main idea … is no doubt right.”32

There were even several arrests of religious Jews from Moscow and Leningrad – accused of “espionage [conversations during personal meetings in synagogues] for a  capitalistic state [Israel]” with synagogues allegedly used as “fronts for various criminal activities”33 – to scare others more effectively.


Although there were already no longer any Jews in the most prominent positions, many still occupied influential and important second-tier posts (though there were exceptions: for example, Veniamin Dymshits smoothly ran Gosplan (the State Planning Committee) from 1962, while being at the same time the Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of USSR and a member of Central Committee from 1961 to 198634). Why, at one time the Jews were joining “NKVD and the MVD … in such numbers that even now, after all purges of the very Jewish spirit, a few individuals miraculously remained, such as the famous Captain Joffe in a camp in Mordovia.”35

According to the USSR Census of 1959, 2,268,000 Jews lived in the Soviet Union. (Yet there were caveats regarding this figure: “Everybody knows … that there are more Jews in the Soviet Union than the Census showed,” as on the Census day, a Jew states his nationality not according to his passport, but any nationality he wishes.36)  Of those, 2,162,000 Jews lived in the cities, i.e., 95,3% of total population – much more than 82% in 1926 or 87% in 1939.37 And if we glance forward into the 1970 Census, the observed “increase in the number of Jews in Moscow and Leningrad is apparently caused not by natural growth but by migration from other cities (in spite of all the residential restrictions).” Over these 11 years, “at least several thousand Jews relocated to Kiev. The concentration of Jews in the large cities had been increasing for many decades.”38

These figures are very telling for those who know about the differences in living standards between the urban and the rural populations in the Soviet Union. G. Rosenblum, the editor of the prominent Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, recalls an almost anecdotal story by Israeli Ambassador to Moscow Dr. Harel about his tour of the USSR in the mid-1960s. In a large kolkhoz near Kishinev he was told that “the Jews who work here want to meet [him]. [The Israeli] was very happy that there were Jews in the kolkhoz” (love of agriculture – a good sign for Israel). He  recounts: “Three Jews came to meet me … one was a cashier, another – editor of the kolkhoz’s wall newspaper and the third one was a kind of economic manager. I couldn’t find any other. So, what the Jews used to do [i.e. before], they are still doing.” G. Rosenblum confirms this: “Indeed, the Soviet Jews in their masses did not take to the physical work.”39 L. Shapiro concludes, “Conversion of Jews to agriculture ended in failure despite all the efforts … of public Jewish organizations and … the assistance of the state.”40

In Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev – the cities enjoying the highest living and cultural standards in the country, the Jews, according to the 1959 Census, constituted 3.9%, 5.8%, and 13.9 % of the population, respectively, which is quite a lot, considering that they accounted only for 1.1% of the entire population of the USSR.41

So it was that this extremely high concentration of Jews in urban areas – 95% of all Soviet Jews lived in the cities – that made “the system of prohibitions and restrictions” particularly painful for them.  (As we mentioned in the previous chapter, this system was outlined back in the early 1940s.) And “although the restrictive rules have never been officially acknowledged and officials stoutly denied their existence, these rules and restrictions very effectively barred the Jews from many spheres of action, professions and positions.”42

Some recall a disturbing rumor circulating then among the Jews: allegedly, Khrushchev said in one of his unpublished speeches that “as many Jews will be accepted into the institutions of higher education as work in the coal mines.”43 Perhaps, he really just blurted it out in his usual manner, because such “balancing” was never carried out. Yet by the beginning of 1960s, while the absolute number of Jewish students increased, their relative share decreased substantially when compared to the pre-war period: if in 1936 the share of Jews among students was 7.5 times higher than that in the total population44, then by 1960s it was only 2.7 times higher. These new data on the distribution of students in higher and secondary education by nationality were published for the first time (in the post-war period) in 1963 in the statistical annual report, The National Economy of the USSR,45 and a similar table was annually produced up to 1972. In terms of the absolute number of students in institutions of higher education and technical schools in the 1962-1963 academic year, Jews were fourth after the three Slavic nations (Russians, Ukrainians, Byelorussians), with 79,300 Jewish students in institutions of higher education out of a total 2,943,700 students (2.69%). In the next academic year 1963-1964, the number of Jewish students increased to 82,600, while the total number of students in the USSR reached 3,260,700 (2.53%). This share remained almost constant until the 1969-1970 academic year; 101,000 Jewish students out of total 4,549,900. Then the Jewish share began to decline and in 1972-1973 it was 1.91%: 88,500 Jewish students out of total 4,630,246. (This decline coincided with the beginning of the Jewish immigration to Israel.)

The relative number of Jewish scientists also declined in 1960s, from 9.5% in 1960 to 6.1% in 1973.47 During those same years, “there were tens of thousands Jewish names in the Soviet art and literature,”48 including 8.5% of writers and journalists, 7.7% of actors and artists, more than 10% of judges and attorneys, and about 15% doctors.49 Traditionally, there were always many Jews in medicine, yet consider the accursed “Soviet psychiatry,” which in those years began locking up healthy people in mental institutions. And who were those psychiatrists?  Listing the “Jewish occupations,” M.I. Heifets writes: “`Psychiatry is a Jewish monopoly,´ a friend, a Jewish psychiatrist, told me, just before [my] arrest; `we began to get Russians only recently and even then as the result of an order´” [translator’s note: admission into medical residency training was regulated at local and central levels; here author indicates that admission of ethnically Russian doctors into advanced psychiatry training was mandated from the higher levels]. He provides examples: the Head Psychiatrist of Leningrad, Professor Averbukh, provides his expertise for the KGB in the “Big House”; in Moscow there was famous Luntz; in the Kaluga Hospital there was Lifshitz and “his Jewish gang.” When Heifetz was arrested, and his wife began looking for a lawyer with a “clearance,” that is, with a permission from the KGB to work on political cases, she “did not find a single Russian” among them as all such lawyers were Jews50).

In 1956, Furtseva, then the First Secretary of Moscow Gorkom (the City’s Party Committee), complained that in some offices Jews constitute more than half of the staff.51 (I have to note for balance that in those years the presence of Jews in the Soviet apparatus was not detrimental. The Soviet legal machinery was in its essence stubbornly and hardheartedly anti-human, skewed against any man in need, be it a petitioner or just a visitor. So it often happened that the Russian officials in Soviet offices, petrified by their power, looked for any excuse to triumphantly turn away a visitor; in contrast, one could find much more understanding in a Jewish official and resolve an issue in a more humane way). L. Shapiro provides examples of complaints that in the national republics, the Jews were pushed out and displaced from the bureaucratic apparatus by native intelligentsia52 – yet it was a common and officially-mandated system of preferences in the ethnic republics [to affirm the local cadres], and Russians were displaced just as well.

This reminds me of an example from contemporary American life. In 1965, the New York Division of the American Jewish Committee had conducted a four-months-long unofficial interview of more than a thousand top officials in New York City banks. Based on its results, the American Jewish Committee mounted a protest because less than 3% of those surveyed were Jews, though they constituted one quarter of the population of – that is, the Committee demanded proportional representation. Then the chairman of the Association of Banks of New York responded that banks, according to law, do not hire on the basis of “race, creed, color or national origin” and do not keep records of such categories (that would be our accursed “fifth article” [the requirement in the Soviet internal passport – “nationality”]!). (Interestingly, the same American Jewish Committee had conducted a similar study about the ethnic composition of management of the fifty largest U.S. public utility services two years before, and in 1964 it in similar vein it studied industrial enterprises in the Philadelphia region.)53

Yet let us return to the Soviet Jews. Many Jewish emigrants loudly advertised their former activity in the periodical-publishing and film-making industries back in the USSR. In particular, we learn from a Jewish author that “it was due to his [Syrokomskiy’s] support that all top positions in Literaturnaya Gazeta became occupied by Jews.”54

Yet twenty years later we read a different assessment of the time: “The new anti-Semitism grew stronger … and by the second half of the 1960s it already amounted to a developed system of discreditation, humiliation and isolation of the entire people.”55

So how can we reconcile such conflicting views? How can we reach a calm and balanced assessment?

Then from the high spheres inhabited by economic barons there came alarming signals, signals that made the Jews nervous. “To a certain extent, Jewish activity in the Soviet Union concentrated in the specific fields of economy along a characteristic pattern, well-known to Jewish sociologists.”56 By then, at the end of 1950s, Nikita [Khrushchev] suddenly realized that the key spheres of the Soviet economy are plagued by rampant theft and fraud.

“In 1961, an explicitly anti-Semitic campaign was initiated against the ?theft of socialist property.”57 Beginning in 1961, a number of punitive decrees of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR were passed. The first one dealt with “foreign currency speculations,” another – with bribes, and still another later introduced capital punishment for the aforementioned crimes, at the same time lawlessly applying the death penalty retroactively, for the crimes committed before those decrees were issued (as, for example, the case of J. Rokotov and B. Faybishenko). Executions started in the very first year. During the first nine trials, eleven individuals were sentenced to death – among them were “perhaps, six Jews.”58 The Jewish Encyclopedia states it more specifically, “In 1961-1964, thirty-nine Jews were executed for economic crimes in the RSFSR and seventy-nine – in Ukraine,” and forty-three Jews in other republics.59 In these trials, “the vast majority of defendants were Jews.” (The publicity was such that the court reports indicated the names and patronymics of the defendants, which was the normal order of pleadings, yet it was getting “absolutely clear from that that they were Jews.”60)

Next, in a large court trial in Frunze in 1962, nineteen out of forty-six defendants were apparently Jewish. “There is no reason to think that this new policy was conceived as a system of anti-Jewish measures. Yet immediately upon enforcement, the new laws acquired distinct anti-Jewish flavor,” – the author of the quote obviously points out to the publication of the full names of defendants, including Jewish ones; other than that, neither the courts, nor the government, nor the media made any generalizations or direct accusations against the Jews. And even when Sovetskaya Kyrgizia wrote that “they occupied different posts, but they were closely linked to each other,” it never clarified the begged question “how were they linked?” The newspaper treated this issue with silence, thus pushing the reader to the thought that the nucleus of the criminal organization was composed of the “closely linked” individuals. Yet “closely linked by” what? By their Jewishness. So the newspaper “emphasized the Jews in this case.”61 … Yet people can be “closely linked” by any illegal transaction, greed, swindling or fraud. And, amazingly, nobody argued that those individuals could be innocent (though they could have been innocent). Yet to name them was equal to Jew-baiting.

Next, in January 1962, came the Vilnius case of speculators in foreign currency. All eight defendants were Jews (during the trial, non-Jewish members of the political establishment involved in the case escaped public naming – a usual Soviet trick). This time, there was an explicit anti-Jewish sentiment from the prosecution: “The deals were struck in a synagogue, and the arguments were settled with the help of wine.”62

S. Schwartz is absolutely convinced that this legal and economic harassment was nothing else but rampant anti-Semitism, yet he completely disregards “the tendency of Jews to concentrate their activity in the specific spheres of economy.” Similarly, the entire Western media interpreted this as a brutal campaign against Jews, the humiliation and isolation of the entire people; Bertrand Russell sent a letter of protest to Khrushchev and got a personal response from the Soviet leader.63 However, after that, the Soviet authorities apparently had second thoughts when they handled the Jews.

In the West, the official Soviet anti-Semitism began to be referred to as “the most pressing issue” in the USSR (ignoring any more acute issues) and “the most proscribed subject.” (Though there were numerous other proscribed issues such as forced collectivization or the surrender of three million Red Army soldiers in the year of 1941 alone, or the murderous nuclear “experimentation” on our own Soviet troops on the Totskoye range in 1954.) Of course, after Stalin’s death, the Communist Party avoided explicit anti-Jewish statements. Perhaps, they practiced incendiary “invitation-only meetings” and “briefings” – that would have been very much in the Soviet style. Solomon Schwartz rightly concludes: “Soviet anti-Jewish policy does not have any sound or rational foundation,” the strangulation of the Jewish cultural life “appears puzzling. How can such bizarre policy be explained?”64

Still, when all living things in the country were being choked, could one really expect that such vigorous and agile people would escape a similar lot? To that, the Soviet foreign policy agendas of 1960s added their weight: the USSR was designing an anti-Israel campaign. Thus, they came up with a convenient, ambiguous and indefinite term of “anti-Zionism,” which became “a sword of Damocles hanging above the entire Jewish population of the country.”65 Campaigning against “Zionism” in the press became a sort of impenetrable shield as its obvious anti-Semitic nature became unprovable. Moreover, it sounded menacing and dangerous – “Zionism is the instrument of the American imperialism.” So the “Jews had to prove their loyalty in one way or other, to somehow convince the people around them that they had no connection to their own Jewishness, especially to Zionism.”66

The feelings of ordinary Jews in the Soviet Union became the feelings of the oppressed as vividly expressed by one of them: “Over the years of persecutions and vilifications, the Jews developed a certain psychological complex of suspicion to any contact coming from non-Jews. In everything they are ready to see implicit or explicit hints on their nationality …. The Jews can never publicly declare their Jewishness, and it is formally accepted that this should be kept silent, as if it was a vice, or a past crime.”67

An incident in Malakhovka in October 1959 added substantially to that atmosphere. On the night of October 4, in Malakhovka, a settlement “half an hour from Moscow … with 30,000 inhabitants, about 10% of whom are Jews …, the roof of the synagogue caught fire along with … the house of the Jewish cemetery keeper … [and] the wife of the keeper died in the fire. On the same night, leaflets were scattered and posted across Malakhovka: `Away with the Jews in commerce! … We saved them from the Germans … yet they became arrogant so fast that the Russian people do not understand any longer… who’s living on whose land.´”68

Growing depression drove some Jews to such an extreme state of mind as that described by D. Shturman: some “Jewish philistines developed a hatred toward Israel, believing it to be the  generator of anti-Semitism in the Soviet politics. I remember the words of one succesful Jewish teacher: `One good bomb dropped on Israel would make our life much easier.´”69

Yet that was an ugly exception indeed. In general, the rampant anti-Zionist campaign triggered a “consolidation of the sense of Jewishness in people and the growth of sympathy towards Israel as the outpost of the Jewish nation.”70

There is yet another explanation of the social situation in those years: yes, under Khrushchev, “fears for their lives had become the things of the past for the Soviet Jews,” but “the foundations of new anti-Semitism had been laid,” as the young generation of political establishment fought for caste privileges, “seeking to occupy the leading positions in arts, science, commerce, finance, etc. There the new Soviet aristocracy encountered Jews, whose share in those fields was traditionally high.” The “social structure of the Jewish population, which was mainly concentrated in the major centers of the country, reminded the ruling elite of their own class structure.”71

Doubtless, such encounter did take place; it was an epic “crew change” in the Soviet ruling establishment, switching from the Jewish elite to the Russian one. It had clearly resulted in antagonism and I remember those conversations among the Jews during Khrushchev’s era – they were full of not only ridicule, but also of bad insults with the ex-villagers, “muzhiks,” who have infiltrated the establishment.

Yet altogether all the various social influences combined with the great prudence of the Soviet authorities led to dramatic alleviation of “prevalence and acuteness of modern Soviet anti-Semitism” by 1965, which became far inferior to what had been observed “during the war and the first post-war years,” and it appears that “a marked attenuation, maybe even a complete dying out of `the percentage quote´ is happening.”72 Overall, in the 1960s the Jewish worldview was rather positive. This is what we consistently hear from different authors. (Contrast this to what we just read, that “the new anti-Semitism grew in strength in the 1960s.”) The same opinion was expressed again twenty years later – “Khrushchev’s era was one of the most peaceful periods of the Soviet history for the Jews.”73

“In 1956-1957, many new Zionist societies sprang up in the USSR, bringing together young Jews who previously did not show much interest in Jewish national problems or Zionism. An important impetus for the awakening of national consciousness among Soviet Jews and for the development of a sense of solidarity with the State of Israel was the Suez Crisis [1956].” Later, “The International Youth Festival [Moscow, 1957] became a catalyst for the revival of the Zionist movement in the USSR among a certain portion of Soviet Jews … Between the festival and the Six-Day War [1967], Zionist activity in the Soviet Union was gradually expanding. Contacts of Soviet Jews with the Israeli Embassy became more frequent and less dangerous.” Also, “the importance of Jewish Samizdat increased dramatically.”74

During the so-called Khrushchev’s “thaw” period (the end of 1950s to the beginning of the 1960s), Soviet Jews were spiritually re-energized; they shook off the fears and distress of the previous age of the “Doctors’ Plot” and the persecution of “cosmopolitan.” It “even became fashionable” in the metropolitan society “to be a Jew”; the Jewish motif entered Samizdat and poetic soirees then so popular among the young. Rimma Kazakova even ventured to declare her Jewish identity from the stage. Yevtushenko quickly caught the air and expressed it in 1961 in his Babi Yar75, proclaiming himself a Jew in spirit. His poem (and the courage of Literaturnaya Gazeta) was a literary trumpet call for all of Soviet and world Jewry. Yevtushenko recited his poem during a huge number of poetic soirees, always accompanied by a roar of applause. After a while, Shostakovich, who often ventured into Jewish themes, set Yevtushenko’s poem into his 13th Symphony. Yet its public performance was limited by the authorities. Babi Yar spread among Soviet and foreign Jewries as a reinvigorating and healing blast of air, a truly “revolutionary act … in the development of the social consciousness in the Soviet Union”; “it became the most significant event since the dismissal of the `Doctors’ Plot.´”76

In 1964-65 Jewish themes returned into popular literature; take, for example, Summer in Sosnyaki by Anatoliy Rybakov or the diary of Masha Rolnik77 (“written apparently under heavy influence of Diary of Anne Frank78).

“After the ousting of Khrushchev from all his posts, the official policy towards Jews was softened somewhat. The struggle against Judaism abated and nearly all restrictions on baking matzah were abolished …. Gradually, the campaign against economic crimes faded away too ….” Yet “the Soviet press unleashed a propaganda campaign against Zionist activities among the Soviet Jews and their connections to the Israeli Embassy.”79

All these political fluctuations and changes in the Jewish policies in the Soviet Union did not pass unnoticed but served to awaken the Jews.

In the 1959 Census, only 21% Jews named Yiddish as their first language (in 1926 -72%).80 Even in 1970s they used to say that “Russian Jewry, which was [in the past] the most Jewish Jewry in the world, became the least Jewish.”81 “The current state of Soviet society is fraught with destruction of Jewish spiritual and intellectual potential.”82 Or as another author put it: the Jews in the Soviet Union were neither “allowed to assimilate,” nor were they “allowed to be Jews.”83

Yet Jewish identity was never subdued during the entire Soviet period.

In 1966 the official mouthpiece Sovetish Heymland claimed that “even assimilated Russian-speaking Jews still retain their unique character, distinct from that of any other segment of population.”84 Not to mention the Jews of Odessa, Kiev, and Kharkov, who “sometimes were even snooty about their Jewishness – to the extent that they did not want to befriend a goy.”85

Scientist Leo Tumerman ( already in Israel in 1977) recalls the early Soviet period, when he used to “reject any nationalism.” Yet now, looking back at those years: “I am surprised to notice what I had overlooked then: despite what appeared to be my full assimilation into the Russian life, the entire circle of my close and intimate friends at that time was Jewish.”86

The sincerity of his statement is certain – the picture is clear. Such things were widespread and I witnessed similar situations quite a few times, and Russians people did not mind such behavior at all.

Another Jewish author notes: in the USSR “non-religious Jews of all walks of life hand in hand defended the principle of `racial purity.´” He adds: “Nothing could be more natural. People for whom the Jewishness is just an empty word are very rare, especially among the unassimilated [Jews].”87

Natan Sharansky’s testimonial, given shortly after his immigration to Israel, is also typical: “Much of my Jewishness was instilled into me by my family. Although our family was an assimilated one, it nevertheless was Jewish.” “My father, an ordinary Soviet journalist, was so fascinated with the revolutionary ideas of `happiness for all´ and not just for the Jews, that he became an absolutely loyal Soviet citizen.” Yet in 1967 after the Six-Day War and later in 1968 after Czechoslovakia, “I suddenly realized an obvious difference between myself and non-Jews around me … a kind of a sense of the fundamental difference between my Jewish consciousness and the national consciousness of the Russians.”88

And here is another very thoughtful testimonial (1975): “The efforts spent over the last hundred years by Jewish intellectuals to reincarnate themselves into the Russian national form were truly titanic. Yet it did not give them balance of mind; on the contrary, it rather made them to feel the bitterness of their bi-national existence more acutely.” And “they have an answer to the tragic question of Aleksandr Blok: `My Russia, my life, are we to drudge through life together?´ To that question, to which a Russian as a rule gives an unambiguous answer, a member of Russian-Jewish intelligentsia used to reply (sometimes after self-reflection): `No, not together. For the time being, yes, side by side, but not together´… A duty is no substitute for Motherland.” And so “the Jews felt free from obligations at all sharp turns of Russian history.”89

Fair enough. One can only hope for all Russian Jews to get such clarity and acknowledge this dilemma.

Yet usually the problem in its entirety is blamed on “anti-Semitism”: “Excluding us from everything genuinely Russian, their anti-Semitism simultaneously barred us from all things Jewish …. Anti-Semitism is terrible not because of what it does to the Jews (by imposing restrictions on them), but because of what it does with the Jews by turning them into neurotic, depressed, stressed, and defective human beings.”90

Still, those Jews, who had fully woken up to their identity, were very quickly, completely, and reliably cured from such a morbid condition.

Jewish identity in the Soviet Union grew stronger as they went through the historical ordeals predestined for Jewry by the 20th Century. First, it was the Jewish Catastrophe  during the Second World War. (Through the efforts of official Soviet muffling and obscuring, Soviet Jewry only comprehended its full scope later.)

Another push was given by the campaign against “cosmopolitans” in 1949-1950.

Then there was a very serious threat of a massacre by Stalin, eliminated by his timely death.

And with Khrushchev’s “thaw” and after it, later in the 1960s, Soviet Jewry quickly awoke spiritually, already sensing its unique identity.

During the second half of the 1950s, “the growing sense of bitterness, spread over large segments of Soviet Jewry”, lead to “consolidation of the sense of national solidarity.”91

But “only in the late 1960s did a very small but committed group of scientists (note, they were not humanitarians; the most colorful figure among them was Alexander Voronel) begin rebuilding of Jewish national consciousness in Russia.”92

And then against the nascent national consciousness of Soviet Jews, the Six-Day War suddenly broke out and instantly ended in what might have seemed a miraculous victory. Israel has ascended in their minds and Soviet Jews awoke to their spiritual and consanguineous kinship [with Israel].

But the Soviet authorities, furious at Nasser’s disgraceful  defeat, immediately attacked Soviet Jews with the thundering campaign against the “Judeo-Zionist-Fascism,” insinuating  that all the Jews were “Zionists” and claiming that the “global conspiracy” of Zionism “is the expected and inevitable product of the entirety of Jewish history, Jewish religion, and the resultant Jewish national character” and “because of the consistent pursuit of the ideology of racial supremacy and apartheid, Judaism turned out to be a very convenient religion for securing world dominance.”93

The campaign on TV and in the press was accompanied by a dramatic break of diplomatic relations with Israel. The Soviet Jews had many reasons to fear: “It looked like it was going to come to calls for a pogrom.”94

But underneath this scare a new and already unstoppable explosion of Jewish national consciousness was growing and developing.

“Bitterness, resentment, anger, and the sense of social insecurity were accruing for a final break up which would lead to complete severing of all ties with [this] country and [this] society – to emigration.”95

“The victory of the Israeli Army contributed to the awakening of national consciousness among the many thousands of almost completely assimilated Soviet Jews …. The process of national revival has began …. The activity of Zionist groups in cities all across the country surged …. In 1969, there were attempts to create a united Zionist Organization [in the USSR] …. An increasing number of Jews applied to emigrate to Israel.”96

And the numerous refusals to grant exit visas led to the failed attempt to hijack an airplane on June 15, 1970. The following “Dymshits-Kuznetsov hijacking affair” can be considered a historic landmark in the fate of Soviet Jewry.

1 Краткая Еврейская Энциклопедия (далее — КЕЭ). Иерусалим: Общество по исследованию еврейских общин, 1996. Т. 8, с. 256.

2 С. Шварц. Евреи в Советском Союзе с начала Второй мировой войны (1939-1965). Нью-Йорк: Изд. Американского Еврейского Рабочего Комитета, 1966, с. 247.

3 Там же, с. 247-248.

4 Хрущёв и еврейский вопрос // Социалистический вестник, Нью-Йорк, 1961, № 1, с. 20.

5 КЕЭ, т. 8, с. 257.

6 Хрущёв и еврейский вопрос // Социалистический вестник, 1961, № 1, с. 20.

7 Слова Н.С. Хрущёва приведены в отчёте переводчика французской делегации Пьера Лошака: Realites, Paris, Mai 1957, p. 64-67, 101-104. — Мы цитируем их в обратном переводе «Социалистического вестника» (1961, № 1, с. 21).

8 J.B. Salsberg, Talks with Soviet Leaders on the Jewish Question // Jewish Life, Febr. 1957. — Цит. в переводе «Соц. вестника» (1961, № 1, с. 20).

9 С. Шварц. Евреи в Советском Союзе…*, с. 250.

10 Там же*, с. 249-251.

11 Там же, с. 241, 272.

12 Ю. Штерн. Ситуация неустойчива и потому опасна: [Интервью] // “22”: Общественно-политический и литературный журнал еврейской интеллигенции из СССР в Израиле. Тель-Авив, 1984, № 38, с. 132.

13 Andrew Handler. Where Familiarity with Jews Breeds Contempt // Red Star, Blue Star: The Lives and Times of Jewish Students in Communist Hungary (1948-1956). New-York: Columbia University Press, 1997, p. 36-37.

14 Л. Шапиро. Евреи в Советской России после Сталина // Книга о русском еврействе, 1917-1967 (далее — КРЕ-2). Нью-Йорк: Союз Русских Евреев, 1968, с. 360-361.

15 David Burg. Die Judenfrage in Der Sowjetunion // Der Anti-kommunist, Miinchen, Juli-August 1957, № 12, S.35.

16 С. Шварц. Евреи в Советском Союзе…*, с. 238.

17 Там же, с. 283-287; КЕЭ, т. 8, с. 258.

18 С. Шварц. Евреи в Советском Союзе…, с. 281.

19 ЭФинкелъштейн. Евреи в СССР: Путь в Двадцать первый век // Страна и мир: Обществ.-политический, экономический и культурно-философский журнал. Мюнхен, 1989, № 1, с. 65-66.

20 Л. Шапиро. Евреи в Советской России после Сталина // КРЕ-2, с. 379-380.

21 С. Шварц. Евреи в Советском Союзе…, с. 280, 288.

22 ЭФинкелъштейн. Евреи в СССР: Путь в Двадцать первый век // Страна и мир, 1989, № 1, с. 66.

23 С. Шварц. Евреи в Советском Союзе…, с. 304-308.

24 КЕЭ, т. 8, с. 259.

25 Л. Шапиро. Евреи в Советской России после Сталина // КРЕ-2, с. 358.

26 С. Шварц. Евреи в Советском Союзе…, с. 290.

27 Там же, с. 294-296.

28 КЕЭ, т. 8, с. 258.

29 Антисемитский памфлет в Советском Союзе // Социалистический вестник, 1965, № 4, с. 67.

30 Антисемитский памфлет в Советском Союзе // Социалистический вестник*, 1965, № 4, с. 68-73.

31 В Идеологической комиссии при ЦК КПСС // Правда, 1964, 4 апреля, с. 4.

32 Об одной непонятной шумихе // Известия, 1964, 4 апреля, с. 4.

33 С. Шварц. Евреи в Советском Союзе…, с. 303.

34 Российская Еврейская Энциклопедия. 2-е изд., испр. и доп. М., 1994. Т. 1, с. 448.

35 Р. Рутман. Кольцо обид // Новый журнал, Нью-Йорк. 1974. № 117, с. 185.

36 И. Домальский. Технология ненависти // Время и мы (далее — ВМ): Международный журнал литературы и общественных проблем. Тель-Авив. 1978, № 26, с. 113-114.

37 КЕЭ, т. 8, с. 298, 300.

38 И. Ляст. Алия из СССР — демографические прогнозы // “22”, 1981, № 21, с. 112-113.

39 Г. Розенблюм, В. Перельман. Крушение Чуда: причины и следствия*: [Беседа] // ВМ, Тель-Авив, 1977, № 24, с. 120.

40 Л. Шапиро. Евреи в Советской России после Сталина // КРЕ-2, с. 346.

41 КЕЭ, т. 8, с. 300.

42 Э. Финкельштейн. Евреи в СССР… // Страна и мир, 1989, № 1, с. 65.

43 Н. Шапиро. Слово рядового советского еврея // Русский антисемитизм и евреи: Сборник. Лондон, 1968, с. 55.

44 КЕЭ, т. 8, с. 190.

45 Народное хозяйство СССР в 1963 году: Статистический ежегодник. М.: Статистика, 1965, с. 579.

46 Народное хозяйство СССР в 1969 году. М., 1970, с. 690; Народное хозяйство СССР в 1972 году. М., 1972, с. 651.

47 И. Домальский. Технология ненависти // ВМ, Тель-Авив, 1978, №25, с. 120.

48 ЭФинкелъштейн. Евреи в СССР… // Страна и мир, 1989, № 1, с. 66.

49 А. Нов, Жд. Ньют. Еврейское население СССР: демографическое развитие и профессиональная занятость // Евреи в Советской России (1917-1967). Израиль: Библиотека «Алия», 1975, с. 180.

50 Михаил Хейфец. Место и время (еврейские заметки)*. Париж: Третья волна, 1978, с. 63-65, 67, 70.

51 Л. Шапиро. Евреи в Советской России после Сталина // КРЕ-2, с. 363.

52 Там же.

53 New York Times, 1965, October 21, p. 47.

54 В. Перельман. О либералах в советских верхах // ВМ, Нью-Йорк, 1985, № 87, с. 147.

55 Э. Финкелъштейн. Евреи в СССР… // Страна и мир, 1989, № 1, с. 66.

56 Л. Шапиро. Евреи в Советской России после Сталина // КРЕ-2, с. 362.

57 КЕЭ, т. 8, с. 261.

58 С. Шварц. Евреи в Советском Союзе…, с. 326-327, 329.

59 КЕЭ, т. 8, с. 261.

60 Н. Шапиро. Слово рядового советского еврея // Русский антисемитизм и евреи, с. 55.

61 С. Шварц. Евреи в Советском Союзе…, с. 330-333.

62 Там же, с. 333-334.

63 Обмен письмами между Б. Расселом и Н.С. Хрущёвым // Правда, 1963, 1 марта, с. 1.

64 С. Шварц. Евреи в Советском Союзе…, с. 421-422.

65 Э. Финкельштейн. Евреи в СССР… // Страна и мир. 1989, № 1, с. 65.

66 Э. Финкельштейн. Евреи в СССР… // Страна и мир, 1989, № 1, с. 66-67.

67 Н. Шапиро. Слово рядового советского еврея // Русский антисемитизм и евреи, с. 48, 55.

68 Социалистический вестник, 1959, № 12, с. 240-241.

69 Д. Штурман. Советский антисемитизм — причины и прогнозы: [Семинар] // “22”, 1978, № 3, с. 180.

70 С. Шварц. Евреи в Советском Союзе…, с. 395.

71 ЭФинкелъштейн. Евреи в СССР… // Страна и мир, 1989, № 1, с. 64-65.

72 С. Шварц. Евреи в Советском Союзе…, с. 372, 409.

73 Михаил Хейфец. Новая «аристократия»? // Грани: Журнал литературы, искусства, науки и общ.-политической мысли. Франкфурт-на-Майне, 1987, № 146, с. 189.

74 КЕЭ, т. 8, с. 262-263.

75 R. Rutman // Soviet Jewish Affairs, London, 1974, Vol. 4, № 2, p. 11.

76 С. Шварц. Евреи в Советском Союзе…, с. 371.

77 Соответственно: Новый мир, 1964, № 12; Мария Рольникайте. Я должна рассказать // Звезда, 1965, № 2 и № 3.

78 С. Шварц. Евреи в Советском Союзе…, с. 373.

79 КЕЭ, т. 8, с. 262, 264.

80 Там же, с. 295, 302.

81 Г. Розенблюм. Крушение Чуда…: [Беседа с В. Перелъманом] // ВМ, Тель-Авив, 1977, №24, с. 120.

82 Л. Цигельман-Дымерская. Советский антисемитизм — причины и прогнозы: [Семинар] // “22”, 1978, №3, с. 175.

83 Ю. Штерн. Ситуация неустойчива…: [Интервью] // “22”, 1984, № 38, с. 135.

84 Л. Шапиро. Евреи в Советской России после Сталина // КРЕ-2, с. 379.

85 Ю. Штерн. Двойная ответственность: [Интервью] // “22”, 1981, № 21, с. 127.

86 “22”*, 1978, № 1, с. 204.

87 А. Этерман. Истина с близкого расстояния // “22”, 1987, № 52, с. 112.

88 А. Щаранский. [Интервью] // “22”, 1986, № 49. с. 111-112.

89 Б. Орлов. Не те вы учили алфавиты // ВМ, Тель-Авив, 1975, № 1, с. 129, 132-133.

90 В. Богуславский. Галуту — с надеждой // “22”, 1985, № 40, с. 133, 134.

91 С. Шварц. Евреи в Советском Союзе…, с. 415.

92 Г. Файн. В роли высокооплачиваемых швейцаров // ВМ, Тель-Авив. 1976, № 12. с. 133-134.

93 Р. Нудельман. Советский антисемитизм — причины и прогнозы: [Семинар] // “22”, 1978, № 3, с. 144.

94 ЭФинкельштейн. Евреи в СССР… // Страна и мир, 1989, № 1, с. 67.

95 Там же.

96 КЕЭ, т. 8. с. 267.

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Chapter 22. From the End of the War to Stalin’s Death

At the beginning of the 1920s the authors of a collection of articles titled Russia and the Jews foresaw that “all these bright perspectives” (for the Jews in the USSR) looked so bright only “if one supposes that the Bolsheviks would want to protect us. But would they? Can we assume that the people who in their struggle for power betrayed everything, from the Motherland to Communism, would remain faithful to us even when it stops benefiting them?”(1)

However, during so favorable a time to them as the 1920s and 1930s the great majority of Soviet Jews chose to ignore this sober warning or simply did not hear it.

Yet the Jews with their contribution to the Russian Revolution should have expected that one day the inevitable recoil of revolution would hit even them, at least during its ebb.

The postwar period became “the years of deep disappointments” (2) and adversity for Soviet Jews. During Stalin’s last eight years, Soviet Jewry was tested by persecutions of the “cosmopolitans,” the loss of positions in science, arts and press, the crushing of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (EAK) with the execution of its leadership and, finally, by the “Doctors’ Plot.”

By the nature of a totalitarian regime, only Stalin himself could initiate the campaign aimed at weakening the Jewish presence and influence in the Soviet system. Only he could make the first move.

Yet because of the rigidity of Soviet propaganda and Stalin’s craftiness, not a single sound could be uttered nor a single step made in the open. We have seen already that Soviet propaganda did not raise any alarm about the annihilation of Jews in Germany during the war; indeed it covered up those things, obviously being afraid of appearing pro-Jewish in the eyes of its own citizens.

The disposition of the Soviet authorities towards Jews could evolve for years without ever really surfacing at the level of official propaganda. The first changes and shuffles in the bureaucracy began quite inconspicuously at the time of growing rapprochement between Stalin and Hitler in 1939. By then Litvinov, a Jewish Minister of Foreign Affairs, was replaced by Molotov (an ethnic Russian) and a ‘cleansing’ of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (NKID) was underway. Simultaneously, Jews were barred from entrance into diplomatic schools and military academies. Still, it took many more years before the disappearance of Jews from the NKID and the sharp decline of their influence in the Ministry of Foreign Trade became apparent.

Because of the intrinsic secrecy of all Soviet inner party moves, only very few were aware of the presence of the subtle anti-Jewish undercurrents in the Agitprop apparatus by the end of 1942 that aimed to push out Jews from the major art centers such as the Bolshoi Theatre, the Moscow Conservatory, and the Moscow Philarmonic, where, according to the note which Alexandrov, Head of Agitprop, presented to the Central Committee in the summer of 1942, ‘everything was almost completely in the hands of non-Russians’ and ‘Russians had become an ethnic minority’ (accompanied by a detailed table to convey particulars) (3). Later, there had been attempts to “begin national regulation of cadres… from the top down, which essentially meant primarily pushing out Jews from the managerial positions” (4). By and large, Stalin regulated this process by either supporting or checking such efforts depending on the circumstances.

The wartime tension in the attitudes toward Jews was also manifested during post-war re-evacuation. In Siberia and Central Asia, wartime Jewish refugees were not welcomed by the local populace, so after the war they mostly settled in the capitals of Central Asian republics, except for those who moved back, not to their old shtetls and towns, but into the larger cities (5).

The largest returning stream of refugees fled to Ukraine where they were met with hostility by the local population, especially because of the return of Soviet officials and the owners of desirable residential property. This reaction in the formerly occupied territories was also fueled by Hitler’s incendiary propaganda during the Nazi occupation. Khrushchev, the Head of Ukraine from 1943 (when he was First Secretary of the Communist Party and at the same time Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of Ukraine), not only said nothing on this topic in his public speeches, treating the fate of Jews during the occupation with silence, but he also upheld the secret instruction throughout Ukraine not to employ Jews in positions of authority.

According to the tale of an old Jewish Communist Ruzha-Godes, who survived the entire Nazi occupation under a guise of being a Pole named Khelminskaya and was later denied employment by the long-awaited Communists because of her Jewishness, Khrushchev stated clearly and with his peculiar frankness: “In the past, the Jews committed many sins against the Ukrainian people. People hate them for that. We don’t need Jews in our Ukraine. It would be better if they didn’t return here. They would better go to Birobidzhan. This is Ukraine. And, we don’t want Ukrainian people to infer that the return of Soviet authority means the return of Jews” (6).

“In the early September 1945 a Jewish major of the NKVD was brutally beaten in Kiev by two members of the military. He shot both of them dead. This incident caused a large-scale massacre of Jews with five fatalities” (7). There are documented sources of other similar cases (8).

Sotsialistichesky Vestnik wrote that the Jewish “national feelings (which were exacerbated during the war) overreacted to the numerous manifestations of anti-Semitism and to the even more common indifference to anti-Semitism” (9).

This motif is so typical — almost as much as anti-Semitism itself: the indifference to anti-Semitism was likely to cause outrage. Yes, preoccupied by their own miseries, people and nations often lose compassion for the troubles of others. And the Jews are not an exception here. A modern author justly notes: “I hope that I, as a Jew who found her roots and place in Israel, would not be accused of apostasy if I point out that in the years of our terrible disasters, the Jewish intellectuals did not raise their voices in defense of the deported nations of Crimea and the Caucasus” (10).

After the liberation of Crimea by the Red Army in 1943, “talks started among circles of the Jewish elite in Moscow about a rebirth of the Crimean project of 1920s,” i.e., about resettling Jews in Crimea. The Soviet government did not discourage these aspirations, hoping that “American Jews would be more generous in their donations for the Red Army.” It is quite possible that Mikhoels and Feffer [heads of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, EAK], based on a verbal agreement with Molotov, negotiated with American Zionists about financial support of the project for Jewish relocation to Crimea during their triumphal tour of the USA in summer of 1943. The idea of a Crimean Jewish Republic was also backed by Lozovsky, the then-powerful Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs (11).

The EAK had yet another project for a Jewish Republic — to establish it in the place of the former Volga German Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (where, as we have seen in previous chapters, Jewish settlements were established in the wake of the exile of  the Germans). Ester Markish, widow of EAK member Perets Markish, confirms that he presented a letter “concerning transferring the former German Republic to the Jews” (12).

In the Politburo, “Molotov, Kaganovich and Voroshilov were the most positively disposed to the EAK” (13). And, “according to rumors, some members of the Politburo… were inclined to support this [Crimean] idea” (14). On February 15, 1944, Stalin was forwarded a memorandum about that plan which was signed by Mikhoels, Feffer and Epshtein. (According to P. Sudoplatov, although the decision to expel the Tatars from Crimea had been made by Stalin earlier, the order to carry it out reached Beria on February 14 (15), so the memorandum was quite timely.)

That was the high point of Jewish hopes. G. V. Kostirenko, a researcher of this period, writes: the leaders of the EAK “plunged into euphoria. They imagined (especially after Mikhoels’ and Feffer’s trip to the West) that with the necessary pressure, they could influence and steer their government’s policy in the interests of the Soviet Jews, just like the American Jewish elite does it” (16).

But Stalin did not approve the Crimean project – it did not appeal to him because of the strategic importance of the Crimea. The Soviet leaders expected a war with America and probably thought that in such case the entire Jewish population of Crimea would sympathize with the enemy. (It is reported that at the beginning of the 1950s some Jews were arrested and told by their MGB [Ministry for State Security, a predecessor of KGB] investigators: “You are not going to stand against America, are you? So you are our enemies.”) Khrushchev shared those doubts and 10 years later he stated to a delegation of the Canadian Communist party that was expressing particular interest in the Jewish question in the USSR: Crimea “should not be a center of Jewish colonization, because in case of war it will become the enemy’s bridgehead” (17). Indeed, the petitions about Jewish settlement in Crimea were very soon used as a proof of the “state treason” on the part of the members of the EAK.

By the end of WWII the authorities again revived the idea of Jewish resettlement in Birobidzhan, particularly Ukrainian Jews. From 1946 to 1947 several organized echelons and a number of independent families were sent there, totaling up to 5-6 thousand persons (18). However, quite a few returned disillusioned. This relocation movement withered by 1948. Later, with a general turn of Stalin’s politics, arrests among the few Birobidjan Jewish activists started. (They were accused of artificial inculcation of Jewish culture into the non-Jewish population and, of course, espionage and of having planned Birobidzhan’s secession in order to ally with Japan). This was the de facto end of the history of Jewish colonization in Birobidzhan. At the end of the 1920s there were plans to re-settle 60,000 Jews there by the end of the first 5-year planning period. By 1959 there were only 14,000 Jews in Birobidzhan, less than 9% of the population of the region (19).

However, in Ukraine the situation had markedly changed in favor of Jews. The government was engaged in the fierce struggle with Bandera’s separatist fighters and no longer catered to the national feelings of Ukrainians. At the end of 1946, the Communist Party “started a covert campaign against anti-Semitism, gradually conditioning the population to the presence of Jews among authorities in different spheres of the national economy.” At the same time, in the beginning of 1947, Kaganovich took over for Khrushchev as the official leader of Ukrainian Communist Party. The Jews were promoted in the party as well, “of which a particular example was the appointment of a Jew … the Secretary… of Zhitomir Obkom” (20).

However, the attitudes of many Jews towards this government and its new policies were justifiably cautious. Soon after the end of the war, when the former Polish citizens began returning to Poland, many non-Polish Jews “hastily seized this opportunity” and relocated there (21). (What happened after that in Poland is yet another story: a great overrepresentation of Jews occurred in the post-war puppet Polish government, among managerial elites and in the Polish KGB, which would again result in miserable consequences for the Jews of Poland. After the war, other countries of Eastern Europe saw similar conflicts: “the Jews had played a huge role in economic life of all these countries,” and though they lost their possessions under Hitler, after the war, when “the restitution laws were introduced… (they) affected very large numbers of new owners.” Upon their return Jews demanded the restoration of their property and enterprises that were not nationalized by Communists and this created a new wave of hostility towards them (22).)

Meanwhile, during these very years the biggest event in world Jewish history was happening — the state of Israel was coming into existence. In 1946-47, when the Zionists were at odds with Britain, Stalin, perhaps out of anti-British calculation and or opportunistically hoping to get a foothold there, took the side of the former. During all of 1947 Stalin, acting through Gromyko in the UN, actively supported the idea of the creation of an independent Jewish state in Palestine and supplied the Zionists with a critical supply of Czechoslovak-made weapons. In May 1948, only two days after the Israeli declaration of nationhood, the USSR officially recognized that country and condemned hostile actions of Arabs.

However, Stalin miscalculated to what extent this support would reinvigorate the national spirit of Soviet Jews. Some of them implored the EAK to organize a fundraiser for the Israeli military, others wished to enlist as volunteers, while still others wanted to form a special Jewish military division (23).

Amid this burgeoning enthusiasm, Golda Meir arrived to Moscow in September of 1948 as the first ambassador of Israel and was met with unprecedented joy in Moscow’s synagogues and by Moscow’s Jewish population in general. Immediately, as the national spirit of Soviet Jews rose and grew tremendously because of the Catastrophe, many of them began applying for relocation to Israel. Apparently, Stalin had expected that. Yet it turned out that many of his citizens wished to run away en masse into, by all accounts, the pro-Western State of Israel. There, the influence and prestige of the United States grew, while the USSR was at the same time losing support of Arab countries. (Nevertheless, “the cooling of relations [with Israel] was mutual. Israel more and more often turned towards American Jewry which became its main support” (24).)

Probably because he was frightened by such a schism in the Jewish national feelings, Stalin drastically changed policies regarding Jews from the end of 1948 and for the rest of his remaining years. He began acting in his typical style — quietly but with determination, he struck to the core, but with only tiny movements visible on the surface.

Nevertheless, while the visible tiny ripples hardly mattered, Jewish leaders had many reasons to be concerned, as they felt the fear hanging in the air. The then editor of the Polish-Jewish newspaper Folkshtimme, Girsh Smolyar, recalled the “panic that seized Soviet communist Jews after the war.” Emmanuel Kazakevitch and other Jewish writers were distressed. Smolyar had seen on Ehrenburg’s table “a mountain of letters — literally scream of pain about current anti-Jewish attitudes throughout the country” (25).

Yet Ehrenburg knew his job very well and carried it out. (As became known much later, it was exactly then that the pre-publication copy of the Black Book compiled by I. Ehrenburg and B. Grossman, which described the mass killings and suffering of the Soviet Jews during the Soviet-German war, was destroyed.) In addition, on September 21, 1948, as a counterbalance to Golda Meir’s triumphal arrival, Pravda published a large article commissioned by Ehrenburg which stated that the Jews are not a nation at all and that they are doomed to assimilate (26). This article created dismay not only among Soviet Jews, but also in America. With the start of the Cold War, “the discrimination against the Jews in the Soviet Union “became one of the main anti-Soviet trump cards of the West. (As was the inclination in the West towards various ethnic separatist movements in the USSR, a sympathy that had never previously gained support among Soviet Jews).

However, the EAK, which had been created to address war-time issues, continued gaining influence. By that time it listed approximately 70 members, had its own administrative apparatus, a newspaper and a publishing house. It functioned as a kind of spiritual and physical agent of all Soviet Jews before the CK (Central Committee) of the VKPb (all-Russian Communist Party of Bolsheviks), as well as before the West. “EAK executives were allowed to do and to have a lot — a decent salary, an opportunity to publish and collect royalties abroad, to receive and to redistribute gifts from abroad and, finally, to travel abroad.” EAK became the crystallization center of an initially elitist and upper-echelon and then of a broadly growing Jewish national movement” (27), a burgeoning symbol of Jewish national autonomy. For Stalin, the EAK become a problem which had to be dealt with.

He started with the most important figure, the Head of the Soviet Information Bureau (Sovinformburo), Lozovsky, who, according to Feffer (who was vice-chairman of EAK since July 1945), was “the spiritual leader of the EAK… knew all about its activities and was its head for all practical purposes.” In the summer of 1946, a special auditing commission from Agitprop of the CK [of the VKPb] inspected Sovinformburo and found that “the apparatus is polluted … [there is] an intolerable concentration of Jews.” Lozovsky was ejected from his post of Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs (just as Litvinov and Maisky had been) and in summer of 1947 he also lost his post as of Head of the Sovinformburo (28).

After that, the fate of the EAK was sealed. In September of 1946, the auditing commission from the Central Committee concluded that the EAK, instead of “leading a rigorous offensive ideological war against the Western and above all Zionist propaganda… supports the position of bourgeois Zionists and the Bund and in reality… it fights for the reactionary idea of a United Jewish nation.” In 1947, the Central Committee stated, that “the work among the Jewish population of the Soviet Union is not a responsibility” of the EAK. “The EAK’s job was to focus on the “decisive struggle against aggression by international reactionaries and their Zionist agents” (29).

However, these events coincided with the pro-Israel stance of the USSR and the EAK was not dissolved. On the other hand, EAK Chairman Mikhoels who was “the informal leader of Soviet Jewry, had to shed his illusions about the possibility of influencing the Kremlin’s national policy via influencing the Dictator’s relatives.” Here, the suspicion fell mostly on Stalin’s son—in-law Grigory Morozov. However, the most active help to the EAK was provided by Molotov’s wife, P.S. Zhemchyzhina, who was arrested in the beginning of 1949, and Voroshilov’s wife, “Ekaterina Davidovna (Golda Gorbman), a fanatic Bolshevik, who had been expelled from the synagogue in her youth.” Abakumov reported that Mikhoels was suspected of “gathering private information about the Leader” (30). Overall, according to the MGB he “demonstrated excessive interest in the private life of the Head of the Soviet Government,” while leaders of the EAK “gathered materials about the personal life of J. Stalin and his family at the behest of US Intelligence” (31). However, Stalin could not risk an open trial of the tremendously influential Mikhoels, so Mikhoels was murdered in January 1948 under the guise of an accident. Soviet Jewry was shocked and terrified by the demise of their spiritual leader.

The EAK was gradually dismantled after that. By the end of 1948 its premises were locked up, all documents were taken to Lubyanka, and its newspaper and the publishing house were closed. Feffer and Zuskin, the key EAK figures, were secretly arrested soon afterwards and these arrests were denied for a long time. In January 1949 Lozovsky was arrested, followed by the arrests of a number of other notable members of the EAK in February. They were intensively interrogated during 1949, but in 1950 the investigation stalled. (All this coincided [in accord with Stalin’s understanding of balance] with the annihilation of the Russian nationalist tendencies in the leadership of the Leningrad government — the so-called “anti-party group of Kuznetsov-Rodionov-Popkov,” but those developments, their repression and the significance of those events were largely overlooked by historians even though “about two thousand party functionaries were arrested and subsequently executed” (32) in 1950 in connection with the “Leningrad Affair”).

In January 1948, Stalin ordered Jews to be pushed out of Soviet culture. In his usual subtle and devious manner, the “order” came through a prominent editorial in Pravda, seemingly dealing with a petty issue, “about one anti-Party group of theatrical critics” (33). (A more assertive article in Kultura i Zhizn followed on the next day (34)). The key point was the “decoding” of Russian the Russian pen-names of Jewish celebrities. In the USSR, “many Jews camouflage their Jewish origins with such artifice,” so that “it is impossible to figure out their real names” explains the editor of a modern Jewish journal (35).

This article in Pravda had a long but obscure pre-history. In 1946 reports of the Central Committee it was already noted “that out of twenty-eight highly publicized theatrical critics, only six are Russians. It implied that the majority of the rest were Jews.” Smelling trouble, but still “supposing themselves to be vested with the highest trust of the Party, some theatrical critics, confident of victory, openly confronted Fadeev” in November 1946 (36). Fadeev was the all-powerful Head of the Union of Soviet Writers and Stalin’s favorite. And so they suffered a defeat. Then the case stalled for a long time and only resurfaced in 1949.

The campaign rolled on through the newspapers and party meetings. G. Aronson, researching Jewish life “in Stalin’s era” writes: “The goal of this campaign was to displace Jewish intellectuals from all niches of Soviet life. Informers were gloatingly revealing their pen-names. It turned out that E. Kholodov is actually Meyerovich, Jakovlev is Kholtsman, Melnikov is Millman, Jasny is Finkelstein, Vickorov is Zlochevsky, Svetov is Sheidman and so on. Literaturnaya Gazeta worked diligently on these disclosures” (37).

Undeniably, Stalin hit the worst-offending spot, the one that highly annoyed the public. However, Stalin was not so simple as to just blurt out “the Jews.” From the first push at the “groups of theatrical critics” flowed a broad and sustained campaign against the “cosmopolitans” (with their Soviet inertial dim-wittedness they overused this innocent term and spoiled it). “Without exception, all ‘cosmopolitans’ under attack were Jews. They were being discovered everywhere. Because all of them were loyal Soviet citizens never suspected of anything anti-Soviet, they survived the great purges by Yezhov and Yagoda. Some were very experienced and influential people, sometimes eminent in their fields of expertise” (38). The exposure of “cosmopolitans” then turned into a ridiculous, even idiotic glorification of Russian “primacy” in all and every area of science, technology and culture.

Yet the “cosmopolitans” usually were not being arrested but instead were publicly humiliated, fired from publishing houses, ideological and cultural organizations, from TASS, from Glavlit, from literature schools, theaters, orchestras; some were expelled from the party and publication of their works was often discouraged.

And the public campaign was expanding, spreading into new fields and compromising new names. Anti-Jewish cleansing of “cosmopolitans” was conducted in the research institutes of the Academy of Science: Institute of Philosophy (with its long history of internecine feuding between different cliques), the institutes of Economy, Law, in the Academy of Social Sciences at the CK of the VKPb, in the School of Law (and then spread to the office of Public Prosecutor).

Thus, in the Department of History at MGU (Moscow State University), even a long-standing faithful communist and falsifier, I. I. Minz, member of the Academy, who enjoyed Stalin’s personal trust and was awarded with Stalin Prizes and concurrently chaired historical departments in several universities, was labeled “the head of cosmopolitans in Historical Science.” After that numerous scientific posts at MGU were ‘liberated’ from his former students and other Jewish professors (39).

Purges of Jews from technical fields and the natural sciences were gradually gaining momentum. “The end of 1945 and all of 1946 were relatively peaceful for the Jews of this particular social group.” L. Mininberg studied Jewish contributions in Soviet science and industry during the war: “In 1946, the first serious blow since the end of the war was dealt to the administration and a big ‘case’ was fabricated. Its principal victims were mainly Russians…there were no Jews among them,” though “investigation reports contained testaments against Israel Solomonovitch Levin, director of the Saratov Aviation Plant. He was accused on the charge that during the Battle for Stalingrad, two aviation regiments were not able to take off because of manufacturing defects in the planes produced by the plant. The charge was real, not made-up by the investigators. However, Levin was neither fired nor arrested.” In 1946, “B.L. Vannikov, L.M. Kaganovich, S.Z. Ginzburg, L.Z. Mekhlis all kept their Ministry posts in the newly formed government… Almost all Jewish former deputy ministers also retained their positions as assistants to ministers.” The first victims among the Jewish technical elite appeared only in 1947 (40).

In 1950, academic A. F. Ioffe “was forced to retire from the post of Director of the Physical-Engineering Institute, which he organized and headed since its inception in 1918.” In 1951, 34 directors and 31 principal engineers of aviation plants had been fired. “This list contained mostly Jews.” If in 1942 there were nearly forty Jewish directors and principal engineers in the Ministry of General Machine-Building (Ministry of Mortar Artillery) then only three remained by 1953. In the Soviet Army, “the Soviet authorities persecuted not only Jewish generals, but lower ranking officers working on the development of military technology and weaponry were also removed” (41).

Thus, the “purging campaigns” spread over to the defense, airplane construction, and automobile industries (though they did not affect the nuclear branch), primarily removing Jews from administrative, directorial and principal engineering positions; later purging was expanded onto various bureaucracies. Yet the genuine, ethnic denominator was never mentioned in the formal paperwork. Instead, the sacked officials faced charges of economic crimes or having relatives abroad at a time when conflict with the USA was expected, or other excuses were used. The purging campaigns rolled over the central cities and across the provinces. The methods of these campaigns were notoriously Soviet, in the spirit of 1930s: a victim was inundated in a vicious atmosphere of terror and as a result often tried to deflect the threat to himself by accusing others.

By repeating the tide of 1937, albeit in a milder form, the display of Soviet Power reminded the Jews that they had never become truly integrated and could be pushed aside at any moment. “We do not have indispensable people!” (However, “Lavrentiy Beria was tolerant of Jews. At least, in appointments to positions in government” (42).)

“‘Pushing’ Jews out of prestigious occupations that were crucial for the ruling elite in the spheres of manufacturing, administration, cultural and ideological activities, as well as limiting or completely barring the entrance of Jews into certain institutions of higher education gained enormous momentum in 1948-1953. … Positions of any importance in the KGB, party apparatus, and military were closed to the Jews, and quotas were in place for admission into certain educational institutions and cultural and scientific establishments” (43). Through its “fifth item” [i.e., the question about nationality] Soviet Jews were oppressed by the very same method used in the Proletarian Questionnaire, other items of which were so instrumental in crushing the Russian nobility, clergy, intellectuals and all the rest of the “former people” since the 1920s.

“Although the highest echelon of the Jewish political elite suffered from administrative perturbations, surprisingly it was not as bad as it seemed,” — concludes G. V. Kostyrchenko. “The main blow fell on the middle and the most numerous stratum of the Jewish elite — officials… and also journalists, professors and other members of the creative intelligentsia. … It was these, so to say, nominal Jews — the individuals with nearly complete lack of ethnic ties — who suffered the brunt of the cleansing of bureaucracies after the war” (44).

However, speaking of scientific cadres, the statistics are these: “at the end of the 1920s there were 13.6% Jews among scientific researchers in the country, in 1937 — 17.5%” (45), and by 1950 their proportion slightly decreased to 15.4% (25,125 Jews among 162,508 Soviet researchers) (46). S. Margolina, looking back from the end of the 1980s concludes that, despite the scale of the campaign, after the war, “the number of highly educated Jews in high positions always remained disproportionally high. But, in contrast with the former “times of happiness,” it certainly had decreased” (47). A.M. Kheifetz recalls “a memoir article of a member of the Academy, Budker, one of the fathers of the Soviet A-bomb” where he described how they were building the first Soviet A-bomb — being exhausted from the lack of sleep and fainting from stress and overwork — and it is precisely those days of persecution of “cosmopolitans” that were “the most inspired and the happiest” in his life (48).

In 1949 “among Stalin Prize laureates no less than 13% were Jews, just like in the previous years.” By 1952 there were only 6% (49). Data on the number of Jewish students in USSR were not published for nearly a quarter of century, from the pre-war years until 1963. We will examine those in the next chapter.

The genuine Jewish culture that had been slowly reviving after the war was curtailed and suppressed in 1948-1951. Jewish theatres were no longer subsidized and the few remaining ones were closed, along with book publishing houses, newspapers and bookstores (50). In 1949, the international radio broadcasting in Yiddish was also discontinued (51).

In the military, “by 1953 almost all Jewish generals” and “approximately 300 colonels and lieutenant colonels were forced to resign from their positions” (52).


As the incarcerated Jewish leaders remained jailed in Lubyanka for over three years, Stalin slowly and with great caution proceeded in dismantling the EAK. He was very well aware what kind of international storm would be triggered by using force. (Luckily, though, he acquired his first H-bomb in 1949.) On the other hand, he fully appreciated the significance of unbreakable ties between world Jewry and America, his enemy since his rejection of the Marshall Plan.

Investigation of EAK activities was reopened in January 1952. The accused were charged with connections to the “Jewish nationalist organizations in America,” with providing “information regarding the economy of the USSR” to those organizations… and also with “plans of repopulating Crimea and creating a Jewish Republic there” (53). Thirteen defendants were found guilty and sentenced to death: S. A. Lozovsky, I. S. Ysefovich, B. A. Shimeliovich, V. L. Zuskin, leading Jewish writers D.R. Bergelson, P. D. Marshik, L. M. Kvitko, I. S. Feffer, D. N. Gofshtein, and also L. Y. Talmi, I. S. Vatenberg, C. S. Vatenberg — Ostrovsky, and E. I. Teumin (54). They were secretly executed in August. (Ehrenburg, who was also a member of the EAK, was not even arrested. (He assumed it was pure luck.) Similarly, the crafty David Zaslavsky survived also. And even after the execution of the Jewish writers, Ehrenburg continued to reassure the West that those writers were still alive and writing (55). The annihilation of the Jewish Antifascist Committee went along with similar secret “daughter” cases; 110 people were arrested, 10 of them were executed and 5 died during the investigation (56).

In autumn of 1952 Stalin went into the open as arrests among Jews began, such as arrests of Jewish professors of medicine and among members of literary circles in Kiev in October 1952. This information immediately spread among Soviet Jews and throughout the entire world. On October 17th, Voice of America broadcast about “mass repressions” among Soviet Jews (57). Soviet “Jews were frozen by mortal fear” (58).

Soon afterwards in November in Prague, a show trial of Slansky, the Jewish First Secretary of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, and several other top state and party leaders took place in a typically loud and populist Stalinist-type entourage. The trial was openly anti-Jewish with naming “world leading” Jews such as Ben Gurion and Morgenthau, and placing them in league with American leaders Truman and Acheson. The outcome was that eleven were hanged, eight Jews among them. Summing up the official version, K. Gotwald said: “This investigation and court trial … disclosed a new channel through which treason and espionage permeated the Communist Party. This is Zionism” (59).

At the same time, since summer of 1951, the development of the “Doctors’ Plot” was gaining momentum. The case included the accusation of prominent physicians, doctors to the Soviet leadership, for the criminal treatment of state leaders. For the secret services such an accusation was nothing new, as similar accusations had been made against Professor D. D. Pletnev and physicians L. G. Levin and I. N. Kazakov already during the “Bukharin trial” in 1937. At that time, the gullible Soviet public gasped at such utterly evil plots. No one had any qualms about repeating the same old scenario.

Now we know much more about the “Doctors’ Plot.” Initially it was not entirely an anti-Jewish action; the prosecution list contained the names of several prominent Russian physicians as well. In essence, the affair was fueled by Stalin’s generally psychotic state of mind, with his fear of plots and mistrust of the doctors, especially as his health deteriorated. By September 1952 prominent doctors were arrested in groups. Investigations unfolded with cruel beatings of suspects and wild accusations; slowly it turned into a version of “spying-terroristic plot connected with foreign intelligence organizations,” “American hirelings,” “saboteurs in white coats,” “bourgeois nationalism” — all indicating that it was primary aimed at Jews. (Robert Conquest in The Great Terror follows this particular tragic line of involvement of highly placed doctors. In 1935, the false death certificate of Kuibyshev was signed by doctors G. Kaminsky, I. Khodorovsky, and L. Levin. In 1937 they signed a similarly false death certificate of Ordzhonikidze. They knew so many deadly secrets — could they expect anything but their own death? Conquest writes that Dr. Levin had cooperated with the Cheka since 1920. “Working with Dzerzhinsky, Menzhinsky, and Yagoda. … [he] was trusted by the head of such an organization. … It is factually correct to consider Levin… a member of Yagoda’s circle in the NKVD.” Further, we read something sententious: “Among those outstanding doctors who [in 1937] moved against [Professor of Medicine] Pletnev and who had signed fierce accusative resolutions against him, we find the names of M. Vovsi, B. Kogan and V. Zelenin, who in their turn… were subjected to torture by the MGB in 1952-53 in connection with “the case of doctor-saboteurs,” “as well as two other doctors, N. Shereshevky and V. Vinogradov who provided a pre-specified death certificate of Menzhinsky” (60).)

On January 3, 1953 Pravda and Izvestiya published an announcement by TASS about the arrest of a “group of doctors-saboteurs.” The accusation sounded like a grave threat for Soviet Jewry, and, at the same time, by a degrading Soviet custom, prominent Soviet Jews were forced to sign a letter to Pravda with the most severe condemnation of the wiles of the Jewish “bourgeois nationalists” and their approval of Stalin’s government. Several dozen signed the letter. (Among them were Mikhail Romm, D. Oistrakh, S. Marshak, L. Landau, B. Grossman, E. Gilels, I. Dunayevsky and others. Initially Ehrenburg did not sign it — he found the courage to write a letter to Stalin: “to ask your advice.” His resourcefulness was unsurpassed indeed. To Ehrenburg, it was clear that “there is no such thing as the Jewish nation” and that assimilation is the only way and that Jewish nationalism “inevitably leads to betrayal.” Yet that the letter that was offered to him to sign could be invidiously inferred by the “enemies of our country.” He concluded that “I myself cannot resolve these questions,” but if “leading comrades will let me know … [that my signature] is desired … [and] useful for protecting our homeland and for peace in the world, I will sign it immediately” (61).)

The draft of that statement of loyalty was painstakingly prepared in the administration of the Central Committee and eventually its style became softer and more respectful. However, this letter never appeared in the press. Possibly because of the international outrage, the “Doctors’ Plot” apparently began to slow down in the last days of Stalin (62).

After the public announcement, the “‘Doctors’ Plot’ created a huge wave of repression of Jewish physicians all over the country. In many cities and towns, the offices of State Security began fabricating criminal cases against Jewish doctors. They were afraid to even go to work, and their patients were afraid to be treated by them” (63).

After the “cosmopolitan” campaign, the menacing growl of “people’s anger” in reaction to the “Doctors’ Plot” utterly terrified many Soviet Jews, and a rumor arose (and then got rooted in the popular mind) that Stalin was planning a mass eviction of Jews to the remote parts of Siberia and North — a fear reinforced by the examples of postwar deportation of entire peoples. In his latest work G. Kostyrchenko, a historian and a scrupulous researcher of Stalin’s “Jewish” policies, very thoroughly refutes this “myth of deportation,” proving that it had never been confirmed, either then or subsequently by any facts, and even in principle such a deportation would not have been possible (64).

But it is amazing how bewildered were those circles of Soviet Jews, who were unfailingly loyal to the Soviet-Communist ideology. Many years later, S. K. told me: “There is no single action in my life that I am as ashamed of as my belief in the genuineness of  the “Doctors’ Plot” of 1953! — that they, perhaps involuntarily, were involved a foreign conspiracy…”

An article from the 1960s states that “in spite of a pronounced anti-Semitism of Stalin’s rule … many [Jews] prayed that Stalin stayed alive, as they knew through experience that any period of weak power means a slaughter of Jews. We were well aware of the quite rowdy mood of the ‘fraternal nations’ toward us” (65).

On February 9th a bomb exploded at the Soviet embassy in Tel Aviv. On February 11, 1953 the USSR broke off diplomatic relations with Israel. The conflict surrounding the “Doctors’ Plot” intensified due to these events.

And then Stalin went wrong, and not for the first time, right? He did not understand how the thickening of the plot could threaten him personally, even within the secure quarters of his inaccessible political Olympus. The explosion of international anger coincided with the rapid action of internal forces, which could possibly have done away with Stalin. It could have happened through Beria (for example, according to Avtorhanov’s version (66).)

After a public communiqué about the “Doctors’ Plot” Stalin lived only 51 days. “The release from custody and the acquittal of the doctors without trial were perceived by the older generation of Soviet Jews as a repetition of the Purim miracle”: Stalin had perished on the day of Purim, when Esther saved the Jews of Persia from Haman (67).

On April 3 all the surviving accused in the “Doctors’ Plot” were released. It was publicly announced the next day.

And yet again it was the Jews who pushed the frozen history forward.

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4 Там же, с. 310.

5 С. Шварц. Евреи в Советском Союзе…, с. 181-182, 195.

6 Хрущёв и еврейский вопрос // Социалистический вестник*, Нью-Йорк, 1961, № 1, с. 19.

7 Краткая Еврейская Энциклопедия (далее — КЕЭ). Иерусалим: Общество по исследованию еврейских общин, 1996. Т. 8, с. 236.

8 Социалистический вестник, 1961, № 1, с. 19-20; Книга о русском еврействе, 1917- 1967 (далее — КРЕ-2). Нью-Йорк: Союз Русских Евреев, 1968, с. 146.

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10 М. Блинкова. Знание и мнение // Стрелец, Jersey City, 1988, № 12, с. 12.

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13 Г.В. Костырченко. Тайная политика Сталина, с. 430.

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18 С.М. Шварц. Биробиджан // КРЕ-2, с. 189.

19 Там же, с. 192, 195-196.

20 С. Шварц. Евреи в Советском Союзе…, с. 185-186.

21 Там же, с. 130.

22 Там же, с. 217-218.

23 Г.В. Костырченко. Тайная политика Сталина, с. 403-404.

24 С. Цирюльников. СССР, евреи и Израиль // Время и мы (далее — ВМ): Международный журнал литературы и общественных проблем. Нью-Йорк, 1987, № 96, с. 156.

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26 И. Эренбург. По поводу одного письма // Правда, 1948, 21 сентября, с. 3.

27 Г.В. Костырченко. Тайная политика Сталина, с. 353, 398.

28 Там же*, с. 361, 363-364.

29 Там же, с. 366, 369.

30 Г.В. Костырченко. Тайная политика Сталина, с. 376, 379, 404.

31 КЕЭ, т. 8, с. 243.

32 Там же, с. 248.

33 Правда, 1949, 28 января, с. 3.

34 На чуждых позициях: (О происках антипатриотической группы театральных критиков) // Культура и жизнь, 1949, 30 января, с. 2-3.

35 В. Перельман. …Виноваты сами евреи // ВМ, Тель-Авив, 1977, № 23, с. 216.

36 Г.В. Костырченко. Тайная политика Сталина, с. 321, 323.

37 Г. Аронсон. Еврейский вопрос в эпоху Сталина // КРЕ-2, с. 150.

38 Г. Аронсон. Еврейский вопрос в эпоху Сталина // КРЕ-2, с. 150.

39 А. Некрич. Поход против “космополитов” в МГУ // Континент: Литературный, обществ.-политический и религиозный журнал. Париж, 1981, № 28, с. 301-320.

40 Л.Л. Мининберг. Советские евреи в науке и промышленности СССР в период Второй мировой войны (1941-1945). М., 1995, с. 413, 414, 415.

41 Там же, с. 416, 417, 427, 430.

42 Л.Л. Мининберг. Советские евреи в науке и промышленности… с. 442.

43 КЕЭ, т. 6, с. 855.

44 Г.В. Костырченко. Тайная политика Сталина, с. 515, 518.

45 КЕЭ, т. 8, с. 190.

46 И. Домалъский. Технология ненависти* // ВМ, Тель-Авив, 1978, № 25, с. 120.

47 Sonja Margolina. Das Ende der LAgen: Rulland und die Juden im 20. Jahrhundert. Berlin: Siedler Verlag, 1992, S. 86.

48 Михаил Хейфец. Место и время (еврейские заметки). Париж: Третья волна, 1978, с. 68-69.

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50 С. Шварц. Евреи в Советском Союзе…, с. 161-163; Л. Шапиро. Евреи в Советской России после Сталина // КРЕ-2, с. 373.

51 КЕЭ, т. 8, с. 245.

52 КЕЭ, т. 1, с. 687.

53 КЕЭ, т. 8, с. 251.

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55 Г. Аронсон. Еврейский вопрос в эпоху Сталина //КРЕ-2, с. 155-156.

56 Г.В. Костырченко. Тайная политика Сталина, с. 507.

57 Г. Аронсон. Еврейский вопрос в эпоху Сталина // КРЕ-2, с. 152.

58 В. Богуславский. У истоков // “22,” 1986, № 47, с. 102.

59 Г.В. Костырченко. Тайная политика Сталина*, с. 504.

60 Роберт Конквест. Большой террор / Пер. с англ. Firenze: Edizioni Aurora, 1974, с. 168, 353, 738-739, 754, 756-757.

61 «Против попыток воскресить еврейский национализм.” Обращение И.Г. Эренбурга к И.В. Сталину // Источник: Документы русской истории. М., 1997, № 1, с. 141-146.

62 Г.В. Костырченко. Тайная политика Сталина, с. 682, 693.

63 КЕЭ, т. 8, с. 254, 255.

64 Г.В. Костырченко. Тайная политика Сталина, с. 671-685.

65 Н. Шапиро. Слово рядового советского еврея // Русский антисемитизм и евреи. Сб. Лондон, 1968, с, 50.

66 А. Авторханов. Загадка смерти Сталина: (Заговор Берия). Франкфурт-на-Майне: Посев, 1976, с. 231-239.

67 Д. Штурман. Ни мне мёда твоего, ни укуса твоего // “22,” 1985, № 42, с. 140-141.

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