‘Communism is not love. Communism is the hammer which we use to crush the enemy.’ – Mao Zedong
On 25 March, twenty thousand candles, one for each of the men, women and children deported by the Soviets to Siberia in 1949, will be lighted in Tallinn, Tartu and Pärnu. Nearly 3% of the Estonian population were seized in a few days and dispatched to remote areas of Siberia.*
In the summer of 1940 the Soviet Union occupied Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as a result of the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact signed between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union on 23 August 1939. In the aftermath of the Second World War, Estonia lost approximately 17.5% of its population.
This historian is in conflict with other parts of the Ukrainian community. In this interview, he outlines the evidence of OUN and UPA explicitly killing Jews, advocating their displacement, and rounding them up on behalf of the Nazis.
OUN/UPA viewed Russian and Poles as their main enemy, but believed Jews were also against a Ukrainian state, and in some cases sympathetic to the Soviets.
I would be curious to look for evidence of the reasoning behind these decisions. Was there an association between the Communism, the Red Terror and Holodomor on one hand, and Ukraine’s Jewish community on the other. This association certainly exists in today’s far-right communities. Is this a recent invention, or was it palpable then?
I’ve heard elsewhere that some UPA leaders made a distinction between religious Ukrainian Jews who weren’t communism, and secular Russian Jews who were fervently Communist.
On this day 1933, Koisor writes to Stalin that “the famine still hasn’t taught many collective farmers a lesson.”
Having studied the Soviet Union as extensively as I have, the parallels between today’s cultural Marxists, and yesterdays economic Marxists are terrifying.
The communists didn’t just murder people one day. They spent decades building an ideological bulwark that made it okay to murder people. They’d have traveling theaters go to villages and put on vulgar plays that blamed everyone’s suffering on the priests and the more successful farmers.
In every bureaucracy, they promoted the most fervent supporters of class hatred, and excluded its detractors.
They created such class hatred, that in some cases, after the “red terror” visited a region, the bodies of victims would be left on the street to rot. Their relatives were scared to bury them, because sympathy would indicate counter-revolutionary sentiment.
When burials did happen, it was at night. This is a recurring theme in almost every book I read about the Soviet Union.
Lazar Kaganovych, responsible for the red terror in Ukraine, set a quota of 10,000 executions a week.
I think this historic reality is similar to how everyone is afraid to condemn people who explicitly call for, or celebrate violence against white people — because pointing it out that makes a member of the condemned class.
Now in his 70s, and alarmed by the perverse sympathies toward communism and socialism he’s seeing in our new America, especially among Millennials, Cole in 2017 marked the centenary of communism by writing a memoir of his six surreal months in the USSR, in hopes of not only preserving that history but begging Americans to pay heed to the lessons of the failed communist experiment. He hopes to offer truth as an antidote to “mind-numbing propaganda,” then and still today.
Cole’s account is titled In Russian Wonderland, an engaging journey through unique remembrances of everything from Russia’s laughable but scary “Aeroflot” airlines, to the Russian people’s shocking abuse of “oceans of vodka,” to the omnipresence of state surveillance, to the grim behavior of Soviet workers from waitresses and waiters to hotel maids, to the diabolical annihilation of religion — from what the Kremlin called its approved “working churches” to the desecration and conversion of great holy places like Leningrad’s Kazan Cathedral into the Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism.
On and on it went, this strange life in the worker’s paradise. Truly, it was a Wonderland, at times more bizarre than the oddest scenes from Lewis Carroll’s classic. Indeed, Alice might have found herself less confused in her weird Wonderland than this baffling Bolshevik rendition drawn up in Russian.
Among Cole’s many telling anecdotes, here are a few that beg our attention and remembrance:
At one exhibit in Kazan, which, as usual, was monitored by heckling KGB hacks pretending to be passersby, an elderly gentleman discreetly brought Charles a bag of freshly picked apples. He asked Charles to accept it as a gift from an old Russian who admired the United States. Before walking away, he winked at Charles and whispered, “The sweetest of these apples are toward the bottom of the bag.”
Charles later retrieved from the bottom a piece of paper folded into a tiny cube. He opened it to find this note from the old timer: “We have a totalitarian regime. If we had a democratic republic, we would have progressed further and achieved more. Nowadays the psychiatric hospitals are filled with dissidents. All the positive comments in your comments book are immediately torn out by the KGB. You should take pride in having such a democratic country and not be overly tolerant in the face of those who have been blinded and deceived by propaganda.”
The KGB plants were stationed at every exhibit — watching, staring, brooding. As soon as the American representative would strike up a conversation with curious Russians, the plants would start up with their canned litany of harassing questions, badgering the American about his country being rife with racism, sexism, unemployment, homelessness, excoriating U.S. foreign policy, especially in Vietnam, and on and on (what we’d call liberal talking points). “But you discriminate against black people.” “Why is your government killing babies in Vietnam?”
In one case, something tragic ensued that remains seared in Charles’ memory: During most Q&A sessions at the exhibits, everyday Russians quickly clamped up when the KGB plants started their antics and barrage of mendacity. They didn’t want trouble. One day in Leningrad, however, a young man couldn’t contain his rage at the masquerade of lies dished by the government propagandist. He responded, and then the plant responded, and back and forth it went. Fact vs. falsehood, fact vs. falsehood. The young man would not back down. The crowd watched nervously. The young man’s wife pleaded with him to stop, tugging at his coat to leave. She knew the danger, but the young man couldn’t help himself. This was too unjust. In short order, says Cole, a group of “dour-looking guys in black leather jackets” suddenly materialized, as did a black van at the rear door. A goon in the van got out, signaled to the thugs, and they seized the young man, speeding away.
Charles many times has wondered what happened to that poor kid — hauled off by scoundrels serving their police state.
And if that image doesn’t shake you, picture this scenario reported by Charles when finally departing commie wonderland as his train approached Finland: The locomotive came to an unexpected full stop on an elevated trestle. From the window, Charles and friends glimpsed a powerful searchlight from somewhere below the railroad bridge. It turned out that this was standard procedure for Soviet border guards. They fixed their beaming lights under the train cars to see if any desperate soul had somehow clung himself to the bottom of the locomotive to escape utopia.
In the treaty, Bolshevik Russia ceded the Baltic States to Germany; they were meant to become German vassal states under German princelings. Russia also ceded its province of Kars Oblast in the South Caucasus to the Ottoman Empire and recognized the independence of Ukraine. According to Spencer Tucker, a historian of World War I, “The German General Staff had formulated extraordinarily harsh terms that shocked even the German negotiator.” Congress Poland was not mentioned in the treaty, as Germans refused to recognize the existence of any Polish representatives, which in turn led to Polish protests. When Germans later complained that the Treaty of Versailles of 1919 was too harsh on them, the Allies (and historians favorable to the Allies) responded that it was more benign than Brest-Litovsk.
The treaty was effectively terminated in November 1918, when Germany surrendered to the Allies. However, in the meantime, it did provide some relief to the Bolsheviks, already fighting the Russian Civil War, by the renunciation of Russia’s claims on modern-day Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine and Lithuania.
По всій Україні офіційно було оголошено, що кобзарів з усіх областей запрошують до Харкова на Всеукраїнський кобзарський з’їзд. Всі повинні були з’явитися з бандурами, тому що крім власне з’їзду, будуть і творчі змагання. 30 грудня 1930 – день відкриття з’їзду. У кожного в руках інструмент, кожен одягнений у святкову вишиванку. Делегатів (337 людей) утримували в залі до вечора, потім, під суворим наглядом, стали виводити у двір, щільно уклали в вантажівки і накрили брезентом. Вже через 1 годину всi делегати були в залізничних вагонах для тварин. Їх привезли до околиць станції Козача Лопань, вивели з вагонів до лісосмуги, де були заздалегідь вириті траншеї. Вишикували незрячих кобзарів i їхніх малолітніх поводарів в одну шеренгу. Загін особливого відділу НКВС УРСР почав розстріл. Коли все було закінчено, тіла розстріляних закидали вапном і присипали землею. Музичні інструменти спалили поряд. Комуністична більшовитська верхівка назвала українські народні музичні інструменти «класово-ворожими». Влада зобов’язала музичні фабрики виготовляти гармошки, баяни і балалайки навіть не сотнями, а мільйонами.
It’s nothing new. Communists always want to obliterate culture and history.
It was 1969. Kate invited me to join her for a gathering at the home of her friend, Lila Karp. They called the assemblage a “consciousness-raising-group,” a typical communist exercise, something practiced in Maoist China. We gathered at a large table as the chairperson opened the meeting with a back-and-forth recitation, like a Litany, a type of prayer done in Catholic Church. But now it was Marxism, the Church of the Left, mimicking religious practice:
“Why are we here today?” she asked.
“To make revolution,” they answered.
“What kind of revolution?” she replied.
“The Cultural Revolution,” they chanted.
“And how do we make Cultural Revolution?” she demanded.
“By destroying the American family!” they answered.
“How do we destroy the family?” she came back.
“By destroying the American Patriarch,” they cried exuberantly.
“And how do we destroy the American Patriarch?” she replied.
“By taking away his power!”
“How do we do that?”
“By destroying monogamy!” they shouted.
“How can we destroy monogamy?”
Their answer left me dumbstruck, breathless, disbelieving my ears. Was I on planet earth? Who were these people?
“By promoting promiscuity, eroticism, prostitution and homosexuality!” they resounded.
They proceeded with a long discussion on how to advance these goals by establishing The National Organization of Women. It was clear they desired nothing less than the utter deconstruction of Western society. The upshot was that the only way to do this was “to invade every American institution. Every one must be permeated with ‘The Revolution’”: The media, the educational system, universities, high schools, K-12, school boards, etc.; then, the judiciary, the legislatures, the executive branches and even the library system.
In a masterful dissection of Russian history (Lost Kingdom: The Quest for Empire and the Making of the Russian Nation, 2017) Harvard professor Serhii Plokhy focuses on the sources of identity adopted by Russia’s rulers since the Principality of Moscow launched its drive for territorial expansion in the 15th century.
Plokhy asserts that Russia’s “myth of origin” was the medieval state of Kyivan Rus—a multi-Slavic kingdom centered in modern-day Ukraine and established 200 years before Moscow appeared as a small town located in an outlying province. The Rus were a Norse tribe that founded the ruling Rurik dynasty in Kyiv, but the “Rus” name was subsequently appropriated by Moscow in one of the earliest recorded examples of identity theft. Muscovite rulers feigned descent from the Ruriks and claimed Kyiv as the birthplace of the Russian monarchy, state, and church. This fraudulent history became the legitimizing narrative for Russian tsars when the small autocratic Muscovite polity began its imperial adventure in the 15th century.
Moscow’s earliest propagandists depicted the three developing East Slavic nations (Belarusian, Russian, and Ukrainian) as “tribes” of one Russian nation. Moscow’s rulers consolidated their claims to dominate all Eastern Slavs by declaring Russia as the “Third Rome” or successor to Christian Byzantium, which was extinguished by the Muslim Turks in the 15th century. For the next 400 years, Muscovy annexed its neighbors’ territories and prevented the emergence of other East Slavic states. Its Russification campaign was crafted to eradicate the distinct identities and languages of neighboring Slavic peoples, particularly the Ukrainians, who had a more direct claim to Kyivan Rus.
Very close idea to my essay: A Look at Russian Civilization: Power, Truth, Trust, and War .
I like to state is this way: “Russia is an empire seeking legitimacy through nationhood. Ukraine is a nation seeking legitimacy through statehood.”
On January 29, 1918, in a battle near the train station at Kruty, some 80 miles northeast of Kyiv, a small contingent of Ukrainian forces – composed mainly of a student battalion of the Sich Riflemen and a company from the Khmelnytsky Cadet School – faced a superior Russian Bolshevik force of 4,000 men. The Ukrainian contingent succeeded in blocking the Bolshevik advance on Kyiv for several days. The young Ukrainians’ resistance also enabled the Ukrainian National Republic to conclude the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, a major accomplishment as a result of which the UNR was recognized by the Central Powers despite the Bolsheviks’ attempts to represent Ukraine.
But the losses at Kruty were great. After several days of intense fighting, the Ukrainian contingent was forced to retreat, and 300 young men died defending their country. They were surrounded and slaughtered, noted the late Dr. Orest Subtelny in his book “Ukraine: A History,” and their deaths “earned for them a place of honor in the Ukrainian national pantheon.” As the Encyclopedia of Ukraine underscores, the battle of Kruty “is commemorated as a symbol of patriotic self-sacrifice and is immortalized in numerous literary and publicistic works.”
My excerpts below:
Alain Brossat and Sylvie Klingberg’s Revolutionary Yiddishland: A History of Jewish Radicalism was first published in France in 1983. A revised edition appeared in 2009 and an English translation in 2016. Intended for a mainly Jewish readership, the book is essentially an apologia for Jewish communist militants in Eastern Europe in the early to mid-twentieth century. Brossat, a Jewish lecturer in philosophy at the University of Paris, and Klingberg, an Israeli sociologist, interviewed dozens of former revolutionaries living in Israel in the early 1980s. In their testimony they recalled “the great scenes” of their lives such as “the Russian Civil War, the building of the USSR, resistance in the camps, the war in Spain, the armed struggle against Nazism, and the formation of socialist states in Eastern Europe.”[i] While each followed different paths, “the constancy of these militants’ commitment was remarkable, as was the firmness of the ideas and aspirations that underlay it.” Between the two world wars, communist militancy was “the center of gravity of their lives.”[ii]
It seems like the often referred-to quote, popularized in the movie “Soviet Story” was written by Engels, not Marx. It also mistranslated on word into “racial trash” to make it seem worse.
The whole idea that Karl Marx called ethnic minorities “racial trash” and that he wanted to exterminate them (i.e. Scottish Highlanders, Bretons, Basques, South Slavs, Slovenes, Croats, Serbs and Czechs) comes from a book titled “Politics and Literature in Modern Britain” and an article in the “Encounter”, both by literary historian George Watson, and published in 1977 and 1984 respectively. Also, in the film “The Soviet Story” Watson is the voice behind the phrase: “[Karl Marx was] the ancestor of the modern political genocide”. This is a popular extract from Watson’s work that can be found on the internet:
In the January and February 1849 issues of his journal ‘Neue Rheinische Zeitung’, Karl Marx published articles calling for the extermination of whole races in Europe. These articles were included in a book of the teachings of Marx, Engels and Lenin published in Germany during 1902 and again in 1913. It is most likely that Engels wrote them. This socialist programme considered the Slav nations to be ‘counter-revolutionary’. The Germans, Poles and Magyars (Hungarians) were considered to be ‘the bearers of progress’. The rest must go:
“The chief mission of all other races and peoples, large and small, is to perish in the revolutionary holocaust”.
It was explained that the Slavs had failed to pursue essential historic evolution, so were therefore counter-revolutionary. All European countries contain ‘left-overs of earlier inhabitants’, now rightly brought into subjugation by more advanced peoples. Amongst such ‘racial trash’ (Voekerabfall) were listed Scottish Highlanders, Bretons, Basques, South Slavs (Slovenes, Croats, Serbs) and Czechs.
“Until its complete extermination or loss of national status, this racial trash always becomes the most fanatical bearer there is of counter-revolution, and it remains that. That is because its entire existence is nothing more than a protest against a great historical revolution. … The next world war will cause not only reactionary classes and dynasties, but also entire reactionary peoples, to disappear from the earth. And that too is progress”.
As Marx and Engels aged, they took greater interest in Eugenics and Social Darwinism suggesting that progress was interpretable in racial terms.
For what I found, the article to which Watson is referring to is titled ‘The Magyar Struggle’, and was published in number 194 of the ‘Neue Rheinische Zeitung’ journal on the 13 of January 1849 (which can be found in full at: http://marxists.anu.edu.au/archive/marx/works/1849/01/13.htm). By reading this article you can clearly see that the main problem with Watson’s theory is that Marx did not write that article!… Engels did!!! That’s a huge mistake for an unbiased literary historian -though he latter seems to reluctantly admit the possibility that it was Engels, and not Marx, wrote it-.
Then we have Watson’s claim that Marx (Engels in any case) called for the extermination of whole races in Europe. Of course, if we pick and choose phrases from the article and take them out of context, then it does look like Engels (not Marx) wanted to get rid of certain ethnic minorities (and not races). But if we read the whole article it seems clear that Engels was talking about those ethnic minorities in the context of the European Revolution of 1848 (a year previous to the publication of the article), on the role that these played in previous conflicts (as fanatical standard-bearers of counter-revolution and supporters of European monarchies), and on them being taken into account in any future revolution as dangerous reactionaries and counter revolutionaries; and not because they were from an ethnic minority or from a different race, as Watson tries to make us believe.
Then we also have the issue of the “Völkerabfälle”, which by the way, doesn’t even mean “racial trash”; it literally translates as “residual fragments of people”, and this is how it’s translated in the English version of the “The Magyar Struggle”. This term was not used by Marx (as he didn’t even write the article in the first place), and it was neither from Engels. It was from Hegel! as Engels explains in the article.
Therefore, it looks to me like the answer to the question on the title of this post is clear: Absolutely not; Marx did not call for the extermination of any ethnic minorities or races. This rumour is nothing more than false anti-communist propaganda and a deliberate and malicious attempt to demonise Karl Mark. As Latvian political scientist and cultural commentator Ivars Ījabs explained: “To present Karl Marx as the progenitor of modern genocide is simply to lie”.
We do however have this quote from Marx, which is not genocidal, but certainly murderous:
“There is only one way in which the murderous death agonies of the old society and the bloody birth throes of the new society can be shortened, simplified and concentrated, and that way is revolutionary terrorism.”
– Karl Marx, “The Victory of the Counter-Revolution in Vienna”, Neue Rheinische Zeitung, Nov. 7, 1848.
When Karl Marx died in March 1883, only about a dozen people attended his funeral at a cemetery in London, England, including family members. Yet, for more than a century after his death – and even until today – there have been few thinkers whose ideas have been as influential on various aspects of modern world history. Indeed, as some have said, no other faith or belief-system has had such a worldwide impact as Marxism, since the birth of Christianity and the rise of Islam. . . .
Marx’s only real jobs during his lifetime were as occasional reporters for or editors of newspapers and journals most of which usually closed in a short period of time, either because of small readership and limited financial support or political censorship by the governments under which he was living.
His political activities as a writer and activist resulted in his having to move several times, including to Paris and Brussels, finally ending up in London in 1849, where he lived for the rest of his life, with occasional trips back to the European continent.
Though Marx was “middle class” and even “Victorian” in many of his everyday cultural attitudes, this did not stop him from breaking his marriage vows and committing adultery. He had sex enough times with the family maid that she bore him an illegitimate son – and this under the same roof with his wife and his legitimate children (of which he had seven, with only three living to full adulthood).
But he would not allow his illegitimate child to visit their mother in his London house whenever he was at home, and the boy could only enter the house through the kitchen door in the back of the house. In addition, he had his friend, longtime financial benefactor, and intellectual collaborator, Fredrick Engels, claim parentage of the child so to avoid any social embarrassment falling upon himself due to his infidelity. . . .
In temperament, Marx could be cruel and authoritarian. He treated people with whom he disagreed in a crude and mean way, often ridiculing them in public gatherings. Marx had no hesitation about being a hypocrite; when he wanted something from someone he would flatter them in letters or conversation, but then attack them in nasty language behind their backs to others. He often used racial slurs and insulting words to describe the mannerisms or appearance of his opponents in the socialist movement.
For instance, in an 1862 letter to Frederick Engels, Marx described leading nineteenth-century German socialist, Ferdinand Lassalle, in the following way:
The Jewish Nigger Lassalle … fortunately departs at the end of this week … It is now absolutely clear to me that, as both the shape of his head and his hair texture shows – he descends from the Negros who joined Moses’ flight from Egypt (unless his mother or grandmother on the paternal side hybridized with a nigger). Now this combination of Germanness and Jewishness with a primarily Negro substance creates a strange product. The pushiness of the fellow is also nigger-like.
. . . .
Many found Marx’s personal appearance and manner off-putting or even revolting. In 1850, a spy for the Prussian police visited Marx’s home in London under the pretense of a German revolutionary. The report the spy wrote was shared with the British Ambassador in Berlin. The report said, in part:
[Marx] leads the existence of a Bohemian intellectual. Washing, grooming and changing his linen are things he does rarely, and he is often drunk. Though he is frequently idle for days on end, he will work day and night with tireless endurance when he has much work to do.
He has no fixed time for going to sleep or waking up. He often stays up all night and then lies down fully clothed on the sofa at midday, and sleeps till evening, untroubled by the whole world coming or going through [his room] …
There is not one clean and solid piece of furniture. Everything is broken, tattered and torn, with half an inch of dust over everything and the greatest disorder everywhere …
When you enter Marx’s room smoke and tobacco fumes make your eyes water … Everything is dirty and covered with dust, so that to sit down becomes a hazardous business. Here is a chair with three legs. On another chair the children are playing cooking. This chair happens to have four legs. This is the one that is offered to the visitor, but the children’s cooking has not been wiped away and if you sit down you risk a pair of trousers.
. . . .
He stated that the goal of the organization was “the overthrow of the privileged classes,” initially in cooperation with the petty and liberal “bourgeois” political parties. Marx warned that these democratic parties only want to establish a liberal agenda of reduced government spending, more secure private property rights and some welfare programs for the poor. Instead, Marx said,
Its our interest and our task to make the revolution permanent until all the more or less propertied classes have been driven from their ruling positions, until the proletariat has conquered state power and until the association of the proletarians has progressed sufficiently far – not only in one country but in all the leading countries of the world …
Our concern cannot simply be to modify private property, but to abolish it, not to hush up class antagonisms but to abolish classes, not to improve the existing society but to found a new one.
In the process of overthrowing the liberal democratic order that assumes power following the end of the monarchical rulers, Marx said that the revolutionary proletariat needed to form armed “councils” outside of the democratic government’s authority and control. This is the very method Lenin insisted upon in Russia in the form of “Soviets” after the abdication of the Russian czar . . .
In addition, Marx said, the communist leaders must work to ensure that the immediate revolutionary excitement is not suddenly suppressed after the victory. On the contrary,
… it must be sustained as long as possible. Far from opposing the so-called excesses – instances of popular vengeance against hated individuals or against public buildings with which hateful memories are associated – the workers’ party must not only tolerate these actions but must even give them direction.
In other words, Marx was insisting upon fostering a frenzy of “vengeance against hated individuals” that clearly meant terror and mass murder. And this, too, was the signpost that Lenin followed in assuring the triumph of his revolution in Russia. . . .
The struggle to preserve peace.
Soviet Union represents peace loving people all over the world. They support us, here are examples.
It is a global struggle for peace.
In return, we much aid their struggle for liberation.
We faced the fascists almost single handedly. Now, from China to Korea to Czechoslovakia, militaries have appeared in “people’s democracies” ready to face a any threat.
Under Tsardom any step toward progress was a grave crime.
The bourgeois is weaker now. Reactionary. They no longer have support of the people, no longer portray themselves as liberal.
Full rights for the exploited majority.
The banner must by raised by you to gain support for the majority.
Previously the bourgeois supported rights and independence of nations “above all”, now there is no trace of the national principle. They sell national rights and independence for dollars.
Sovereignty has been tossed overboard.
If you want to be patriots, there is no one else to do it (except communists).
Long live our fraternal parties.
Excerpts from all three below:
To allow for any sense of Jewish agency — any argument that Jews may have in some way contributed to anti-Jewish sentiment — is to harm the perpetuation of this paradigm. In this sense, the ‘victim paradigm’ also contributes heavily to the claim for Jewish uniqueness and, as Norman Finkelstein has pointed out, one can clearly see in many examples of Jewish historiography the tendency to focus not so much on the “suffering of Jews” but rather on the simple fact that “Jews suffered.” As a result, the paradigm offers no place to non-Jewish suffering. . . .
The pogroms themselves have consistently been portrayed by (mainly Jewish) historians as “irrational manifestations of hatred against Jews,” where peasant mobs were the unwitting dupes of malevolent Russian officials. Other explanations are so lacking in evidence, and so devoid of logic that they stretch credulity to breaking point. For example, University of British Columbia Professor, Donald G. Dutton has asserted that the mobs were not motivated by “the sudden rapid increase of the Jewish urban population, the extraordinary economic success of Russian Jews, or the involvement of Jews in Russian revolutionary politics” but rather by the “blood libel.”
Little or no historiography has been dedicated to peeling back the layers of “refugee” stories to uncover what really happened in the Russian Empire in the years before and during the riots. This lack of historical enquiry can be attributed at least in part to a great reluctance on the part of Jewish historians to investigate the pogroms in any manner beyond the merely superficial. In addition, historical enquiry by non-Jewish historians into the subject has been openly discouraged. For example, when Ukrainian historians discovered evidence proving that contemporary media reports of Jewish casualties in that nation were exaggerated, the Jewish genealogy website ‘JewishGen,’ responded by stating: “We believe that [these facts] are more than irrelevant because it redirects public attention from the major topic: the genocidal essence of pogroms.” . . .
The statement could be translated as “Let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good story.” Also, as this paper will show, the tendency to portray the riots as “genocidal” is completely lacking in foundation. University of California Los Angeles Professor of Sociology, Michael Mann, has provided substantial evidence indicating that “most perpetrators did not conceive of removing Jews altogether.” . . .
Polish Jewry had enjoyed a demographic explosion, with Jews now representing almost 20% of the entire population. In addition, it was discovered that Jews controlled a full 75% of Polish exports, and that many were now spilling out of over-populated urban centres into the countryside, making a living by monopolising the sale of liquor to peasants. By 1774, complaints were reaching Russian officials from non-Jewish merchants who argued that Jewish ethnic networking was propping up the monopoly of exports, and that this monopoly would shortly have dire implications for the consumer. These revelations were the key motivating factors in the decision to expel Warsaw’s Jews in 1775, and until the early 19th century there was a kind of stand-off between Poles and Jews. Napoleon’s establishment of the Duchy of Warsaw in 1807 did little to alter the situation, as Napoleon acceded to local sentiment which held that Jews should not feel the benefit of the new constitution until they had “eradicated their peculiar characteristics.” In 1813, the government of the Duchy moved to break the Jewish monopoly on liquor, banning all Jews from selling alcohol in the villages, bringing an end to the activity of “tens of thousands” of Jewish liquor merchants in the provinces. Not surprisingly, when the Duchy was dissolved in 1815 following Napoleon’s failed attempt to invade Russia, Polish Jewry shed no tears.
In late 1815, the Congress of Vienna was held. The aim of the congress was to give its assent to the formation of a new autonomous Polish kingdom under the sovereignty of Russia. Although the bulk of Polish Jewry remained within the newly established kingdom, tens of thousands also poured forth into other areas of the Russian Empire, ushering in an uncomfortable age of fraught Russian-Jewish relations. . . .
In 1841, investigations were carried out into Russia’s Jewish communities, and the subsequent reports pointed to three significant problems. The first was persistent Jewish difference in dress, language, and religious and communal organization. The idea underpinning this aloofness from non-Jewish society, the ‘Chosen’ status of the Jews and an accompanying ethnic chauvinism, was said to be particularly harmful to Jewish-Gentile relations, particularly when it was reinforced through “a system of male education that was thought to inculcate anti-Christian interpretations of the Talmud.” The second, related, problem was that Jewish economic practices were also rooted in this aloofness. The Talmud “encouraged and justified unreserved economic exploitation based on cheating and exploiting the non-Jews,” in a validation of Max Weber’s theory of ‘internal’ and ‘external’ ethics, whereby “members of a cohesive social unit observe different moral standards among themselves compared with those observed in relation to strangers.” The third aspect of the Russian ‘Jewish Question,’ was the issue of Jewish loyalty. The Jews of the Russian Empire had evidently retained the kahal of pre-partition Polish Jewry. The kahal was a formal system of Jewish communal leadership and government, entirely separate from the Russian state. Although tacitly tolerated by the state for its tax collection capabilities, Jewish loyalty to the kahal was absolute, going beyond the merely fiscal. Almost all Jews continued to resort to Jewish courts. . . .
John Klier states that following these revelations, “state and society shared a consensus that Jews could be – and must be – reformed and transformed into good subjects of the realm.” Under Emperor Alexander I (1801–25) there had been attempts to encourage Jews to pursue more productive economic activities. Generous concessions were made to Jews in the hope that they would abandon their middleman roles, as well as the distilleries and taverns of the provinces, and take up work in agricultural colonies. Klier states that the “embeddedness of the Jews in the economic and social life of the imperial borderlands ensured that despite legislative initiatives, Jewish economic life remained largely unchanged.”
In 1844, under Nicholas I, the Russian government began a program of reforms and legislation designed to break down Jewish exclusivity and incorporate the nation’s Jews more fully into Russian society. Not surprisingly, the government first took aim at the kahal, banning it as “an illegal underground structure.” The significance of the banning of the kahal went beyond tackling the issue of Jewish loyalty. The mutual assistance offered by the kahal was felt to have had economic implications – “it was the mutual support provided by the kahal that ensured that Jews were more than a match for any competitor, even the arch-exploiter of the Russian village, the kulak.” . . . Unfortunately for Nicholas, what his system produced was a cadre of Jewish intellectuals profoundly hostile to the state. . . .
Conditions on settlement and mobility in the Pale were relaxed further. Klier states that “Jews even became the subject of sympathetic concern for the leaders of public opinion. Proposals for the complete emancipation of the Jews were widely mooted in the press.”
These measures, however, were also accompanied by a growing uneasiness with the way the Jews of Russia took advantage of them. There was little in the way of gratitude, and the measures did not bring about the great changes that had been hoped for. The nationalist revolt of the Poles in 1863, and the fact that a large number of wealthy Jews were found to have funded some of the rebels cast new doubts on Jewish loyalty. Having emancipated the peasantry and adopted a paternalistic concern for the former serfs, the government also viewed with alarm the rapidity with which the “Jews were exploiting the unsophisticated and ignorant rural inhabitants, reducing them to a Jewish serfdom.” It also quickly became apparent that despite new military legislation, Jews were noticeable in their overwhelming avoidance of military service. In retaliation, the government clamped down on rural tavern ownership, and introduced more stringent recruitment procedures specifically for Jews. It has been claimed that Jews were also banned from land ownership at this time, but Klier provides evidence that Jews were still able to buy any peasant properties sold at auction for tax arrears, as well as any property within the Pale not owned by Russian gentry. . . .
The Jewish Narrative.
In 1881 the ‘Russo-Jewish Committee,’ (RJC) an arm of Britain’s Jewish elite, mass-produced a pamphlet entitled “The Persecution of the Jews in Russia,” and began disseminating it through the press, the churches, and numerous other channels. By 1899, it was embellished and published as a short book, and today digitized copies are freely available online. By the early 20th century, the pamphlet had even spawned a four-page journal called Darkest Russia – A Weekly Record of the Struggle for Freedom, ensuring that the average British citizen did not go long without being reminded of the ‘horrors’ facing Russian Jews. The fact that these publications were mass produced should provide an indication as to their purpose: It is clear that these publications represented one of the most ambitious propaganda campaign in Jewish history, and combined with similar efforts in the United States, they were aimed at gaining the attention of, and ‘educating,’ the Western nations and ensuring the primacy of the ‘Jewish side of the story.’ Implicit in this was not only a desire to provoke anti-Russian attitudes, but also copious amounts of sympathy for the victimized Jews — sympathy necessary to ensure that mass Jewish chain migration to the West went on untroubled and unhindered by nativists. After all, wasn’t the bigoted nativist just a step removed from the rampaging Cossack?
The first element of the narrative advanced by the RJC is essentially a manipulation of the history of Russian-Jewish relations. It holds that the Jews of Eastern Europe have been oppressed for centuries, their whole lives “hampered, from cradle to grave, by restrictive laws.” It was claimed that the Russians had an unwritten law: “That no Russian Jew shall earn a living.” Russian Jews, according to the Russo-Jewish Committee, have wanted nothing more than to participate in Russian society, but have been rebuffed time and again as “heretics and aliens.” . . .
The second element of the Jewish narrative is that the government and petty officialdom had some role to play in organizing and directing the pogroms. Much disdain is heaped on the government, and petty officialdom, which was said to have been afflicted with “a chronic anti-Semitic outlook.” It was claimed that when the riots began, the government was “not altogether sorry to let the excitement of the people vent itself on the Jews.” In reference to the restrictive May Laws, the authors were forced to concede they had never really been enforced. . . .
The third element of the Jewish narrative is that the pogroms were genocidal, and that they had been organized and perpetrated by groups seeking the extermination of the Jews. The 1899 edition of “The Persecution of the Jews in Russia” included a copy of a lengthy letter written to the London Times by Nathan Joseph, Secretary of the RJC, dated November 5th, 1890. In the letter, Joseph claimed that in the present circumstances “hundreds of thousands could be exterminated,” and that Russian legislation in relation to Jews represented “an instrument of torture and persecution.” In sum, the Jews of Russia were claimed to be living under “a sentence of death,” and it was further claimed that “the executions are proceeding.” The letter ends with an appeal to “Civilized Europe” to intervene, chastise Russia, and aid the victimized Jews.
The fourth key element of the Jewish narrative is that the pogroms were extremely violent in nature. . . . Men had been ruthlessly murdered, tender infants had been dashed on the stones or roasted alive in their own homes. During a British parliamentary consultation on the pogroms in 1905, a Rabbi Michelson claimed that “the atrocities had been so fiendish that they could find no parallel even in the most barbarous annals of the most barbarous peoples.” The New York Times reported that during the 1903 Kishinev pogrom “babes were literally torn to pieces by the frenzied and bloodthirsty mob.” . . .
The ‘atrocity’ aspect of the narrative has continued to be advanced by Jewish historians. For example Anita Shapira, in her Stanford-published, Land and Power: The Zionist Resort to Force, 1881-1948, claims that “each series of new riots was worse than the one preceding, as if every bloodbath provided a permit for an even worse massacre.” Shapira further hints that the murder of Jewish babies was common during the pogroms, stating that a common worry of Russian Jews was “Will they take pity on the small babies, who do not even know yet that they are Jews?” She concludes one particular section on pogrom violence by stating, without referencing any evidence, that there were “numerous acts of rape,” and that “many were massacred — men, women, and children. The cruelty that marked these killings added a special dimension to the feeling of terror and shock that spread in their wake.” Joseph Brandes, in his 2009 Immigrants to Freedom alleges, without citing evidence, that mobs “threw women and children out of the windows” of their homes, and that “heads were battered with hammers, nails were driven into bodies, eyes were gouged out … and petroleum was poured over the sick found hiding in cellars and they were burned to death.” . . .
John Doyle Klier points out that the Daily Telegraph was at that time Jewish-owned, and was particularly “severe” in its reports on Russian treatment of Jews prior to 1881. In the pages of this publication, it was stated that “these Russian atrocities are only the beginning. … [T]he Russian officials themselves countenance these barbarities.” Around this time in Continental Europe, Prussian Rabbi Yizhak Rülf established himself as an “intermediary” between Eastern Jewry and the West, and, according to Klier, one of his specialities was the spreading of “sensationalized accounts of mass rape.” . . .
Other major sources of pogrom atrocity stories were the New York Times, the London Times, and the Jewish World. It would be the Jewish World which furnished the majority of these tales, having sent a reporter “to visit areas that had suffered pogroms.” Most of the other papers simply reprinted what the Jewish World reporter sent them. The atrocity stories carried by these newspapers provoked global outrage. There were large-scale public protests against Russia in Paris, Brussels, London, Vienna, and even in Melbourne, Australia. However, “it was in the United States that public indignation reached its height.” Historian Edward Judge states that the American public was spurred on by reports of “brutal beatings, multiple rapes, dismemberment of corpses, senseless slaughter, painful suffering and unbearable grief.”
However, as John Klier states, the reports of the Jewish World’s “Special Correspondent,” “raise intriguing problems for the historian.” While his itinerary of travel is described as “plausible,” most of his accounts are “flatly contradicted by the archival record.” His claim that twenty rioters were killed during a pogrom in Kishinev in 1881 has been proven to be a fabrication by records which show that in that city, at that time, “there were no significant pogroms and no fatalities.” Other claims that he witnessed shootings of peasants on his travels have been entirely discredited due to the vast number of minor inaccuracies in those accounts.
Furthermore, Klier states that the atrocity stories compiled by the Jewish World correspondent, which went on to be so influential in manipulating Western perceptions of the events, must be treated with “extreme caution.” The reporter “portrayed the pogroms dramatically, as great in scale and inhuman in their brutality. He reported numerous accounts where Jews were burned alive in their homes while the authorities looked on.” There are hundreds of instances where he references the murder of children, the mutilation of women, and the biting off of fingers.
Klier states that “the author’s most influential accounts, given their effect on world opinion, were his accounts of the rape and torture of girls as young as ten or twelve.” In 1881 he reported 25 rapes in Kiev, of which five were said to have resulted in fatalities, in Odessa he claimed 11, and in Elizavetgrad he claimed 30. Rape featured prominently in the reports, not because rapes were common, but because rape “even more than murder and looting” was known to “generate particular outrage abroad.” Klier states that “Jewish intermediaries who were channelling pogrom reports abroad were well aware of the impact of reports of rape, and it featured prominently in their accounts.” The two most dramatic and gruesome accounts came from Berezovka and Borispol. In fact, as the year neared its end, the reports became more and more gruesome and brutal in the details they conveyed.
There is, of course, a reason for this. As the non-Jewish public began to tire of the reports and switched their minds to the coming Christmas festivities, Klier states that records show the RJC made a conscious and calculated decision to “keep Russian Jewry before the eyes of the public.” A key component of this strategy was to take the accounts of the Special Correspondent and publish them in a more widely circulated and respected newspaper. They settled on the London Times, which was already predisposed to “critical editorial faulting of the Russian government.” Klier further states that these evidently false reports “garnished with the prestige of The Times and devoid of any attribution, subsequently published as a separate pamphlet, and translated into a variety of European languages … became the definitive Western version of the pogroms.” . . .
In January 1882, Consul-General Stanley objected to all of the details contained within reports published by The Times, mentioning in particular the unfounded “accounts of the violation of women.” He further stated that his own investigations revealed that there had been no incidences of rape during the Berezovka pogrom, that violence was rare, and that much of the disturbance was restricted to property damage. In relation to property damage in Odessa, Stanley estimated it to be around 20,000 rubles, and rejected outright the Jewish claim that damage amounted to over one million rubles.
Vice-Consul Law, another independent investigator, reported that he had visited Kiev and Odessa, and could only conclude that “I should be disinclined to believe in any stories of women having been outraged in those towns.” Another investigator, Colonel Francis Maude, visited Warsaw and said that he could “not attach any importance” to atrocity reports emanating from that city. At Elizavetgrad, instead of whole streets being razed to the ground, it was discovered that a small hut had lost its roof. It was further discovered that very few Jews, if any, had been intentionally killed, though some died of injuries received in the riots. These were mainly the result of conflicts between groups of Jews who defended their taverns and rioters seeking alcohol. The small number of Jews who had been intentionally killed had fallen victim to unstable individuals who had been drunk on Jewish liquor — accusations of murderous intent among the masses were simply unfounded and unsubstantiated by the evidence. . . .
The revelations came at a bad time for the RJC, which was at that time attempting to move the British Government to “act in some way on behalf of persecuted Russian Jewry.” It resorted to republishing (in the Times) its pamphlet on persecution in Russia twice in one month, presumably in the belief that blunt repetition would suffice to overcome tangible evidence. Klier states that the pieces were examples of “masterful” propaganda, as they attempted to undermine the credibility of the Government consuls, while sycophantically appealing to “the wise and noble people of England,” who “will know what weight should be attached to such denials and refutations.” The RJC offered its own “corroborative evidence of the most undeniable kind,” though of course the exact source of this evidence was not specified beyond “persons occupying high official positions in the Jewish community” and “Jewish refugees.”
In essence, the people of western nations were being asked to trust an anonymous Rabbi on the other side of the world rather than identifiable representatives of their own government. The pieces, states Klier, “painted the familiar picture of murder and rape,” and despite the debunking statements of the consuls, “a number of mother/daughter rapes, which had already done so much to outrage British public opinion, were again repeated.” Although the move for British government intervention failed, in the battle for public opinion “the RJC clearly won the day,” and the Times and the RJC remained good bedfellows.
The Consuls were outraged. Stanley reiterated the fact that his intensive investigations, which he carried out at great personal cost with a serious leg injury, illustrated that “The Times’ accounts of what took place at each of those places contains the greatest exaggerations, and that the account of what took place at some of those places is absolutely untrue.” He related the fact that a Rabbi in Odessa had “not heard of any outrages on women there,” and that the object of almost every pogrom he had investigated was simple “plunder.” Enraged by the lies circulating in Britain and America, Stanley “went right to the top,” interviewing state rabbis and asking for evidence and touring pogrom sites. In Odessa, where a wealth of atrocity stories had originated, he was able to confirm “one death, but no looting of synagogues or victims set alight.” There was no evidence that a single rape had taken place. One state Rabbi admitted that he had not heard of any outrages of women in Berezovka and further assured Stanley that he “could with a clear conscience positively deny that any deaths or any violations had occurred there during the disturbances of last year.” He again sent this report to his superior in London, with a note saying “This is in accordance with all the information I have received and forwarded to your Lordship, and which I think more credible than anonymous letters in The Times.”
Despite Stanley’s best efforts the Jewish narrative advanced by the RJC, imbued with atrocity tales, has remained unalterably attached in Western perceptions of the pogroms. . . .
The first disturbance involving Jews to occur in the Russian Empire, and which left sufficient documentation, was the 1821 Odessa pogrom. Weinberg has painted a picture of Odessa as being some kind of multicultural heaven at this time. He states that the city “benefited from the presence of German, Italian, French, Greek, and English residents whose cultural and intellectual tastes influenced local life.” By the 1820s street signs were written in Russian and Italian, the city’s first newspaper appeared in French. Odessa, according to Weinberg, had a thriving art scene, particularly in relation to theatre, music, and opera.
However, Klier paints a radically different picture of the city, stressing in particular the ethnic tension created by increasing Jewish settlement in the city. Klier states that by 1821, Odessa was “a hotbed of ethnic, religious, and economic rivalries” and was, quite significantly, “a distinctly non-Russian city.” Weinberg explains that “the number of Jews arriving from other parts of the Russian Empire and Galicia in the Austrian Empire skyrocketed.” In Odessa, Jews were entirely free from “legal burdens and residency restrictions.”
Violence erupted in 1821 when, during the Greek War of Independence, a group of Muslims and Jews murdered and then mutilated Gregory V, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch in Istanbul. In the aftermath, many Greeks fled with Gregory’s remains from Istanbul to Odessa, where his funeral procession was held. Surviving documents suggest that violence broke out when a large contingent of Odessa’s Jewish population showed open disrespect for the procession.
In describing this and subsequent outbreaks of violence in Odessa, I must urge readers to divest themselves of the preconception that the Jewish contingent of the city was a tiny minority. Jewish historians are often quick to allude to minority status without providing definitive numbers. John Doyle Klier, however, informs us that by the middle of the nineteenth century Jews constituted “almost one-third of the total population” in Odessa. Given the huge population of Greeks and other nationalities, it was the Russians who composed the “tiny minority.” . . .
Economic supremacy in the city until the middle of the nineteenth century was the preserve of the Greek population, which had fended off the attempts of numerous other ethnic groups to “secure or maintain a favored economic position.”
When a huge influx of Jews occurred in the 1850s, the struggle for economic supremacy between Jew and Greek, added to historical religiopolitical grievances, contributed to increased inter-ethnic tension in the city. Greek historian Evridiki Sifneos informs us that earlier co-existence had “not been based on mutual toleration. On the contrary, economic recession in the second half of the nineteenth century accelerated ethnic distinctions, and resentment was provoked by the ascension of social or ethnic groups [primarily Jewish], which led to the redistribution of resources.” Until the mid-1850s, the Greeks had control of grain exports, but with the disruption of trade routes as a result of the Crimean War, some local Greek business owners were forced into bankruptcy. The city’s Jews, who had earlier occupied mainly middleman roles, pooled resources and eagerly bought up these businesses at extremely low prices. A letter from one Greek contemporary reads: “When I first came to Odessa in 1864, I became a purchaser of grain on behalf of our house, 14 at Moldovanka. The majority were Greeks, with a few Russian middlemen. Now there are no Russians, and as for the Greeks they are counted on the fingers of one hand. Jews are the ones who have taken over the market.” According to Sifneos, Jews took advantage of the placement of their taverns in the villages to establish themselves as middlemen in the collection of grain from the surrounding countryside, and in addition “they worked more tightly within their ethnic network.”
Weinberg further states that when “Jewish employers followed the practice of only hiring their own, many Greek dockworkers now found themselves in the ranks of the unemployed.” When it became apparent that Jews had wrested economic supremacy from the Greeks in 1858, incidences of inter-ethnic violence began to escalate in frequency. In 1858 there were attacks on Greek and Jewish property, and numerous “Greek-Jewish brawls” in the city, and in 1859 a quarrel between Greek and Jewish children again escalated into full-scale inter-ethnic conflict. Violence was ended thanks only to the intervention of Russian police and Cossacks. A major bout of Greek-Jewish violence occurred again in 1869.
How do we describe such events? In light of the context of these disturbances, does the term “pogrom” or “anti-Jewish riot” withstand scrutiny? Certainly not. Note my use of the terms “inter-ethnic violence” and “disturbance involving Jews.” These terms do not feature in Jewish historiography on these events. “Anti-Jewish riot” or “pogrom” is merely part of the lexicon of the ‘victim paradigm,’ bequeathing passive status even through word use. To express it flippantly, when Tom and Bill have a fight in the street, one does not describe it as “anti-Tom violence.” This automatically imparts passive, victim status to Tom, despite the fact that he may have started the fight, and certainly threw as many punches. Weinberg, for example, describes the 1859 disturbance as “anti-Jewish activity,” but states that both “Jewish and gentile youths engaged in bloody brawls.” . . .
The late John Doyle Klier, formerly Professor of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Oxford University, informs us categorically that Russian involvement in the 1871 Odessa ethnic conflict had its roots in real, tangible economic grievances. Klier states that Russian participation was the result of “bitterness born of the exploitation of their work by Jews and the ability of the latter to enrich themselves and manipulate all manner of trade and commercial activity.” Similarly, Weinberg concedes that by 1871, there were “many others besides Greeks who perceived Jews as an economic threat.” . . .
By 1871, Jewish economic domination had moved beyond grain exports. A US consular report from that year reveals the extent of Jewish control over Odessa’s economic life. It reports that Jews in the city “occupy themselves with trade and favoring their own class or sect, that is that their combinations, in a great many instances, amount almost to monopolies. The common remark, therefore, is that ‘everything is in the hands of the Jews.’ To sell or buy a house, a horse, a carriage, to rent a lodging or contract for a loan, to engage a governess, and sometimes even to marry a wife the Jew gets his percent as a “go between.” The poor laborer, the hungry soldier, the land proprietor, the money capitalist, and in fact every producer and every consumer is obliged in one way or another to pay tribute to the Jew.” . . .