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In his discussion of the 1881-2 pogroms, Solzhenitsyn naturally emphasises the fact that - contrary to what is still widely believed - there is no evidence that the Russian government, or dark forces close to the Russian government - were behind, or in any way supported, the attacks on the Jews - that, on the contrary, the authorities did what they could, albeit with limited means, to suppress them. In my last article I showed that recent English language research (Hans Rogger, John Klier, I.M.Aronson) supports him in this. It also tends to support his view that contemporary accounts of assaults on the persons of Jews, in particular of rape, were very much exaggerated. The main target was property.

This research, like Solzhenitsyn's, is largely based on government reports. The more horrific alternatives which appeared in the London based Jewish World, but also in Russia itself, were put together by Jewish writers interviewing victims. There was probably a great deal of hearsay and rumour in these accounts but they reflect the absolute terror which was felt by Jews both in the areas affected and more widely since no-one knew where the pogroms might break out next. In an essay on the St Petersburg based Jewish Russian language paper, Razsvets (Dawn), Steven Cassedy (Professor of Slavic and Comparative Literature in Princeton University) comments:

'what matters for a picture of the historical moment of the pogroms is not that contemporary beliefs about a government conspiracy later proved to be baseless, but that those beliefs were present at that time; not that the government never really sent well-dressed agents-provocateurs to urge violence against the Jews, but that people at the time believed this was true. The commonly held conviction at the time was that the government and local authorities were cooperating and conspiring, that the anti-Semitic press was acting at the behest of the government, and that the government was rewarding rioters by meting out absurdly light punishments.' (1)

(1) Steven Cassedy: 'Russian-Jewish Intellectuals Confront the Pogroms of 1881: The Example of "Razsvet"', The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol. 84, No. 2/3 (Oct., 1993 - Jan., 1994), pp.136-7

Jews in Brody, Galicia, 1891 Lithography by Joseph Pennell
 The Illustrated London News, England, 1891


The effect on Jews in the Russian Empire, both at the popular level and among the intelligentsia, was enormous and is rather underplayed by Solzhenitsyn. In particular, Solzhenitsyn doesn't discuss the drama that took place in the Polish town of Brody (in Galicia, at the time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), which experienced both in 1881 and 1882  a large, for the time, influx of Jews fleeing from the Pale of Settlement.

According to Jonathan Frankel in his book Prophecy and Politics:

'by the summer, July and August 1881, emigration was becoming the central issue. The cause of this shift of interest was straightforward enough. A sociopolitical chain reaction had been set in motion in April. Large population movements had been started by the pogroms. In Kiev, for instance, in late April there were numerous reports of a mass flight from the city; ten or twelve extra carriages had to be coupled onto every train leaving for Berdichev and Belaia Tserkov. In turn, according to secret governmental reports, the population flows served to increase popular excitement through the south and contributed to new outbreaks of destruction in the region: In the months of June and July, respectively, there were large-scale pogroms in Nezhin and Pereiaslav. The prolonged turmoil, for its part, brought trade in southern Russia almost to a halt. On 30 May, T. S. Morozov wrote secretly in the name of the Moscow business community to [Minister of Internal Affairs] Ignatiev urging him to do everything in his power to halt the pogroms because the major trade fairs were being canceled throughout the south and huge quantities of food were piling up in the Moscow warehouses.The spreading economic chaos made it all the more difficult to employ the refugees or even to provide them with enough food to keep them from starving. This spiral of violence, flight, and disruption was exacerbated by the popular tendency to blame the catastrophe on the Jews themselves. Emboldened by the failure of the government to take an effective stand, in word or deed, against the pogroms, the zemstva [local assemblies] now joined the press in calling for a halt to Jewish competition in various areas of trade and education or, as they put it, to prevent the Jews from exploiting the local population. Some petitions even demanded that the Jews be totally evacuated - expelled - from their areas.' (2)

(2) Jonathan Frankel: Prophecy and Politics - Socialism, Nationalism and the Russian Jews, Cambridge University Press, 1984 (first ed 1981), p.58. Frankel was based in the Department of Russian Studies and Institute of Contemporary Jewry, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He died in 2008.

Berdichev and Belaia Tserkov were both in the Russian controlled part of the Ukraine. Berdichev had been an important centre of Jewish culture but was at the time in decline. Belaia Tserkov seems to have been in the process of becoming an important centre (54% of the population in 1897. They are both categorised as 'shtetls' in the online History of Jewish Communities in Ukraine -

Frankel goes on to say that the impetus towards emigration was encouraged by outside forces, in the first instance the Paris based Alliance Israélite Universelle. In 1870-1, during a famine in Lithuania, the Alliance had supported the emigration of some 500 Jews to the United States. In the Summer of 1881, it was considering a similar scheme - 'a selected group of able-bodied Russian Jews.' However, as Frankel says (p.59), 'plans that were tentative and modest in Paris were blown up to gigantic size as if by a distorting mirror in Russia.' Late in August a delegate from the Alliance on his way to Russia was diverted to Galicia, to Brody, near Lvov, where he found some 500 Jewish refugees. That, however, was only the beginning. 

Frankel describes an intense debate which arose among Russian Jews between those deeply opposed to emigration and those in favour. The opponents argued that it would only encourage the ambitions of the Russian Judeophobes. Since they wanted to expel the Jews, a policy of emigration would amount to an incitement to violence. The case for emigration was put by Grigorii Bogrov and Simon Dubnow. Readers of earlier articles in this series will recognise the names. Grigorii Bogrov, who was for a while editor of Razsvets, was indeed the grandfather of the Bogrov (Dmitri, or Mordko, depending on how Jewish you want him to be) who assassinated Stolypin. Dubnow appeared in the last article as the historian whose account of the pogroms had been universally accepted until challenged by Rogger, Klier and Aronson. Both Bogrov and Dubnow had been champions of the reform and modernisation of Jewish life. Bogrov indeed at the end of his life converted to Christianity, though his son, Dmitri's father, remained loyal to Judaism. In my last article I quoted an account of Dubnow suggesting that his views had not been greatly changed immediately by the pogroms - he still believed that an advance of Jews towards equal rights in the Russian Empire was inevitable - but Frankel gives a different impression.

The crisis saw the emergence of the group Am Olam, led by Monye Bokol and by M.I.Rabinovich, who would later be well known as a novelist under the name 'Ben Ami' (son of my people). They had been involved in setting up self defence groups in Odessa - among the 500 people arrested during the Odessa pogrom in May were 150 Jews 'preparing for an open battle with the Christians'. (3) 'Am Olam' means 'The Eternal People' and this in itself marks a substantial new development. Previously the main emphasis among Jewish radicals, Socialists and Revolutionaries, had been on the needs of the Russian narod (people), arguing that the duty of Jews was to abandon their backward religious ways and fuse with the Russian movement.

(3) Frankel p.54, quoting the acting governor of Odessa, Count Dondukov-Korsakov.

Solzhenitsyn develops this case, pointing to the involvement of Jews in the Russian populist movement, the immense influence of 'Nihilism' on Jewish revolutionaries from wealthy families, the willingness of Jews to join the movement of 'going to the people'. To quote Solzhenitsyn (p.241) 'Neither could one accuse these early Jewish revolutionaries of anti-Russian motives, as some are doing at the present time in Russia. Not in the slightest!' With regard to the attraction of Russian 'Nihilism', as represented by Chenyshevski's novel What is to be done and by the character of Bazarov in Turgenev's novel, Fathers and Sons, I've already said something on this in my previous article, discussing the formation of Simon Dubnow. The Jewish enlightenment, the haskalah, aiming to modernise Jewish culture and reconcile it with the best in European culture, had turned in Eastern Europe, together with modern minded Russian intellectuals, towards writers such as J.S.Mill in England and Auguste Comte in France. What is called 'Nihilism' in Russia is not far removed from what was called liberalism, utilitarianism or positivism in Western Europe. It did not see itself as a 'negative' tendency. It was absorbedly interested in exploration of the material world, and in the practical arts, medicine, engineering. The 'nihil' in question was a rejection of religion and conventional morality. Erich Haberer's book, Jews and Revolution, giving a detailed account of Jewish involvement in the populist movement, especially in the 1870s, points to a policy of self education circles developed by the quite brilliant Jewish revolutionary, Marc Natanson, and suggests that 'as a philosophy of emancipation Russian Nihilism can be viewed as an extension of Jewish enlightenment.' (4)  

(4)  Erich Haberer: Jews in Revolution in Nineteenth Century Russia, Cambridge University Press, 1995. Quotation p.15. Haberer is Associate Professor of History at Wilfred Laurier University in Toronto.

Am Olam - The Eternal People - broke with this essentially non-Jewish orientation and argued that the Jews were themselves a narod, a people in their own right and that the task of politically minded Jews was to fuse with their own narod. In early 1881 the Am Olam theorist Monye Bokal was planning an agricultural commune (not the first or the last by a long shot to think of agriculture as a future for Jews!) but in the context of the pogroms he engaged in a propaganda tour of the affected areas arguing for emigration. Meanwhile his colleague Ben Ami went to Paris to try to persuade the Alliance Israélite Universelle to finance it.

The idea gained traction and on the 13th October (Frankel, p.65) another representative from the Alliance said that since the beginning of September 3,000 refugees had arrived in Brody. The Jewish advocates of emigration wanted to raise money themselves but could not do so without the permission of the government which Ignatiev, probably listening to the St Petersburg Jewish magnates grouped round Gintsburg, refused. It was therefore down to the Alliance which initially was supportive.

Both the Alliance and Am Olam envisaged emigration to the United States. Between 22nd October and 20th November some 1300 refugees were sent in seven parties to New York but this of course created an incentive for more refugees to come. It also created panic among the Jews in New York and the Board of Delegates of the Union of Hebrew Congregations in New York demanded a halt. The three thousand refugees still in Brody were encouraged, both by the Alliance and the Russian government to return home (Frankel doesn't elaborate on whether or not they had homes to go to). By January 1882 only about one hundred were left.