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Blood Libel in Late Imperial Russia

The Ritual Murder Trial of Mendel Beilis

Robert Weinberg

Publication Year: 2013

On Sunday, March 20, 1911, children playing in a cave near Kiev made a gruesome discovery: the blood-soaked body of a partially clad boy. After right-wing groups asserted that the killing was a ritual murder, the police, with no direct evidence, arrested Menachem Mendel Beilis, a 39-year-old Jewish manager at a factory near the site of the crime. Beilis's trial in 1913 quickly became an international cause célèbre. The jury ultimately acquitted Beilis but held that the crime had the hallmarks of a ritual murder. Robert Weinberg's account of the Beilis Affair explores the reasons why the tsarist government framed Beilis, shedding light on the excesses of antisemitism in late Imperial Russia. Primary documents culled from the trial transcript, newspaper articles, Beilis's memoirs, and archival sources, many appearing in English for the first time, bring readers face to face with this notorious trial.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4

Copyright Page

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p. 5-5

Dedication Page

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pp. 6-7

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

I owe heartfelt thanks to the following friends and colleagues for their comments on various incarnations of this book: Lisa Kirschenbaum, Adele Lindenmeyr, and Louise McReynolds. Gene Avrutin, Hillel Kieval, and Jarrod Tanny also read the manuscript, and I thank them for their suggestions on how to improve its content and analysis. ...

Dramatis Personae

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pp. xi-xii

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Introduction: A Murder without a Mystery

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pp. 1-17

On the morning of Sunday, March 20, 1911,1 a group of children playing in the caves that dotted Kiev’s Lukianovka district, a hilly suburb that overlooked the city, made a gruesome finding: the blood-soaked body of a partially clad boy. Propped up against a cave’s wall in a sitting position, the corpse was riddled with about four dozen stab wounds ...

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1: The Initial Investigation

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pp. 18-32

The nature of relations among Jews and non-Jews and Kievan politics after 1905 will shed light on why antisemites wanted the authorities to treat the murder of Andrei Iushchinskii as a case of ritual murder. By the turn of the twentieth century, Kiev, the historic cradle of Christianity in the Russian Empire, ...

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2: The Case against Beilis

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pp. 33-43

From the early phases of the investigation, Chaplinskii ignored the findings of Mishchuk and Krasovskii that implicated Vera Cheberiak and the troika. Instead, he focused his efforts on developing a case against a Jew (or Jews) as a result of the pressure exerted by Vladimir Golubev. ...

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3: The Trial

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pp. 44-62

For thirty-four days in autumn 1913 the public’s attention was riveted on the trial, which began on September 25th and ended on October 28th. Court sessions could run long, generally starting in mid-morning and sometimes lasting well into the evening, even midnight on one occasion. ...

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4: Summation and Verdict

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pp. 63-67

All members of the prosecution gave closing statements in support of the government’s claim that Andrei was the victim of a ritual murder in which Beilis participated. As one of the civil plaintiffs seeking damages for Andrei’s family, Aleksei Shmakov took an active role in court proceedings. ...

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pp. 68-74

Acquittal meant that Beilis’s ordeal had ended. After his release from prison, Beilis wanted nothing more than to return to his family and rebuild his life. But he required hospitalization soon after he arrived home and he had to figure out how to support his family since someone else now occupied his job at the brick factory. ...


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pp. 75-168


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pp. 169-174


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pp. 175-180


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pp. 181-188

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About the Author

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p. 204-204

Robert Weinberg is Professor of History at Swarthmore College and author of The Revolution of 1905 in Odessa: Blood on the Steps (IUP, 1993) and Stalin’s Forgotten Zion: Birobidzhan and the Making of a Soviet Jewish Homeland.

E-ISBN-13: 9780253011145
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253010995

Page Count: 204
Illustrations: 19 b&w illus., 2 maps
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Indiana-Michigan Series in Russian and East European Studies