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Russian Jews Between the Reds and the Whites, 1917-1920

Oleg Budnitskii. Translated by Timothy J. Portice

Publication Year: 2012

In the years following the Russian Revolution, a bitter civil war was waged between the Bolsheviks, with their Red Army of Workers and Peasants on the one side, and the various groups that constituted the anti-Bolshevik movement on the other. The major anti-Bolshevik force was the White Army, whose leadership consisted of former officers of the Russian imperial army. In the received—and simplified—version of this history, those Jews who were drawn into the political and military conflict were overwhelmingly affiliated with the Reds, while from the start, the Whites orchestrated campaigns of anti-Jewish violence, leading to the deaths of thousands of Jews in pogroms in the Ukraine and elsewhere.

In Russian Jews Between the Reds and the Whites, 1917-1920, Oleg Budnitskii provides the first comprehensive historical account of the role of Jews in the Russian Civil War. According to Budnitskii, Jews were both victims and executioners, and while they were among the founders of the Soviet state, they also played an important role in the establishment of the anti-Bolshevik factions. He offers a far more nuanced picture of the policies of the White leadership toward the Jews than has been previously available, exploring such issues as the role of prominent Jewish politicians in the establishment of the White movement of southern Russia, the "Jewish Question" in the White ideology and its international aspects, and the attempts of the Russian Orthodox Church and White diplomacy to forestall the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.

The relationship between the Jews and the Reds was no less complicated. Nearly all of the Jewish political parties severely disapproved of the Bolshevik coup, and the Red Army was hardly without sin when it came to pogroms against the Jews. Budnitskii offers a fresh assessment of the part played by Jews in the establishment of the Soviet state, of the turn in the policies of Jewish socialist parties after the first wave of mass pogroms and their efforts to attract Jews to the Red Army, of Bolshevik policies concerning the Jewish population, and of how these stances changed radically over the course of the Civil War.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Dedication Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Abbreviations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. 1-5

From 1918 to 1920, Rus sian Jewry1 suffered persecution and devastation on a scale that had not been seen since the Khmelnitskii Uprising in the seventeenth century. Of all the tragedies in the annals of Jewish History, only the Holocaust would surpass this period in savagery and wanton murder. ...

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Chapter 1. Jews in the Russian Empire, 1772– 1917

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pp. 6-33

The Jews “arrived” in Russia without having to leave the comfort of their homes.1 As a result of the three Partitions of Poland (1772, 1793, 1795), the Russian Empire suddenly acquired the largest Jewish population of any country in the world. In the year 1800, 22.8 percent of the world’s Jewish population resided within Russian territory, ...

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Chapter 2. The Jews and the Russian Revolution

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pp. 34-68

Soon after the assassination of Alexander II on March 1, 1881, the famous Russian historian and conservative journalist Dmitrii Ilovaiskii wrote in Sankt-Peterburgskie Vedomosti (The St. Petersburg News): “Now that the body of the martyred Tsar has been given to the earth, we, the Russians, must first and foremost fulfill ...

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Chapter 3. The Bolsheviks and the Jews

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pp. 69-122

Soon after the Bolshevik coup, a writer for the “Kadet” publication Jewish Week reported his observations on the civil servant strike then taking place. In particular, he was interested in those who were going to the Labor Ministry in search of jobs replacing the striking workers. ...

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Chapter 4. “No Shneerzons!” The White Movement and the Jews

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pp. 123-172

The White movement drew most of its support from the ranks of the military. Thus, the treatment of Jews in the Russian Army paid a particularly significant role in the formation of the Whites’ response to the “Jewish question.” In a relatively recent study, I. Petrovskii-Shtern claims that ...

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Chapter 5. Trump Card: Antisemitism in White Ideology and Propaganda

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pp. 173-215

In the summer of 1921, a minor scandal broke out in the Russian émigré community in Paris. The prominent SR activist A. A. Argunov refused to join a book preservation society that had recently been or ga nized by the historian S. G. Svatikov. Th e main reason for Argunov’s refusal was Svatikov’s former activity in the Osvag ...

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Chapter 6. In the Shadow of the Holocaust: The Pogroms of 1918– 1920

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pp. 216-274

The pogroms that occurred during the Civil War were unprecedented in terms of their cruelty and scale. At various times, historians have proposed various rational explanations for their occurrence. The most commonly cited motivations include: revenge for Jewish participation in the Bolshevik movement and the destruction of Russia, ...

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Chapter 7. Russian Liberalism and the “Jewish Question”

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pp. 275-295

The Russian Civil War proved to be a severe test for the theoretical and moral convictions of Russian liberals. For the Constitutional Democratic Party (Kadets), the only organized political force that continued to profess liberal values after the events of 1917, the “Jewish question” was particularly trying. ...

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Chapter 8. The “Jewish Question,” White Diplomacy, and the Western Democracies

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pp. 296-333

The attitude of the White leadership toward the Western democracies ranged from skeptical to outright hostile. In the opinion of some (including Kolchak and Denikin), the Western democracies were guilty of meddling in the internal aff airs of Russia. Nonetheless, the Whites were forced to take the demands of the Western democracies into account, ...

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Chapter 9. Battling Balfour: White Diplomacy, the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Problem of the Establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine

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pp. 334-355

Huddled in Odessa in February 1919, in the midst of the Russian Civil War, Platon, the Metropolitan of Kherson and Odessa and the representative of the All-Russian Patriarch in the South of Russia, had many problems to ponder.1 The Patriarch, Tikhon, was effectively under house arrest. ...

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Chapter 10. Jews and the Red Army

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pp. 356-405

In the spring of 1919, the conscription of Jews into the ranks of the Red Army became a pressing issue for the Bolshevik leadership. This was due to two factors. First, the Bolshevik military leadership was under pressure due to the advancement of anti-Bolshevik forces on all fronts. ...

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pp. 406-414

The Russian Civil War of 1917–20 irrevocably affected the lives of Jews in the former Russian Empire. What had recently been the largest Jewish community in the world now found itself split among the several states that emerged after the conclusion of the First World War. The largest number of Jews now resided in Poland, ...


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pp. 415-488

Bibliography of Archival Sources

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pp. 489-492


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pp. 493-506

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pp. 507-508

The American edition of this book was made possible thanks to the support of Ben Nathans of the University of Pennsylvania, as well as the unmatched professionalism and commitment to my project shown by Jerry Singerman at the University of Pennsylvania Press. I would like to thank Timothy Portice for his tireless efforts ...

Gallery follows page 274

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E-ISBN-13: 9780812208146
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812243642

Page Count: 544
Publication Year: 2012