Civil Unrest Led to Government Instigated Pogroms

A ceremony at the Jewish cemetery in honor of an anniversary of the Russian Revolution of 1905, Dvinsk (now Daugavpils, Lat.), ca. 1910. The Yiddish and Russian banners honor “fallen comrades” and one Yiddish banner (second from left) reads, in part: “Long live the national and social liberation of all peoples! (YIVO) 

The Russian Revolution of 1905 was no secret to the people in the United States.  The New York Times published a map in its issue on December 17, 1905.  This particular issue has a map of Russia that depicts where military mutinies, peasant outbreaks, and massacres of Jews took place. In the early nineteen-hundreds Russia was a multi-ethnic empire and had the largest Jewish population in the world. A lot of the Jewish population lived in a deplorable state. When Russia lost the war to Japan in 1905, the Jews saw that as Russian weakness and an opportunity for them to demonstrate against the Czar for a better quality of life.

Pogroms, mob violence against Jews, were frequent in Czarist Russia. Most of the pogroms were not spontaneous, they often were organized by the government. They, like many others in history, blamed the Jews for all the economic problems that were happening in Russia at the time. Russian officials also claimed that the Jews were the fountainhead for the revolution. During that period, Russia viewed European civilization, especially Christianity, as a more progressive and true culture and religion. Jewry did not fit into this new valued way of life. So the Jews were attacked not only for their ‘cultural depravity’ but also for all the false accusations of them causing the economic and social hardships Russia was facing.

Mourners with the body of a Jew killed in a pogrom, Odessa, 1905. (YIVO) 

The civil unrest in the 1905 Russian Revolution saw 660 pogroms with over 50,000 Jewish casualties and injuries.  The two pogroms that caused the most deaths and wounded occurred in Odessa and Yekaterinoslav. In Odessa alone there was a reported 400 Jews that were killed along with 100 non-Jews that were killed. Along with all those casualties an additional 300 people, mostly Jews, were injured. Death was becoming a hardship that the Jews in Russia faced far too often during the early 1900s. With the Pogrom in Odessa seeing so many deaths and injuries it is no surprise that the amount of Jews harmed by these violent outbursts was so high. Russification was becoming a murderous aspiration.

Alexander III took the meaning of Russification in a whole new direction. Instead of the term taking on a more inclusive aspect of different cultures, Alexander III took Russification in a more severe and deadly direction; “He believed that all cultures and nationalities within the empire should be wiped out and that all the people within the empire should become ‘Great Russians’.”  Nicholas II followed Alexander III’s direction. He too believed that small cultures didn’t have a place in Russia. It was Russia first and foremost and anti-Semitic beliefs took root before, during, and after his reign. The Russian people were revolting against a corrupt government, trying to reform the social and political system, and thousands of Jews got blamed and ultimately killed when the Russian government shifted the blame onto them.


9 thoughts on “Civil Unrest Led to Government Instigated Pogroms

  • January 30, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    I like that you focused on the issues pertaining to the Jews during this time in Russia, considering that the Jews were one of three minority groups that were most active in the revolution of 1905. I also like that you explain the hardships that the Jews faced before further explaining Russification and the affects of the Russian revolution of 1905.

  • January 30, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    You did a really great job examining the 1905 pogroms. It’s truly horrible that these were a recurring trend not just in Imperial Russia but throughout the rest of Europe in the 19th/20th centuries. I encourage you to check out Seth Mykut’s blog – his post concerns these pogroms as well.

  • January 30, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    I really like this post’s topic. 1905 wasn’t that far off from the first World War and was a tumultuous time in Russia. It is interesting to see the persecution of Jewish people in Russia before the first world war, and how this was probably a deciding factor in their relocation. It seemed like the early 1900s was quite a trying time for the Jewish people, and I never knew that there was persecution and pogroms in Russia! Great post.

  • January 31, 2017 at 3:09 am

    Good research. The pogroms were a very serious attempted to persecute the Jews in the Russian Empire. It is also important to note that this was a wave of antisemitism that swept across Europe.

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