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The Russian Revolution and the Civil War pogroms

The Russian Revolution and the Civil War pogroms
We will return to Germany and to the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and Nazism later. Let’s now go back to the latter days of the First World War and to the collapse of the Russian Empire. As we have already mentioned, a major event that occurred during this time was the Russian Revolution, which took place in two stages in late 1917. The revolution would prove to be a defining watershed of the 20th century, ending hundreds of years of Tsarist power and inaugurating nearly three-quarters of a century of Communist rule. Throughout the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, feelings of dissatisfaction, festered among the Russian Empire’s population.
Rampant governmental corruption, immense poverty, and persisting industrial, social and economic backwardness, all led to a general sense of disillusionment. As a response, numerous discontented groups and parties were formed. One such group were the Bolsheviks, a Marxist revolutionary faction that split from the “Russian Social- Democratic Workers’ Party” in 1903. The Bolsheviks placed an emphasis on the working class and called for the violent overthrow of capitalism, as well as the formation of a Marxist dictatorship that would accelerate the transition to socialism. The party became increasingly popular among urban workers and, following the First World War, also among soldiers.
Following a revolution in February 1917 (Julian calendar), which overthrew the Tsar and established a provisional government, the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, seized control of the government in October of that year (Julian calendar), refusing to share power with other revolutionary groups. The new leaders quickly withdrew from the war and, following what they saw as Marxist Communism, worked to nationalize private industry and agriculture, in the name of the people. Following this coup, the former Russian Empire was plunged into the chaos of a brutal civil war as several forces, sought to consolidate control over its various territories, vying to determine Russia’s political future.
Both the Russian Revolution and the Russian Civil War had far reaching effects on the landscape of the region, causing radical social and political change and bringing about extreme violence. These did not spare the Jews of the former empire who found themselves becoming equal citizens in the newly formed societal and political structure, but also targets of vicious pogroms. These pogroms take place in the extraordinary chaos, that erupts after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. when you have the red army, led by Leon Trotsky that is fighting against the white forces, who want to reinstate the Tsar, want to return to autocracy.
And they’re fighting on behalf of the abdicated Tsar, and you have the Ukrainian forces led by Symon Petliura who do not want to be under the Soviets do not want to be under the whites, but they want an independent Ukraine. And then you have a number of peasant insurgent groups, who want the land, who want land and who are suffering because of the economic crisis that was triggered by World War I. so in this extraordinary chaos, you have an eruption of anti-Jewish violence, that has not been seen before.
200,000 Jews are killed, 300,000 Jewish children are left as orphans, according to some new studies, one-third of Jewish women are raped in public, whereby rape is being used as an instrument of ethnic cleansing I would even refer to these pogroms, almost as a forgotten genocide. Because some Shtetlekh are completely wiped off the face of the earth. Now why are these pogroms so important, as far as the interaction between Jews and the state, and Jews and non-Jews. Now most Jews before the pogroms, were critical of the Bolsheviks, were against the Bolsheviks. However, in the context of the extraordinary violence that we have in the Civil War, the extraordinary anti-Jewish violence, most Jews will choose the lesser of two evils.
they will have to choose the Bolsheviks. Because the Bolsheviks, the Red Army is the only army that does not carry out systematic anti-Jewish violence in the areas of Ukraine and Belarus, whereas the other armies, the other insurgent groups, do carry out this kind of violence that is very systematic, also thanks to the fact that it is carried out in a militarized fashion
unlike pogroms before the 1880s: 1903, 1905, the programs of the Civil War are carried out in a militarized fashion especially by the white movement.
Prof. Elissa Bemporad
Both the Russian Revolution and the Russian Civil War had far reaching effects, causing radical social and political change and bringing about extreme violence. These did not spare the Jews of the former Russian Empire who found themselves becoming equal citizens in the newly formed societal and political structure, but also targets of vicious pogroms.
What effect did the Civil War pogroms have on the self-association of Jews in the newly formed Communist state? How did this affect the way they were perceived?
  • Abramson, Henry, A Prayer for the Government: Ukrainians and Jews in Revolutionary Times, 1917–1920 (Cambridge, M.A.: Harvard University Press: 1999).
  • Bemporad, Elissa, Becoming Soviet Jews: The Bolshevik Experiment in Minsk (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013).
  • Budnitskii, Oleg, Russian Jews Between the Reds and the Whites, 1917-1920 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012).
  • Fitzpatrick, Sheila, The Russian Revolution (Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2001).
  • Moss, Kenneth B., Jewish Renaissance in the Russian Revolution (Cambridge, M.A.: Harvard University Press, 2009).
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