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By the end of 1882, it looked superficially as if everything had settled back to what it had been before the pogroms began, but this was misleading. At a popular level, two huge and complementary developments had occurred. The Russian-Ukrainian peasantry had asserted itself as a force to be reckoned with in a spontaneous outburst of raw violence. The revolutionary groups - Land and Freedom, People's Will, Black Repartition - had identified themselves with the peasantry believing that it was their condition that made revolution inevitable. The policy of going to the people in the early seventies - though it had mainly concerned Great Russia not the area of the Pale - had been conducted in hopes of overcoming what was perceived as traditional peasant apathy from the days of serfdom. The pogroms could hardly be described as a political uprising given that there seemed to be no leadership, organisation or even theory behind it but such a spontaneous expression of popular discontent could hardly fail to throw the revolutionaries into a state of confusion. The terrorist Peoples Will, which had been behind the assassination of the Tsar (and a series of political assassinations leading up to it) put out a statement unequivocally supporting the peasant initiative:

'Wherever you look, wherever you go - the Jews are everywhere. The Jew curses you, cheats you, drinks your blood ... But as soon as the muzikhi rise up to free themselves from their enemies as they did in Elizavetgrad, Kiev, Smela, the tsar at once comes to the rescue of the Jews: the soldiers from Russia are called in and the blood of the muzhik, Christian blood, flows ... You have begun to rebel against the Jews. You have done well. Soon the revolt will be taken up across all of Russia against the tsar, the pani [Polish landlords - PB], the Jews ...' (Frankel, p.98)

This was issued late in the day, in August, by which time the violence had died down but it was the result of intense debate in the Executive Committee (meaning that even if some of them were unhappy with it they knew what they were doing when they issued it), written by G.G. Romanenko, the party's specialist in Ukrainian affairs. 2,000 copies were printed and extra copies were produced locally in Elizavetgrad. It was later repudiated but it illustrates the problem facing the populists. How could they condemn as backward, barbarian, ignorant the very peasantry they regarded as the revolutionary class, who had risen in opposition to a people who had traditionally played the role of kulak, the role of the bourgeoisie. Frankel (p.99) quotes an article by Romanenko defending his manifesto in the October issue of the party journal:

'Do you remember one of the stories of the French Revolution from Taine? One of the crowd throws himself on the corpse of a woman who has just been trampled to death by the infuriated mob. He tears open her breast, drags out her heart and with exaltation sinks his teeth into it. But should Robespierre, Danton, St. Just and Desmoulins have abandoned their role and obligations in French history because of the excesses of the people enraged by oppression? ... We have no right to react with indifference, still less with hostility, to a true popular movement ... Elemental forces will erupt, the horrors of the French Revolution and the Pugachev rebellion will repeat themselves ...'

One can see how convenient, indeed necessary, was the thesis that the peasantry had been misled by occult forces close to the government.

The difficulty experienced by the revolutionaries was a reverse image of the difficulty experienced by the government. As the revolutionaries could see the uprising as a foretaste of possible revolution, so could the government. As the revolutionaries wanted to be on the side of the peasantry to exploit their revolutionary potential so did the government in order to dampen it down. As it was convenient for the revolutionaries to blame occult forces close to the government for misleading the peasants so it was convenient for the government to blame the revolutionaries. On both sides to actually condemn the muzhiks was seen as politically and ideologically very dangerous.

Which put the Jews, both at the popular and at the intellectual and political level, in a difficult situation. At the popular level, while relations had long been tense, they may not have realised quite the extent to which they were hated by their neighbours. From now on they could never know when that hatred might again break out in a wave of destructive violence or what sort of protection they could expect from the government if it did. And there appeared to be very little they could do to change the economic status that had brought this hatred upon them. On the intellectual and political level the effect was to reinforce a tendency that was already developing away from the general political interest of the whole population towards concern with the specific problems faced by Jews.

Frankel argues that it was only after a number of years had passed that the long term consequences of the pogroms could be assessed. As the main institutional consequence he sees the emergence of 'two political movements ... on the one hand, the proto-Zionist movement - the Hoveve Zion [Friends of Zion - PB] in Russia, the colonies in Palestine - and on the other, the Jewish Labour Movement in the United States ... They had become the first political movements, as distinct from pressure groups, philanthropic organisations, ideological sects and newspaper campaigns, in modern Jewish history ... Thus the division within the Jewish world (which would become increasingly important until 1933) between a socialist camp virulently hostile to the Zionist idea and a nationalist camp committed to it can be traced back to the late 1880s.'

To be continued