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           Pavel Krushevan                           Jacob Bernstein-Kogan


But before leaving Kishinev and moving on to these wider consequences, I'd like to say a word about Bessarabets and particularly about how it, or its founder, Pavel Krushevan, is understood by Zipperstein.

Zipperstein admits to being fascinated by Krushevan: 'Capable of producing the vilest, most contemptible trash, Krushevan also wrote work of distinction, even beauty. He was rightly depicted during his lifetime as a sensitive, yielding man, and a hysteric; a rank pogrom monger and yet also Bessarabia's most distinguished intellectual.' In particular 'His lavishly illustrated guide to Bessarabia had elicited a commendation from the Tsar. That volume was deemed so impressive that the new governor general, Urussov, regarded it as his main source of information about the province before his arrival.' (p.165) His writings, including at least one novel and an ambitious general account, What is Russia?, are currently being reprinted in Russia where 'He is now touted as an early, singularly incisive exponent of "Christian Socialism", which is seen as a healthy antidote to liberalism's anonymity, its soullessness and its susceptibility to the machinations of Jews' (p.148).

Prior to the pogrom breaking out, and at the beginning of the Jewish Passover the body of a peasant boy was discovered with multiple stab wounds in the nearby town of Dubassary. There was an immediate suspicion that it was a Jewish ritual killing to obtain Christian blood for baking unleavened bread. In Dubnow's account: 'The Bessarabets immediately launched a campaign against the Jews, accusing them of ritual murder. "Death to the Jews! Let all Zhyds be massacred!" - such appeals were almost daily repeated in the paper which was read in all the saloons and public houses of Bessarabia.' Dubnow doesn't mention that the local police quickly gave the lie to the charge of ritual murder (it was a cousin of the boy, deep in debt, hoping to secure his inheritance) but it is certainly true that despite these findings Bessarabets  continued to make it. I find it difficult to believe, however, that it actually had headlines saying 'Let all Zhyds be massacred.' Zipperstein seems to have gone to the trouble of reading it and gives some examples (p.165): 

"Zhidy think about how best to rob the honour, the conscience, the truth of peasants” (March 17, 1903). “What is the source of the success of the Jews? It is their unification under one single corruption and their capacity to act collectively, all for one and one for all. And we can mirror them united into one guild, one brotherhood” (March 4, 1903). “Everywhere Jews live they figure among the bulk of deviants, counterfeiters, handlers of illegal documents, goods, food, wine, medical supplies, delicacies” (March 23, 1903).'

But he doesn't repeat the headlines calling for massacre which I would have thought would have been worth mentioning. At the time of the pogrom Krushevan was in Saint Petersburg, working on a new venture, Znamia (The Banner). After mentioning the Tsar's approval of his guide to Bessarabia, Zipperstein continues:

'Krushevan had also recently received a handsome subsidy of five thousand rubles for the publication of Znamia. These expressions of sympathy reinforced the impression that Krushevan lived something of a charmed life and was supported generously by officialdom. Yet barely three weeks after Krushevan received the tsar’s laudatory letter, his debts were deemed so crushingly heavy that he was served with a bailiff’s letter inventorying his belongings for auction. The list was strikingly meager: bits and pieces of furniture, including one chair, one table, a few bookcases, and two printing presses, all stuffed into a modest flat on Gogol Street. He had sold Bessarabets, taking payment for the newspaper but managing nonetheless not to deliver it to its new owner; subscription payments were still in his hands. As a result legal proceedings were now initiated against him ... His new St. Petersburg publication was a four-page, large-size weekly available only by subscription because censors feared its explosive content, especially its antisemitism.'

It is at this point that the story gets very interesting. It was in Znamia, in 1903, that the first version of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was published.

According to what has become the standard account, the Protocols were put together by the then Paris based Okhrana chief, Pyotr Rachkovsky in the mid to late 1890s. This is a theme that is developed, with a great deal of detail on the inner workings of the Russian court and government, by Norman Cohn in his book Warrant for genocide. (7) According to the Italian linguist Cesare G. De Michelis, however,: 'the PSM [initials of the Russian language version - PB] were realised between April 1902 and August 1903. One can even say that at that second date they weren't yet "completed"' (8)

(7) Harmondsworth, Pelican Books, 1970. First published in 1967.

(8) Cesare G. De Michelis: 'Les "Protocoles des sages de Sion"', Cahiers du Monde Russe, July-Sept 1997, Vol.38, No 3, pp.263-303.  My translation from the French. Zipperstein gives as reference a book, Idem: The Non-existent manuscript, a study of the Protocols of the Sages of Zion, (Lincoln, NE, 2001).

As we know the Protocols follow very closely a French original text, the Dialogue aux enfers by Maurice Joly, originally published in 1864 as a satire on the rule of Napoleon III. It had nothing to do with Jews. It takes the form of a dialogue between the eighteenth century liberal political philosopher Montesquieu (Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu) and the Renaissance political philosopher of realpolitik Niccolò Machiavelli. The arguments of the Elder of Zion are taken from 'Machiavelli''s argument for a benign but utterly ruthless despotism (not, it seems, unlike the arguments advanced by Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov). The case De Michelis puts for 1902-3 as the probable date of composition is based on a detailed examination of the differences between the French text and the Russian, including arguments on the ways in which French words have been interpreted. Zipperstein takes it as a definitive repudiation of the thesis that it originated with Rachkowski in Paris in the 1890s.

The text had little impact until 1917. In 1920 the Times in London regarded it as the authentic record of a Jewish project until in 1921, also in the Times, a journalist called Philip Graves drew attention to the resemblances with the Dialogue aux enfers. At the time Graves presented Joly's text as extremely obscure, but De Michelis points out that actually in the late nineteenth century it was quite well known: 'Republished several times in French, it was immediately translated into German and some years later was also translated into Spanish. What is more the "personalities" of this late "dialogue of the dead" were well known in Russia, also as personalities in the literary genre; and in the second half of the nineteenth century, Machiavelli's Russian reputation had undergone a sudden revival, linked to the revolutionary movement' (p.282).

In other words the earliest compiler of the Protocols could reasonably expect that its source could be recognised. On that basis De Michelis suggests that it was originally intended not as a forgery - supposedly an account of an event that really occurred - but as a satire. And he goes on to suggest that the context of the project was the Fifth Congress of the Zionist movement held in Basle in December 1901, 'whose importance was enormous, since that was when the concrete plan for buying territories in Palestine was announced, the first step towards the constitution of a Jewish state entity [entité étatique]. The Russian judeophobe world was struck by the event.'

Three and a half months later the first mention of the Protocols appeared in the widely read paper Novoe Vremia in an article by Mikhail Osipovitch Menshikov, who says he had been shown such a text in 1902 but 'doubted its authenticity and refused to have anything to do with it.' (Zipperstein, p.168). When Krushevan published it he too raised doubts about its authenticity. According to Michelis, Krushevan's Russian text has a number of peculiarities that indicate a Ukrainian origin, ie not having been written by a Russian Okhrana agent in Paris. There are also indications that the text, particularly when compared with later versions, notably one by Krushevan's close associate Georgiy Butmi, was put out in something of a hurry in an incomplete state. Michelis speculates that the PSM are 'in the first place a parody of T.Herzl's Judenstaat' and that 'they were originally conceived as a mock [prétendu] document preparatory to the Fifth Congress ... Then the events of 1903 could have pushed Krushevan into using this "product" still in a raw state; then came that terrible year for Russia, 1905, and someone ... "perfected" it and then one way or another Nilus [Sergei Nilus who published the final version, the one that took off in 1917 - PB] was implicated.'

The 'events in 1903' that would have inspired Krushevan to rush the document out were the consequences of the Kishinev pogrom - the fact that all of a sudden Kishinev was famous throughout the world, resulting in devastating consequences for the Russian government, including the withdrawal of a longstanding and important US-Russia trade agreement. And at the centre of this worldwide reaction to the pogrom was the local representative of the Zionist Congress, manager of the movement's correspondence bureau, Jacob Bernstein-Kogan, whom Krushevan knew well - they had been in school together.

The pogrom was followed by the visit to Russia of Theodor Herzl himself, a very controversial event among the Zionists since one of the purposes of his visit was to meet the arch villain Plehve - a meeting in which Plehve (soon, in 1904, to be assassinated, not by a Jew but on a Jewish initiative) agreed to use Russian influence with the Ottoman sultanate to allow Jewish settlement in Palestine.

For the antisemites, Herzl's visit was deeply disturbing: 'This would only be accentuated after news spread of the wildly enthusiastic reception he received when, on visiting Vilna, the “Jerusalem of Lithuania,” thousands greeted his train in the middle of the night. Circles close to Krushevan as well as the Russian government registered all this with mounting concern. The government made this clear in a book-length report on the Zionists that was produced soon after the Minsk conference by the police director Aleksei Lopukhin, a particularly well-informed bureaucrat ... Mentioned frequently in the Lopukhin report is the prominence of Kishinev’s Bernstein-Kogan, with nearly as many references to him as to Herzl. Bernstein-Kogan was described as occupying a role unmatched in the Zionist hierarchy, the virtual "president" of the movement in Russia' (Zipperstein, pp. 177-8).

Zipperstein goes on to say that 'though he was far from the darkly influential figure imagined by St. Petersburg officials or Kishinev’s far Right, Bernstein-Kogan’s role in catapulting the city’s pogrom into a world-famous event was pivotal. His ability to spread word of the pogrom - and with breathtaking speed - to newspapers, organisations, and influential figures throughout Europe, the United States, and elsewhere would consolidate the belief that he was at the epicentre of Jewry's worldwide machinations. Here was that rare moment when fantasy, or at least the previously unprovable, seemed to mesh seamlessly with reality.'

Zipperstein is probably exaggerating when he says (p.182): 'So it was that an overweight, underpaid, midlevel political activist - someone known to Krushevan since boyhood, when both were clothed in the same gymnasium uniform - became the unlikely inspiration for the most terrifying Jew on the planet.' But he may well be right that this was the context in which Krushevan decided to present what had originally been conceived as a satire on Herzl and the Fifth Zionist Congress as a possibly (but guarding his back by expressing doubts as to its authenticity) genuine record of a real event.