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At the end of the last article in my Russian-Jewish series I said I would write about Ber Borochov and Vladimir Jabotinsky. Borochov (born in Poltava, in modern Ukraine) was the founder and leading theorist of the Jewish Social Democratic and Labour Party-Poale Zion (ESDRP-PZ) which eventually gave birth to Mapai and its successor, the Israeli Labour Party, which ruled Israel from 1948 to 1977; while Zabotinsky (born in Odessa, in modern Ukraine) was the founder and leading theorist of 'Revisionist Zionism', which inspired the 'right wing' movements that have dominated Israeli politics from 1977 to the present day. This article would have taken the story where Solzhenitsyn did not go, into the land of Palestine. However recent events - the Russian intervention in Ukraine - tell me I haven't paid enough attention to the place where the 'Russian-Jewish' confrontations I've been describing occurred.

The 'Pale of Settlement' - the area in which Jews were allowed to live in the Russian Empire and where they were living in large numbers, the area in which the most dramatic pogroms occurred - corresponds more or less to modern Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova. If these are to be regarded as having a national and moral existence distinct from that of 'Russia' then instead of Russian pogroms we should be talking about Ukrainian, Belarusian or Moldovan pogroms. The Baltic states were also included in the Pale of Settlement and they had their own pogroms but I am following Solzhenitsyn in concentrating on the lands that were regarded as 'Russian.'

It has of course been firmly believed for a long time that the pogroms throughout the area were deliberately fomented by agents working for the Russian government but, as previous articles in this series have shown, modern scholarship broadly agrees with Solzhenitsyn that this is not true, that, to quote Solzhenitsyn on the subject, discussing the Kishinev pogrom:

'Why has the simple truth about the Kishinev pogrom seemed to be insufficient? Probably because the truth would have revealed the real nature of the government - an organism that had become sclerotic, guilty of anti-Jewish provocations [brimades in the French translation] but which remained unsure of itself, incoherent. So, with the help of outright lies, it has been represented as a deliberate persecutor, sure of itself, wicked. Such an enemy could only deserve a complete annihilation.' (1)

(1) Alexandre Soljénitsyne: Deux siècles ensemble, t.1, Juifs et Russes avant la révolution, Eds Fayard, 2002. p.372. My translation from the French translation of the Russian original. The theme runs through the series but see in particular the discussion of Hans Rogger and John Klier in the article on the Derzhavin Memorandum - Church and State, No.133, July-September, 2018, now available on my website at

Kishinev of course, as modern Chisinau, is the capital of Moldova and the man most responsible for working up the feeling that led to the pogrom - Pavel Krushevan - was very much a Moldovan patriot, though not, so far as I know, an advocate of separation from Russia. It was also most probably Krushevan who was behind the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (probably initially as a sort of literary joke), not, as has been very widely asserted, the chief of the Russian secret police in Paris, Pyotr Rachkovsky. (2)

(2) See my essay on Kishinev in Church and State, No.142, October-December, 2020, The Pyotr Rachkovsky thesis is argued in Norman Cohn: Warrant for Genocide, Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1967 (republished as a Penguin paperback in 1970).

But the heartland of the late nineteenth/early twentieth century pogroms was the area now known as 'Ukraine' and in the context of the first and second world wars, the slaughter reached a level far beyond even the 1905 pogroms (centred on Odessa) I discussed in the last article in this series. So what is it that distinguishes the Ukrainians (formerly known as 'Little Russians') from the Russians (formerly known as 'Great Russians') apart from the existence in their midst of a large Jewish population?