Russia, 1905, hundreds of Jews are killed in Anti-Jewish riots (pogroms)

The Jerusalem Post's feature "This day in history" reports on October 18, 1905, when hundreds of Jews were murdered by Russians in anti-Jewish riots:

1905: A week-long pogrom marking one of the bloodiest periods in Russian Jewish history begins, spreading to dozens of towns and villages throughout Russia. Hundreds of Jews are killed, thousands are wounded and over forty thousand homes and shops are destroyed in the rioting.

I copy below an article that gives an overview of the pogroms. For all of you racists that send me hate messages because of my support for Israel, hear this: we will never give up the State of Israel - we will always fight for its survival.

Pogroms: Late 19th, Beginning of 20th Century
by Julia Mazelev

"After Tsar and vodka, pogrom may well be the Russian word most widely understood and used by non-Russians," said historian Hans Rogger (314). The word "pogrom" became linked to anti-Semitic violence after the outbreak of three great waves of anti-Jewish rioting in the Russian Empire in 1881-82, 1903-06, and 1919-21 (Klier 13). The violence usually consisted of looting, assault, arson, rape, and murder (Ritter). According to John D. Klier, "Among the most striking features of the pogroms were their spontaneous and confused character, devoid of long-term objectives or goals...another important feature of the pogroms was their urban nature" (14). The pogroms often began in cities and then spread to shtetles, small towns with about 1000 people, centered around a synagogue and marketplace, within the Pale of Jewish Settlement (Kniesmeyer and Brecher).

Tsar Nicholas I created the Pale of Jewish Settlement in April 1835 ("The Pale of...") --- a limited geographical area where Jews were mandated to live. The Pale included Lithuania, Poland, the south-western provinces, and White Russia with a few variations until its end in 1917 (Ritter). "The Pale was the single most destructive legal burden borne by Russian Jewry, and one of the most enduring," said Klier (5). Within the Pale, Jews were banned from most rural areas and some cities (Ritter); they were prohibited from building synagogues near churches and using Hebrew in official documents; barred from agriculture, they earned a living as petty traders, middlemen, shopkeepers, peddlers, and artisans, often working with women and children (Kniesmeyer and Brecher). After 1861, "the Pale became choked by a huge, pauperized mass of unskilled or semiskilled Jewish laborers, whose economic condition steadily worsened," said Klier (6). "Often repeated," said historian Shlomo Lambroza, "the official view was that Jews were a parasitic element in the Russian Empire who lived off the hard earned wages of the narod [people]" (219).

By the time the term "anti-Semitism" was first used in the late 1870s, Jews in Europe were seen by many as alien to the nation or the people (Kniesmeyer and Brecher). The peasants in Russia viewed Jews as aliens; their religion, language, food, clothing, and manners were all different, strange, and mysterious—even the government discriminated against them (Aronson 49-50). Russian bureaucrats believed that the teachings of Judaism itself, especially as conveyed by the Tulmud, lead Jews into unproductive, parasitical, and exploitative commercial activities (Klier 7). During the decade before the pogroms of 1881, a growing atmosphere of crisis surrounded the Jewish Question in Russia. Prompted by an increasingly militant Judeophobe press, Russian statesmen held their old prejudiced view of the Jews as a serious economic and social problem (Klier 11).

The assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881 threw the Russian government into chaos and directly preceded the first major outbreak of pogroms. Rumors that Tsar Alexander III had issued a decree instructing the people to beat and plunder the Jews for having murdered his father and for exploiting the people encouraged the pogromists (Aronson 45). Beginning with Elizabetgrad, a wave of pogroms spread throughout the southwestern regions, totaling 200 in 1881 alone (Kniesmeyer and Brecher). Approximately 40 Jews were killed, many times that number wounded, and hundreds of women raped ("The Pale of..."). "Once aroused to violent action, the [peasants] may have felt justified that by destroying and plundering the Jews’ possessions they were merely appropriating property which did not rightly belong to the Jews," said historian Michael Aronson (50). The authorities condoned pogroms through their inaction and indifference, sometimes even showing sympathy for the pogromists (Kniesmeyer and Brecher).

The Minister of the Interior, N. P. Ignatiev, began to attribute the pogroms not to revolutionary ferment, but to the conduct of the Jews themselves (Klier and Lambroza 41). In 1882, the Ministry of the Interior passed "temporary" May Laws in an attempt to chastise and reform the Jews, which lasted until 1917. These laws prohibited new Jewish settlement outside towns and shtetles, prohibited Jews from buying property in the countryside, and banned Jews from trading on Sunday mornings or Christian holidays (Klier and Lambroza 41). Instead of preventing further pogroms, these laws ushered in a new period of anti-Jewish discrimination and severe persecution (Kniesmeyer and Brecher). Regular pogrom outbreaks lasted until June 7, 1884, when the last pogrom of the series occurred in Nizhnii Novgorod; this pogrom was an exceptionally vicious one with its victims killed with axes and thrown from rooftops (Klier and Lambroza 41-42).

The next wave of pogroms began in the spring of 1903, in the midst of chaos and anarchy in the countryside, demonstrations and rioting in the cities, and violent anti-Semitic campaigns (Lambroza 195). Accusations of Jewish treachery in the Russo-Japanese war effort, accusations that Jews were at the forefront of the revolutionary movement and that Jews were murdering Christians all sparked the first pogrom in Kishinev (Lambroza 218). Forty-five people were murdered and 1,300 homes and shops plundered (Kniesmeyer and Brecher). The documentation shows that no orders were given to the police to end the riot (Lambroza 201). After the perpetrators of the Kishinev pogroms received only very light sentences, it became clear that pogroms had become an instrument of government policy, and Jews began to form self-defense units (Kniesmeyer and Brecher).

The Bund, a Jewish left-wing organization, organized defense networks among Jewish workers and community members (Lambroza 221). Five months later, when a pogrom broke out in Gomel, the Jewish community actively resisted. Lambroza said, "Gomel might have been significantly worse were it not for aggressive Jewish defense measures" (209). During 1903 and 1904, 45 pogroms occurred, 95 Jews and 13 non-Jews were killed, and 4,200 people were severely injured. The total destruction of goods and property due to looting, burning, and vandalism was estimated to be more than 5.21 million rubles (Lambroza 218). However, the worst anti-Jewish violence broke out in 1905, after Tsar Nicholas II was forced to sign the October Manifesto, creating a constitutional monarchy. More than 80 percent of the pogroms of 1905-1906 occurred in the 60 days following the release of the Manifesto (Lambroza 229).
During the Civil War of 1918-1921, 2,000 pogroms left an estimated 100,000 Jews dead and more than half a million homeless. Jewish self-defense units were occasionally able to stop the pogromists, partly with material support from the Soviet government (Kniesmeyer and Brecher). Although pogroms in Russia slowly died out after the Civil War, anti-Semitism persisted to the present time. Historians are still disputing what role the Russian government played in these violent attacks on Jews, and how the Russian government’s discrimination against Jews influenced their national identity and Jewish culture.

Works Cited

Aronson, Michael. "The Anti-Jewish Pogroms in Russia in 1881." Klier and Lambroza 44-61.
Klier, John D. and Shlomo Lambroza, eds. Pogroms: Anti-Jewish Violence in Modern Russian History. Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1992.
Kniesmeyer J. and D. Brecher. "Beyond the Pale: The History of Jews in Russia." Exhibit. (1995): n. pag. Online. Internet. 29 Jan. 1999. Available http://www.friends-
Ritter, Leonora. "Nineteenth Century Russia." Charles Sturt University-Mitchell. (1998): n. pag. Online. Internet. 29 Jan. 1999. Available
Rogger, Hans. "Conclusion and Overview." Klier and Lambroza 314-372.
"The Pale of Settlement and the Pogroms of 1881 in Russia." The Zionist Exposition: Homeward Bound. (1997): n. pag. Online. Internet. 29 Jan. 1999. Available

Posted by David Melle
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while i dont agree with the whole israel thing im glad i looked in your site as it helped me greatly understand that in a way what the russians did to the jewish is what the usa is doing to your country.
your truelly zoe

Posted by: zoe at August 4, 2003 05:40 AM

thank you for this information my family came from Odessa during the war,I beleive it was 1905 iam trying to trace my history to see if i have any family left in Russia.Any help would be appreciated Thank you
Laurie Brodsky

Posted by: laurie Brodsky at January 24, 2004 08:07 PM

thanks, also, your site is very informative. My great-grandfather came here in 1906 from Rodom or Rodam, and his brother-in-law was born in Junove, Russia and later moved to Lublin, Russia. My great-grandmother came from Lublin, Russia. All of them came the same year 1906 according to their immigration records. I am also trying to trace my history, any info would be greatly appreciated. I am worried that I won't find anything else because the synaguogues and cemetaries were destroyed in Russia or the government did not keep good records with Jews. Or the Russian govt will now release records or something like that.
Laura Perlman

Posted by: Laura at March 2, 2004 08:04 PM

Thanks for the briefing. Finally I can see on a map where my Dad and his family came from -- Elizabetgrad -- and learn a bit more of why they left.

Posted by: Mordecai JAckson at April 28, 2004 08:19 PM

I am writing captions for an encyclopedia of European history and am looking for an estimate of how many Jews were killed in the pogroms of 1905. The information on your website cited "hundreds." Is there a more accurate estimate for this tragic series of events?

Posted by: Carol Merriman at December 16, 2004 02:18 PM

Does anyone have a list of the Jews who were murdered during the Pogroms in Odessa during 1905?

My grandmother's adopted parents were both killed, within a week of each other.

Unfortunely, we have only a few stories, and I would like to 'flesh them out'.

Thank You

Posted by: Howard Garfinkel at February 28, 2005 03:21 PM

i think that your page is very good!!

Posted by: Fernando.M at October 17, 2005 11:26 AM

Thanks for the scholarly research. Like many who have written I'm tracing family history. Do you know where to find the names of the shtetels in what is now Lithuania and was then Russia?

Posted by: Miriam Wolf at December 11, 2005 11:04 AM

My grandfather, Harry Shilkrot, came to Minnesota and Wisconsin in 1912. He said his hometown village was Bugapol, near the Black Sea. He said it was destroyed by a progrom. I can't seem to find it on any map. Anyone ever heard of this village?

Posted by: Rod Shilkrot at December 22, 2005 08:46 AM

My mother was born in Niji, Novgrod in 1905. I am looking for information on the Jewish homes at that time, living conditions as well as how the people othe village got advanced information that the pogrom would be taking place in their village.

Posted by: sallie at January 20, 2006 08:28 AM

muy buena y completa la pagina sigan asi que esta muy bien

Posted by: carlos dalto at February 22, 2006 12:37 AM

my gran fhather go away from odessa in 1905 his name was Marcos Aronson if someune know about the Aronson family in those years please write to me

Posted by: Eduardo Aronson at March 21, 2006 10:37 AM

I grew up hearing stories from my grand-parents about Ataki/Molov Podgornia near the Dniestr river, Breitchon, Kovne Gebernia, and haven't been able to identify their location, other than that they are near Odessa. My family names are:Landa/Landau, Geneson/Genes, Bergener/Berger, and Steingaus,
If anyone is familiar, could you fill me in?

Posted by: Allan Berger at September 7, 2006 05:41 AM

I'm a history major. I love learning about other religions. I feel really bad for the Jews. I don't see why religions have to treat other religions with such disrespect. I'm learning about the Christians on the crusades and in Eastern Asia, and the way that they treated the Hindus and Muslims. I love Russia, and I love its history, but this is as bad as the way we treated the Native Americans and the Blacks. If anyone has any stories of people living during the times mentioned in the article, I would really enjoy copies being mailed to me, so that I can read them and get a better understanding of the experiences they had.

Posted by: Jennifer Bean at October 8, 2006 06:18 PM

My young daughter, 10yr old
loves "Fiddler on the Roof"-she asked me question about the evacuation, and I couldn't answer it, so I looked went to the Internet, and found this site, all I can say is it's wonderful, and I will have answers for her when I get home. We are African American, but my daughter has become very sensitive/insightful to the Jewish history/exile, and treatment, I bought her the Diary of Anne Frank this summer, and this was upon her watching a movie on TV. Thanks for the information!


Posted by: Darnella Vaughn at January 26, 2009 07:49 AM

Thank you so much for this information. We are Christian, but have some Jewish decent. My daughters are forever explaining that Judaism is not only a religion but a race, as well. The atrocities of the crimes against the Jews should NEVER be forgotten or covered up. Here in America we are so aware of our own sins against the Slaves, and yet we often forget the other things that brought so many to our country. God bless you and keep you.

Posted by: Jamie Brand at October 5, 2010 09:53 AM

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