Two Hundred Years Together, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn | Chapter 9

[This is a very short excerpt of the English translation of Chapter 9 of Two Hundred Years Together. If you want to read the full chapter, go to the source.]

Chapter 9

During the Revolution of 1905

The Kishinev pogrom produced a devastating and indelible effect on the Jewish community in Russia. Jabotinsky: Kishinev traces “the boundary between two epochs, two psychologies.” The Jews of Russia have not only experienced deep sorrow, but, more profoundly so, “something which had almost made one forget the pain—and that was shame.”1 “If the carnage of Kishinev played a major role in the realisation of our situation, it was because we then realised that the Jews were cowards.”2

We have already mentioned the failure of the police and the awkwardness of the authorities—it was therefore natural that the Jews had asked themselves the question: should we continue to rely on the protection of public authorities? Why not create our own armed militias and defend ourselves weapons in hand? They were incited by a group of prominent public men and writers—Doubnov, Ahad Haam, Rovnitsky, Ben‐Ami, Bialik: “Brothers… cease weeping and begging for mercy. Do not expect any help from your enemies. Only rely on your own arms!”3

These calls “produced on Jewish youth the effect of an electric shock.”4 And in the overheated atmosphere that began to reign after the Kishinev pogrom, “armed groups of self‐defence” quickly saw the light at various locations in the Pale of Settlement. They were generally financed “by the Jewish community”5, and the illegal introduction of weapons from abroad did not pose a problem for the Jews. It was not unusual for these weapons to fall into the hands of very young people.

Official reports do not indicate the existence of armed groups among the Christian population. The government struggled as best it could against the bombs of terrorists. When armed militias began to develop, it saw in them—it is only natural—totally illegal demonstrations, the premises of the civil war, and it banned them by the means and information it had at its disposal. (Also today, the whole world condemns and prohibits “illegal paramilitary formations.”)

A highly operational armed group was formed in Gomel under the direction of the local committee of the Bund. On March 1st, 1903, the latter had organised “festivities” for the anniversary of the “execution of Alexander II.”6 In this city, where Christians and Jews were nearly equal in number7, and the socialist Jews were more than determined, the establishment of armed groups of self‐defence was particularly strong. This was to be noted during the events of August 29th and September 1st 1903—the Gomel pogrom.

According to the findings of the official investigation, the responsibility for the Gomel pogrom is shared: Christians and Jews mutually attacked each other.

Let us take a closer look at the official documents of the time, in this case the indictment of the Gomel affair, based on the police reports drawn up on the spot. (Police reports, which date back to the early twentieth century in Russia, have repeatedly proven their accuracy and their irreproachable precision—and this up to the hustle and bustle of the days of February 1917, up to the moment where the police stations of Petrograd were vested by the insurgents, burnt down—since then, this stream of minutely‐recorded information was cut off, and remained so for us…)

Read the full chapter at: Chapter 9 – During the Revolution of 1905