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The Pogroms in Ukraine, 1918-19

Nokhem Shtif

IV. The Causes of the Pogroms. Pogroms as Part of the Military and Political Program. The Connection to the High Command

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1We have seen that pogroms were the rule, not the exception, for the Volunteer Army. They were a constant during their entire quest, from its first speedy victories to its shameful defeat. It was an essential element of their style of warfare. Where, then, did that come from? What were the deep motives that drove a large army to plunder and slaughter, indeed an army that was going to “save Russia” and establish “law and order,” and which, furthermore, was led by veteran, experienced generals, exemplars of military discipline? What was its connection to the methods of war, its requirements, or its objective?

Opportunities for Pogroms

2First, what were the opportunities? The conditions were longstanding, psychological, with deep roots. By contrast, the opportunities were just a detail, the accident of chance in a given place at a given time, for example, the relations between the Jews and the Volunteer Army, the local history, the disputes, etc. — any of which might lead them to commit a pogrom in a particular place. If we pay close attention to the way in which pogroms occurred and how they developed, it becomes clear that in the overwhelming majority of cases there was no obvious trigger for the pogrom. We must note again that they occurred as soon as military units entered a town, before there were any relations with the Jewish community and any possible conflict. Furthermore, in many instances the pogrom started with the Jewish delegation that came to welcome the Volunteer Army with bread and salt.

3In some cases the blame was placed on rumors that were spread — as a provocation — that the Jews had shot at the Volunteer Army. Those were instances when the Army had to retreat before the Reds for a few days (sometimes for just a few hours, as in Korsun, for example), and then returned to take the town. This occurred in Borzna, Niezhyn, Novy-Malyn, Fastiv, Kiev, and elsewhere. No less than a Volunteer Army commander reported, in an official communication, that Jews had shot at the Army when it was retreating from Novy-Malyn. And he said, by the way, that “measures had been taken” against them. It is not difficult to guess what he meant by that.

  • 1 This was a military unit infamous for its pogrom massacres in Korsun, Fastiv, and other towns [note (...)

4Osvag, the official propaganda organ, had no qualms about spreading this story of “Jewish shooting” in Kiev on October 14/19, when a small Bolshevik military unit of the Irpen detachment broke through and there was fighting in the streets. But even if this story about “Jewish shooting” in a few places had been true, would that have justified pogroms in all of Ukraine, where there were no such reports? Not only that, but there are facts, and even a report of a special investigation, that totally demolish the entire myth of Jewish shooting. On the days of the terrible Kiev pogrom, on 17–20 of October 1919, an official Kiev newspaper, Vecherniye Ogni, reported, in a series of issues (No. 38, 39, and 40) carried the story of the “Jewish shooting.” But a number of centrist, and even conservative organizations (the Union for the Regeneration of Russia, the National Center, the National Union, the Teachers’ Union, the City Association, and others) researched the “facts” in that report, and concluded that they had been completely fabricated, and not very well at that. Let us consider one of those “facts,” No. 13. The newspaper said this: “On 3/16 October, four Jews and one Christian shot from the roof at No. 18 Kreshchatik Street. They were brought down from the roof and shot.” Here is what the investigators reported: “The house at No. 18 Kreshchatik Street is the Kiev City Hall. The press office of the City Hall sent a letter to the editor of Vecherniye Ogni. It is evident from that letter that after 2/15 October Volchanska Partisans1 occupied the City Hall and hung the Russian National flag from the balcony. And that same day they already had a mess hall organized in the City Hall. Therefore it is totally out of the question that people were shooting from the roof on 3/16.” The investigators rejected all the other “facts” with the same kind of proof.

5This refutation was posted in Kiev on all the light-poles, but Vecherniye Ogni did not apologize. Furthermore, General Dragomirov appointed a special commission headed by Senator Guliayev to again investigate the matter, and that commission, too, found absolutely nothing to confirm the story of “Jewish shooting.” And not out of love for the Jews.

6The myth of shootings in Novy-Malyn was no more believable. About 70 Jewish families lived there among Christians. During the fighting between the Volunteer Army and the Bolsheviks for that town, there was heavy firing of artillery and machine guns. Jews and Christians would hide in the cellars of each others’ houses. During the last volleys, just before the Volunteer Army took over the city, Jews went to hide with Christians, because at that time the shooting was in the Jewish part of town, which lies along the Dniester River. The Bolsheviks, who still held the town, went into the abandoned Jewish homes and fired from there. A delegation of Christians later went to the commander of the Volunteer Army and attested that the Jews had had nothing to do with the shooting.

7There was even a special “certification” from their Christian neighbors on 2/15 October, which they gave to the Jews, which stated: “We, the undersigned residents of Novy-Malyn, attest that what was written in Kievlyanin No. 21, 14/27 November, is not true. The Jews in town did no harm to the Volunteer Army and did not shoot at them.” They also confirmed that relations were good between Jews and Christians, and that Jews had not been active in Soviet institutions. The certification was signed by homeowner Grigory Ivanovich Filipenko; postmaster Yushchenko; Aleksander and Peter Khonak; a teacher, Yelisina; and others, including several councilmen from the City Hall. The mayor confirmed the signatures.

8It was the same with the “shootings” in Fastiv and elsewhere. Furthermore, there is evidence that in all these cases the pogrom had been organized in advance, secretly planned even before the beginning of the war. Residents of Kiev, both Christians and Jews, who had fled the city on October 14th with the Volunteer Army before the advancing Bolsheviks report that in Darnitsa, the nearest village, they heard nonstop agitation for a pogrom in Kiev. That was before any talk of “Jewish shooting,” and before anyone had been “taken from the roof with machine guns.”

9There are likewise reports about Fastiv during the days when the Volunteer Army was still retreating before the Bolsheviks to the nearest village, Kozhanka. They report, in the name of Dr. Snisarenko, who retreated with the Second Terek Plastun Brigade, that the commander of the brigade, Belogortsev, had promised to “hand over Fastiv” to the Cossacks, who would take the town.

10It is clear. The fabrications about “Jewish shooting” or that that they cried “Hurrah” in honor of the oncoming Bolsheviks, as in Fastiv, were nothing more than pretexts. It is evident that in all these towns the pogroms had actually started before the Volunteer Army was forced to retreat, in fact as soon as it had entered the town. And that was how they occurred everywhere. The slaughter only worsened after the myths about the shootings were spread.

11The stories are all the more suspect when they are repeated after the pogrom not by the Army that committed it, but by those who feel the need to defend them, for they understand what a terrible impression it makes on the larger world at a time when the civil war is complicated by international interests. If they wish to excuse a pogrom with the myth of “Jewish shooting,” then they have answer the question, what came first, the myth or the pogrom? Who is it that needs the pretext? Do the Cossacks need it, when they drive in with their wagons and signs reading, “Murder the Jews and Save Russia?” This is clear: Chance is not important. What is important is that it is always easier to perpetrate a pogrom where there is already an established tradition. The causes run much deeper.

The Volunteer Army

12The Volunteer Army consisted mostly of volunteers, partisans. They tried a draft, but the population would not go along and little came of it. The two main features of the Army were an abundance of officers who had fled Soviet Russia, and far too many Cossacks, especially Asian horsemen of various savage tribes: Chechens, Ossetians, etc. K. N. Sokolov, a member of Denikin’s dictatorship and a minister in his regime, who recently published a book, The Regime of General Denikin (Sofia, 1921), writes about the Army: “We were in a bad way. Our military strength lay in the Kuban Cossacks who were under the demagogic influence of the plague of Black Hundred Ukrainian nationalists (supporters of Cossack Ukrainian separatism). The Russians gave us Bolsheviks, half-Leninist youth, or moderate supporters of ‘Revolutionary Democracy.’ We relied militarily on the Cossacks. It was not for nothing that General Denikin had written in August 1918 to the Kuban Ataman, ‘It is certain that only the Cossack and mountain (Caucasus) people have the right to rule themselves, because they have resisted their enemies and their murderers.’” (p. 57)

13These were the wild Cossacks and tribes of the Caucasus. Their officers were so numerous in the Volunteer Army that they comprised entire military units, and their generals headed companies. V.V. Shulgin, editor of Kievlyanin, an insider and a superbly informed man, recounts enthusiastically that when the Volunteer Army was passing through Kiev on October 14/19, no less than supreme commander General Dragomirov stopped soldiers and cadets who were deserting on the suspension bridge and ordered them to return to the battle against the Bolsheviks.

  • 2 The Jewish delegation recorded this conversation with General Denikin and sent it straight to the E (...)

14We have an authoritative reading of the situation with the Army — its officers, and the half-wild tribes — at the time when they penetrated deep into Ukraine, from its commander-in-chief, General Denikin himself. On July 26 (August 8) 1919, at 2 o’clock there came a Jewish delegation to see him at Rostov-on-Don. Among the delegation were representatives of these communities: M. S. Bruk from Yekaterinoslav; Dr. L. B. Vilensky from Kharkiv; Dr. Z. Goldenberg from Rostov; Dr. A. I. Yevinson from Taganrog. The delegation had come to complain of the violence that the Cossacks were perpetrating in the Kharkiv and Yekaterinoslav provinces. To which General Denikin responded: “Yes, no good at all can come from people of such low character. These aren’t the people who joined the Volunteer Army for an ideal, these are just dregs.”2

15But if it was neither ideals nor compulsion, then what drove “people of such low character” to attempt such a risky endeavor as “to save Russia?” Was it high wages, perhaps, or good working conditions? Certainly not! K. N. Sokolov, who is supremely well-informed about this, explains the upkeep of the Army: “We always maintained the Army poorly. We paid it poorly and clothed them poorly. Leaders at the front received exactly the same paltry change as the officials in the rear. But since the Army was on the move, and, furthermore, there was a shortage of paper currency, they often received no pay at all. When it came to clothing, that was also terrible… By the Fall (of 1919) it was already obvious that the Army would freeze in the Winter” (p. 192). We hear the same from another source, no less authoritative on this matter, and who was closely tied to the Volunteer Army, with its supreme commanders, and its political leaders. We are referring to V.V. Shulgin’s article “Two Armies” in Kievlyanin No. 67, 13/26 November. Shulgin compares the Bolsheviks and the Volunteer Army. When he writes about the Volunteer Army he pretends to be neutral, but it is clear that he is quite bitter.

16V. Shulgin would have us believe that “the aim of the Volunteer Army is — to protect and save the peaceful working people from the awful rule of do-nothings who took power by the gun.” From which he concludes: “In that case, the Volunteer Army would necessarily have disintegrated if it had to depend on plunder for its livelihood.” The prophetic accuracy of this observation becomes even clearer, when Shulgin explains the source of this “livelihood: ” “Of course, it would not have occurred to anyone to plunder if the Army had gotten everything that it deserved, if it didn’t have to freeze and starve. Just ask, and you will hear the plain truth, that the tradition of plunder grows largely out of bitter needs.”

  • 3 ‘Realdov’ in Russian, an abbreviation for ‘voenno realzatsiia dobychi’, meaning appropriating what (...)

17K. N. Sokolov writes more frankly about the “livelihood” of the Volunteer Army: “Moving back away from the front line, anyone who could do so would take care of business by making money dishonestly. On the front things were even simpler. “Appropriated Property”3 (appropriating what the soldiers had plundered) became integral to the way of life of our Army at a time when plundered property was its main source — if not its only source — of livelihood.

18But in addition to this kind of “Appropriated Property,” which was considered lawful, and for which an account had to be given, another kind of “Appropriated Property” developed: plain robbery, committed by individuals and groups. We would hear reports, usually far from the front, of individuals and military units amassing huge quantities of goods. Once in Rostov in the winter, we saw a popular military leader traveling on a train to get some rest with his young officers. It was a gigantic train with dozens of cars loaded with merchandise, sugar, and all kinds of other things. The tracks of the Rostov train station were busy with it for quite a while.” (pp. 193–94)

  • 4 Albrecht von Wallenstein organized mercenary troops for Emperor Ferdinand II during the Thirty Year (...)

19Shulgin sees the solution to those “bitter needs” this way: “It is better to have a smaller army, well equipped with everything that it needs, than a larger army that depends on its livelihood in the manner of Wallenstein, from plunder.”4 Because, predicts Shulgin, “such an army will not last for long.” So we have it from the highest authorities, the most devoted friends of the Volunteer Army, that two of its prominent features were: 1. It is “people of low character” who joined it, not motivated by ideals (and not mobilized against their will). 2) This was an army that equipped itself “in the manner of Wallenstein,” meaning by plundering. This helps us understand why the Volunteer Army attracted a lowly element who were often nothing more than bandits like I. T. Struk, for example.

  • 5 Russian: Free Cossacks, Ukrainian nationalist militia.

20It is worth exploring the career of this fine young man in the Volunteer Army. Ilya Timofeyevich Struk, a peasant from the village of Griny in the Hornostapol district of the Kiev province, went to a village school and began his military career in 1917, during the period of the Central Rada. He organized a unit of the Vil’na Kozatstvo,5 that is to say of the Ukrainian National Army. He was no longer needed during the period of the Hetman under the German occupation (March–November 1918), so he turned to speculation and counterfeiting, and the police were looking for him.

21When the Ukrainian Directorate revolted against the Hetmanate (November–December 1918) he formed a military partisan unit, extorted “contributions,” and openly robbed Jews in the Hornostapol-Chernobyl region. Incidentally, he murdered a postal service official in the town of Malyn at the beginning of January 1919. The Malyn commandant arrested Struk and sent him off to Kiev, and there he was released. The Bolsheviks were then starting to fight against the Directorate. Struk sided with the Bolsheviks and published a Bolshevik manifesto aimed at the peasants.

22He was sent to the front with his unit, and there, in his first battle, he betrayed the Bolsheviks and again sided with the Ukrainians. From then on he and his men repeatedly committed pogroms for 9 months in Hornostapol, Chernobyl, and elsewhere, with this slogan: “Murder Jews! Save Soviet power without communes!” Then the Volunteer Army took Kiev.

  • 6 See the newspaper Kievskaya Rus, No. 5, 25 November 1919 [note by the author].
  • 7 Struk’s proclamation on this was published in the newspaper Odeski Listak, No. 14, 15/28 January 19 (...)

23For General Bredov, military chief of the Volunteer Army in the Kiev region, it was no obstacle to welcome this criminal into the Army. They asked Struk to organize “the first Little Russia partisan military unit,” and crowned him Colonel in September 1919.6 General Bredov knew perfectly well who Struk was. He received a written report on him from a Christian, Melnichenko, who knew Struk extremely well. In addition, he was informed by Professor Odinets, who was chairman of the regional committee of the Union for the Regeneration of Russia, and who possessed all the materials concerning Struk’s atrocities, including his published pogrom proclamations. Struk’s new allies did not interfere with his usual pogrom activities. For an entire winter, he and his gang — now in the guise of Russian patriots — terrorized the Jewish residents of Podol (Kiev province) and extorted “contributions” again and again. When the Volunteer Army retreats from Kiev, we find Struk in Odessa, where he continues to terrorize and plunder Jews. He called this a “peasant military unit” of the Volunteer Army in January 1920.7

24Now we can begin to understand the kernel of truth when Cossacks and Chechens — those saviors of Russia — say that they were “permitted to go wild for three days.” Such an army required some compensation if they were to obey orders and go into battle. What better compensation could they be given than to give them free reign over populated towns, or at least some people? We have already noted that when Belogortsev, commander of the Second Terek Plastun Brigade, wanted to motivate his Cossacks to “liberate” Fastiv, he “handed them the town.” A Jewish delegation in Kremenchug, one of many like it, which came to plead to stop a pogrom, told the commander that the military leaders had let the Cossacks go wild for three days. The commander in Horodyshche said the same: We let the Cossacks go wild for 48 hours, “for our purposes.” And the same was reported of other commanders and garrison chiefs.

25Shulgin was right on both counts, both when he valued the Volunteer Army for taking care of its own needs and when he predicted its failure. His prophesy came true, that such an army would not last long, and it failed much sooner than he had thought. It became evident right in the pogroms. The lack of discipline went so far that when two soldiers of the Ismailov regiment began to strip Jews in Pryluk in the street in the middle of the day, and an officer ordered them to let the Jews go, one of the soldiers shot the officer. There were similar reports from Bila-Tserkava, Boyarka, and elsewhere.

26We will see later why, when a town was handed over to the Cossacks, the Jews were being targeted. But even what we have already noted is sufficient to come to one conclusion: If in Novy-Malyn the Cossacks say that they were “permitted to go wild for three days,” then that is a much more frank, accurate, and convincing explanation for the pogrom than to say that it was because Jews had been shooting at the Army.

27We have already noted two prominent aspects of the Volunteer Army: the “dregs” and its livelihood “in the manner of Wallenstein,” which is to say by plundering. That was the economic need underlying of their pogroms. But an ideology was also necessary, because that economic need, if unchecked, might go too far. “After plundering the Jewish population, they started to rob Russians, too,” complained Colonel Sakharov, garrison chief in Bila-Tserkava, in his order number 10 of 1/14 October. That is why he commanded them to stop the pogrom. It was too dangerous to allow it free rein, without restraint or regulation. For its own survival, the Army had to take control of its “bitter needs” by limiting it in a specific way. It dawned on them that with certain regulations the “bitter needs” could be exploited for the military objective of the Volunteer Army, which was the war against Bolshevism.

28They needed an ideology that would link “Beat the Jews!” to “Save Russia!” — meaning the struggle against the Bolsheviks. It was not necessary to look hard for such an ideology or to dream one up. It was easy to find, already fully formed, in the old Tsarist regime, especially in its attitude towards Jews during the World War. Who didn’t already know that the Jews were the enemies of Russia, that the Jews had betrayed the Russian Army, etc.?

  • 8 Russian: Golos k Russkomu narodu ot Iuzhnoi Armii.

29To our knowledge the first indication of this ideology of the Volunteer Army dates from the end of November 1918, when the Army was just starting to be organized. They were just getting ready for the actual war, and in the meantime it was not actually campaigning for Russia, but for recognition of themselves and sympathy from those who sought someone to “save” Russia. First of all they needed to make clear to them what a victory of the Volunteer Army would mean, and secondly, who the enemies of Russia were against whom they were waging war. Apparently that was the purpose of the proclamation, “A Call to the Russian People from the Army of the South,”8 signed by “the Army of the South,” 24 November (7 December) 1918, Rostov-on-Don. That appeal starts with the second point: the enemy. Here it explains at length “what Socialism and Bolshevism have done to the people.” It says that “Russia has failed the Allies. Everything is ruined, destroyed,” etc. And who is to blame? Here is the answer: “They, the kikes — Bronstein (Trotsky), Nakhamkes (Steklov), Tsederboym (Martov), Goldman (Gorev), Kirbis (Kerensky), Lieberman (Chernov) — have no interest in Russia or in Russia’s welfare. They dream and strive to ruin Russia and to render the Russian people helpless before their sworn enemies and plunderers.”

30The proclamation repeatedly stresses the unique ability of the Jews to devastate Russia: “In order to better deceive the people (the Russians),” says the proclamation, “they have even changed their names: Layb Bronstein took the family name Trotsky, Lieberman took the name Chernov, Kirbis calls himself Kerensky,” etc. “In addition to material ruination, they, the Bronshayns, the Nakhamkes, and others, have debased the spirit of the people.” These “kikes” have “swindled” the people and conspired to bring about complete ruination and destruction, etc. In addition, they have incited the people to “beat the priests and throw out holy images (icons).” And instead of one Tsar, they have installed many little emperors, some of them Jews, to boot.” That was point 2: the enemy.

31Point 1, the purpose, is explained this way: “They (the kikes) say that robbing the landowners and ruining them is the same as if they ruined themselves. First of all, our landowners are our own, Russians, members of the Russian people. Secondly, they worked the land better, gave the people and the government better food, better cattle, better produce… They say, ‘Let’s divide up the land (of the landowners), but they don’t say how much land each person could get. And there is really very little privately-owned land — and none at all in many places — which means that there is nothing to divide up…” The “Army of the South” appeals wholeheartedly to the Russian Orthodox people: “Stop selling your souls to the kikes! Throw off the yoke of the kikes.”

32So we can summarize the program of the “Army of the South” this way: 1. Its purpose: the lands of the landowners may not be touched because a) they are “our own people” and b) they have nothing to be taken ( “they have little land”). 2. Its enemy: the “kikes” and only the “kikes,” Chernov and the others, whom the world takes for Russians but who are really “kikes” in disguise. The “kikes” strive to destroy Russia, and they tear down the Orthodox Church. 3. Its means: throw off the yoke of the “kikes.”

33But they were not very strict about their program, and they played down parts of it in certain regions, especially the part about the property of the landowners. In the Don and Kuban region, in the southern steppes, where the peasants have plenty of land, they could say what they dared not say in Ukraine, where the vast majority of peasants had no land, particularly after the Soviet regime took the land away from the landowners, and the peasants would not give it back. The generals understood this, and we see, indeed, that they talked much less in Ukraine about privately-held land, and they even told them to appease that hunger for land.

34On the subject of agrarian reform and other social and political programs, the Volunteer Army reflected the views of those who wished to restore the Tsarist monarchy and return to the “old regime” — that was evident in many ways. But within the bounds of our present work at hand we must limit ourselves to the essentials. The best witness for the social and political plans of the Volunteer Army is certainly the much-quoted K. N. Sokolov, one of the creators of those plans. He certainly would not wish to besmirch those plans. This is what he says in his book, General Denikin’s Government: “We wished to address the question of land properly, honestly, with justice and fairness. On 24 March 1919, General Denikin wrote in his memo on the question of land that first of all, ‘THE OWNERS RETAIN THE RIGHT TO THEIR LAND. THAT MEANS THAT WE WILL RETURN TO THE LANDOWNERS WHAT IS THEIRS BY RIGHT.’” (emphasis by N. Shtif)

35K. N. Sokolov himself did not agree with that plan: “We may consider the seizure of that land ‘immoral, ’ but it must be legalized, because it is ‘politically necessary.’” Sokolov interprets Denikin’s plan in such a way as to turn it into a legal maneuver: “To placate the rights of the aggrieved, the landowners may make a claim to be compensated for the land that was seized.” This was indeed a fine interpretation, but he admits that “in practice, they returned the land to the landowners by force (p. 287). There were terrible instances when we supported the landowners and routed the peasants (p. 187). But a little further on, we hear, not about “terrible instances,” but about a government program. “At the end of June 1919 (when the Army began to move quickly deep into Ukraine) regulations were issued concerning grass land. The government promised half the crop to the owners and half to the peasants, and as for compensation, the peasants would get two thirds and the owners one third, etc. (p. 188)

36That was how they dealt with agrarian reform “properly and with fairness.” It was even worse when it came to the issue of labor. Sokolov himself admitted that it was a lost cause: “The labor issue for us was fundamentally lost. We could not make the workers happy… simply because we could not regulate life… furthermore we were counting on the peasants, not the workers” (p. 186). And we have already seen how they satisfied the peasants.

  • 9 The Ukrainian independence movement.

37Finally, on the national question. K. N. Sokolov, who was considered radical on the land issue by his fellow ministers, was rigid on this issue: “With whom have we been constantly and openly at odds? The Ukrainian political groups of the Samostina-Petliura stripe.”9 One might think that they had tried to reach an agreement with other, more moderate Ukrainian political groups. But Sokolov leaves no room for doubt. He often says, “With our overly-rigid political stand on the question of Ukraine, we repelled even the moderate circles of Ukrainian society that supported a federation with Russia” (p. 283). Now everyone knows exactly what their political stand was. They carved Ukraine into three separate regions (Kiev, Kharkiv, and New Russia), and they gave it to “the government” of General Dragomirov and his mentor, V. Shulgin, that Ukraine-hater. Right in the very first issue of Kievlyanin Shulgin explained: “Yes, this region is Russian… We will not cede it to the Ukrainian traitors who have ruined it, and not to the Jewish hangmen who have drenched it in blood” in Kievlyanin No. 1, 21 August/3 September 1919. They even expunged the name “Ukraine,” which they once again referred to as “Little Russia.” In his appeal to the “Little Russians,” General Denikin promised them “a unified, indivisible Russia” and a Tsarist Russian school. The “Little Russians” could also have schools in their mother tongue, if they wished… supported by private means. In short, they were throwing Ukraine back into the days of Nikolai I, before education minister Count Ignatiev.

38Sokolov emphasizes the last part, and summing up, admits bitterly: “It was not easy… The intelligentsia did not trust us. The workers hated us. The peasants suspected us” (p. 168). For him to say “suspected” is an understatement. They revolted against the Volunteer Army with weapons. As the Army retreated, the peasants supported the Bolsheviks, Petliura, and other Atamans against the Army. It was above all the anarchist bandit Makhno who attracted them, and who roamed over all of our supreme commander Denikin’s territory, invading Yekaterinoslav, and taking over the most important train junctions, etc.” (p. 190)

  • 10 K. N. Sokolov often says that ‘liberalism’, and specifically the liberal declaration of March 1919  (...)

39That was the social and political program at the highest level, where political decisions were made. But for most of the officers, even that program was too “left,” too “Kadet.” There developed “a political rift between him — Denikin — and the officers of the Volunteer Army… General Denikin turned out “too leftist” for his army.” (p. 195) K. N. Sokolov qualifies this. He explains that “it would be unfair to consider the masses of officers ‘reactionaries’ or landowners themselves.” But he must admit that the “gradualist liberalism” which was permitted to grow, and partially approved, in Rostov and in Taganrog, was alien to the most activist (officers)” (p. 195). He is referring here to liberalism “for export.”10

40Both sides agreed on one thing: K. N. Sokolov says openly that “the masses of people, including the military, were infused with anti-Semitism.” (pp. 103–04) The plan concerning the “kikes” was of prime importance to the Volunteer Army, considering such an ideology and such a program. Since its program was so full of omissions, the “kikes” could serve to fill in whenever agitation was needed.

Pogrom Agitation

41As soon as the Volunteer Army entered a town, orders against “the kike-commissars” would appear on the walls. The officers, like Count Urusov in Bobrovytsia, made speeches against the Jews at peasant gatherings (skhod) and elsewhere. They agitated against “the kikes” at full blast. The higher echelons were no better than the lower. In Kiev province, for example, they issued a “mobilization appeal to the peasants” in which they explained all about Bolshevism: “Now what kind of person was the Bolshevik leader Trotsky originally, if not the elegant Layb Bronstein, whom no respectable person would ever have permitted into his home? And now he is an extremely important person, and sits in Moscow instead of the Tsar!” (To the Peasants on Mobilization, 25 October/7 November 1919).

42That appeal was also posted in Kiev, and was published in Kievlyanin and in the semi-official Narodnaya Gazeta. In official war communiqués the command accused the Jews of shooting at the Volunteer Army, which had caused their defeats (as in Novy-Malyn). And they alleged that Jews made up a large part of the Red Army, and fought the fiercest against the Volunteer Army.

43General Bredov did the same, spreading the myth of “Jewish shooting” in a more subtle, disguised way. And he did it at the very worst time for the Jews of Kiev, the tragic days of 14/19 October 1919. There was indeed fighting with a small Bolshevik military unit in the streets of Kiev. There was constant incitement against the Jews. They were preparing a pogrom, and to that end they spread the rumor that Jews had fired on the Volunteer Army. On 17/18 October the Volunteer Army was victorious, and they launched a horrendous pogrom. At such a juncture, General Bredov issued an order that seemed to call for an end to it (5/18 October). But just what was in that order? This is how he calmed down the agitated Volunteer Army: “Volunteers! Be bold against the enemy, as well as the peaceful residents and the defeated enemy: that will be to your credit.” It is not hard to discern who the “defeated enemy” was in Kiev.

  • 11 This proclamation was published by Col. Malone, Member of the English Parliament, in his book The R (...)

44Mamontov, another prominent general, speaks more plainly, more coarsely. In September 1919, in his proclamation to the residents of the towns of Kozlov, Tambov, and Yelets, he said to the peasants: “Arm yourselves and rise up against our common enemy on Russian soil, the Jew — the Bolshevik — the Communist. Soon we will breathe free, free of the yoke of the Devil, which has enslaved us in shackles, destroyed our faith, our church… May we crush the power of the Devil that thrives in the hearts of the Judeo-Communists.”11

  • 12 Cheka is an acronym of the Russian words ‘Extraordinary Commission’ for Combatting Counterrevolutio (...)

45Two themes were prominent in pogrom agitation: the persecution of the Orthodox Church and the Cherezvichayka.12 The “persecution” was cleverly fabricated to tap into the religious fanaticism of the ignorant masses, peasants and townspeople. We have already seen how General Mamontov did this. The prominent colonel, Struk, followed his example, when he said in his proclamation: “They close the churches, they tear down our holy icons” (Odessa, January 1920). “All the saints call on you in the ranks to force the Devil’s tribe (There is no doubt about this reference — N. S.) to allow Christians to live and believe freely” (Kiev, November 1919).

46The Cherezvichayka, which was thoroughly hated by the people, was also blamed on the Jews. That was the surest way to inflame bloodthirsty impulses, second only to the persecution of the church, even among educated circles. Harrowing scenes played out in Kiev in the first days of the Volunteer Army. All someone had to do was to yell, “There he is, an agent of the Cherezvichayka!” and people would attack a person on the street and tear him to pieces. There were many victims who were murdered in the same way. Orders against such savagery were issued for world opinion. But in the meantime they were digging up buried corpses, and opening up hidden cellars — real and imagined — to show the world the atrocities of the Cheka. And they did this constantly blaming the Jews.

47We have already noted that in his very first article in the new Kievlyanin, Shulgin had already identified the Jews as the Cheka, “The Jewish hangmen who have drenched (our country) in blood.” The “Jewish Cheka” was the most common theme in Kievlyanin and in pogrom agitation in general: “Trotsky is still running around on all the fronts, encouraging the bloody work of the Jewish Cherezvichayka” (Shulgin, in Kievlyanin No. 7, 10/28 September 1919). “The Trotskys, the Nakhamkes, the Rafes are waging war for equal rights, but they sentence people to death just because they are Russians.” ( [Anatolii Invanovich] Savenko, in Kievlyanin No. 1, 21 August/3 September 1919); etc.

48There was no lack of other propaganda for pogrom agitation in the Volunteer Army. They even blamed pogroms on the “kike-communists” themselves: Jews perpetrated pogroms on themselves so as to be able to put the blame them on the Volunteer Army and discredit it. So said the commander in Niezhyn, when he reported that “the plundering and the savagery was mostly committed by the Trotsky-Bronsteins, the Nakhamkes, and the other mercenaries” (Order no. 11, dated 12/25 September 1919).

  • 13 Abbreviation of the Russian Osvedomitel’noe Agenstvo [Information Agency], the official propaganda (...)
  • 14 Menakhem Mendel Beilis was a Ukrainian Jew who was falsely accused of ritual murder in 1913.

49In addition to the military command, other official institutions incited pogroms, the Osvag13 the semi-official press, individuals, and religious leaders. On July 26 (August 8) 1919, a Jewish delegation had already complained to General Denikin about the anti-Semitic agitation by the Osvag. They brought him such leaflets with titled, Workers, Red Army, and Everyone, Everyone. In the middle of Ukraine, in Kiev, they named as head of the Osvag the infamous Jew-hater Savenko who had been prominent in the Beilis trial.14

  • 15 Tauride.

50If we wish to grasp what Osvag was, we can rely again on K. N. Sokolov. He was the head of Osvag, its leader. Sokolov recounts “with pride and joy” that some famous artists, scholars, and writers worked for Osvag, among them E. Grimm, the former rector of the University of Petersburg; and B. Engelgardt, former Deputy in the Duma and commander of the Tavrichesky15 Palace during the first days of the Revolution. But he admits that “we had in the provinces (in Osvag) mostly ignorant good-for-nothings and careerist parasites. There were people lacking in conscience, prone to criminality.” (p. 105) He says very guardedly that the naming of Savenko as chief of Osvag in Kiev “caused a great uproar and was objected to on many grounds.” (p. 174)

51We can imagine how those “good-for-nothings” who were “prone to criminality” used their privileged positions to “enlighten” the population and the Army who were anti-Semitic through and through. In their proclamations, the words “kike” and “Communist” were one and the same. This is how they portrayed the Soviet regime in their artistic posters: A blood-red Devil, with Trotsky’s face, rules over an enslaved Russia, which is drenched in blood.

  • 16 There is in the Archives of the Editorial Board on Pogrom Materials a printed copy of this dispatch (...)

52The Kiev Osvag distributed this general dispatch throughout the provinces (in Fastiv, Lubny, Smila, Chernihiv, and elsewhere) on the events of October 14/19: “With their guerilla shootings, the Jewish residents helped the Bogun Bolshevik regiment repel the Volunteer Army and retake part of Kiev… Military organizations from Jewish parties fired with machine guns and rifles, they threw hand grenades, they poured boiling water on the Volunteer Army… As soon as the Red Army took Kiev, they began to plunder and commit pogroms… Because the Jews took part en masse in the attack on Kiev, and the role that local Jews played in helping the Reds… a great rage has overtaken the Christian population, which the authorities are having great difficulty in subduing” (general dispatch, press bureau No. 17, dated 6/19 October, posted in many towns).16 Here they were not simply talking about “Jewish shootings” but about a military uprising against the Volunteer Army. And when was this accusation made? On 6/19 October, which is to say, on the very day when in Kiev itself no one still believed the myth of “Jewish shootings,” and when General Bredov, the supreme commander of Kiev at the time, called for “mercy for the defeated enemy.”

53What the military authority could not do openly it did through the hands of sympathetic friends. We have noted how the regime opened up the cellars of the Cheka. And in Kievlyanin Shulgin accused “the Jewish hangmen.” Now the Jews would have to “drain their bitter cup of repentance.” Day in, day out, Kievlyanin, the spiritual guide of the Volunteer Army, spewed its poisonous incitement against the Jews, incessantly repeating its philosophy that Jews are Bolsheviks, that Jews are dangerous to Russia, and that there is only one solution: they should “publicly repent for their sins against Russia and leave Russia for good. If not, things would get worse. In his eyes the pogroms by the Volunteer army were nothing but a “Terror Inquisition.” The Russian people were terrorizing the Jews because they had ruined their country, and they were right to do so.

54With great talent he describes that terror and “the inhuman screams” during the night-time horrors (see the article cited above). But he does not accuse with the “people with knives” who are doing this, or their spiritual leaders. On the contrary, it is the Jews who should ask forgiveness. Here is how he ends the article: “The Russian people listen to those horrified screams and think to themselves, ‘Will they (the Jews) finally understand what it means to ruin a country, what it means to bring about equal rights at any price? Will they repent of their sins, cover their heads with ash, and do penance before the whole world because the children of Israel have wickedly joined in the Bolshevik dance of the Devil?’”

55That is how Shulgin sees the pogroms, and he gives “the children of Israel” two alternatives. They can either have pogroms as their penance or the “Terror Inquisition,” which is to say a state of permanent pogrom without end.

56He repeats this demand again and again: the Jews should “repent,” they should “excise with their own hands those Jews who had supported both Revolutions” (Kievlyanin No. 38, 22 October/5 November 1919, and others). We have already noted the Cossack torture of hanging people to terrorize them into getting something from them. Now this approach had broadened into a complete campaign, a policy, an entire ideology. This approach had become the ideology of the Volunteer Army, which exalted and crowned its newspaper, Kievlyanin, which was circulated at no charge and was distributed throughout the Army.

57But Shulgin was not alone. The humble Father of the Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Antony of Kiev, was the same. He himself recounts how he received a Jewish delegation which had come to plead with him about the pogroms: “Representatives of the Jewish community came to ask me to publish a proclamation against pogroms. To which I responded that they should first make their coreligionists quit all Bolshevik institutions” (reported in an interview in Kievskaya Echo Nos. 42–47, 28 October/20 November 1919).

58All the commanders, garrison chiefs, etc. absorbed from the ideologues of the pogrom, both military and political, that the Jews were at their mercy. “You’ve suffered for 14 days. But how long have we suffered from you all this time? Get out!” was how Col. Karpov, garrison chief in Boryspil answered a Jewish delegation which had come to give him a “gift” of 30,000 rubles and to implore him to stop a pogrom that had lasted two weeks. In the final analysis the fundamental principle that underlies the theoretical campaign against the Jews can be summarized in the frank words of the “dregs,” the simple Cossack who said in Bogodukhov, “The Jews must be butchered.” And should you ask him why, he will answer in all innocence, “For kikes, no pretext is necessary.”

59So we see that there is a link between the military conditions of the Volunteer Army — undisciplined, relying on plunder for upkeep — and its military objective — the war against the Bolsheviks. The “kikes” provided the link. The objective, which would have not been easily achieved even if conditions had been better, was lost sight of. The ideology gave the Army a more reachable enemy: no longer the Red Army in its gray uniform, but the Jew in his gabardine. And it gave the Army “permission to go wild for three days.” Pogroms against Jews were the ideal solution, they were part of the war against the Bolsheviks. Furthermore, there was a guarantee that Russians, “our own,” would not be harmed, and would be happy to let themselves “be saved” only if they did not have to pay for it. “Our own” could be bought, at least their silence could.

The Volunteer Army and its Program on the Jewish Question

60Things have their own logic, and logic underlying the ideology of the pogroms required them go deeper. A pogrom was a detail, but what was needed was a general rule, a system that would include the whole issue of the Jewish question. Because it was evident: if Jews were citizens with equal rights, then pogroms would not have been permitted. Pogroms against Jews implied that laws did not apply to Jews. They would not be possible if Jews had equal rights, which would mean that they were “protected by law” like everyone else. This obstacle had to be swept out of the way.

61Only one could be true: either equal rights or pogroms. The Volunteer Army had only one answer. We have already noted how Shulgin, in his article on “Terror Inquisition” links Bolshevism, equal rights, and pogroms. As Shulgin sees it, Bolshevism (in his opinion) means “ruining the country,” and is a Jewish plot to get their rights. Bolshevism permits Jews to get equal rights at any price. Pogroms, on the contrary, are Russia’s way to protect itself. That is why Russia wants to avoid the fate of equal rights for Jews. This leads to the conclusion that the only way to exalt Russia again is by preventing equal rights for Jews.

62Shulgin explores this idea in many articles. “There are,” he says, “decent Jews and evil Jews… Evil Jews are those who get involved in politics. Jews have shown that in politics they can only wreak devastating ruin, no more. We ask decent Jews to convince their sons and their brothers not to meddle in politics in Russia” (Kievlyanin No. 63, 21 November/4 December 1919).

  • 17 Russian: rural councils.

63We hear the same from Shulgin’s pupil, the infamous Savenko, and others. It is noteworthy that Shulgin does not believe that “decent Jews” will be wise enough to follow his advice. That is why he offers the regime a ready-made program to bring the Jews to their senses: “Jews must be forced out of every position where they might harm the Russian government, which is being reborn. There should be no Jewish officers, officials, or judges. There should be no Jews on city councils, and none in the zemstovs,17 and no mayors (Kievlyanin No. 41, 25 October/7 November 1919). Not surprisingly it did not take long for the regime to carry out its leader’s program. It was done exactly as Shulgin advised.

64And in some cases it had even started before he made his suggestions. They began with Jewish officers, who were summarily expelled. When there were mobilizations, Jews were rejected. Those were the orders of the high command, General Mai-Mayevsky and others. In the petition that a Jewish delegation gave to General Denikin (at a meeting on 26 July/8 August 1919) we discover an interesting fact: “In Kharkiv there was a military unit of the Volunteer Army, half of whom were Jews. That unit was sent to fight with a mixed battalion near Zolochev, and fought well in the operation. But the very same day they pulled the Jews out of the battalion and sent them home until the next mobilization.” When the delegation pointed this out to General Denikin, he replied: “I warned General Mai-Mayevsky about this, but I knew that he couldn’t do anything else. I finally ordered that the Jewish officers be dismissed and held in reserve.” The reason was that the Army would not tolerate Jews. For General Denikin and the other generals this should not have prevented them from mobilizing Jewish soldiers. Because we already know from Shulgin’s program that danger lay only in Jewish officers — in the rights of Jews — and not in Jewish soldiers, the obligations of Jews.

65Then they expelled Jews from city councils. On 4/17 August, for example, Division General Schipner-Markevich gave his first order to the garrison in Cherkasy, which stated: “1. Kuban Cossacks took Cherkasy today, and the city is now part of the territory of unified, indivisible Russia. 2. I order that the city municipal administration assemble, as it was constituted before the Bolshevik overthrow, excluding Bolsheviks and Jews.”

66General Osovsky did the same in Kremenchug, in his Order No. 1. The only difference here is that he orders not only the expulsion of Jews from the city municipal administration, but also from the City Hall, adding this explanation: “to calm down the population.” And the same was done in Niezhyn and elsewhere.

67Jews were barred from elections. Jews were crossed off electoral lists for the city hall in Bila-Tserkava and Kiev, following Shulgin’s program. This happened to the Jew Ladizhensky, a member of the Kiev city administration. The Governor of the province, Cherniavsky, was given the list to certify. Most of them were members of the administration, among them Ladizhensky (an engineer experienced in city management). The Governor did not want to certify Ladizhensky, and the other candidates, Christians, would not give in.

68A compromise was reached over this conflict: Ladizhensky would pretend that he was sick, and therefore unable to serve in the administration. A short time later Ladizhensky was permitted to serve. The city council wrote up the protocol and presented it to Cherniavsky, who had the right not to certify it within a certain time period. But he did not do so, from which it was concluded that by his inaction he was certifying Ladizhensky in the council. But General Dragomirov intervened unexpectedly, issuing this order: “I hereby remove Ladizhensky from his position as a member of the council” (15/18 October 1919).

69This high-level commander, whose assignment it was to supervise all the civilian and military activities in one third of Ukraine, still had the time and sufficient interest to look into small-time Jewish affairs. In one instance four Jewish workers were expelled from the printing office at headquarters because they were Jewish. The central bureau of the professional unions pointed out to the commander that there was absolutely no reason to fire them. To which General Dragomirov responded sharply to the bureau in a rage, warning them that if they ever showed such audacity again, he would bring them before a military tribunal (7/20 November 1919).

70And so they put Shulgin’s plan into effect. They systematically reduced the Jews to the same status of slaves without rights that they had had in the time of Nikolai. First trample them, then put them in chains. Jews were being degraded even more in the eyes of “the dregs.” The lower the Jews fell, the better “the dregs” felt about themselves. The civil rights of citizens did not apply to Jews. Jews were aliens. Especially in light of the atrocities of the Volunteer Army, it didn’t take much to see that the laws of common decency did not apply to Jews. The Jews were left on their own. And that kind of abandonment was morally and politically rooted in their lack of civil rights. It was an old story that had been repeated many times in many countries. There was a chain of assumptions and a conclusion: (1) To an army “of low character” and violent “dregs” (2) which maintains itself “in the manner of Wallenstein,” that is, from plunder and violence (3) is given the objective of waging war against Bolshevism, that is, the kikes” (the terms “kikes” and Bolsheviks are interchangeable), and these Jews are not protected by the law — and are excluded from civil rights and public life (4) so as to save Russia and the Orthodox Church. (5) Therefore only one conclusion can be drawn: “Murder the Jews and save Russia!”

The Struggle Against Pogroms

71Was there no effort at all to stop the pogroms? On paper, why certainly, of course! The military commanders in the towns can show you a mountain of orders that forbid harming peaceful civilians, including Jews. And they rant that anyone who violates the order will be subject to the harshest laws of war and will be shot on the spot. But if you look closely at the actual practice of the war, you will see what that order is really worth. We have already noted that officers (including those of high rank) took part in the pogroms alongside their soldiers and Cossacks. And often it was the officers themselves who started them. Even those officers who did not actually participate with their own hands still shared in the plunder. Not to mention the “contributions” that they extorted. Commanders and garrison chiefs, who were supposed to stop the pogroms, were constantly extorting “contributions” to “uphold order,” meaning to issue orders. What more do we need than Sokolov’s account about “heavy capital” and a “gigantic train loaded with merchandise and other goods,” which he saw in Rostov with “a popular military leader?”

72Could the military commanders on the ground really have stopped the pogroms, when they knew that that Army did not take them seriously, and when they themselves participated? There can be no doubt. When you weigh the many orders that were not obeyed, that is evidence, too. The Cossacks got the message. It suffices to consider the case of stopping a pogrom in one town, and the answer becomes quite clear. On 4/17 August 1919, the Volunteer Army took Cherkasy, and it launched a pogrom that very day, which lasted 3 days and took the lives of 150 people and many more who were wounded and raped, not to mention plundered.

73The command took note of the pogrom only on 6/19 August, the third day. The commander, centurion Golovk, issued Order no. 3. It mentions pogroms, among other things: “Point 4. I have received many complaints that Cossacks are supposedly plundering, but it turns out that in reality, it is the local people who are plundering. I am furious, and anyone who is caught red-handed will be shot without mercy.” This, then, officially absolved the Cossacks and their officers of any responsibility, which is to say the very ones who had perpetrated the pogrom, and they could continue what they were doing without interference. After the third day (the infamous “3 days”) the violence subsided, followed by a “quiet pogrom.”

74Violence and plundering continued. Jewish homes were ransacked, supposedly in the search for weapons. The military command again commented on the pogrom, but now in a patient tone. The new commander in town, lieutenant Vasilyev, issues an order (No. 1, 8/21 August) which states, among other things: “Point 4. Searching houses at will (without an order) are strictly forbidden. Whoever disobeys this order will be treated as a robber. Point 5. I ask you to help the chief of the city police to stop robbers and other criminals. They (the criminals) should be arrested and brought to me.” Clearly that order had no more of an impact than the first two, because the very next day the command again addressed the same issue.

75This time it was the garrison chief, Captain Yakovlev, but he does not accuse the criminals, and instead chastises and blames the victims. His order states: “I have already ordered the residents to surrender their weapons, their valuable clothes, and their valuable things. And it should have been done all at the same time… Instead they hid their weapons and their (valuable) things, and because of that we are forced to search the houses (Order no. 2 to the Cherkasy garrison, dated 9/22 August).” After they so obviously whitewashed “those who had done the searches,” that is to say those who had committed the pogroms, it was a signal to everyone that they were permitted to do anything they wished. And they did, to such an extent that in a few days the authorities again had to take up the pen.

76The new garrison chief, Captain Shimkevich, had to speak severely. His announcement said: “The Volunteer Army has routed the Bolsheviks, those evil plunderers and rapists, and has brought peace and security to all citizens alike, whatever their nationality, but I have heard that in a few parts of the city there have been attacks and robberies… I, the garrison chief of Cherkasy, wish to root out such Bolshevik activities, and I am warning the population that I am taking the most severe measures to protect the personal security and possessions of the citizenry. Those who are caught red-handed will be shot without mercy.” (Announcement dated 13/16 August).

77These “severe” words and “measures” must have frightened no one, because the “quiet pogrom” did not stop, and a new commander of the guard, Colonel Christoforov, had to start all over. Apparently he could not count on his own authority, because he immediately looked for help from a higher rank, General Slashchev, the supreme commander over the entire region, whose proclamation dealt primarily with the peasant revolts and specifically with Makhno’s gangs. Here is what it said: “I have been given the responsibility to allow the people the possibility to live peacefully, and I will do it. I will also take responsibility for violence against peaceful residents… I take full responsibility.” (Order no. 19, dated 30 October/12 November 1919)

78The General’s wrath was of no use either. In any case it was almost all over. The Volunteer Army was starting to retreat along the whole front, and mass plundering and slaughters began again. The same Christoforov had to bring it up again a month later (for the umpteenth time), with the threat to “shoot on the spot.” It is clear from his order that mass plunder was occurring again, especially against the Jewish residents, supposedly “by people disguised in the uniform of the Volunteer Army. I am convinced that these plunderers are not actually members of the Army… They are undoubtedly criminals who have put on the uniform in order to incriminate the honorable fighters of the Volunteer Army. Therefore I order… shooting on the spot without mercy.” (Order no. 20, dated 27 November/10 December 1919).

79Christoforov also promises that he will “publicly report the names of all those who are shot.” But no one ever has ever seen such a report. That is not surprising, considering the real purpose of the order: to whitewash those who were really guilty, the Cossacks and their officers, while throwing the blame onto the Bolsheviks, meaning, in the Volunteer Army context, the Jews themselves. We have already noted the use of this approach in Niezhyn (see above) and elsewhere.

80Looking at these orders that repeat the same thing, with little variation, in different towns, we cannot avoid concluding that the military command in each place issued those orders with these aims: 1. Whitewash those who were actually guilty, the Army, while besmirching the Bolsheviks 2. Keep up appearances for the sake of the supreme commanders 3. Humor the Jews to obtain “contributions.” That was how the local military stopped pogroms. But what were the upper echelons doing? They certainly understood what Shulgin had predicted, that “such an army would not last long.” They must have grasped that and they must have understood that pogroms weakened the victimizers no less than the victims. For that reason they had to curb the pogroms, for the sake of the Army itself. The survival of the Army was in danger.

81But first we must ascertain whether they knew about them and what they knew. We have already noted that a Jewish delegation informed Denikin about the pogroms on 26 July (August 8). To which Denikin replied: “I know more about these excesses than you.”

82A bit earlier, on July 20 (2 August), Denikin — as well as his whole regime — had been informed of the pogroms by a resolution of the regional conference of the People’s Socialist Party in Rostov-on-Don.

83On 13/26 September the Ukrainian committee of the Union for the Regeneration of Russia sent Denikin a detailed report on the pogroms and what needed to be done to stop them, with much documentary material.

84On the 3rd of October, three organizations, the National Center, the Union for the Regeneration of Russia, and the Union for the National Unification of Russia (which were the pillars of Denikin’s advisory Special Council) sent Denikin an outraged memorandum on the pogroms.

85At the end of October Professor Odinets, chairman of the Kiev Committee of the Union for the Regeneration of Russia, himself spoke to Denikin about it. In addition, the other high commanders — generals like Dragomirov, Mai-Mayevsky, Bredov, etc., were well-informed of the pogroms by delegations, memoranda, complaints by private individuals, etc. In short, the highest echelons were perfectly well aware of what was happening.

  • 18 A similar report was received from Chuvenko, police commissioner in Region Two of Bila-Tserkava [no (...)

86Strictly speaking, we cannot say that they did nothing at all about it. They issued orders forbidding pogroms. But these official prohibitions had absolutely no effect. Worse, they were mocked. In Kiev, for example, there was an assistant police commissioner named Skorokhod in Podol who, it appears, took seriously Bredov’s order of 5/18 October (mentioned above). Here is his account of this strange story of what occurred: On 5/18 October he caught criminals (four armed soldiers) red-handed as they were attacking Eliezer Moshinsky’s home at Vekhny-Val No. 23. He managed to arrest three of them with eyewitnesses. But he could not investigate the matter further, because disturbing news came that “high superiors” of their military detachment were on their way to help out their pals who had been arrested. So Skorokhod turned over the three men with their stolen goods to the commandant. He soon learned that the men had been released immediately. Skorokhod complained that in such situations the local guard (the police) was totally incapable of stopping armed attacks by military units, which were occurring on a massive scale. He ends his report this way: “The sub-commandant told me secretly, as a friendly warning, that it would go badly for policemen who tried to arrest soldiers, and he counseled me not to do it again. (Report of the assistant police commissioner dated 6/19 October).18

87And that was how it went in Kiev right in front of General Bredov’s eyes. What, then, could we expect of the provinces, where the commanders, the garrison chiefs, etc., often led the pogroms themselves, or at best shared the plunder with the Cossacks? There they didn’t merely intimidate the police; they punished them. For example in Pryluk the police arrested four soldiers in the pogrom. The commander of the Semyonov regiment came, gave the police chief a good slapping, and released the soldiers along with their plunder. Is it any surprise that the “struggle” against the pogroms had absolutely no effect?

88Much would have been required for that effort to have been successful, especially considering the way the Volunteer Army supplied itself. Above all, the highest commanders needed to have really been sincere and serious about it. The Cossacks and the officers needed to have been convinced that the military leaders fundamentally considered pogroms to be shameful, totally intolerable, and in no way part of their mission and purpose. But for the military leaders to really have been serious, they would have had to — at the very least — considered Jews as citizens with equal rights. They would have to think of Jews as an integral part of the population; who were no worse than others; who could just as well have Bolsheviks among them (since the Volunteer Army considered Bolsheviks to be criminals); and who bore no collective guilt for the actions of the Bolshevik Army.

89But could the highest commanders think of Jews that way? Not at all! Because they were the very same Tsarist generals who were steeped in the hatred of Jews and who rejected them as equal citizens. For four years, during the World War, they had continuously accused the Jews as traitors and spies. It was on their orders that hundreds of Jews had been falsely charged with espionage, as in the trial of Hershonovich in Mariiampil, and in the slander of Jews in the village of Kuzhi (Kovno province), etc. It was on their orders that hundreds of thousands of Jews were banished from the area of the front line — and given 24 hours to leave — with a cruelty such as they never showed towards the citizens of the enemy, during the expulsion from Kovno and Suvalka provinces on 5 May 1915. We have seen that their treatment of the Jews had not changed.

90Even their way of making Jews “respectable” remained the same: At the start of the World War the Tsarist generals had seized Jewish hostages in Poland and Lithuania, and now they did the same in Ukraine under Denikin’s flag, in Valk on June 18–19 (July 1–2), 1919. Then they methodically fired all the Jews from government and social jobs. They set up a regime in which Jews had no civil rights and were denigrated. They expelled Jewish officers from their Army, as well as doctors (as in Kiev). They expelled Jews from the city governments, even from committees on wartime industrial production. They fired Jewish workers from all government enterprises. It was the highest echelons, the leaders at the top, who did all that. What impression, then, would that have made on the regular officers and Cossacks, especially since it was in their own personal interest that Jews be equated with “Bolsheviks” and “the enemies of Russia.” Did the soldier-criminals in Kiev, for example, really believe that General Bredov was serious with his order of 5/18 October against pogroms, when in that very order he made it clear that the Jews were “the defeated enemy,” and they should be treated “with mercy?”

91The most essential element was missing: sincerity! The attitude of the soldier-criminals towards the Jews was the same as that of those who should have stopped them. The generals, who are generally poor diplomats, could not even disguise the real reason for their sham campaign against pogroms which was: “What will the world say? What will foreign countries say? We have the Entente on our side, which sends us weapons and finances us, and watches over our relations with countries on our borders, in a very complicated international situation. What will they say about our pogroms?”

  • 19 Brigadier General Edgar Jadwin, member of the Henry Morgenthau Commission, sent by the United State (...)

92That was the overriding concern of many generals, Shkuro, Bredov, etc., when they spoke against pogroms. The dictatorship — Denikin himself — saw it that way too. The Jewish delegation of 26 July/8 August pleaded with him to issue a public proclamation against pogroms, and about the Jewish question in general and cited Admiral Kolchak’s proclamation in Siberia. To which he replied: “There are Americans there (in Siberia)! I will make a proclamation for all the rest.” What will our friends say? — that was the main issue for the generals, who, since it was a military dictatorship, also had to practice diplomacy. They had to welcome an English general, Briggs, and an American general, Jadwin (from the Morgenthau Commission),19 and they might have to give them an accounting, too. We have already seen from K.N. Sokolov that liberal declarations were staged “for export.”

93The Cossacks and their officers understood very clearly the underlying spirit of their leaders’ “strict orders,” so they paid no attention and just did as they wished. Let their “superiors” deal with their “friends” as best they could. One method could always be counted on: convince the “friends” that all Jews were Bolsheviks. That was why Osvag was needed, to peddle stories about “Jewish shooting in Novy-Mglyn, Kiev, etc.; about Jewish commissars (when needed, they could turn the Jewish “bourgeois” into commissars, as in Yuzovka; and about Red Legions of Jews (who were nowhere to be found with guns in their hands, to show the “friends”). Their “friends” believed them, or pretended to…

94And since the struggle against pogroms was fundamentally lacking in sincerity, the reaction to those who perpetrated them was extremely mild. During the entire period of eight months, we know of only a single case when General Mai-Mayevsky fired another general, Khazov, the commander of the Second Terek Plastun Brigade, because his brigadiers had destroyed Jewish shops in Smila (Order no. 325, dated 11/24 August). That was the official reason. But it is obvious that General Mai-Mayekovsky did not greatly lament the Brigade’s atrocities, because they had already previously devastated Cherkasy, and in Smila they dishonored themselves even worse, with murders and the mass rape of Jewish women. Mai-Mayevsky’s mild punishment did not in the least deter their pogrom activities. They went on to destroy the Jewish communities in Korsun and Bila-Tserkava, and they perpetrated the wholesale slaughter in Fastiv, with Commander Belogortsev in the lead, which was the worst of the pogroms of the Volunteer Army. In the course of three days they butchered and burned 600 Jews, and burned down the vast majority of Jewish homes and shops, on 9/22–12/15 September 1919.

95There was also a case where General Dragomirov put some officers on trial who had the nerve to be plundering after the “three legal days” of pogrom in Kiev on 17/20 October. There was another case — more of a comedy — of a trial of soldier-criminals in Tomashpil. In September 1919 Tomashpil was overrun by the Second Kuban Labinsk Cavalry Regiment, which launched a pogrom lasting five days straight. A delegation of two Christians traveled to Vafniarka, which was the nearest train station, and complained to General Rozenshild von Paulin. The general sent a field court to Tomashpil. When they arrived, the commander of the Labinsk Regiment summoned some Jews, and ordered them to write a letter attesting that his regiment had done no wrong to the Jews.

96The head of the field court himself privately advised them not to accuse the Volunteer Army harshly, and in general to be very cautious about their testimony. On the day that the Jews were going to testify before the court, the Cossacks started shooting in the streets, and screaming, “Kikes, go home! Or we’ll murder you!” Most of the witnesses and victims ran away. Only a small group of 15–20 people came to the trial. After the trial, the chairman privately told the Jews that some Cossack criminals had been sentenced to death. But the executions would be carried out in Vafniarka, not in Tomashpil, because it would make the regiment look bad.

97Whether there had actually been such a sentence, and whether the sentence had been carried out, could not be officially confirmed. But the residents of Tomashpil were able to witness this scene: The court wanted to inspect the Cossack wagons, which were overflowing with goods that had been plundered from the Jews. With the very first wagon, the Cossacks began shooting from the courtyards and the streets nearby. The court ran away, and was not seen again near the wagons. Later, when the Labinsk Regiment retreated before the Bolsheviks, they got even with the Jews on 20–21 February (4–5 March) and perpetrated a pogrom in which they murdered many people.

98But those were rare, unusual cases. As a rule the soldier-criminals never had to deal with accusations or face any punishment. K.N. Sokolov confirms this when he mentions “the open plundering at the front.” He says, “The knowledge that there would be no punishment, turned loose human beings — often decent, peaceful — whom months of bloody warfare had turned into wild beasts.” We gradually struggled against this evil. Once in a while plunderers in military uniform were sentenced to death. But those were very rare exceptions. As a rule they plundered the residents systematically without interference. Soldiers of every rank and position did it (p. 193). Sokolov hides the fact that “the residents” in towns and villages were almost always Jews. As a rule the struggle against pogroms consisted only of orders, proclamations, and persuasion. But the more these sermons against pogroms were issued, the less impact they had on the very people who were supposed to learn their lesson. They were practical people, not political, and experience had taught them that though the orders might seem severe, the commanders were mild, and you could count on them!

99There were those who thought that an order from General Denikin, the dictator himself, would help. A Jewish delegation asked him to do it on 26 July (8 August). Similarly the Union for the Regeneration of Russia sent Denikin a memorandum on the pogroms on 13/26 September. So did three organizations (the Union for the Regeneration of Russia, the National Center, and the Union for the National Unification of Russia) in their desperate memorandum of 3 October. General Denikin hesitated for a long time, and finally on 25 September (8 October) he issued an order only to the military commander of the Kiev region: “I have had news that the Army is committing acts of violence against Jews. I order that energetic measures be taken to stop such acts. The guilty shall be punished harshly” (published in Kiev newspapers). “I have had news” — thus said General Denikin two months after he had been told of pogroms by the Jewish delegation and after he himself had told that delegation, “I know more about these excesses than you.”

100How far down the Army did Denikin’s three sentences reach? And how much of an effect did they have? The clearest answer to that question lies in the continuing pogroms that did not stop for a single day, and especially the pogrom of 17/20 October in Kiev itself (which until then had been peaceful), which was perpetrated right in front of the highest military and civilian authorities. The Union for the National Unification of Russia independently, and also together with the other two organizations, let Denikin know that pogroms were “a terrible blow to our cause before the world opinion of the Allied countries,” which was an approach that should have been effective. They pointed out that in addition to his order, it was also necessary 1) to appoint a high-level investigative commission and 2) bring the criminals to justice.

101Could the dictator Denikin have carried out such a campaign against pogroms if he had even wanted to? Denikin gave the answer to that question in another context, when he met with the Jewish delegation on 26 July (August 8). They had told him that he had wrought “a miracle” by creating such an army, and asked him to issue an order against pogroms. It would surely be obeyed. To which Denikin replied, “Thank God that they obey my battle commands. But it is not possible to expect more under the present circumstances and the morale of the Army.” Clearly the dictator knew his Army better than his officers. Having unleashed “the dregs,” “the wild beast,” nothing he did would be effective now. And the more that “dregs” were “liberating Russia,” i.e. the more they “liberated” Jews of the burden of their lives and possessions and human dignity, the less effective he became. The dregs wished to lead, and not be led.

102But it must be said that there had been a time when General Denikin understood how serious a situation the bloodbath of pogroms was for the Army itself, a threat to itself. At that time he had shown courage to say it to the Army, and he had found the right words to do it: “Not long ago we were in Oriol. But a series of mistakes has driven us back to Kuban. Now, on the eve of a determined assault, we must be victorious. Let everyone remember that one of the reasons why our front broke down, and our rear fell into indiscipline — was the murders and the plundering… If our commanders do not immediately root out this evil, our new attack will be for naught. I command that the harshest measures be taken, including the death penalty, against all those who commit murder and plunder, and against those who hide them from the higher superiors, which they are not.”

103But it was too late, after all that had already happened! He gave that command on 23 January 1920 in the village of Tikhoretsk in the death throes of the Volunteer Army. General Denikin had overestimated his chances. The “Plunder Army,” as the Volunteer Army was called in Ukraine, was broken and totally undisciplined. But it did manage to take back Rostov again for two days, February 7–8, but it was forced to retreat. At the end of the month its remnants were driven back to the sea.

  • 20 Yiddish: The World.

104Whatever one may think of the “measures” against pogroms taken by the high command of the Volunteer Army, there remains one significant detail which cannot be altered or explained away. Petliura’s military units also committed pogroms, including those by big and little “Atamans” (officers), and their attempts to stop the pogroms were no better than that of the Volunteers. But there was one anomaly: a single investigative commission in a single town: Zhitomir. The Volunteer Army did not even have that much. Yes, there was an investigation to be sure, not into the pogroms, but into “Jewish shooting,” by Senator Gulayev’s commission in Kiev. They censored the respectable press. For example, on 23 September (October 6) 1919, Chernovitz, the editor of the Jewish newspaper, Di velt20 was notified that “no articles about pogroms or assaults committed by people in military uniform shall be permitted to be published.” And the Volunteer Army itself hid its atrocities from the world, certain that they would remain unnoticed. Who knows what more horrifying things would have come to light?


1 This was a military unit infamous for its pogrom massacres in Korsun, Fastiv, and other towns [note by the author].

2 The Jewish delegation recorded this conversation with General Denikin and sent it straight to the Editorial Board along with other documents on the pogrom in the Kharkiv community. To my knowledge it has not been published before [note by the author].

3 ‘Realdov’ in Russian, an abbreviation for ‘voenno realzatsiia dobychi’, meaning appropriating what the military has seized from the enemy [note by the author].

4 Albrecht von Wallenstein organized mercenary troops for Emperor Ferdinand II during the Thirty Years’ War.

5 Russian: Free Cossacks, Ukrainian nationalist militia.

6 See the newspaper Kievskaya Rus, No. 5, 25 November 1919 [note by the author].

7 Struk’s proclamation on this was published in the newspaper Odeski Listak, No. 14, 15/28 January 1920 [note by the author].

8 Russian: Golos k Russkomu narodu ot Iuzhnoi Armii.

9 The Ukrainian independence movement.

10 K. N. Sokolov often says that ‘liberalism’, and specifically the liberal declaration of March 1919 on the aims of the Volunteer Army, was ‘made for export’ (p. 123). ‘The representatives of the Entente at Headquarters made it clear to the High Command that we needed to have a liberal declaration to allay any suspicions concerning our reactionary aims’ [note by the author].

11 This proclamation was published by Col. Malone, Member of the English Parliament, in his book The Russian Republic. Our text is translated from the English [note by the author].

12 Cheka is an acronym of the Russian words ‘Extraordinary Commission’ for Combatting Counterrevolution, Speculation, etc. It was the secret political police of the Soviet Union.

13 Abbreviation of the Russian Osvedomitel’noe Agenstvo [Information Agency], the official propaganda organ of the Volunteer Army. It was later called the Otdel’ Propagandy [Propaganda Department].

14 Menakhem Mendel Beilis was a Ukrainian Jew who was falsely accused of ritual murder in 1913.

15 Tauride.

16 There is in the Archives of the Editorial Board on Pogrom Materials a printed copy of this dispatch, which was removed from a wall in Ostior (Chernihiv province). By an oversight of the censor, the dispatch was published in the Kiev Yiddish newspaper, Di velt [note by the author].

17 Russian: rural councils.

18 A similar report was received from Chuvenko, police commissioner in Region Two of Bila-Tserkava [note by the author].

19 Brigadier General Edgar Jadwin, member of the Henry Morgenthau Commission, sent by the United States to research the situation in Poland from July to September 1919. Its report was published in the New York Times.

20 Yiddish: The World.


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