||An epic poem about the Ukrainian pogroms by "the old poet" Alter Epter. He is also the author of "Der Harbayṭr beṭrog" (Jerusalem, n.d.), Gerem ha-maʻalot (Jerusalem, 1932) , Germanishe inḳṿizitsyon: gishriben in gramen es zol kezin menir in damin (Tel Aviv, 1933) and others. The Bolshevik ("October") revolution of 1917 was followed by a civil war and a war with Poland. A large number of Jews, between 50,000 and 100,000 or even 200,000, died in riots and massacres. In the long history of European antisemitism, these were probably the largest-scale massacre of Jews to date. Because of the chaos prevailing in that period, and because of the interests of various sides in covering up the violence, the post-revolutionary pogroms are the least discussed and researched, and data about them are scarce.The neglect of this period cannot entirely accidental. The Proskurov pogrom, in which about 2,000 Jews were murdered on February 15, 1919, was a horrendous event.Eventually, about 10,000 Jews were murdered in that district. The events are barely remembered by Jews, and certainly not by anyone else whose ancestors were not from that unfortunate town. Yet at the time, the New York Times wrote:
The first of a new series of events which leave the scope of ordinary pogroms and assume the character of slaughter occurred in a city which will forever be written in letters of blood on the pages of Jewish history. (Jews Slain in Ukraine, New York Times, September 19, 1919, based on an article that had appeared in the Yiddish paper, Der Tog - the Day).
These pogroms were indeed a new and "improved" twentieth century version.Most of this violence was not the "natural consequence" of war, but rather the result of pogroms, aimed specifically at Jews. It is difficult to get more accurate numbers, or to know how many were murdered because they were Jews, how many died of starvation and disease and how many died fighting in the various armies.
The area of the greatest concentration of pogroms corresponded roughly to the Tsarist Jewish pale of settlement. It included Ukraine, Galicia, Belarus ("White Russia" in the map), Moldavia, Eastern Poland, Easter Romania, and Western Russia. The borders shifted around with the confused fighting.Most of the pogroms and deaths occurred in the Ukraine, for several reasons. The first was that the Ukraine had the largest concentration of Jews in Russia. The second is that the Ukraine was the scene of the bitterest and most prolonged fighting. In addition to the "White" (Volunteer) counter-revolutionary forces of General Anton Ivanovich Denikin, that operated in Greater Russia, and the Soviet Red Army, there were the Ukrainian nationalists of Petliura, and the Polish forces. Several wars occurred in the Ukraine and vicinity between Polish, Ukrainian, "White" Russians (not to be confused with the geographic region of Byelorussia - also called "White Russia) and Soviet troops. Western Russia had been the scene of fighting with the German and Austrian forces, and it held major concentrations of demobilized, hungry, armed and unruly troops. We cannot ignore, as well, the long history of Ukrainian anti-Semitism, going back to the time of Bogdan Khmelnytsky (Chmielnitsky).
The reasons or excuses for the pogroms were diverse. Everyone hated the Jews for religious reasons. The Poles accused them of being anti-Polish. The Ukrainians hated the Jews first because they were merchants and exploiters (bourgeois) and then because they were communists. There was chaos during this period, and afterwards the authorities destroyed or hid whatever documentation existed, though some of it is coming to light following the fall of the USSR. Regarding the total number of victims, one recent study states:
No statistics were kept, of course, and the numbers put forth in the literature range from 50,000 to 200,000 dead. To these we should add tens of thousands who were maimed, raped, and robbed...(p. 751).
Salo Baron calculated that the number of victims "easily" exceeds 50,000 (The Russian Jew under Tsars and Soviets, 2nd ed. [New York: Macmillan, 1975], 184); Nora Levin gives the figure of 50–60,000 (The Jews in the Soviet Union since 1917, vol. 1[New York: New York University Press, 1988], 49); Shmuel Ettinger estimates 75,000 (in A History of the Jewish People, ed. Haim Hiller Ben-Sasson [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976], 954); Nahum Gergel ("The Pogroms in the Ukraine in 1918–21," YIVO Annual of Jewish Social Science, vol. 6 , 251) and Sergei Ivanovich Gusev-Orenburgskii (Kniga o evreiskikh pogromakh na Ukraine v 1919 g. [Petrograd: Izdatel'stvo Z. I. Grzhebina, n. d.], 14) both speak of about 100,000 fatalities. Finally, the number of 200,000 victims is given in Iurii Larin, Evrei i anti-Semitizm v SSSR (Moscow and Leningrad: Gosizdat, 1929), 55. See also Richard Pipes, Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995), 112. Gergel considered it possible to document 50–60,000 Jewish dead due to pogroms, but noted that, considering the lack of precise data, the actual number could actually well be twice that figure. The author of a recent study accepts the relatively lower figures (Henry Abramson, A Prayer for the Government: Ukrainians and Jews in Revolutionary Times, 1917–1920 [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999], 110). (footnote, p. 772) (Budnitskii, Oleg, Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 2.4 (2001) 751-772).