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The Pogroms. 1881

From the Hebrew Press:

("Extracted and translated from the newspaper copies by Chaim Freedman).

Hamelitz 1881; May 19 (31) (# two dates: Georgian and Julian)
Berdansk May 13

On the 5th of May a mob of peasants assembled from the village of Konsky-rosdor (Alexandrovsk district, Yekarterinoslav Government) and destroyed the shops of the Jews and spoiled everything therein. The priest of the village went our to preach to them with a gentle tongue to implore them to desist from evil, but the crowd did not heed his words.

Like this incident so was it in the villages Popiko and Andreyevka and the city Orekhov. Many families came here naked as the day they were born, hungry and thirsty. Yesterday a rumor spread that also the Jewish colonies in the Alexandrovsk and Mariupol districts were set upon by persecutors who gave vent to their wrath. Against these there can be no claim, because they support themselves by the toil of their hands by working in the fields, and sparingly support their households, and have no part of the Christian peasants around about. Nevertheless they fell upon them and smote them a foul blow. Their houses were wrecked, their sheep and cattle and all the spoil they took and left.

Therefore, I call upon our people wherever they may be to awaken and take pity on the forsaken colonists who have been left devoid of everything, and whoever wishes should send his donation the address of the Rabbi Grumin in Mariupol or to the address of the Rabbi Bruk in Colony Grafskoy, and he will allocate the money to the desperately poor.

We here were in great fear and sent a telegram to the ruler of our land, the Duke Dondukoborsov. Yesterday a battalion of soldiers arrived from Pavlograd and the minister from Simferopol in person arrived, and assured us that peace and quiet would be in our city. A few families traveled from here to Kertch and also sent their merchandise to other towns.

All the Russians here signed a decision to expel the Jews from here and at every corner can be heard a murmur that the Jews such the blood of the Russians and now the end has arrived to remove their memory from the land

-Yosef, the son of David Hakohen.

Hamelitz 1881; May 26 (June 7))

From the Jewish Colonies in the Government of Yekaterinoslav May 13:

With weeping tears I write these columns, to announce to our brethren of the Children of Israel that also our brethren the workers of the land drank of the poisoned cup. On the 5, 6, 7, 8th of May the Russians fell upon the colonies Trudoluibovka, Nechaevka, Grafskoy, and Mezeretch. With fury they denigrated like an empty vessel those unfortunates who live by the labor of their hands and have no hand in commerce with the peasants their neighbors, nor serve them wine or spirits.

Their houses they destroyed and whatever they found therein they smashed to pieces, The Torah scrolls and all the printed books they tore and defiled them with refuse. The fear of the Almighty fell up on all the colonies of the Hebrews because the Russian peasants boasted that after they had filled their packs with booty they would put an end to their lives. Men, women and children escaped with their lives by the skin of their flesh in the dark of night and hid in holes and cracks in the open field, far from where human foot trod. And from much confusion mothers lost their children and men their wives.

In vain I try with my poor pen to describe all the evil which came upon us, and the terror of death which engulfs us. Thanks are due to the government which sent soldiers to defend us and disperse our attackers.

But the bread has finished in our vessels; therefore it is to you, the generous of our nation, I call. Wake up please to have pity on your brethren who are supported from the toil of their hands, by the sweat of their brow, who were laid waste innocently, other than that they are called Jew. Cal for donations to save the souls of the needy. Also our neighbors the Germans sent us wagons laden with food to revive the soul, surely you our brothers and flesh and blood, merciful ones the sons of merciful ones, and if not you, who will be for us?

The writer who signs in tears, the official government rabbi for the Hebrew colonies in the Government of Yekaterinoslav,

-Yaakov Bruk, my address is care of Mariupol, Yekaterinoslav Government in the Jewish Colony Grafskoy, Officail Rabbin Bruk.

Colony Nechaevka

On Wednesday the 6th of May in the morning our neighbors the peasants rose up against us like hungry wolves. At first, the inhabitants of Colony Trudoliobovka succeeded to drive off the robbers with the assistance of the inhabitants of Nechaebka and Grafskoy and also some Germans who hurried to their help. But when we saw that we could not stand up against them, we fled for our lives. Then they broke into our houses and broke the windows and doors, and smashed the ovens and took all our property, also our horses and cattle, all the ploughing and harvesting implements, everything they took with them, and what was left they smashed to pieces. They destroyed the shops to the foundation and ten Torah scrolls and many books they tore to shreds and cast them to the earth and trod them with their feet. They Holy Ark and the pulpit they took with them. What was able to be saved from their evil hands, we hid in the German Colony Marenfeld, about seven versts from us. They returned and plundered on Thursday and we were narrowly saved from death, if we had not hurried to escape for our lives, and we were forced to flee at night, men women and children and the elderly, about ten versts to Colony Vilner where we found the Trustee who had come to defend us. A number of children were lost at night in the open field because their parents forgot them and they were left to the winds of chance from great fear.

Thanks to the authorities who did all they could to shelter us and also the inhabitants of the villages who stood up to the guard and not let those greedy for murder to leave their villages. Also the priests are worthy of praise because they also stood in the breach and preached morality to the mob and warned them against doing such abominations.

Now "Hamelitz", write this as a memorial lest be forgotten of the deeds of the villagers and the priests an the government officials (even though I don't know their names) and let the publishers of the Russian Jewish periodicals copy these words of gratitude which come forth from the depth of the heart. Let those Christians who have done us well know that Israel will not forget all who do well for them. So speak to the heart of our brethren to have mercy on the unfortunates amongst us who sit on the ground in the ruins of their houses without bread or clothes. The hair would be whitened of all who came to see this upheaval. Also the minister in charge of all the Hebrew colonies (the Popetchitel) Mr. Kovalevsky wept and moaned bitterly when he came to visit us.

Also Colony No. 4 (# Mezhirech) near to Hulyaipolye was burst into by villains who wrought their desire as they did by us. And in Colony Kobilnye they threw one dead person out of a window and other such terrible things. And when we asked out neighbors who have dwelt securely with us always": "Why have you acted so to your neighbors? Like brothers we have dwelt with you, workers of the soil are we like you, we have done no evil to you, we have not encroached on your boundaries, or harmed you or done anything bad. What spirit came upon you to turn from friends to enemies?" And they replied simply that so were they commanded by a certain ruler who passed through all the villages, to do so to the Jews. There is no doubt that one of the Nihilists was our foe.

It is worth while and right that the leaders of Israel in the capital city should suggest to the mighty government to grant us support in our trouble. We are peasants; our hands do not touch commerce nor do we draw sprits for the Christians; from the fruit of our hands' labor we make a meager livelihood; from where can we revive our souls if everything was plundered. and we have nothing left save our bodies and our land? If the government does not hurry to our help, who knows what will be the end of the matter, because the shelter of a few can save us at this time, lest we perish form starvation. Only the government by itself can improve our situation to strengthen our hands, to draw forth bread from the ground as formerly.

The writer with a hand shaking from much lamentation,

-Yonah the son of rev SH. ZZ. Klaf.

We have collected there two articles which are composed in the same style and complement each toher and bear witness one for the other, so that our readers will be convinced of the truth of these matters, and furthermore will recognize that they have not exaggerated, nor is there any cause for the hatred of their neighbors, and they hands are confused to bring witness to show iniquity and to hate us. "Nov. Vr." in all that it related from nearby Maruipol,. did not spare in telling about what happened to the casualties.

According to that writer, the mighty government has for the past decades allocated from government property in Yekaterinoslav Government fields for the Jews, and now, according to the calculation of the authorities, the number of Jewish workers of the land in Mariupol district alone has reached six thousand souls. They are divided into two sections: Zatishye and Grafskoy, and in both of them are seven colonies. In the latter (Grafskoy) which is located on the border of Alexandrovsk district, there broke out disturbances lie in Yelizavetgrad, According to reports verified by the authorities, on the 8th of May peasants from the districts of Alexandrovsk and Mariupol, led by shady characters (unknown) fell upon two colonies and destroyed and took over the entire property of the Jews, and left them without food or the shade of a roof, At the first attack on the Jews, the police force of the Oryadnik and the supervisors of the Hebrew colonies did not stop the murder and more so the blood of the mob boiled and they went from house to house and confiscated whatever they laid hands upon.

And he adds that a great dark fear fell upon the Jews living in the other colonies, and many fled for their lives and abandoned all their property to chance, or deposited their belongings with their Christian neighbors who dwelt amicably with them.

From all these our brethren can understand the calamity of these unfortunates who even the worst and cruelest prosecutor could not justify the sentence, and against his wishes would admit that it could not be verified that which is claimed by the drainers of the sap of their land and their toil. The Russians wrought vengeance on their brethren the Jewish peasants, by the hands of dark disguised ones they were incited. Therefore they are worthy of compassion and we should hurry to their assistance, happy if by our hands be their salvation.

(Hatsefirah 1881; May 12 (24))

On the 1st (13th) of May there broke out a disturbance in Alexandrovsk, Yekaterinoslav Government. Workers on the railroad fell upon the Jews, plundered them and smote them greatly. They were assisted by the local peasants. Eight hours the upheaval ensued, until after midnight the army arrived and put down the disturbance.

On the 2nd of May disturbances broke out in Lozova and in Nikolaev. In both these places the plunderers did not do much evil because armed forces came in time and restored order. Not so was it in the city of Smiela in the Government of Kiev......on the day of disturbances near the railway line in Zmerinsk the Jews lives were at stake....in the city of Konotop all the houses and shops near the railway line were destroyed. On the 7th (19th) of May came a report from Simferopol that the fire became enflamed also in the towns of the Crimea. In Berdyansk and Orekhov, the disturbances broke out in a terrible manner and the minister of the district hastened there at the head of an army battalion. The end of the matter is still not known. The inhabitants of the villages abandoned their homes and gathered in the towns and cities, Kremenchug, Poltave and Yekaterinoslav which became besieged cities.

In the rural towns in Kherson Government the German and Bulgarian colonists awoke and chose armed men to guard our brethren of the House of Israel in their places. In Warsaw the last ten days passed quietly and safely: there are no outbreaks in the streets of Warsaw.


(Hatsefirah 1881; May 12 (24))

Berizovka (Kherson Gov.)

(# This issue, on this date, contains a description of pogroms in the above town.)

Hatsefirah 1881; May 19 (31))

Orekhov, a town in the Government of Crimea, district of Melitopol, reports that disturbance broke out there on the 4th (16th) of the month in a terrible manner. Of all the houses and shops of the Jews not a remnant was left. All the storehouses for spirits and other drinks were raided and plundered, and streams of spirits flowed all around the city. The terrible upheaval continued for two days, and when the armed forces arrived in the city, there remained nothing of the Jews, save their bodies and their destroyed and desolate houses. Fear struck all our brethren of the House of Israel living round about- that they should not also be subjected to a massacre after all their property was plundered.

In the city of Melitopol; a large mob collected last Sunday to attack all the Jewish houses, but the police commander advised the intending perpetrators and the mob withdrew.

(Hatsefirah 1881; May 26 (June 7))

We will repeat in order that there should be a memorial for all the places wherein the persecuting hand prevailed in the last three weeks. Aside from the city Orekhov, which we mentioned in the previous edition, the following villages were victims: Konskiy-Rozdor (Yekaterinoslav Gov.) almost all the Jewish colonies in the Alexandrovsk and Mariupol districts were plundered, their stock destroyed and their work tools smashed, the houses destroyed and every good allotment covered with stones.

In the town Gulyai-polye where there are Jewish businesses, the peasants gathered before the senior noblemen  and the village priest and demanded that they be read the religious writ about annihilating the Jews. It took much effort by the priest to quieten the tumult. But after a few days the disturbances were renewed and the Jews were subjected to derision and attack in a terrible manner.

On May 5 (17) the plundered broke into about seven villages and the Jewish agricultural colonies and had their way  with them, Many were beaten and wounded and all their property pillaged. The small and large animals were captured, the ploughs and field implements were smashed, and all the good allotments were covered in stones. Most of the attackers were form the villages Voskresensk and Gatshurl (# Heitsur). All the villagers said unanimously that there had not been any command to act so, for now it seemed that such deeds were not done in the larger cities by the light of the sun and in view of the judges and polices, other than if restraint had been back.

The haters of Israel knew of no guilt amongst the sons of our people, save that we don't work the land (# the urban Jews), but now it can be seen what was in store for the Jewish Agriculturalists who suffered tragedy in Alexandrovsk district whose names we have mentioned, we have been informed from the environs of the city Orekhov that three broke out disturbances in a terrible manner as reported last week. Three villages of the Jewish Colonies were destroyed and two large estates near Orekhov belonging to property owning Jews were made desolate. 500 cattle and horses and 10,000 sheep imported from Spain and praised for the quality of their wool, were captured. Household and field implements were smashed to pieces and all the ploughing and harvesting tools were broken and the produce found in the stores was laden onto carts and removed.

In Berdyansk many were arrested who were known to have aided the plunderers and murderers.

Hatsefirah 1881; June 9 (21))

The vile adversary "Novi Vreyme" itself wrote that Israel had been reviled and its faith defamed. It reported everything that occurred to the Jewish agriculturalist in the colonies of Grafskoy and its sisters Zatishye, Sladkovodnaya, Tsarakonstantinovka, and Alexeyeva and tens of others in the districts of Alexandrovsk and Mariupol. Hundreds of families were let destitute in the fields. Hundreds of Jews who were owners of houses and fields are now asking to become servants to the peasants in return for a loaf of bread. These unfortunates have nothing left save but their bodies. Also the sown fields were covered with stones and the houses and cattle captured. The foundations of the houses and the farm implements were destroyed. The attackers warned that if the German colonists helped the Jews they also would not be spared. In the district of Mirograd in the two towns Shshki and Tukhim the Jews were beaten with whips. Hundreds of naked and barefoot families found refuge in the German colonies, and the Germans gave every person seven Kopeks per day lest they die from hunger.



From: Our Father's Harvest by Keith Freedman

In 1881, Tsar Alexander III came to the throne and issued his infamous Ukase know as the "May Laws'. These were proclaimed May 3rd, 1882 by Count Ignatieff:

"The Committed of Ministers, having heard the report of the Minister of the Interior on the execution of the temporary orders concerning Jews, resolved:

1. As a temporary measure and until a general revision has been made in a proper manner of the laws concerning the Jews, to forbid henceforth to settle outside the towns and townlets, the only exceptions admitted being in those Jewish colonies that have existed before and whose inhabitants are agriculturalists.

2. To suspend temporarily the completion of instruments of purchase of real property mortgages in the name of Jews; as also the registration of Jews as lessees of landed estates, situated outside the precincts of towns and townlets, and the issue of powers of attorney to enable them to manage and dispose of such property.

3. To forbid Jews to carry on business on Sundays and on Christian holidays, and that the same laws in force, about the closing on such days of places of business belonging to Christians, shall in the same way, apply to places of business owned by Jews.

4. That the measures lad down in paragraphs 1,2, and 3 apply only to the Governments within the ple of Settlement.

His majesty the Emperor was graciously pleased to give his assent to the above resolutions of the Committee of Ministers on the 3rd of May, 1882."

This ukase, which provided for further segregation of the Jews and placed them under constant surveillance, had been seen by the Tsar as a precursor to a wave of government-aroused anti-Semitism. Doe to the appalling living conditions, the Tsar needed something to divert the peasants' discontent. The Jews provided just such an ideal diversion. Spurred on by government -backed rabble-rousers who spread anti-Semitic propaganda throughout the Jewish Pale, numerous pogroms broke out. The Jewish settlements were constantly at the mercy of ignorant 'moujiks' (peasants) who were ready to blame the first available scapegoat, namely the Jews, for all their misfortunes. On realizing the success of his policy, the Tsar saw a further benefit in the pogroms: the eradication of the Jews from the Russian Empire. His plan, expertly enunciated and administered by his advisor Pobedonostsev, was to rid "Holy Mother Russia" of the Jews for all time: one third by starvation, Hundreds of thousands of Jews fled overseas, but the cast majority would not leave the country which they considered to be their homeland

Articles in The Jewish Chronicle (London) describing pogroms in Russia, May 1881



Mass grave in Trudolyubovka. 1919.

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