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Jewish Nationality and Soviet Politics: The Jewish Sections of the CPSU, 1917-1930

Jewish Nationality and Soviet Politics: The Jewish Sections of the CPSU, 1917-1930

Zvi Y. Gitelman
Copyright Date: 1972
Pages: 586
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    Jewish Nationality and Soviet Politics: The Jewish Sections of the CPSU, 1917-1930
    Book Description:

    In order to "Bolshevize" the Jewish population, the Soviets created within the Party a number of special Jewish Sections. Charged with the task of integrating the largely hostile or indifferent Jews into the new state the Sections' programs are, in effect, a case study of the modernization and secularization of an ethnic and religious minority. Zvi Gitelman's analysis of the Sections during the first decade of Soviet rule examines the nature of the challenge that modernization posed, the crises it created, and the responses it evoked.

    Originally published in 1972.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6913-8
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
    Z. Y. G.
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    The conceptual scheme or model with which historians and social scientists approach their subjects filters the facts available to them and often determines the weighting assigned to particular facts and predetermines which interrelationships between them will be discovered, and which ignored. Alex Inkeles has suggested that “there is no such thing as a right or wrong sociological model. There are richer and poorer ones. There are the more sensitive and the less sensitive. There are those which are more appropriate to one time or place than another. All have a piece of the truth, but it is rare that any...

  6. I The Politics of the Jewish Question in Tsarist Russia
    (pp. 17-66)

    The Jews living in the western parts of the Tsarist Empire in the nineteenth century were a nationality, possessing their own language, religion, civil administration, judicial institutions, and educational system. For historical, cultural, and political reasons the Jews also developed a distinctive economic and social structure. The Jewish population was confined to a limited area, the Pale of Residence, which included the former Polish provinces incorporated into the Tsarist Empire in the 1770’s and 1790’s, Belorussia and Lithuania, the northeastern Ukraine, and areas near the Black Sea which had been colonized by the Russians in the early part of the...

  7. II 1917: Parties, Politics, and the Planning of Freedom
    (pp. 69-102)

    The revolution of March 1917 was hailed by the overwhelming majority of the Jewish people in the crumbling Russian Empire. They had little cause to regret the downfall of a regime which had confined them to the Pale, had closed the professions, agriculture, and heavy industry to them and, during the war, had climaxed its treatment of the Jews by expelling thousands of them from their homes, particularly in the border areas of Poland and Lithuania, on the grounds that they were a disloyal element. This action was accompanied by seizures of hostages, rigged trials, and suppression of the press...

  8. III The Establishment of The Jewish Commissariats and Jewish Sections
    (pp. 105-148)

    The Bolsheviks had conducted practically no agitation or propaganda among the Jewish masses prior to 1917. Consequently, there were very few Jewish Bolsheviks, and almost no Bolsheviks who were familiar with the Yiddish language or with Jewish life. In 1922 there were only 958 Jewish members of the Communist Party who had joined before 1917,¹ while the total Party membership in January 1917 was 23,600. Less than five percent of Jewish Party members in 1922 had been Bolsheviks before 1917.

    Within the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party the Jews were concentrated in the Bund and in the Menshevik faction. For...

  9. IV Disappearing Alternatives: The End of the Jewish Socialist Parties
    (pp. 151-230)

    If the victory of the Bolsheviks was facilitated by the fragmentation and disunity of the Whites and the anti-Bolshevik parties, the expansion and strengthening of the Jewish Sections was even more directly the result of the disintegration of its political rivals by internal and external forces. In a larger sense, the destruction of the traditional structures of political authority within the Jewish community, together with the retention of some of the familiar political leaders in positions of new authority, made easier the social and political mobilization of the Russian Jewish population. The unity of the Bund was severely tested by...

  10. V “Revolution on the Jewish Street”
    (pp. 233-318)

    The Jewish Commissariat, established in 1918 to direct the cultural, political, and economic reconstruction of the Jews of Soviet Russia, was largely ignored by the Jewish people and the Soviet state alike, and it led an insecure life in 1918-19. “In those days we would count the weeks that we would be able to hold out, and then we were convinced that we would be allowed to exist for only a few months.”¹ As Soviet power consolidated and the Jewish community disintegrated,Evkomacquired new confidence, fresh reserves of personnel, and additional budgetary allocations.Evkomassumed broad responsibility for the...

  11. VI The Constructive Years
    (pp. 321-376)

    By 1923 the success of the “revolution on the Jewish street” seemed assured. The first stage in the social mobilization of Russian Jewry, “the stage of uprooting or breaking away from old settings, habits, and commitments,” had been completed. But theEvsektsiiawas also charged with the implementation of the second stage of social mobilization, “the induction of the mobilized persons into some relatively stable new patterns of group membership, organization, and commitment.”¹ TheEvsektsiiawas well suited to the task. Since assimilation was the only realistic solution to the Jewish problem, according to Lenin, theEvsektsiiacould not be...

  12. VII The Evsektsiia and the Modernization of Soviet Jewry
    (pp. 379-440)

    The Policies and programs adopted during the transition from disintegrative to integrative activity in 1924-26 did not cure the economic-political ills of Soviet Jewry. Theshtetlremained a festering sore in Soviet society; the Party still could not make a lasting peace with thekustar; the Jewish social-economic structure continued to produce “unhealthy” manifestations. Just as Stalin and others in the Party began to turn away from Bukharin’s gradualism, so too did theEvsektsiiabegin to search for more potent medicines than the palliatives of Yiddishization,kustarcooperatives, and work in theshtetl, which had failed to stem the growth...

  13. VIII Deviations, Dissension, Dissolution
    (pp. 443-482)

    The exuberance of the period from 1924 to 1928 was blunted somewhat in 1927 when theEvsektsiiatried to rein in the national enthusiasm which had burst forth uncontrolled.

    By 1927 there was no question that the initial enthusiasm which had launched the localization [nativization] program in the USSR was gone.... Emphasis was placed on the necessity of subordinating national rights to socialist demands. Local nationalism was described as a growing danger which had become more troublesome than Russian chauvinism and could no longer be explained away as a simple reaction to tsarist oppression. Even within the Sections themselves “liquidationist...

  14. IX Conclusion
    (pp. 485-510)

    The history of theEvsektsiiacan be seen as a microcosmic manifestation of processes endemic to many modernizing societies. According to S. N. Eisenstadt, the first task of modernizing elites is to undermine traditional forces and create “free-floating” and mobile resources unfettered by particularistic and traditional loyalties. The new groups and activities created by this action are not always easily controlled or channeled by the ruling elites themselves and the elites are often forced to try to break up new centers of political and social allegiance or, if possible, preclude their development altogether.

    All these developments may create a situation...

  15. Epilogue: The Tragedy of the Evsektsiia Activists
    (pp. 513-524)

    Some, particularly Zionists, Bundists, and religious Jews, have seen theEvsektsiiaepisode as a Jewish national tragedy and consider theEvsektsiiaactivists traitors who deserted the Jewish labor movement and then destroyed Jewish life in Russia. Others view them as heroes who chose the excruciatingly difficult course of trying to salvage some sort of national life from the ruins of revolution. Whatever the objective results of their actions, it may well be that all the Jewish activists, even the “assimilationists,” were sincerely concerned for the welfare of Soviet Jewry.

    As time went on, it seemed ever clearer that a choice...

  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 525-558)
  17. Index
    (pp. 559-573)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 574-574)