NABOKV-L post 0011901, Fri, 16 Sep 2005 16:33:51 -0700

Essay on Persecution of Jews by Whites during Russian Civil Way
by Vladimir Dmitievich Nabokov

EDNOTE. NABOKV-L thanks Moscow film maker Oleg Dorman for sending this item. The journal "LeChaim" has republished an article written by Nabokov's father Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov for the “Jewish Tribune” (#1, 1920). The latter (Evreiiskii tribun) was apparently an evanescent publication put out by émigré Russian Jews in Europe. The article decries depredations against the Jewish population by some White forces during the Russian Civil War. The title of the original Russian text is Bol’noi Vopros”. My thanks (as always) to Carolyn Kunin who did the English translation.


Dark clouds once more hang over the Jewish settlements in former Russia. In recent months we have been receiving news of pogroms in the south [the Ukraine]. Because of the total chaotic situation there and lack of organization in the government it is not feasible to expect to get reliable information regarding either the events or precise casualty numbers. It is to be expected that the numbers we have received from private sources will grow greatly. Although the number of slaughtered does not appear to be great at this time, this does not make it any easier for the surviving victims, and they, it appears, number in the thousands.

These pogroms take place not only in areas controlled by roving criminal gangs; despite all the efforts of General Dennikin, areas controlled by the Volunteer army are not free of them. Incessant tendentious arguments in the British Parliament demonstrate a desire to place responsibility on the excesses of the occasional reactionary general. That of course is grossly unjust. There is sufficient evidence that both military and civilian authorities under the command of General Dennikin are making every effort to prevent the pogroms. But these attempts often prove futile and - - as recently happened in Fastov [?] - - the glorious pages of the heroic history of our Vounteer army are disfigured by the filthy, bloody hands of those who perpetrate the pogroms.

[from this point I have had to resort to paraphrase & ellipsis]

Everything we know leads us to believe that in the current circumstances there is no political authority capable of punishing the guilty parties on behalf of the aggrieved populace. Nor is there any authority that can guarantee their life and security. The brutal misery endured by the Jews would be incomprehensible to most people.

Although it is true that those whose slogan is "Beat the Jews" can only be found in the lowermost amoral depths of Russian society, the danger is that their influence will spread into the rest of society, and the result will be growing antisemitic unrest. Rational people must insist that antisemitism vanish along with the old regine under which it thrived.

But the Jews have something else to fear - - isolation within a reconfigured Russia. If antisemitism continues to grow, the situation of the Jews will become untenable and ultimately tragic.

All well-intentioned Europe bewails the crimes perpetrated in Russia. They ask what they can do - - the eternal question. The bolshevik revolution hasn't even touched Europe yet and so Europe doesn't seem to realize that the mausoleums of the bolshevik revolution will eventually contain whole pleiades of European names.

It is also true that a significant number of Jews are playing roles in bolshevik institutions and in this they display some of the worst characteristics of their nationality, slandering and bringing disgrace on Russia.

If the Russian Jews could but find a few friends among the millions of European Jews who instead view them as foreigners and even as a threat. They are hated and feared, though it is they who are the victims of wild socialist experiments, victims of injustice, victims of the pillaging which spares neither gentile nor Jew.

Those Jews who collaborate with the bolsheviks give psychological support to those in the West who see a Jewish "tinge" to the bolshevik regime. This prejudice persists despite the fact that Uritsky perished and that Lenin was nearly brought down by Jewish hands.

On the one hand we must deal with subjective misperceptions which underscore the danger and horror of the situation. The way things stand now, no one has the right to pretend to be completely clear of responsibility.

On the other hand it may be that the deluge of events that have swept us all up in the last five nightmarish years have also challenged our very concepts of responsibility. Do we assign blame to certain groups, or is the whole of Russia to blame for the sins of our leaders? Or do we blame our individual representatives? Is it the war itself which has led to this finger pointing?

Some of us know what it is to be sacrificed to this war, and after all the misfortunes and horrors of fighting against the bolshevik treason to be treated with disdain in the West where Russia itself has become a symbol of treason and perfidy.

Is there any way out? Those of us who hold dear our political ideals and who wish to retain our political conscience must put all our efforts into counteracting such ideas.

At the same time those Jews who remain true Russian patriots must contribute what they can to the general fight for the restoration of Russia, and against the orgy of bolshevism; to take up the unremitting work and self-denial that it will cost, and finally, never to lose heart even though we can not be sure that what we begin now will ever end in victory.