KISHINEV POGROMS

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The name of Kishinev became known to the world at large as a result of two pogroms. The
first, iniciated and organized by the local and central authorities, took place during Easter on
April 6 - 7, 1903. Agents of the Ministry of the Interior and high Russian officials of the
Bessarabian administration were involved in its preparation, evidently with the backing of
the minister of the interior, V. Plehve. The pogrom was preceded by a poisonous anti-Jewish
campaign led by P. Krushevan, director of the Bessarabian newspaper Bessarabets, who incited
the population through a constant stream of vicious articles. One of the authors of the most
virulent articles was the local police chief, Levendall. In such a heated atmosphere any incident
could have dire consequences, and when the body of a Christian child was found, and a young
Christian woman patient committed suicide in the Jewish hospital, the mob became violent. A
blood libel, circulated by the Bessarabtes, spread like wildfire. (It was later proved that the child
was murdered by his relatives and that the suicide of the young woman was in no way connected
with the Jews.) According to official statistics, 49 Jews lost their lives and more than 500 were
injured, some of them seriously; 700 houses were looted and destroyed and 600 businesses and
shops were looted. The material loss amounted to 2500000 gold rubels, and about 2000 families
were left homeless. Both Russians and Romanians joined in the riots. Russians were sent in
from other towns and the students of the theological seminaries and the secondary schools and
colleges played a leading role. The garrison of 5000 soldiers stationed in the city, which could
easily have held back the mob, took no action. Public outcry throughout the world was aroused
by the incident and protest meetings were organized in London, Paris, and New York. A letter
of protest written in the United States was handed over to president Theodore Roosevelt to be
delivered to the czar, who refused to accept it. Under the pressure of public opinion, some of the
preparators of the pogrom were brought to justice but they were awarded very lenient sentences.
L.N. Tolstoy expressed his sympathy for the victims, condemning the czarist authorities as
responsible for the pogrom. The Russian writer Vladimir Korolenko described the pogrom in his
story, "House No. 13" as did H.N. Bialik in his poem, "Be-Ir ha-Haregah" ("In the Town of
Death").

On October 19 - 20, 1905, riots broke out once more. They began as a protest demonstration
by the "patriots" against the czar's declaration of August 19, 1905 and deteriorated into an attack
on the Jewish quarter in which 19 Jews were killed, 56 were injured, and houses and shops were
looted and destroyed: damages amounted to 3000000 rubels. On this ocasion, some of the Jewish
youth organized itself into self-defense units. The two pogroms had a profound effect on the Jews
of Kishinev. Between 1902 and 1905 their numbers dropped from around 60000 to 53243, many
emigrating to the United States and the Americas, while many more left after the second attack.
The economic development of town was brought to a standstill.

(Taken from the article on Kishinev in Encyclopedia Judaica)

World Zionist Organization - The Kishinev Pogrom

The YIVO Archives - Photo Collection

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