In a memorable passage, Sir Isaiah Berlin wrote: “A Russian radical of the last century once observed that his country, compared to the West, had a great deal of geography but little history. It might be said that with Jews the opposite pertains: more than enough history, too little geography.”
During the time available to me I shall endeavor to cover some of the main events of the period 1914 to 1919, both in history and in geography, and particularly those of 1917; events which shaped, molded, and changed the course of Jewish history.
The year 1913 finished with the trial of a little known Jew, Mendel Beiliss; the jury, composed of very ordinary Russian and Ukrainian people, found him not guilty of murdering, for ritual purposes, the Christian boy, Andrey Yuschinsky. The revival by the Czarist Government of the medieval blood libel portrayed more than anything else the full decadence of the whole system. The trial in Kiev shook the Russian Jews to their foundation; this time, however, they were not alone. Leading Russian writers, intellectuals, Liberals, and Socialists—and even some Conservatives—denounced the accusation and the way the trial was conducted. World public opinion was horrified that in the twentieth century such barbarous accusations against a whole people could occur, and the Western World condemned Nicholas II himself as the chief culprit for this outrage. Many people in Russia, and outside, were conscious that the Czar gave open patronage to the Union of the Russian People (the “Black Hundreds,” who were chiefly responsible for starting the Beiliss Trial), financed their publications, and, moreover, “he was an honorary member of the Society,” and “wore the party emblem.”...
Continue reading →︎