History

Rural scene, Russia, c.1895

 

1871

Start of eastern Jewish immigration to US changing American Jewry into a derivatively eastern Jewry. American Jewish ties to Russian Jewry are based on kinship as well as religion

1905

Culmination of Jacob Schiff's efforts to deny US financial markets to Moscow. Crucial factor in Japanese victory over Russians in 1905. Precedent for Jackson amendment (1974).

1912

High point of Louis Marshall's effort to alleviate Russian anti Semitism on passport question with Kremlin using threat to abrogate Commercial Treaty of 1832 with Russia.

1917

February Revolution. Tsar Nicholas is forced to abdicate and a providional government assumes power. Russian Jews are emancipated after centuries of discriminaiton and oppression. The Pale of Settlement, created by Catherine the Great, is officially abolished.
Jewish immigration community uncertain about war "to make the world safe for democracy" if Russia is on side of Allies.
Revolution in Russia draws initial sympathy in immigrant community. Generates enormous impact on American Jewish political culture.

October Revolution. The Bolsheviks, a minority group of communists, led by Vladimir Lenin, overthrow the provisional government and declare a Soviet republic.

The promulgation of the "Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia" by the Bolsheviks is meant to guarantee basic rights to the majority population of Russians and to the minority national and religious groups.

Among the several Jewish cultural and political initiatives now permitted, Nahum Zemach proposes the creation of the Hebrew-language "Habimah" Jewish Theater in Moscow, as a sign of Jewish cultural autonomy.

1918

Creation of the first constitution by the Bolshevik government, establishing the basic rights of all citizens.

January. The organization of the first Commissariat for Jewish Affairs, headed by Shimon Dimanshtain. A "temporary" arrangement, it represented an effort by the Bolsheviks to integrate the newly liberated Jewish minority into mainstream political life.

October. The Bolsheviks establish the Evsektsiia, the Jewish section of the Communist Party, to enlist Jewish support for the new government.

1919

Comintern call to organize a communist party in US draws a disproportionate number of Jewish volunteers. CPUS officially formed in 1921 but troubled by factionalism. American Jewish labor movement targeted for penetration.

1922

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) is officially formed.

April. Josef Stalin becomes General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks).

The Evsektsiia promotes state funding of Yiddish culture as part of the continuing effort to combat "bourgeois Zionists" and engage the Jewish masses in a socialist culture.

1924

Using Agro-Joint, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee enters into agreement with Kremlin to resettle thousands of Ukrainian Jews in Crimea. Scheme dwarfs Zionist resettlement movement in Palestine.

Zenith of Jewish communal struggle against immigration restriction based on concept of nordic supremacy. Immigration Law of 1924 effectively halts Russian Jewish immigration.

1926

Led by communist party activists Garment unions call for strike. Defeat virtually destroys Jewish labor movement which is rebuilt during New Deal.

1929

Kremlin moves its interest in Jewish resettlement to Birobidzhan. New scheme mobilizes Jewish section of American Communist party. Mobilizes public relations and Jewish volunteers to resettle there.

1930

February. Reflecting a shift in its efforts to integrate Jews as a distinct minority, the Evsektsiia is dissolved.

April 25. The Soviet Union establishes the Gulag administration to coordinate the network of penal labor camps for criminals and political prisoners. Gulag is the Russian acronym for the government agency that administered the camps under the NKVD, the predecessor to the KGB.

1932

A new passport system is introduced. Jews and other nationalties are now identified as such on individual identification documents.

1933

Roosevelt extends diplomatic recognition to Soviet Union setting stage for United Front strategy of the thirties. Influence of CPSU finally mitigated by Non-Aggression pact of 1939.

1936

Civil War in Spain draws disproportionate number of Jewish volunteers. Soviet Union alone extends aid to Loyalists.

1937

The "Great Terror", Stalin's series of purge trials of alleged opponents, reaches its peak. Thousands are executed or sent to labor camps.

1938

The first great anti-Jewish purge takes place, and leaders in Birobidzhan are accused of "Trotskyism", a reference to Leon Trotsky's views on organizing revolution in all countries. Also deemed as anti-State is membership in certain Jewish parties or organizations, including the left leaning, Yiddish speaking Bund, and the left Zionist Poalei Zion. Both groups are seen as promoting Jewish national autonomy and as obstacles to the full assimilation of Jews into Soviet society.

1939

The last state-sponsored art exhibition with a Jewish component is held in Moscow. During a mounting ant-religious campaign, nearly all remaining synagogues are closed.

August 29. Germany and the Soviet Union sign a Non-Aggression Pact that includes the creation of spheres of influence in most of Europe, and the complete division of Poland.

1941

June 21. Nazi Germany breaks non-aggression pact with Moscow and invades USSR, enlarging the geographic scope of World War II. Special units (Einsatzgruppen) are sent in with the regular forces to exterminate Jews.

September 29-31. Massacre of 33,000 Jews of Kiev by the Nazis and their Ukrainian supporters takes place at nearby Babi Yar ravine. For decades Soviet authorities refuse any memorial marking the event, as a means of minimizing Jewish victimization and the sense of peoplehood. During the war other mass graves for Jews are created by the Nazis throughout the Western Soviet Republics.

1942

April. The Jewish Antifascist Committee (JAF), headed by noted actor and director of the Moscow State Jewish Theater, Solomon Mikhoels, is launched to help mobilize world wide Jewish support for the USSR during World War II.

November. The JAF publishes its official Yiddish newspaper, Di Eynikayt.

Mikhoels mission to US based on exaggerated notion of American Jewish influence in US which can be enlisted to support Soviet war effort and movement for Second Front.

1946

New campaign against Jewish "nationalism" is launched.

 

Russian chicken farmers, Woodbine, NJ, c. 1910.

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