Organized anti-Semitic violence, known as pogroms, became a fact of Russian political life beginning in the early 1880s. Russia had in the last decades of the Romanov dynasty the largest Jewish population in Europe. But Russian chauvinists saw the Jewish people as ethnically and politically alien. One of Aleksandr III’s chief advisors stated that Russia’s policy was to convert one-third of the Jews, see another third killed, and force the last one-third to immigrate to America. The tsar and his reactionary bureaucrats believed that violence against Jews would divert the revolutionary drive of the Russian people.
   The Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Okhrana took part in the financing and planning of pogroms during the reigns of Aleksandr III and Nicholas II. The Okhrana also almost certainly commissioned the virulently anti-Semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which claimed to be a master plan for a Jewish plot to control the world. (The book survived the fall of the Romanov dynasty, was widely read in Hitler’s Germany, and is still quoted by virulent anti-Semites.) Interior Minister Vyacheslav von Plehve, one of Nicholas II’s chief advisors, encouraged his subordinates to incite racial violence, which caused thousands of casualties. Over 1,000 people died in a pogrom at Kishinev, which von Plehve had had a hand in designing. His assassination in 1904 by the Battle Organization of the Socialist Revolutionary Party was partly a result of a demand for vengeance for these pogroms by political radicals.
   The pogroms destroyed the authority of Nicholas II’s regime at home and abroad, breeding contempt among moderates and conservatives at home, and causing diplomatic protests from a number of states. The first American confrontation with Russia came over the Kishinev pogrom of 1903. That year the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution denouncing the tsarist regime. The pogroms also drove many young Jews into the revolutionary parties: the SR, the Bolsheviks, and anarchist fighting groups.
   Pogroms are also associated with the Russian civil war. Both White and Red forces participated in anti-Semitic outrages, and thousands of Jews perished in organized violence. During the Great Patriotic War, the Nazi authorities encouraged pogroms in occupied Soviet territory to win support among the Slavic peasantry. Some of the mass killings in Poland and the western Soviet Union were conducted by Russian, Byelorussian, and Ukrainian paramilitary units cooperating with the Germans.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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