Anti-Semitic pogroms in Russia (1881)

In the 19th century, anti-Semitism was probably strongest in Russia. Following the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, a series of anti-Jewish pogroms (race riots) broke out in parts of the country. These reports from May 1881 were compiled by the news agency Reuters:

“The following details have been telegraphed by the Odessa correspondent of the Times: Since my telegram to you of yesterday stating that anti-Jewish riots had broken out at Elizabethgrad, a town of about 40,000 inhabitants, situated in the government of Kherson, the following particulars have been published here upon the authority of Prince Dondonkoff Kornakoff, the provincial governor-general of Odessa.

The disturbance commenced at 4 PM last Wednesday, and the contents of several Jews shops were stolen damaged or destroyed. The police called in the aid of the troops, who made every effort to stop the pillaging. This was, however, only effected on the following evening, and with great difficulty on account of the number of Peasants who had flocked into the town from the surrounding villages to participate in the general plunder.

During the night of the 28th int. there arrived at Elizabethgrad three squadrons of Uhlans and yesterday a battalion of infantry. One Jew was killed, but the number of wounded is not great. In a later telegram, the correspondent states that at Elizabethgrad things have remained quiet ever since the anti-Jewish riots. These were quelled last Thursday evening. It appears that 400 persons were arrested.

The rioting arose out of a dispute between some Christians and Jews. The quarrel led to a general fight, which according to the Elizabethgrad Vestnik, assumed a more serious nature upon revolver shots being fired from some Jewish houses. The Christians then attacked the houses and shops of the Jews indiscriminately by smashing doors, breaking windows, etc. up until a late hour on Wednesday night. The violence was continued throughout Thursday but in a different form. The Jews, finding themselves vanquished, offered no further resistance and all fighting ceased; but the rioters, aided by an influx of peasants from the surrounding villages to join in the general melee, sacked the houses of the Jews, destroyed their furniture, and stole or spoiled their wares. The military and police are represented as having done what they could to establish order but failed to do so at once because while they were attempting that in one place, the disorder was breaking out in another. The Jewish population of Elizabethgrad is reckoned at about 10,000 persons and more than half their houses are completely ruined.

The fighting was only stopped by the submission of the Jews, who found themselves utterly beaten; but their acknowledgement of defeat did not save their property. A general attack in which the original rioters were aided by peasants from the neighbouring villages eventuated in the sacking of the houses of the Jews, the breaking up of their furniture and the destruction of their goods. At first, the efforts of the military and police to restore failed of success, though ultimately the riots were suppressed. The town of Elizavetgrad has a population of some 40,000 of whom the Jews comprise about one fourth and it is said that more than half the houses of those 10,000 Jews are completely ruined.

The destruction of property, fortunately, was not accompanied by an equal loss of life, only one Jew having been killed, while not very many are wounded. The fury with which the feeling of hatred to the Jews blazed forth among the townspeople who are Christians and their allies from the country is, however, a revelation as to the bitterness of feeling that was lying latent. Judenhetze [Jew-baiting] would seem to be in the air in Russia as in Germany.”