Andrei Kushko: Not Moldovans, but imperial functionaries triggered Chisinau program

The imperial functionaries bear the blame for the use of violence against Jews either because they were directly involved in the organization of the Chisinau program or because they closed the eyes to the atrocities, making this massacre possible, doctor of history Andrei Kushko stated in a public debate hosted by IPN.

The historian noted the general structure of the group of attackers was heterogenic and rather reliably reflected the then structure of the population in Chisinau. “Out of those who were arrested based on fresh traces, approximately 800, two thirds were Russians and about 25-30% were ostensibly Moldovan peasants. Evidently, the instigators were no way Moldovans. We should not forget that besides the small elite of nobles of Romanian origin, the rest were Moldovan peasants, who formed a majority. Those Moldovan peasants appeared on the second day of the program as the news about the happenings in Chisinau spread swiftly to localities situated nearby. Not the Moldovans were the driving force. They were somehow encouraged by the disseminated rumors. One of the important rumors that should not be ignored was that the tsar allowed to beat, ill-treat the Jews,” said Andrei Kushko.

He stated that a number of factors created the anti-Semitist atmosphere and the pogrom was mostly triggered by representatives of the imperial authorities. The imperial functionaries bore direct blame, primarily those who were convinced anti-Semitists.

“There were particular administration functionaries who didn’t accept anti-Semitism and didn’t encourage those actions. We must realize that not all the instigators were caught. About 800 persons were identified and only over 100 of these were tried, with 37 being sentenced to real jail terms. In this regard, the justice was rather selective,” noted Andrei Kushko.

The historian also said that it was an epoch with economic difficulties, when the tensions and dissatisfaction grow swiftly so that the populist, extremist tendencies had a fertile way. There were yet prominent intellectuals who vehemently condemned this pogrom, namely Lev Tolstoi, Vladimir Korolenko and Maxim Gorki, who expressed a rather vocal public position.

“For example, Tolstoi condemned the responsible criminals and the government. His position was that the clergy and the bandit horde of the Russian functionaries were responsible for the pogrom,” stated the doctor of history.

The public debate entitled “Pogrom of 1903: executioners, victims and lessons” was the eighth installment of IPN’s project “Impact of the Past on Confidence and Peace Building Processes” that is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation of Germany.

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