The Pogrom of Kishinev


The name of Kishinev became known to the world at large as a result of two pogroms. The first, iniciated and organized by the local and central authorities, took place during Easter on April 6 - 7, 1903. Agents of the Ministry of the Interior and high Russian officials of the Bessarabian administration were involved in its preparation, evidently with the backing of the minister of the interior, V. Plehve. The pogrom was preceded by a poisonous anti-Jewish campaign led by P. Krushevan, director of the Bessarabian newspaper Bessarabets, who incited the population through a constant stream of vicious articles. One of the authors of the most virulent articles was the local police chief, Levendall. In such a heated atmosphere any incident could have dire consequences, and when the body of a Christian child was found, and a young Christian woman patient committed suicide in the Jewish hospital, the mob became violent. A blood libel, circulated by the Bessarabtes, spread like wildfire. (It was later proved that the child was murdered by his relatives and that the suicide of the young woman was in no way connected with the Jews.) According to official statistics, 49 Jews lost their lives and more than 500 were injured, some of them seriously; 700 houses were looted and destroyed and 600 businesses and shops were looted. The material loss amounted to 2500000 gold rubles, and about 2000 families were left homeless. Both Russians and Romanians joined in the riots. Russians were sent in fom other towns and the students of the theological seminaries and the secondary schools and colleges played a leading role. The garrison of 5000 soldiers stationed in the city, which could easily have held back the mob, took no action. Public outcry throughout the world was aroused by the incident and protest meetings were organized in London, Paris, and New York. A letter of protest written in the United States was handed over to president Theodore Roosevelt to be delivered to the czar, who refused to accept it. Under the pressure of public opinion, some of the preparators of the pogrom were brought to justice but they were awarded very lenient sentences. 

L.N. Tolstoy expressed his sympathy for the victims, condemning the czarist authorities as responsible for the pogrom. The Russian writer Vladimir Korolenko described the pogrom in his story, "House No. 13" as did H.N. Bialik in his poem, "Be-Ir ha-Haregah" ("In the Town of death").

On October 19 - 20, 1905, riots broke out once more. They began as a protest demonstration by the "patriots" against the czar's declaration of August 19, 1905 and deteriorated into an attack on the Jewish quarter in which 19 Jews were killed, 56 were injured, and houses and shops were looted and destroyed: damages amounted to 3.000.000 rubles. On this occasion, some of the Jewish youth organized itself into self-defence units. The two pogroms had a profound effect on the Jews of Kishinev. Between 1902 and 1905 their numbers dropped from around 60000 to 53243, many emigrating to the United States and the Americas, while many more left after the second attack.

The economic development of town was brought to a standstill.

(this Article from from »Encyclopedia Judaica«)