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Robert Weinberg, "The Pogrom of 1905 in Odessa: A Case Study" in Pogroms: Anti-Jewish Violence in Modern Russian History, John D. Klier and Shlomo Lambroza, eds. (Cambridge,1992): 248-89
The wave of anti-Jewish pogroms that swept the Pale of Settlement after Tsar Nicholas II issued the October Manifesto in 1905 reflected the ethnic and political tensions and hostilities that characterized popular unrest and marred the social landscape of late Imperial Russia in that revolutionary year. In the weeks following the granting of fundamental civil rights and political liberties, pogroms directed mainly at Jews but also affecting students, intellectuals, and other national minorities broke out in hundreds of cities, towns, and villages, resulting in deaths and injuries to thousands of people.
In the port city of Odessa alone, the police reported that at least 400 Jews and 100 non-Jews were killed and approximately 300 people, mostly Jews, were injured, with slightly over 1,600 Jewish houses, apartments, and stores incurring damage. These official figures undoubtedly underestimate the true extent of the damage, as other informed sources indicate substantially higher numbers of persons killed and injured. For example, Dmitri Neidhardt, City Governor of Odessa during the pogrom and brother-in-law of the future Prime Minister Peter Stolypin, estimated the number of casualties at 2,500, and the Jewish newspaper Voskhod reported that over 800 were killed and another several thousand were wounded. Moreover, various hospitals and clinics reported treating at least 600 persons for injuries sustained during the pogrom. Indeed, no other city in the Russian Empire in 1905 experienced a pogrom comparable in its destruction and violence to the one unleashed against the Jews of Odessa.
Despite the havoc wreaked by these pogroms, historians have only just begun to explore the origins, circumstances, and consequences of the October pogroms in an effort to evaluate their impact and connection with the general course of revolutionary events in 1905. Even though the general contours of pogroms in Russia are known, detailed case studies are nonetheless required if historians are to offer a more comprehensive and conclusive assessment of antisemitism and the pogromist phenomenon in late Imperial Russia. This chapter focuses on Odessa for several reasons. First, Odessa was the fourth largest city in the Russian Empire by century's end, boasting a Jewish population of approximately 138,000 in a city with 403,000 inhabitants. Second, the scope and breadth of the violence directed against Odessa Jewry merit special study. Third, since ethnicity often acted as a divisive force in labor movements in many parts of Western Europe and Russia during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the ethnic heterogeneity of the Odessa work force provides an opportunity to study how ethnic and religious antagonisms affected worker solidarity and the capacity for collective action in 1905. Finally, examination of the Odessa pogrom addresses the broader issues of the Revolution of 1905, particularly the character of worker unrest and protest and the dynamics of revolutionary politics. The fact that the pogroms followed quickly on the heels of major concessions offered by the autocracy strongly suggests that they were connected to the political crisis engulfing Russia in 1905 and should therefore be examined in the context of the social, economic, and political strains threatening the stability of state and society in late Imperial Russia.
Pogrom analysis raises two especially perplexing issues, namely how to identify pogromists and their motives and how to pinpoint the specific reasons for the outbreak and timing of pogroms. While members of various social and occupational groups often engaged in acts of anti-Jewish violence and behaved out of varying motives, is it possible to determine which residents of Odessa were particularly prone to pogromist behavior in 1905 and why they figured prominently in attacks on Jews and their property? Given the long heritage of antisemitism in Odessa that included periodic outbreaks of violent attacks against Jews, why did anti-Jewish violence surface only in the aftermath of the October Manifesto and not earlier in the year during other instances of social and political unrest? The October pogrom in Odessa also underscores the importance of studying popular and official attitudes toward Jews and assessing the extent to which the pogrom was a spontaneous display of popular antisemitism or the result of a carefully planned and premeditated strategy engineered by government officials.
The October 1905 pogrom in Odessa resulted from the conjuncture of several long-term and short-term social, economic, and political factors that produced conditions in the autumn of 1905 particularly ripe for an explosion of anti-Jewish violence. Among the long-term factors were economic competition between certain categories of Gentile and Jewish workers - unskilled day laborers in particular- long-standing ethnic and religious antagonisms, the prominence of Jews in the commercial affairs of Odessa, and the mistreatment of Jews as it was manifested by the central government and local authorities in discriminatory legislation and policies. More immediate factors include the general course of political events and developments in 1905, specifically the polarization of the political spectrum into pro- and anti-government forces, the role of civilian and military officials in promoting an atmosphere conducive to a pogrom, and the visible position of Jews in the opposition movement against the autocracy. An examination of circumstances leading up to the pogrom and an analysis of the chain of events that triggered the attack on the Jews of the city underscore how the pogrom grew out of general developments in Odessa in 1905 and was an integral element in the trajectory of the revolution. The pogrom cannot be understood apart from the complex nature of social, economic, ethnic, and political life in Odessa.
Founded in the waning years of the reign of Catherine the Great, Odessa was a relatively new city that did not inhibit but rather encouraged all residents - Russians and non-Russians, foreigners and Jews --to participate actively in its economic development. Odessa was an enlightened city that tolerated diversity and innovation, welcoming persons of all nationalities who could contribute to the growth of the city. Greeks, Italians, and Jews helped set the tempo of commercial and financial life in Odessa and assumed active roles in the city's cultural and political affairs during much of the nineteenth century. Jews were especially welcome in Odessa and were exempt from many of the onerous burdens and restrictions that coreligionists in other areas of the Pale of Settlement endured.
But this tolerance did not mean that Jews in Odessa were accepted as social equals or that antisemitism did not exist in the city. Notwithstanding Odessa's well-deserved reputation as a bastion of liberal and enlightened attitudes toward its Jewish residents, the Jews of Odessa were no strangers to anti-Jewish animosity, which generally remained submerged but did assume ugly and violent forms several times before 1905. Serious pogroms in which Jews were killed and wounded and Jewish houses and businesses suffered substantial damage had occurred in 1821, 1859, 1871, 1881, and 1900. Anti-Jewish sentiment was common among Odessa's Russian population, as gangs of Jewish and Russian youths often engaged in bloody brawls. Every year at Eastertime rumors of an impending pogrom circulated through the city's Jewish community. Pogrom-mongering intensified after the turn of the century as militantly patriotic and pro-tsarist organizations emerged and engaged in Jewbaiting and other antisemitic activities.
These pogroms stemmed in part from deep-rooted anti-Jewish feelings and reflected a Judeophobia prevalent among many non-Jewish residents of the city. Such was the case in the 1821 pogrom when Greeks attacked Jews, accusing them of aiding the Turks in killing the Greek Patriarch of Constantinople. After mid-century, however, religious fanaticism and hatred sometimes mixed with social and economic factors to heighten anti-Jewish sentiments. The increasing prominence of Jews in the commercial life of the city and structural changes in the economy played no small role in fueling antisemitism and leading to its expression in pogroms.
Until the Crimean War, Greeks controlled the export of grain from Odessa, while Jews dominated the roles of middleman and expediter. With the disruption of trade routes caused by the war, many of the leading Greek commercial firms either went bankrupt or decided to pursue other, more lucrative ventures. Jewish merchants and traders, who were accustomed to operating at smaller profit margins, filled the vacuum caused by the departure of Greek merchants and assumed prominent positions in the export business in Odessa, which was overwhelmingly dependent on the grain trade. Like other ethnic and religious communities in the city, Jewish merchants gave preference in employment practices to their coreligionists. Consequently, Greeks were supplanted by Jewish workers and fell into straitened economic circumstances. These developments, along with rumors of a Jewish ritual murder in 1859 and desecration of the Greek Orthodox Church and cemetery in 1871, fanned the flames of antisemitism, driving many Greeks, sailors and dockworkers in particular, to participate in pogroms in these years.
Greeks were not the only residents of Odessa who perceived Jews as an economic threat. Russian resentment and hostility toward Jews came to the fore in the pogrom of 1871 as Russians joined Greeks in attacks on Jews. Thereafter, Russians filled the ranks of pogromist mobs in 1881, 1900, and 1905. The replacement of Greeks by Russians as pogromists reflects the decline of Greek influence in Odessa and underscores the tension and hostility that also existed between Russians and Jews in the city.
According to some Russian inhabitants, exploitation by and competition with Jews figured prominently as the causes of the 1871 pogrom. Some insisted that "the Jews exploit us," while others, especially the unemployed, blamed increased Jewish settlement in Odessa for reduced employment opportunities and lower wages. One Russian cabdriver, referring to the Jews' practice of lending money to Jewish immigrants to enable them to rent or buy a horse and cab, complained: "Several years ago there was one Jewish cabdriver for every 100 Russian cabdrivers, but since then rich Jews have given money to the poor Jews so that there are now a countless multitude of Jewish cabdrivers."
The growing visibility of Jews enhanced the predisposition of Russians to blame Jews for their difficulties. Like elsewhere in Russia and Western Europe, many non-Jews in Odessa perceived Jews as possessing an inordinate amount of wealth, power, and influence and pointed to the steady growth of the city's Jewish population during the nineteenth century - from approximately 14,000 (14 percent) in 1858 to nearly 140,000 (35 percent) in 1897 - as an indication of the Jewish ''threat.'' The increasingly prominent role played by Jews in the commercial and industrial life of the city after mid-century also contributed to resentment against Odessa's Jewish community. In the 1880s, for example, firms owned by Jews controlled 70 percent of the export trade in grain, and Jewish brokerage houses handled over half the city's entire export trade. Jewish domination of the grain trade continued to expand during the next several decades; by 1910 Jewish firms handled nearly 90 percent of the export trade in grain products. In addition to their activities as merchants, middlemen, and exporters, Jews in Odessa by century's end also occupied prominent positions in the manufacturing, banking, and retail sectors. In 1910 Jews owned slightly over half the large stores, trading firms, and small shops. Thirteen of the eighteen banks operating in Odessa had Jewish board members and directors, while at the turn of the century Jews comprised approximately half the members of the city's three merchant guilds, up from 38 percent in the mid-1880s. Jews virtually monopolized the production of starch, refined sugar, tin goods, chemicals, and wallpaper and competed with Russian and foreign entrepreneurs in the making of flour, cigarettes, beer, wine, leather, cork, and iron products. Even though Jews in 1887 owned 35 percent of all factories, these firms produced 57 percent of the total factory output (in roubles) for that year.
Despite the outstanding success of some Jews in economic pursuits, the common perception that the growing Jewish presence threatened to result in total Jewish domination had little basis in reality. The proportion of Jews in the city's population, which had risen from about a quarter to a third during the last quarter of the century, leveled out after 1897, with the percentage of Jews somewhat dropping by the eve of 1905. According to data assembled by the city governor, the number of Jews living in Odessa in 1904 was approximately 140,000, or just over 28 percent of the city's total population. The reasons for this decline are difficult to ascertain but may be due to imprecise census-taking by local officials, since other studies state that the percentage of Jews in Odessa still remained above 30 percent in 1904. Regardless of slight variations in estimates of the size of the Odessa Jewish community at the turn of the century, non-Jews continued to hold their own in the economic sphere and were in no danger of being eliminated by Jewish entrepreneurs and industrialists. According to the 1897 census, thousands of Russians and Ukrainians were engaged in commercial activities of some sort, especially the marketing of agricultural products, and comprised approximately a third of the total number of individuals listed as earning livings from trade. Moreover, on the eve of 1905 approximately half the licenses granting permission to engage in commercial and industrial pursuits were given to non-Jews, and in 1900 non-Jews owned slightly under half the large stores and trading firms and 44 percent of small shops. Forty percent of manufacturing enterprises in 1887 were owned by foreigners, with Russians owning another 25 percent. On the eve of the First World War foreigners and Russians, many of whom employed primarily Russian workers, owned the majority of enterprises under factory inspection in Odessa. Lastly, Jews in 1910 owned only 17 percent of real estate parcels in the city, down from 20 percent a decade earlier, while Gentiles controlled about half of all large commercial enterprises. The bulk of the wealth in Odessa still remained in the hands of non-Jews.
Furthermore, wealthy Jews could not enter the leisured propertied class or translate their wealth into political influence and power. Contrary to popular perceptions prevalent among non-Jews in both Odessa and throughout Russia, Odessa was not controlled by its Jewish residents. Only a handful of Odessa's Jews lived from investments in land, stocks, and bonds, and even fewer - 71 in a staff of 3,449 - worked for the imperial government, the judiciary, or the municipal administration. This was due in part to the 1892 municipal reform which made it more difficult for Jews to occupy government posts and disenfranchised Russian Jewry, who no longer enjoyed the right to elect representatives to city councils. A special office for municipal affairs was assigned the responsibility of appointing six Jewish members to the sixty-man Odessa city council.
In contrast to the wealthy and influential stratum of Jews, which never constituted more than a fraction of the total Jewish population of Odessa, the vast majority of Jews eked out meager livings as shopkeepers, second-hand dealers, salesclerks, petty traders, domestic servants, day laborers, workshop employees, and factory hands. Poverty was a way of life for most Jews in Odessa, as it undoubtedly was for most non-Jewish residents. Isidor Brodovskii, in his study of Jewish poverty in Odessa at the turn of the century, estimated that nearly 50,000 Jews were destitute and another 30,000 were poverty-stricken. In 1905 nearly 80,000 Jews requested financial assistance from the Jewish community in order to buy matzoh during Passover, a telling sign that well over half the Jews in Odessa experienced difficulties making ends meet.
Despite the disparity between popular perception and the reality of Jewish wealth and power, a reversal in Odessa's economic fortunes at the turn of the century strengthened anti-Jewish sentiments among its Russian residents. Russia entered a deep recession as the great industrial spurt of the 1890s faltered. In turn, Odessa's economy suffered a setback due to the decrease in the demand for manufactured goods, the drop in the supply of grain available for export, and the drying up of credit. Weaknesses and deficiencies in Odessa's economic infrastructure complicated matters. Conditions continued to deteriorate as the year 1905 approached, due to the outbreak of war between Russia and Japan in 1904. Trade, the mainstay of Odessa's economy, declined even further and the city's industrial sector entered a period of retrenchment.
Although anti-Jewish sentiments in Odessa usually remained submerged, many residents feared that Russian-Jewish hostilities could explode in a matter of hours given the right combination of factors. During major labor demonstrations or strikes, organizers often felt compelled to exhort workers not to direct their anger at Jews, but to present a united front of Jew and Russian against employers. More important, organizers had to allay fears among the general public that demonstrations and strikes might develop into pogroms. As one Russian worker assured the Odessa Jewish community in early 1905, Russian workers were not "wild animals ready to unleash a pogrom." The fear that strikes and demonstrations would degenerate into antisemitic violence even served to curb labor militancy. For example, the 1903 May Day rally never materialized because many potential participants, Jews and Russians alike, with the memory of the recent Kishinev pogrom fresh in their minds, feared that a march through Odessa would spark a pogrom. In fact, a group of Jewish shopkeepers and property owners, upset by workers gathering in a field to celebrate May Day, informed the police, who arrested some thirty workers. Employers also understood that religious animosities could be used to hinder worker solidarity; owners of the few enterprises with ethnically mixed labor forces sometimes encouraged Russian workers to direct their anger at Jewish coworkers. Ethnic loyalties and hatreds of Russian workers sometimes overshadowed their affinities to Jewish workers based on the common exploitation and oppression both groups experienced as wage laborers and permitted ethnic tensions to surface.
During the first half of 1905 tensions between Jews and Russians ran particularly high. Fomented in part by the popular belief that Jews were not contributing to the war effort against the Japanese, anti-Jewish hostility nearly reached a breaking point in the spring. As in previous years rumors of an impending pogrom circulated among the Jewish community during Orthodox Holy Week in April. Yet unlike the past, when Jews did not take precautions, in 1905 they mobilized.
Building upon the self-defense groups they had formed in the aftermath of the 1903 Kishinev pogrom, Odessa's Jews armed themselves and issued appeals, calling upon the non-Jewish residents of Odessa to show restraint and not engage in violence against Jews. Just before Easter the National Committee of Jewish Self-Defense distributed a series of leaflets threatening non-Jews with armed retaliation in the event of a pogrom. The committee urged all Jews to join self-defense brigades and prepare to counter any attack on Jews and their property. Men were told to arm themselves with guns, knives, clubs, and whips, and women were encouraged to prepare solutions of sulfuric acid. Bundists, Bolsheviks, and Mensheviks joined in these efforts by also reorganizing self-defense brigades established the year before and taking up collections for weapons and ammunition. Despite the circulation of pogromist literature inciting Russians to attack Jews, local officials and a Bundist correspondent concluded that rumors of a pogrom were unfounded. In fact, the Bund's correspondent wrote that " a pogromist mood was . . . unnoticeable. "
Yet fear of an impending pogrom resurfaced in June in the aftermath of a general strike and disorders occasioned by the arrival of the battleship Potemkin. On 13 June Cossacks shot several workers from metalworking and machine-construction factories who had been on strike since the beginning of May. Workers retaliated on 14 June by engaging in massive work stoppages and attacking the police with guns and rocks, but the arrival of the Potemkin that night diverted the workers from further confrontation with their employers and the government. On 15 June instead of intensifying the strike, thousands of Odessans jammed the port district in order to view the battleship and rally behind the mutinous sailors. By late afternoon some members of the crowd began to ransack warehouses and set fire to the harbor's wooden buildings. Although available sources do not allow a precise determination of the composition of the rioters, partial arrest records reveal that non-Jewish vagrants (liudi bex opredelennykh zaniatii), dockworkers, and other day laborers comprised the majority. To suppress the unrest, the military cordoned off the harbor and opened fire on the trapped crowd. By the next morning well over 1,000 people had died, victims of either the soldiers' bullets or the fire which consumed the harbor.
During these disorders rumors of an impending pogrom once again surfaced, as right-wing agitators attempted to incite Russian workers against the Jews. On 20 June, only a few days after the massacre, a virulently antisemitic, four-page broadside entitled Odesskie dni appeared. The tract blamed the Jews, in particular the National Committee of Jewish Self-Defense and secondary school students, for the recent disorders and the tragedy at the port.
Accusing the Jews of fomenting the unrest and enlisting the support of unwitting Russians, the author of the broadside stated that Jews initiated the shootings on 14 and 15 June and were responsible for setting fire to the port. The tract ended with a call to hold the Jewish community of Odessa collectively responsible for the destruction and demanded that Jews compensate Gentiles who suffered property damage and personal loss. In addition, Odesskie dni called for the disarming of all Jews and suggested a general search of all Jewish apartments in the city. Failure to carry out these proposals, the tract concluded, would make it " impossible for Christians to live in Odessa" and result in the take-over of Odessa by Jews.
While Odesskie dni did not call for acts of anti-Jewish violence, its appearance underscores the tense atmosphere existing in Odessa and highlights how in times of social unrest and political crisis ethnic hostility could come to the fore and threaten further disruption of social calm. In the week or so following the massive disorders of mid-June, scattered attacks against Jews were reported as antisemitic agitators tried to stir up Gentiles into a pogromist mood. Moreover, the belief that Jews were responsible for the June unrest was evident in the reports of some government officials. Gendarme chief Kuzubov wrote that the instigators of the disorders and arson were "exclusively Jews" and Count Aleksei Ignatiev, in his report on the disorders in Kherson and Ekaterinoslav provinces, also accused Jews of setting fire to the port but did not furnish any hard evidence or substantiation. Though no pogrom occurred in June, the sentiments expressed in both Odesskie dni and official reports indicate the emotionally charged atmosphere of Russian-Jewish relations in Odessa and the extent to which government officials, who in their search for simple explanations and unwillingness to dig deeper into the root causes of the social and political turmoil engulfing Odessa, were prepared to affix blame to the Jews.
Jews found it difficult to dispel the accusations expressed in Odesskie dni. While many reports of Jewish revolutionary activity were exaggerations or even fabrications, Jews were behind some though certainly not all - of the unrest in Odessa. During the summer the police arrested several Jews for making and stockpiling bombs. Jews also figured prominently among the 133 Social Democrats and Socialist Revolutionaries either considered politically unreliable, arrested or exiled after the June Days. In addition, a leaflet distributed throughout the city, apparently by a Bundist organization, urged Jews to arm themselves, struggle for civil and political freedom, and overthrow the autocracy. Jews also helped organize rallies at the university and direct student strikes and public demonstrations. Like others throughout the Empire, Odessa's university became the locus of anti-government activity after August when the Tsar granted administrative autonomy to Russia's universities, thereby removing these institutions from the jurisdiction of the police. Jewish youths, students, and workers filled the ranks of the crowds that attended the rallies at the university in September and October, and Jews actively participated in the wave of work stoppages, demonstrations, and street disorders that broke out in mid-October. On 16 October, a day of major disturbances, 197 of the 214 persons arrested were Jews. Moreover, Jews eagerly celebrated the political concessions granted in the October Manifesto, seeing them as the first step in the civil and political emancipation of Russian Jewry.
These events confirmed many high-ranking police and other officials in the belief that Jews were a seditious element. As we have seen, many government officials blamed Jews for the June unrest. In doing so they were following a tradition of accusing Jews for fomenting trouble in Odessa. At the turn of the century, for example, the city governor even asked the Ministry of the Interior to limit Jewish migration to Odessa in the hope that such a measure would weaken the revolutionary movement. Such attitudes, along with the legacy of discrimination against Russian Jewry and governmental tolerance and at times sponsorship of anti-Jewish organizations and propaganda, signaled to antisemites that authorities in Odessa would probably countenance violence against Jews. When combined with economic resentments and frustrations as well as timeworn religious prejudices, the perception that Jews were revolutionaries provided fertile ground for a pogrom. To those residents of Odessa alarmed by the opposition to the Tsar and government, Jews were a convenient target for retaliation.
Politics in Odessa polarized during 1905 as anti- and pro-government forces coalesced and mobilized. Militant right-wing organizations like the Black Hundreds and patriotic student groups consolidated their ranks, and radical student groups emerged as significant political forces, joining the organized revolutionary parties already active in Odessa. Indeed, the stage was set for confrontation between the forces of revolution and reaction and the pogrom occurred in the context of this unrest and Odessa's feverish atmosphere. During the week before the October pogrom, public calm was disturbed by bloody confrontations pitting the populace against soldiers and police. The crucial question is why this unrest degenerated into one of the worst anti-Jewish progroms ever experienced in imperial Russia.
On 15 October, a day after the police injured several high school students who were boycotting classes in sympathy with striking railway workers, radical students and revolutionaries appealed to workers to start a general strike. They collected donations for guns and ammunition and representatives of the city's three Social Democratic organizations visited factories and workshops. Reports also circulated that students and revolutionaries were forming armed militias. On 16 October students, youths, and workers roamed the streets of Odessa, building barricades and engaging the police and military in pitched battles. The troops summoned to suppress the demonstrations encountered fierce resistance, as demonstrators behind the barricades greeted them with rocks and gunfire. Military patrols were also targets of snipers. The troops retaliated by opening fire, and by early evening, the army had secured the streets of Odessa. The police disarmed and arrested scores of demonstrators, systematically bludgeoning some into unconsciousness.
The 17th of October passed without any public disturbances or confrontations, but life did not return to normal. The military continued to patrol the city, schools and many stores remained closed and, even though not all workers responded to the appeal for a general strike, at least 4,000 workers - many of whom were Jewish - walked off their jobs either voluntarily or after receiving threats from other workers already on strike. Groups of workers congregated outside stores that opened for business, singing songs, and drinking vodka. At the university, professors and students, along with representatives of revolutionary parties, redoubled efforts to form armed militias.
The storm broke on 18 October. News of the October Manifesto had reached Odessa officials the previous evening, and by the next morning, thousands of people thronged the streets to celebrate. As one university student exclaimed, "a joyous crowd appeared in the streets - people greeted each other as if it were a holiday." Jews, hoping that the concessions would lead to the end of all legal disabilities against them, were joined by non-Jews in vigorously and enthusiastically celebrating the granting of civil and political liberties.
At first the crowds were peaceful, but the quiet did not last long. Soon after the demonstrations began, several individuals began to unfurl red flags and banners with anti-government slogans. Others shouted slogans like " Down with the Autocracy," " Long Live Freedom " and " Down with the Police." Apartment dwellers draped red carpets and shawls from their balconies and windows, while groups of arrogant demonstrators forced passersby to doff their hats or bow before the flags. In the city council building, demonstrators ripped down the portrait of the Tsar, substituted a red flag for the imperial colors and collected money for weapons. The city governor also reported that one group of demonstrators tied portraits of Nicholas II to the tails of dogs and then released them to run through the city. The mood of the demonstrators grew more violent as the day wore on. Groups of celebrants - primarily Jewish youths according to official accounts - viciously attacked and disarmed policemen. By mid-afternoon the office of the civil governor had received reports that two policemen had been killed, ten wounded and twenty-two disarmed, and that many others had abandoned their posts in order to avoid possible injury.
The clashes were not limited to attacks on policemen by angry demonstrators. Toward the end of the day tensions between those Odessans who heralded the Manifesto and those who disapproved of the concessions granted by Nicholas had reached a breaking point. Angered over being forced to doff their caps and outraged by the sight of desecrated portraits of the Tsar, supporters of the monarchy gave vent to their anger and frustration. They demonstrated their hostility not by attacking other Russians celebrating in the streets, but by turning on Jews, for they viewed them as the source of Russia's current problems. Clashes occurred throughout the day as groups of armed demonstrators, chiefly Jewish students and workers, scuffled with bands of Russians. These outbreaks of violence marked the beginning of the infamous pogrom and were the culmination of trends that had been unfolding in the city for several weeks.
Armed confrontations between Jews and Russians originated near the Jewish district of Moldavanka in the afternoon and early evening of 18 October. The clashes apparently started when a group of Jews carrying red flags to celebrate the October Manifesto attempted to convince a group of Russian workers to doff their caps to the flags. Harsh words were exchanged, a scuffle ensued and then shots rang out. Both groups scattered, but quickly reassembled in nearby streets and resumed fighting. The clashes soon turned into an anti-Jewish riot, as Russians indiscriminately attacked Jews and began to vandalize and loot Jewish homes, apartments, and stores in the neighborhood. The rioters also turned on policemen and troops summoned to quell the disorders, actions suggesting that pogromists were not yet fully focused on Jews in their attacks. The military on October 18 was equally vigilant in its efforts to restrain both Russian and Jewish rioters, vigorously suppressing these disturbances and restoring order by early evening. Four Russians were killed, dozens of Russians wounded - including policemen - and twelve Russians arrested as a result of the unrest. The number of Jews who were injured or arrested is unknown.
The pogrom began in full force the next day, 19 October. In the mid-morning hundreds of Russians - children, women, and men - gathered in various parts of the city for patriotic marches to display their loyalty to the Tsar. Day laborers, especially those employed at the docks, comprised a major element of the crowd that assembled at the harbor and were joined by Russian factory and construction workers, shopkeepers, salesclerks, workshop employees, other day laborers, and vagrants.
These patriotic processions had the earmarks of a rally organized by extreme, right-wing political organizations like the Black Hundreds. The main contingent of marchers assembled at Customs Square at the harbor, where the procession's organizers distributed flags, icons and portraits of the Tsar. The marchers passed around bottles of vodka, and plainclothes policemen reportedly handed out not only vodka but also money and guns.' Onlookers and passersby joined the procession as the demonstrators made their way from the port to the city center. Singing the national anthem and religious hymns and, according to some reports, shouting "Down with the Jews" and "It's necessary to beat them," they stopped at the city council building and substituted the imperial colors for the red flag that demonstrators had raised the previous day. They then headed toward the cathedral located in central Odessa, stopping en route at the residences of Neidhardt and Baron Aleksandr Kaulbars, Commander of the Odessa Military District. Kaulbars, fearing confrontation between the patriotic marchers and left-wing students and revolutionaries, asked them to disperse. Some heeded his request, but most members of the procession continued their march. Neidhardt, on the other hand, greeted the patriots enthusiastically and urged them to hold their memorial service at the cathedral. After a brief prayer service, the procession continued to march through the streets of central Odessa.
Suddenly, shots rang out and a young boy carrying an icon lay dead. Most accounts of the incident assert that the shots came from surrounding buildings, probably from the offices of luzhnoe obozrenie. No one knows for certain who fired first, but evidence strongly suggests that revolutionaries or members of Jewish and student self-defense brigades were responsible. In any case, the crowd panicked and ran through the streets as more shots were fired from rooftops, balconies, and apartment windows, prompting some to plead for police protection. Revolutionaries and self-defense units organized by students and Jews threw homemade bombs at the Russian demonstrators. These actions suggest that they, along with pro-government forces, were itchy for confrontation and ready to instigate trouble. The shootings triggered a chain reaction: convinced that Jews were responsible for the shootings, members of the patriotic demonstration began to shout "Beat the Yids" and "Death to the Yids" and went on a rampage, attacking Jews and destroying Jewish apartments, homes, and stores.
The course of events was similar in other parts of the city, as members of student and Jewish self-defense units fired on other Russians holding patriotic services and provoked similar pogromist responses. However, in Peresyp, a heavily Russian working-class district where no patriotic procession took place, the pogrom started only after pogromists from the city center arrived and began to incite local residents. By mid-afternoon a full-fledged pogrom had developed, and it raged until 22 October.
The lurid details of the pogrom can be found in several eyewitness and secondary accounts. Although the list of atrocities perpetrated against the Jews is too long to recount here, suffice it to say that pogromists brutally and indiscriminately beat, mutilated, and murdered defenseless Jewish men, women, and children. They hurled Jews out of windows, raped and cut open the stomachs of pregnant women, and slaughtered infants in front of their parents. In one particularly gruesome incident, pogromists hung a woman upside down by her legs and arranged the bodies of her six dead children on the floor below.
The pogrom's unrestrained
violent and destructive excesses were
in large measure made possible by the failure of authorities to adopt any countermeasures. Low-ranking policemen and soldiers failed to interfere with the pogromists and in many instances participated in the looting and killing. At times, policemen, seeking to avenge the attacks of 16 and 18 October on their colleagues, went so far as to provide protection for pogromists by firing on the self-defense units formed by Jews, students, and revolutionaries. For their part, soldiers, concluding from the actions of the police that the pogrom was sanctioned by higher authorities, stood idly by while pogromists looted stores and murdered unarmed Jews. Some policemen discharged their weapons into the air and told rioters that the shots had come from apartments inhabited by Jews, leaving the latter vulnerable to vicious beatings and murder. Eyewitnesses also reported seeing policemen directing pogromists to Jewish-owned stores or Jews' apartments, while steering the rioters away from the property of non-Jews. As the correspondent for Collier's reported, " Ikons and crosses were placed in windows and hung outside doors to mark the residences of the Russians, and in almost every case this was a sufficient protection." Indeed, Odesskii pogrom i samooborona, an emotional account of the October tragedy published by Labor Zionists in Paris, argues that the police more than any other group in Odessa were responsible for the deaths and pillage.
The evidence indicates that policemen acted (or failed to act) with the knowledge and tacit approval of their superiors. Neither Neidhardt nor Kaulbars took any decisive action to suppress the pogrom when disorders erupted. In fact, the head of the Odessa gendarmes admitted that the military did not apply sufficient energy to end the pogrom and stated that pogromists greeted soldiers and policemen with shouts of " Hurrah " and then continued their rampage and pillage without interference. It was not until 21 October that Kaulbars publicly announced that his troops were under orders to shoot at pogromists as well as self-defensists. Until then soldiers and police had shot only at self-defensists. Whether the 21 October directive ordering troops to shoot at pogromists helped to restore order is unclear. While it is difficult to discount entirely the effect of the directive, particularly since the pogrom petered out the next day, it bears noting that the return to calm may have been due more to the exhaustion of the pogromist mobs than to any military directive and action. Yet it is also important to stress that when the military did act to stop public disorders, as they did on 18 October and again on 21 and 22 October, pogromists generally did desist and disperse. Considering that the pogrom ended on 22 October, one cannot help but conclude that more immediate and effective action by the military could have prevented the pogrom from assuming such monstrous dimensions.
Kaulbars, defending his inaction before a delegation of city councillors on 22 October, stated that he could not take more decisive measures since Neidhardt had not made a formal determination that armed force be used to stem the disorders. Relevant regulations permitted civil authorities to request the assistance of military units when the police concluded that they were unable to maintain control; the prerogative to determine whether force should be employed resided with the city governor, but once he made such a decision, then the military commander assumed independent control until the end of operations. Thus, Kaulbars believed that he lacked authorization to deploy his troops against the pogroms since Neidhardt had not followed procedure, a conclusion also reached by Senator Aleksandr Kuzminskii, head of the official government inquiry into the pogrom.
Kaulbars discounted reports that his troops were participating in the disorders, terming them unfounded and unsubstantiated rumors. He issued his directive only after Neidhardt visited him on 20 October and reiterated a request made on 19 October to adopt measures to prevent the outbreak of a pogrom. More importantly, the fact that the 21 October order was signed by chief-of-staff Lieutenant-General Bezradetskii and only issued by Kaulbars's office strongly suggests that the military commander was compelled by his superiors to suppress the pogrom. Neidhardt and Kaulbars defended their individual actions (or inactions) and bitterly accused each other of dereliction of duty, claiming the other was responsible for maintaining order. The sad truth of the matter is that police and troops were in a position to act but failed to due to the absence of instructions, rendering irrelevant the claims of Neidhardt and Kaulbars that the other possessed authority to suppress the pogrom. Consequently, pogromists enjoyed almost two full days of unrestrained destruction.
Senator Kuzminskii castigated the city governor for withdrawing all police from their posts in the early afternoon on 18 October, an action he believed to warrant criminal investigation. The reasons for Neidhardt's action are unclear, since his reports are contradictory and conflict with accounts of other informed police officials and civilian leaders. Neidhardt claimed that he was seeking to protect the lives of policemen who were subject to attack by celebrants of the Manifesto, but close examination of the testimony indicates that the bulk of attacks on policemen occurred after they were removed from their posts. Indeed, many had abandoned their posts before trouble erupted. Nonetheless, the possibility remains that the city governor was acting to protect his men, since several of them had been victimized prior to his directive. Having removed policemen from their posts, Neidhardt instructed them to patrol the city in groups. Strong evidence also suggests that Neidhardt tacitly approved the student militias and hoped they could maintain order in Odessa in the absence of the police. Kuzminskii concluded that Neidhardt was guilty of dereliction of duty because he had left Odessa defenseless by not ordering the police patrols to take vigorous action to prevent trouble and suppress the disorders. The absence of police ready to maintain law and order on 18 and 19 October made for an explosive situation, signifying the surrender of the city to armed bands of pogromists and self-defensists.
Both Neidhardt and Kaulbars defended the behavior of the police and military. Referring to the intensity of the shooting and bombing, the city governor and military commander argued that attacks by student and Jewish militias hampered efforts of policemen and soldiers to contain the pogrom. They also accused self-defense brigades of shooting not only at pogromists, but also at police, soldiers, and Cossacks. The police and military, according to Neidhardt and Kaulbars, had to contend first with the self-defense groups before turning their attention to the pogromists. Konstantin Prisnenko, commander of an infantry brigade, supported Neidhardt and Kaulbars when he told Kuzminskii that "it was hard to stop pogromshchiki because the soldiers were diverted by revolutionaries who were shooting at them."
The police and military undoubtedly were targets of civilian militias and were rightly concerned about their safety and security. Yet as the pogrom gathered momentum, one can hardly blame members of self-defense brigades for shooting at soldiers and policemen, for many of them were actively participating in the violence. Moreover, Neidhardt and Kaulbars acted as though civilian militias were the only groups involved in the violence, conveniently ignoring how the actions of policemen and soldiers after the pogrom began were provocative and might compel Jews to defend themselves. Despite Neidhardt's 19 October request to Kaulbars to help forestall disorders, it was not until the pogrom was in full swing that any official made an effort to stop it. Neither Neidhardt nor Kaulbars gave immediate orders to their staffs to subdue pogromists and restore order. Had the police and military genuinely applied their energies to halting the pogrom, the need for self-defense would have been reduced and attacks on soldiers and policemen would have dropped accordingly. The explanations offered by Neidhardt and Kaulbars were self-serving attempts to shift the blame for the failure of the police and military to perform their basic law enforcement functions to the victims of the pogrom.
How then are we to explain the outbreak of the pogrom? Was any one individual or group responsible for conceiving and directing the pogrom or was the orgy of violence against Jews spontaneous in origin and execution? Like many government officials, Kuzminskii concluded that the Odessa pogrom was a spontaneous display of outrage against the Jews whose political activity had elicited the pogromist response. Despite his criticism of Neidhardt, Kuzminskii joined the city governor, Kaulbars, and other authorities in Odessa in blaming the pogrom on its victims, since the Jews played a visible role in the revolutionary movement and events of 1905. Such tortuous reasoning dated back to the 1880s when government apologists seeking to explain the pogroms of 1881 argued that Jews, not pogromists, bore responsibility for anti-Jewish violence. Unlike previous pogroms, which Kuzminskii attributed to national hatred and economic exploitation, the October disorders occurred as a result of the scandalous public behavior of Odessa's Jews, especially after the announcement of the October Manifesto. Okhrana chief Bobrov, for example, concluded that Jews were responsible for provoking pogromist attacks because they were spearheading a revolutionary attack on the autocracy in an effort to establish their "own tsardom." For government officials, then, patriotic Russians were justified in seeking punishment of Jews for such treasonous behavior as desecrating portraits of the Tsar and forcing bystanders to pay tribute to revolutionary flags. They could also point to the stockpiling of weapons and medical supplies at the university and the organization of student militias in the days immediately before the issuance of the October Manifesto as evidence of a revolutionary conspiracy to overthrow the government. Fears that Jews were prepared to use the concessions of the manifesto as a springboard for the subjugation of non-Jews created a situation fraught with frightening prospects. Kuzminskii defined the pogrom as an offshoot of the patriotic procession and blamed its excesses on the failure of Neidhardt to adopt adequate countermeasures.
The legacy of discrimination against Russian Jewry and governmental tolerance and at times sponsorship of anti-Jewish organizations and propaganda provided fertile ground for a pogrom. When combined with economic resentments and frustrations, timeworn religious prejudices and the political polarization of Odessa society during 1905, the belief that Jews were revolutionaries and fears that they were prepared to use the concessions of the manifesto as a springboard for the subjugation of non-Jews helped to create a situation fraught with frightening prospects. To those residents of Odessa alarmed by the opposition to the Tsar and government, Jews were a convenient and obvious target for retaliation.
It is questionable, however, whether the pogrom was purely spontaneous. Even though the work of Hans Rogger and Heinz Dietrich Lowe has done much to absolve many high-ranking government ministers and officials in St. Petersburg of engineering the pogroms and giving a signal to mark their start, the culpability of certain local officials is less easy to dismiss. The standard view of the Odessa pogrom places much of the blame on the encouragement and connivance of local officials, though not all the sources agree on whether the police and military actually planned the pogrom. Many contemporaries blamed civilian and military authorities, especially Neidhardt, for fostering a pogromist atmosphere and not taking measures to suppress the pogrom. Members of the city council and the newspaper Odesskie novosti, for example, placed full responsibility for the bloodletting on Neidhardt by stressing that his decision to remove the police from their posts gave free reign to pogromists, and Khronika evreiskoi zhizni called for a judicial investigation in order to reveal the city governor's "criminal responsibility.''
Kuzminskii himself collected evidence that points to the involvement of low-ranking members of the police force in the planning and organization of the patriotic counter-demonstration and pogrom. He stopped short, however, of suggesting that either Neidhardt or other local civil and police officials planned the pogrom. According to the testimony of L. D. Teplitskii, an ensign in the army, as early as 15 and 16 October policemen were proposing to use force against Jews as punishment for their role in instigating the current wave of strikes and disorders in Odessa. As one policeman told Teplitskii, "Jews want freedom - well, we'll kill two or three thousand. Then they'll know what freedom is." Teplitskii also testified to meeting a group of day laborers on the morning of 18 October who told him they had just received instructions at a police station to attack Jews that evening. In working-class neighborhoods policemen and pogromist agitators went from door to door, spreading rumors that Jews were slaughtering Russian families and urging Russian residents to repel the Jews with force. Policemen reportedly compiled lists of Jewish-owned stores and Jews' apartments to facilitate attacks, and one Jewish newspaper reported that documents existed revealing how plainclothes policemen paid pogromists from 80 kopecks to 3 roubles per day upon instructions of their superiors. Other evidence even suggests that policemen were instructed not to interfere with pogromists. An army captain informed Kuzminskii that a policeman had told him that his superiors had given their permission for three days of violence because Jews had destroyed the Tsar's portrait in the city council.
Unfortunately, no evidence has surfaced indicating which police officials were responsible for these directives. Nor is there conclusive evidence linking Neidhardt to the planning and approval of the pogrom or even pogrom agitation. Considering Neidhardt's efforts prior to October to avert unrest and disorders through patient negotiation and timely compromise with workers and employers, it would have been out of character for him to have approved, let alone planned, a major public disturbance. We have already seen how he behaved when rumors of a pogrom circulated earlier in the spring. Like most government officials entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining law and order, Neidhardt possessed a strong disciplinarian streak and would have been hesitant to sanction any kind of public unrest for fear of events getting out of hand. To be sure, Neidhardt knew about the patriotic procession and even welcomed it, but this does not warrant the conclusion drawn by many Odessa residents that the city governor had advance knowledge of the pogrom. In fact, Neidhardt so feared an eruption of violence on 19 October that he requested Kaulbars to withdraw permission for a funeral procession planned for that day to commemorate the students killed on 16 October in order to avoid confrontation between funeral marchers and the patriotic counter-demonstration. He also called upon the military commander to adopt measures to prevent the outbreak of anti-Jewish violence. The quickness with which the authorities cooperated on October 16 to suppress street disorders clearly suggests that Neidhardt and Kaulbars were genuinely trying to prevent a serious breach of social peace.
Yet questions remain. Why were the police and military derelict in their duty once the pogrom began? What accounts for Kaulbars's failure to order his troops, who were in position, to restore order? Why did Neidhardt not prevent individual policemen from participating in the looting and pillaging and wait until 21 October before ordering his staff back to work? And how can we explain his failure to request vigorous action by the military as well as his callous refusal to heed the pleas of pogrom victims, including a rabbi and bank director, who begged him to intercede? The truth of the matter may simply have been that Neidhardt had few options. Individual policemen were already abandoning their posts even before he issued his directive of 18 October and civilian attacks had begun. Furthermore, the police refused to return to their posts on 21 October, despite the city governor's order to do so. Neidhardt may have realized that he could not depend on a severely underpaid, understaffed, and disgruntled police force to maintain order in the city. The Odessa police, like most municipal police forces throughout the Empire, not only had a long-standing reputation for corruption but, unlike many others, often failed to obey orders and directives. Neidhardt was aware of the low morale among his police force, attributing it to low wages and inadequate training. The city governor may also have realized that he could no longer control the actions of most members of the police force and turned to Kaulbars for help only after the pogrom had reached such dimensions that it became clear that student self-defense brigades were an ineffective check on the violence and destruction. Another possible scenario is that he may simply have reasoned that the police and military were powerless to control the pogromist mobs in light of their failure to contain popular unrest earlier that week.
His sense of helplessness notwithstanding, Neidhart's behavior certainly was not blameless, and there is no doubt that his sympathies lay with the pogromists. He was a virulent anti-semite who, in the midst of the pogrom, reportedly told a delegation of Jewish leaders, "You wanted freedom. Well, now you're getting 'Jewish freedom'." From Neidhardt's perspective, Jews were responsible for the disorders and the pogrom was retribution. Thus, although Neidhardt did not plan the pogrom or even, it would seem, possess prior knowledge of it, he generally sympathized with the actions of pogromists and may have viewed attacks on Jews, once he realized that he was unable to prevent them, as an effective method of squelching the revolution. Neidhardt's actions, then, support in a very limited and modified way the notion that officials hoped pogroms would deflect popular resentment from the government. However, in the case of the Odessa pogrom, the anti-Jewish violence was not the result of plotting by high-ranking local authorities: the willingness of Neidhardt as well as Kaulbars to tolerate the pogrom and delay ordering their men into action evidently occurred after the violence erupted but nonetheless underscores their culpability and negligence.
Kaulbars also shares the burden of responsibility for not acting more promptly to restore order. The military commander, who was curiously not censured by Kuzminskii, was derelict in the performance of his duty since his troops were already in position to act against pogromists. Despite confusion over whether he or Neidhardt possessed jurisdiction to issue orders to stem the disorders, Kaulbars certainly had the authority to order his men to subdue the pogromists, especially since Neidhardt had requested on the 19th that he take measures to prevent a pogrom. Thus, Kaulbars's defense that he could not interfere in " civilian administration " since Neidhardt had not explicitly determined that armed force was needed to restore order is a feeble excuse for his lack of action and direction, as was the mud-slinging, so evident in Kuzminskii's final report, between Kaulbars and Neidhardt over who possessed authority to suppress the pogromists.
Kaulbars not only ignored reports that his troops were participating in the pogrom and waited several days before ordering them to combat pogromists, but he even remarked to an assembly of Odessa policemen on 21 October that "all of us sympathize in our souls with the pogrom." Yet Kaulbars, who somewhat later openly patronized and even supplied arms to the right-wing Union of Russian People, tempered his remarks by acknowledging that neither his personal sympathies nor those of policemen and soldiers relieved them of the responsibility to maintain law and order. This conflict between personal values and official duty, between sympathy for the pogromists and obligation to preserve social peace, helps to account for the failure of Kaulbars and Neidhardt to act more decisively. Undoubtedly they were galled at the prospect of ordering their men to interfere with the pogromists, who, in their eyes, were the only loyal subjects of autocracy in Odessa. How can one justify shooting defenders of the Tsar and the autocratic order? Such logic and attitudes led both men to be derelict in their duties to preserve law and order and suppress the pogromist mobs.
Kuzminskii was essentially correct to explain the timing of the pogrom in terms of the political crisis facing the regime in October 1905. But politics alone do not explain the motives of many pogromists. Aside from the police, who were the other participants in the pogrom and why did they join the police in viciously attacking Jews? While not discounting the impact of political events in triggering the pogrom, certain social and economic characteristics of life in Odessa also must be considered in a complete account of the pogrom.
Available sources do not allow a precise determination of the composition of the pogromist crowds, but they do reveal that unskilled, non-Jewish day laborers, more than any other group (including the police), filled the ranks of the mobs which attacked Jews and destroyed property. Since these workers were especially prone to anti-Jewish violence and, as we have already seen, played a significant role not only in the patriotic procession but in other popular disorders earlier in the year as well, a closer examination of their lives might provide insight into their motives.
Day laborers in Odessa led a precarious social and economic existence, suffering from irregular impermanent work and low wages. Many were unmarried male migrants to Odessa who lacked marketable skills and work experience. Large numbers of these day laborers came from the countryside, where rural poverty and overpopulation were driving many young peasants to the cities in search of work. Other day workers were Jews who moved to Odessa in order to escape the destitution of life in the shtetlekh and small towns of the Pale of Settlement.
Competition for employment between Jewish and gentile day laborers assumed special importance at docksides and in the railway depots, where thousands of unskilled workers vied for employment during the peak season of commercial activity, which began in spring and lasted well into the autumn. According to the 1897 census, slightly over 16,000 workers were unskilled day laborers without permanent jobs and specific occupations, but who supplemented the city's sizable work force of dockworkers, porters, and carters during the busy season. Precise data do not exist, but most estimates of the number of dockworkers in Odessa at the turn of the century range from 4,000 to 7,000 with one estimate placing the number of dockworkers at 20,000. Approximately half these workers were Jews and close to 10,000 other Jews found employment as unskilled laborers elsewhere in the city by century's end.
Even during peak periods of port activity, operators of shipping lines, brokerage firms, and warehouses did not require the services of all dockworkers looking for work. In the summer few dockworkers worked more than fifteen days a month; job competition acquired even larger dimensions during the off-season or periods of slump and recession, when over half of all dockworkers were unemployed. It is estimated that between 1900 and 1903 at least 2,000 dockworkers were unemployed at any given time. More specifically, unemployment for longshoremen increased dramatically in the late 1890s and early 1900s when the labor market began to constrict as a result of crop failures, economic recession, the Russo-Japanese War, and Odessa's declining share of the export trade in grain. The last factor was due in part to the failure of Odessa to keep pace with the more modern and better-equipped harbors of other port cities in southern Russia. The use of conveyor belts at docksides, first introduced on a limited basis in the 1870s to facilitate port operations, reduced employment opportunities for stevedores and exerted downward pressures on wages by the century's end. The constricting labor market heightened job competition between Jewish and Gentile dockworkers, culminating in 1906 and 1907 with shipowners, city authorities, and longshoremen setting up a hiring system that established quotas for the number of Jewish and non-Jewish dockworkers. Evidence exists indicating that tensions among dockworkers of different nationalities - primarily between Russians end Jews, but to a lesser extent also among Russians, Georgians, and Turks -influenced the decision to establish this quota system.
Some day workers belonged to work gangs or cartels which were either hired by subcontractors on a regular basis or employed directly by the shipping lines. Each company generally used the services of different work gangs, whose members were hired by the month or day. Yet the vast majority of day laborers lacked permanent work, a situation that the hiring process made even more difficult. In order to work on a given day, day laborers not belonging to work gangs placed their names on sign-up sheets that subcontractors for shipping lines and import-export firms posted at different taverns throughout the city. The prospects of finding work in this manner were slim, however. Prospective laborers had to arrive between 2 and 3 am in order to ensure themselves a place on the lists, and those fortunate to find employment for a day had to give the subcontractor approximately a third of their earnings, leaving them with barely a rouble to take home. According to 1904 data, day laborers earned an average daily wage of 60 kopecks to a rouble. After a long day's work, they returned to await payment at the tavern where their subcontractor conducted business; settling up often took until 10 pm. Given the extraordinary number of wasted hours, it is not surprising that many day laborers lacked the inclination to work every day. Even if they so desired, competition from other job seekers reduced their chances of finding work.
Although some day laborers lived in apartments with their families or other workers, many found their wages inadequate to rent a room or even a corner in an apartment and were forced to seek shelter in one of the crowded flophouses (nochlezhnye coma) that speckled the harbor area and poor neighborhoods of Odessa. At the turn of the century several thousand people - mostly Great Russian by nationality - slept in flophouses, with a sizable majority of them living in such accommodations for over a year and nearly half for over three years. In other words, many day laborers had become permanent denizens of night shelters. Indeed, many frequented the same flophouses day after day and even had their favorite sleeping corners.
Conditions in the night shelters were abominable. Night shelters were breeding grounds for infectious diseases and offered the lodger only a filthy straw mattress on a cold, damp, and hard asphalt floor. Often they lacked heat and washing facilities. Their patrons usually bathed in a canal filled with the warm, runoff water from the municipal electric plant, since no public baths existed in the port district. Of the nine night shelters located in the harbor district, seven were privately owned and two were operated by the city. Conditions in the city-run shelters were better than those found in privately owned flophouses, since city shelters generally provided bathing facilities and free medical care and operated cafeterias. In addition, the city ran a day shelter that attracted daily up to 500 persons who took advantage of its showers, kitchen, and lending library.
Alcoholism was another contributing factor in the entry of day workers into the world of flophouses. As one twenty-year-old explained, he began sleeping in night shelters " because of vodka." Contemporary observers often characterized residents of flop houses as lacking the resolve to lift themselves out of these degrading surroundings. Like many other workers, they drowned their sorrows in drink. Observers also commented that many day laborers worked only in order to earn enough money to get drunk. The system of subcontracting encouraged heavy drinking since it invariably took place in taverns. Drinking not only diminished the chances of finding work, but also robbed day workers of the motivation to work on a permanent basis. Consequently, many of them could not disengage themselves from the crippling world of vodka and were content to work one or two days a week, spending the rest of the week drinking. As one observer noted: "Hope has died in their hearts - apathy has replaced it."
Dependent on the activity of the port for their livelihood, day laborers in general and dockworkers in particular were usually the first workers to feel the impact of downturns in the economy. During such times, lacking even the few kopecks that night shelters charged, they often slept under the night-time sky or in open barrels at dockside. Hunger was such a constant factor in the day laborers' lives that they used a broad range of colorful phrases to express its intensity. For example, "simple hunger" (gekokht prostoi) referred to hunger caused by not eating for one day. " Deadly hunger " (gekokht smertel'nyi) lasted somewhat longer, and " hunger with a vengeance " (gekokht s raspiatiem) was of "indeterminate length, whole weeks, months, in short, hunger which has no foreseeable end."
Many day laborers never established secure family and social roots and were never fully integrated into urban, working-class life. Even though many had lived in Odessa for years, their lives had a marginal and rootless quality. The faces of their workmates, employers, and those who slept near them in the night shelter changed frequently, even daily, and the lack of fulltime employment and permanent lodgings limited their opportunities to form friendships and establish bonds either at home or at work. Even for day laborers who enjoyed the comforts and security of steady work through membership in a work gang and apartment living, life in Odessa had an ephemeral quality, since many of them were seasonal migrants who never settled permanently in Odessa. Day laborers found it difficult though not impossible under such circumstances to promote and defend their interests in an organized and sustained manner.
Observers referred to day laborers as "peaceful" and believed that the "day laborer is not terrifying when he's had his fill; when the port is busy, this Odessan is calm." This comment's implication is clear, however: day laborers could be less than law-abiding and peaceful during times of economic hardship. An undercurrent of tension and discontent was clearly visible among day laborers, and there were times when they gave vent to their frustrations and anger in fits of rage and fury. At the height of the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, for example, resentful that soldiers were assigned the task of loading ships destined for the Far East, day laborers reacted to their displacement by attacking Jews and stores owned by both Jews and Gentiles. In 1905 day laborers exploded twice, first in June, when Jews were not singled out as targets of their wrath, and then again in October, this time however with anti-Jewish violence reaching alarming proportions. Quite clearly, then, day laborers did not follow a preordained path that inevitably led to pogromist actions, and their occupation and social characteristics lack foolproof predictive values of behavior. Day laborers did not always direct their ire toward Jews; sometimes they channeled their anger toward those possessing wealth and property regardless of ethnic or religious background. Day laborers did not consistently follow a conservative pro-government line. To be sure, members of the Moscow Customs Cartel took part in the patriotic procession and pogromist violence, but they also were caught up in the movement to challenge employers for improved working conditions. For instance, in May several hundred of them conducted an orderly and successful strike for higher wages and shorter workdays, and in November they again struck over low pay, hours, housing allowance, and the right to select deputies who would be empowered to have final say in the levying of fines. This labor activism continued into 1906. It took a conjuncture of certain social, economic, and political factors to transform a riot into an anti-Jewish pogrom.
In Odessa pogromist behavior had both an ethnic and a class basis that reflected the complex relationship of long-term ethnic antagonisms, the structure of Odessa's economy, and short-term political catalysts. The heritage of anti-semitism made Odessa particularly ripe for a pogrom: the legal disabilities and mistreatment endured by the Jews of Russia engendered an attitude that accepted anti-semitism and tolerated anti-Jewish violence. The domination of the grain trade by Jewish merchants predisposed many dockworkers against Jews, whom they conveniently saw as the source of the troubles, particularly the lack of jobs, besetting the city and themselves. Consequently, when day laborers sought an outlet for their frustrations and problems, they focused on Jews. Without taking into account the hostile, anti-Jewish atmosphere in Odessa, we cannot understand why Russian day laborers at times of economic distress chose not to attack other Russian workers who competed with them for scarce jobs or Russian employers, but instead indiscriminately lashed out at all Jews, regardless of whether they were job competitors.
Similarly, the depressed state of the Odessa economy also helped set the stage for the outbreak of the pogrom. The straitened economic circumstances of 1905 produced a situation especially ripe for anti-Jewish violence. Many day laborers were out of work and, owing to their lack of skills, unlikely to find employment. Unemployment and economic competition contributed to a growing sense of frustration and despair among many pogromists and helped channel their anger against Jews. Yet economic problems alone do not explain why Russian day workers decided to attack Jews in October 1905. In June, for example, dockworkers and day laborers exploded in a fit of wanton rage, but chose to challenge established authority by destroying the harbor. In October these same workers directed their hostility and frustration toward Jews, although material conditions had not substantially changed.
What had changed since the June disorders was the political atmosphere which had become polarized and more radicalized. The heated revolutionary climate of mid-October precipitated the pogrom. Many participants in the patriotic procession of 19 October, especially members of the Black Hundreds and other organized right-wing groups, undoubtedly marched in order to express their support of the autocracy and disapproval of the October Manifesto. They even tried to recruit other Odessans, particularly day laborers and dockworkers, by appealing to age-old fears and suspicions that Jews threatened the purity of Russian Orthodoxy and contaminated the social fabric. Some workers, as one Social Democratic activist speaking about the labor movement in 1903 stated, feared that "they would be replaced by Jews and be left without work" in the event of political revolution. And still others undoubtedly seconded the opinion of one Odessan who said the 18 October celebrations brought "tears to his eyes" as he regarded them as insulting and disgraceful.
Yet many others, day laborers and dockworkers in particular, were less enticed by politics than by the vodka and money that the police reportedly offered. Certainly not all members of the procession and pogromists necessarily stood on the extreme right of the political spectrum, as the dockworkers' and day laborers' riot in June strongly suggests. For the politically apathetic and unaware, the struggle between revolution and reaction which inspired the more politically conscious played a secondary if not negligible role. Many may not have intended to assault Jews and destroy their property, but were provoked by the shooting and bomb-throwing of the revolutionaries and self-defense brigades. These actions help to explain the virulence and intensity of the pogromists' attack - especially by the police - on their victims. They were simply caught up in the general tenor of events and, while not being dupes or pawns manipulated by Black Hundred agitators, found themselves attacking Jews and their property in much the same way that they destroyed the harbor in June. In fact, pogromists looted drinking establishments, after which they indiscriminately trashed non-Jewish houses, thereby demonstrating that popular violence was not always directed against Jews, even in the midst of a pogrom. These pogromists were not acting with the malice of forethought but responding to immediate events that channeled their anger and ire against the Jews. Still others may have welcomed the pogrom because it afforded them the opportunity to vent some steam and, perhaps, acquire some booty. Thus, whatever the specific motivations of the various individuals involved in the pogrom, popular and official anti-semitism and depressed economic circumstances set the stage by providing the necessary psychological and material preconditions, while the hothouse political atmosphere of Odessa in 1905 helped trigger the pogrom. Violence often lacked political import and significance and served the cause of revolution or counter-revolution only when it appeared in conjunction with other factors.
By no means did all Russian workers participate or even sympathize with the bloodletting. Many Russian workers enlisted in self-defense units, while others sheltered their Jewish neighbors and friends during the terror. For example, members of the sailors' union armed themselves and patrolled the harbor to protect Jewish property. After the pogrom Russian self-defensists provided financial aid to pogrom victims and took vigorous action to punish pogromists and ensure that another round of anti-Jewish violence would not occur. Significantly, many of the Russian self-defensists were skilled workers from the same metalworking and machine-construction plants that supplied the workers active in the organization of strikes and the formation of district and city strike committees, trade unions and, in December, the Odessa Soviet of Workers' Deputies.
Two reasons can be adduced to explain the reluctance of these workers to join ranks with pogromists. First, skilled metalworkers and machinists did not face serious employment competition with Jews, who rarely worked in these industries. Despite the fact that Jews comprised a third of Odessa's population, Jews and Russians rarely worked in the same factory or workshop, or even as members of the same work gang at the dockside. In fact, Jews and Russians were generally not employed in the same branch of industry. The exception, as we have seen, was unskilled day labor. Most factory workers were Russians and Ukrainians; Jews formed a small minority. One estimate placed the number of Jews employed in factory production at between 4,000 and 5,000 with most working as unskilled and semi-skilled operatives in cork, tobacco, match, and candy factories.
In addition, many of the factories employing skilled workers had a history of labor activism and a tradition of political organization and awareness. As Ivan Avdeev, a Bolshevik organizer in the railway workshops, told a meeting of his co-workers, the railway workshops formed a self-defense group during the pogrom to demonstrate that " the Russian worker values civil freedom and liberty and does not become a Black Hundred or a hooligan. On the contrary, he is capable of not only protecting his own interests but those of other citizens." One Menshevik concluded that the pogrom and other outbursts of anti-Jewish violence was part of the government's effort to stem the tide of revolution by enlisting the support of " the wild, dark, ignorant masses of the dregs of society... the hungry throngs of bosiaki." Workers in the railway repair shops and the Henn agricultural tool and machinery plant organized self-defense groups and both enterprises had a long heritage of labor radicalism and a close association with Zubatovism and Social Democracy. The presence of political organizers and propagandists may have muted the anti-Jewish sentiment of the Russian workers in these plants and imparted an appreciation of working-class solidarity that transcended ethnic and religious divisions.
To sum up, the social composition
of the work force helped determine the form and content of popular unrest. At
one end of the occupational spectrum stood the unskilled day laborers who were
wont to engage in campaigns of violence and destruction. At the other end were
the skilled, more economically secure Russian metalworkers and machinists who
tended not to participate in the pogrom and were more inclined than the unskilled
to channel their protest and discontent in an organized fashion. Even though
skilled and unskilled workers in Odessa frequently resorted to violence as a
way to achieve their objectives, they used violence differently. The violence
and public disorder that often accompanied strikes by skilled workers, as in
June, could radicalize the participants and pose a revolutionary threat. But
worker militance and social unrest also had reactionary consequences when Jews
became the object of the workers' outrage and hostility. It is a commonplace
that the most politically militant and radical of workers in both Western Europe
and Russia during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were generally
not found among the poorest and most disadvantaged segments of the work force.
Yet the unskilled and least integrated workers were very prone to violence -
perhaps to a much greater extent than the better skilled and politically aware
and mobilized workers - and this violence could contribute to or impede the
revolutionary cause. In June a riot by the unskilled posed a serious threat
to the authorities, but in October protest by these same workers effectively
undercut the force and power of the revolution. The pogrom served the cause
of political reaction and counterrevolution by revealing how a potentially revolutionary
situation could be defused quickly when the target of the workers' wrath was
no longer a symbol of the autocracy. The October 1905 pogrom in Odessa illustrates
how ethnic hostility was a potent force in workers' politics and served as a
centrifugal force that diminished the capacity of Odessa workers to act in a
unified fashion. The pogrom defused the revolutionary movement in Odessa by
dampening the workers' militancy, and despite a resurgence of labor unrest in
December, the fear of more bloodletting dissuaded workers from vigorously challenging
their employers and the government like workers in Moscow.