Pogrom is a Russian word which, when directly translated, means “to wreak havoc.” Pogroms typically describe violence by Russian authorities against Jewish people, particularly officially-mandated slaughter, though the word has been extended to the massacres of other groups as well. A result of widespread and longterm anti-Semitism, Jewish people became the scapegoat for the misfortunes of others, or were blamed for violent or political acts.
RUSSIAN POGROMS BEGIN
Pogrom came into frequent use as a term around 1881 after anti-Semitic violence erupted following the assassination of Czar Alexander II.
Anti-Jewish groups claimed the government had approved reprisals against Jews. The first violence broke out in Yelizavetgrad, Ukraine, and then spread to 30 other towns, including Kiev.
During Christmas of the same year, Russia-controlled Warsaw, Poland, exploded in violence that resulted in the death of two Jews. The stampede deaths of 29 people after a church fire was falsely blamed on Jewish pickpockets.
Murderous outbreaks against Jews continued through 1884 in Belorussia, Lithuania, Rostov and Yekaterinoslav. Nizhni Novgorod hosted the final Russian pogrom of this period, resulting in the death of nine Jews.
SECOND WAVE OF RUSSIAN POGROMS
Russian pogroms erupted again in 1902, first in Częstochowa, where a marketplace altercation escalated, and Cossacks attacked a Jewish neighborhood.
Kishinev exploded in violence during Passover in 1903 when an anti-Semitic newspaper blamed the deaths of two children on Jews, resulting in 49 murders, countless rapes and hundreds of homes destroyed.
In 1904, the cities of Smela, Rovno, Aleksandriya and others faced pogroms by soldiers being sent to war with Japan.
In Kishinev in 1905, political protests became anti-Semitic attacks, leading to 19 murdered. Pogroms broke out in response to pro-revolution demonstrations in Feodosiya and Melitopol, with another in Zhitomir resulting in 20 murders.
In Kiev, a city hall meeting led to riots targeting Jews as the source of all Russia’s problems, causing 100 deaths.
On June 11, 1906, the assassination of Police Chief Derkatcheff in Bialystok brought three days of violence and the murders of 200 Jews by Tsarist soldiers and police, incited by the anti-Semitic police commissioner blaming the assassination on Jewish radicals.
POGROMS AFTER WORLD WAR I
Following World War I, pogroms reignited in Eastern Europe in 1917 and were often the work of soldiers on the front rioting against Jewish populations.
In 1918, during the Polish-Ukrainian War, Polish soldiers and citizens of Lviv rampaged and killed 150 Jews. The same year, northeast Ukraine saw multiple attacks on Jews by the Red Army. Soviet officials made an effort to punish the perpetrators.
For three days in 1919, during the Ukraine Civil War, Cossacks in Proskurov murdered 1,500 Jews. Their leader, Ivan Samosenko, was executed for war crimes.
During the Polish-Soviet War, Polish soldiers executed 35 Jews suspected of being Bolsheviks. Three pogroms in Kiev followed that year, with anti-communist forces murdering 60 Jewish men and raping as many Jewish women.
In the latter part of 1919, during the Russian Revolution, the anti-communist White Army engineered pogroms in Kiev, Ukraine and Siberia, Mongolia and Belorussia in Russia. The same year a White Army division murdered 1,500 Jews in Fastov, Poland, and several pogroms were ignited by citizens in Ukraine.
As the pogroms faded away by 1921, the All-Russia Jewish Public Committee for Aid to the Pogromed was formed in Russia to help victims.
POGROMS BETWEEN WORLD WARS
In 1929, Przytyk, Poland, tensions between Jewish and non-Jewish residents escalated at a marketplace, leading to riots and two Jewish deaths—one of several pre-World War II pogroms in Poland amidst an atmosphere of anti-Semitism accentuated by Polish nationalism.
Later that year 69 Jews were killed in Hebron by Arabs convinced that Jewish citizens were scheming to capture Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Arabs attacked Jewish neighborhoods, forcing British authorities to evacuate Jews living there.
The massacre was part of an expansive series of riots in Palestine that resulted amidst disputes over the Western Wall.
In 1938 a series of violent anti-Jewish efforts in Germany, Austria and occupied Czechoslovakia known as Kristallnacht took place on November 9 and 10.
The violence was incited by the Nazi Party, though it was claimed to be a spontaneous reaction to the murder of a German embassy official in Paris. Nazi minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels pronounced the assassination part of a Jewish conspiracy and encouraged people to take matters into their own hands. Regional officials issued orders and orchestrated riots commenced.
Around 7,5000 Jewish-owned businesses were wrecked, with 267 synagogues burned to the ground, 91 Jews murdered and 30,000 Jewish men arrested and sent to prisons and concentration camps.
The Nazis blamed the pogrom on the victims and fined them $400 million U.S. dollars, then confiscated their insurance payouts.
During World War II, the systematic extermination of the Jewish population by the Nazis known as the Holocaust manifested publicly in the form of pogroms. Between 1941 and 1944, the Nazis murdered millions of Jews in extermination camps.
In 1941 German troops slaughtered 13,000 Jews in Iasi, Romania. The soldiers were allowed to photograph the murders, and many of these were sent home to family as souvenirs. Romanian Intelligence officers also participated in documenting the pogrom.
That same year, the Romanian Iron Guard party, assisted by German troops, murdered 117 Jews in Bucharest and German forces massacred 4,000 Jewish citizens following the invasion of Lviv, Poland.
Pro-Nazi citizens of Antwerp, Belgium, attacked the city’s Jewish neighborhood twice, destroying shops and the synagogue. The city council attempted to compensate the victims, but Germans blocked the effort.
In Tykocin, Poland, 1,700 Jews were slaughtered after Nazis encouraged locals to loot Jewish property. Similar mass executions took place the same summer in Poland in nearby towns like Jedwabne, Wasosz, Lomza, Rutki, Radziłów, Jedwabne, Wizna, Piątnica and Zambrów.
Meanwhile, in Baghdad, Iraq, 180 Jews were killed during chaos following the fall of a pro-Nazi government. Known as the Farhud, it lasted for two days and ended only after the intervention of British forces.
The city of Odessa, Ukraine, was the setting for several pogroms over a more than 100-year period during which various authorities held control.
Greeks perpetrated an 1821 pogrom in relation to the Greek War of Independence, alleging that Jews were allies of the Turks. In 1859, Greek sailors roused the local population to anti-Jewish violence during Easter. Russians joined Greeks in attacking Jews in 1871 following charges that Jews had damaged a Greek church.
As many as 1,000 Jews died at the hands of Greeks and Russians in the 1905 pogrom. Czar Nicholas II released the October Manifesto, which made civil rights promises and created the Duma.
Violence broke out in the Odessa streets between supporters of the manifesto, including the Jewish community, and opponents, who targeted Jews. Mayhem spread into surrounding villages, and police donned civilian clothes to take part in the anti-Jewish violence.
In 1941, while under Romanian control, 34,000 local Jews, over 100,000 Ukrainian Jews and 15,000 Romani people were massacred in response to a Soviet bombing of Romanian headquarters.
POST-WORLD WAR II POGROMS
The end of World War II in 1945 did not bring an end to pogroms.
In Kielce, Poland, in 1946, 41 Jews were murdered after rumors they had used blood from Christian children for rituals. The same year, two Jews were slain in a riot in Kunmadaras, Hungary, after charges of kidnapping Christian children, with a similar incident occurring shortly after in Miskolc.
Incidents of violence, murder and genocide directed at non-Jews have sometimes been framed as pogroms.
One of the best known happened in 1909 in Adana Vilayat in the Ottoman Empire. As many as 30,000 Armenians were massacred by Ottoman Muslims, following longterm animosity between the groups.
Six years later, 1.5 million Armenians would be systematically executed by the Ottoman Empire in what would become known as the Armenian Genocide or Armenian Holocaust.
The word pogrom has also been applied to deadly violence against Serbians in Sarajevo in 1914; the murders of 12,000 Muslims in Azerbaijan 1918; up to 300 African Americans in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921; 240 Catholic Croatians in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1941 and 30 Greek deaths in Istanbul in 1955.
Holocaust Encyclopedia. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Modern Jewish History. AICE Jewish Virtual Library.
Pogroms: Anti Jewish Violence in Russian History. John Doyle Klier and Shlomo Lambroza, eds.