Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History (Paperback)
Finalist for the National Jewish Book Award (History)
Named one of the Best Books of the Year by the Economist and the East Hampton Star
Shortlisted for the Mark Lynton History Prize
Separating historical fact from fantasy, an acclaimed historian retells the story of Kishinev, a riot that transformed the course of twentieth-century Jewish history.
So shattering were the aftereffects of Kishinev, the rampage that broke out in late-Tsarist Russia in April 1903, that one historian remarked that it was “nothing less than a prototype for the Holocaust itself.” In three days of violence, 49 Jews were killed and 600 raped or wounded, while more than 1,000 Jewish-owned houses and stores were ransacked and destroyed. Recounted in lurid detail by newspapers throughout the Western world, and covered sensationally by America’s Hearst press, the pre-Easter attacks seized the imagination of an international public, quickly becoming the prototype for what would become known as a “pogrom,” and providing the impetus for efforts as varied as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the NAACP. Using new evidence culled from Russia, Israel, and Europe, distinguished historian Steven J. Zipperstein’s wide-ranging book brings historical insight and clarity to a much-misunderstood event that would do so much to transform twentieth-century Jewish life and beyond.
About the Author
Steven J. Zipperstein is the Daniel E. Koshland Professor in Jewish Culture and History at Stanford University. A contributor to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Jewish Review of Books and coeditor of the “Jewish Lives” series for Yale University Press, he lives in Berkeley, California.
Impressive, heart wrenching.... The genocide of World War II has come to act like a screen across the middle of the 20th century. But Zipperstein reminds us that it is important to understand the catastrophes that preceded. And there’s no better place to start than Kishinev.... [A] masterly work.
— Anthony Julius, New York Times Book Review
The story of the Kishinev pogrom is a useful reminder that fake news, conspiracy theories, and rumor-mongering did not begin with the rise of Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Indeed, the era of the pogrom was, as the distinguished historian of Russian Jewry Steven Zipperstein emphasizes, in some ways where all this began.... a wide-ranging survey by
a major historian of one of the defining events of modern Jewish history.
— Mark Mazower, Jewish Review of Books
Pogrom is a splendid book that pinpoints the moment at the start of the twentieth century when exile in Europe turned deadly in a way that foretold the end of everything. It tells us the horror that occurred street by street, butchery by butchery—with gripping clarity and an admirable brevity.
— Philip Roth
The methodical slaughter of forty-nine Jews on the streets of Kishinev, the capital of Moldova, over the course of three days in April, 1903, was a pivotal event in the history of modern anti-Semitism, the rise of Zionism, and, as a symbol of racist violence, a catalyst for the rise of the N.A.A.C.P. With extraordinary scholarly energy, Zipperstein uncovers sources in Russian, Yiddish, and English that show not only why this bloody event ignited the Jewish imagination, its sense of embattlement in exile, but also why it had such lasting resonance internationally.
— The New Yorker
The best single volume treatment of a seminal but under-discussed event in modern history that I’ve read.
— Jeffrey Goldberg, Radio Atlantic
Riveting.... Zipperstein’s excellent narrative vividly illustrates how the Kishinev pogrom would ‘so chisel itself into contemporary Jewish history and beyond that it held meaning even for those who never heard of the town.’ And why the lessons that ‘spilled from the pogrom’s rubble’ still resonate today.
— Elaine Elinson, San Francisco Chronicle
Subtle, elegant, and masterful. [Zipperstein] has turned the writing of the Kishinev story and its varied reception into a prism whose spectrum illuminates an astonishing range of subjects within a geographical triangle whose corners are Imperial Russia, the United States, and Israel. Wherever the light falls within that great triangle, Zipperstein — drawing on his exceptionally broad preparation — brings something new and unexpected into view.... [A] historical masterpiece.
— Jack Miles, Los Angeles Review of Books
Steven Zipperstein’s new book, Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History, is uncannily timely: today in particular we might appreciate the irony of fate that American anti-racism can trace one line of origin to a backwoods region of the Russian Empire.... In his writing, Zipperstein adopts a Chekhovian sparseness. He willfully resists the temptation towards pathos.... Zipperstein wants to return to the grounding of empiricism and build interpretation from there, aware that meanings have already grown from fictions and can never be un-meant.
— Marci Shore, Public Seminar
Outstanding.... Zipperstein brilliantly, and consequentially, traces the shift in anti-Semitic ideology from one based mainly in religious difference to one based in economics and cultural conflict.... But the book’s most profound impact might well be how we view anti-Semitic movements and their close progeny -- other racist or extreme nativist movements -- today. Kishinev, in its links to a hatred of Jews that was really disguised fear and hatred of downward mobility and lost status, and the consequent development of conspiratorial and hateful extreme group-oriented ideologies to cast blame for this lost privilege, was one of the first of its kind. Tragically, it was not the last. And it raises a question for the future: widespread democracy and the rule of law were supposed to protect us from such things. Will they?
— Jim Kaplan, National Review
This book, a model of the historian’s craft, demonstrates how a single event in a provincial town can shape the imagination of a century. Structural grace and clear prose allow a lifetime of historical meditation and a decade of multilingual research to reach virtually any reader interested in Jewish, Russian, and, indeed, American history.
— Timothy Snyder
In this splendid book, Steven J. Zipperstein not only illuminates the causes and global consequences of the Kishinev pogrom but also reveals the inner motivations of Pavel Krushevan, the vicious antisemite who helped incite the pogrom and fathered The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Zipperstein’s detective work is brilliant, and his prose is riveting.
— Derek J. Penslar, Harvard University
A riveting, often painful and vivid picture of a pogrom which captured attention worldwide, Zipperstein looks beyond the event itself and demonstrates how the tragedy at the heart of Russia served as a catalyst for the widest range of institutions including the NAACP. Written with the insight of an impeccable historian, his account—that will intrigue scholars as well as the widest array of readers—can be seen as a harbinger of what would come but four decades later.
— Deborah Lipstadt, author of The Eichmann Trial
A re-examination of one of the most lavishly remembered events of Russian Jewish history that is also the most edited and misunderstood. . . . Looking for a cause of the massacre, the author points to Pavel Krushevan, an anti-Semitic local publisher whose publications were rife with blood libel. Zipperstein shows with little doubt Krushevan's hand in fomenting the riot and his role as principal ‘author’ of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a ridiculous, fabricated text that nonetheless became the most influential anti-Semitic text ever produced. The author ably illustrates the wide influence of this pogrom, with comparisons to American violence against Southern blacks, the formation of the NAACP, and, especially, Hitler's reliance on the Protocols. A thorough and fair examination of an event whose mystery seems so misplaced.
— Kirkus Reviews
Fascinating.... Interconnected essays touch on the region of Bessarabia, the events of the pogrom and how they were reported, and the impact on U.S. culture (the NAACP was formed in response).... Thorough and accessible, this book is recommended for anyone with an interest in Jewish history. It will also be useful for readers who wish to learn more about the cultural impact of political events.
— Library Journal