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Soviet Zion: The Quest for a Russian Jewish Homeland

jan peczkis|Thursday, August 16, 2012

This work focuses on attempts to establish a Jewish nation-within-nation in the USSR, whether in the southern Ukraine, the Crimean Peninsula, or (what actually happened) in Birobidzhan. Ironic to the Communists' professed disdain for nationalism, they believed that it was best to fight fire with fire, and that their policies would help nationalism die out in time. (p. 51).

Soviet Zion: The Quest for a Russian Jewish Homeland          
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Although this work does not mention Judeopolonia, it is easy to see parallels with what would have become "Judeoukraina", "Judeocrimea", and what actually became "Judeobirobidzhan". Far from being internal Soviet matters, such constructs had the support of influential, international Jews. For instance, Kagedan comments: (quote) The Bolsheviks were delighted with the pro-Soviet statements of British Jewish writer Israel Zangwill, who broadcast to large Jewish audiences in 1923 that the Soviet Union was moving toward providing Jews with their own territory. Zangwill presided over the IDISHE TERRITORIALISTISHE ORGANIZATSIE (ITO) from 1905 to 1925. The ITO was created in the early days of the Zionist movement, when some supporters were willing to consider alternative sites for a Jewish homeland other than Palestine. Now a new possibility had opened up in Russia. Zangwill's pro-Soviet speeches fed into the drive for British recognition of the USSR, which was granted in February 1924. (unquote). (p. 21).

After the Russian Revolution as before, Jews tended to gravitate to cities and to dominate commerce. Yuri Larin, a Soviet Jew and thinker, suggested that Jews move into their own homeland, and mainly engage in agriculture, in order to alleviate anti-Semitism. Kagedan notes that, "Larin, the Marxist, agreed with the Russians that Jews had begun to engage in exploitative activities that fueled anti-Semitism. Larin quoted statistics indicating that one-third of the nepmen [entrepreneurs temporarily tolerated under Communism] in Moscow were Jewish...Anti-Semitism, Larin believed, had infected even the urban intelligentsia and white-collar workers. The problem again was that Jewish urbanization had led to competition." (p. 29).

However, creating a Jewish nation-within-nation in Crimea would create a different form of anti-Semitism. Russian workers resented the Jewish privilege of living in such a desirable location while they had to settle for inferior Siberian land. (p. 50). The Crimean Tatars and Turks considered Crimea their own, and their protest was very strong. (p. 50, 82-83). Eventually, the Soviet authorities chose Birobidzhan instead of Crimea.

Soviet plans to create a Jewish nation-within-nation in the Ukraine fared no better. Kagedan writes that, (quote) Ukrainian leaders had their own reasons for fearing Jewish colonization. Quite simply, if a Jewish republic was created on Ukrainian soil, the Ukraine would shrink...they protested so loudly that the whole project was thrown into jeopardy. The Ukrainians argued that any such move would turn Ukrainians against Communism, provoke nationalism, and harm Moscow's plans for attracting the support of Ukrainians abroad. (unquote)(p. 77).

On another subject, consider the attention given to big capitalists doing business with Nazi Germany. The same thing happened with Communism, by the likes of Henry Ford, beginning a few years after the Russian Revolution. Kagedan comments: "Ford championed doing business in Russia. He (along with Herbert Hoover) believed wholeheartedly that sooner or later Bolshevism would give way to capitalism. Surprisingly, the Soviet leadership admired and respected Ford as an industrial leader, his capitalist successes notwithstanding."
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