Antisemitism in Ukraine

  (Redirected from Pogroms in Ukraine)

Antisemitism in Ukraine has been a historical issue in the country, but it became even more widespread in the twentieth century. A third of the Jews of Europe previously lived in Ukraine between 1791 and 1917, within the Pale of Settlement. The large concentration of Jews in this region historically made them an easy target for anti-Jewish actions and pogroms.

Cossack Mamay observing Haidamakas hang a Jew. Ukrainian folk painting, 19th century

Before 20th centuryEdit

Early 20th centuryEdit

Pogroms during the Russian Revolution of 1905Edit

Victims of the Ekaterinoslav pogrom, October 1905.

After the publication of the October Manifesto, which promised citizens of Russia civil rights, many Jews who lived in the cities of the Pale of Settlement, went to the demonstrations against the government. For the local residents acting on the side of the incumbent authorities, this was the pretext to start a new wave of pogroms against Jews.

In February 1905, a pogrom took place in Feodosia, on April 19 of the same year a pogrom occurred in Melitopol.[1] The pogrom in May in Zhytomyr surpassed the rest of the pogroms in terms of the number of victims. The most serious pogrom occurred in Odessa. 300 Jews were killed and thousands injured. Another serious pogrom occurred in Ekaterinoslav, during which 120 Jews were killed. Pogroms occurred in 64 cities (Odessa, Ekaterinoslav, Kiev, Simferopol, Romny, Kremenchug, Nikolaev, Chernigov, Kamenets-Podolsky and Elisavetgrad) and in 626 villages. Approximately 660 pogroms occurred in Ukraine and in Bessarabia. The pogroms lasted several days. Participants in the pogroms were workers of trains, traders of local shops, artisans and industrialists.

The pogroms of 1903-1906 marked the beginning of the Jewish unification in Europe. They became the motive for the organization of Jewish self-defense, accelerated emigration to Israel, and initiated the HaShomer organization in Israel.

The activities of the Union of Russian People and of other Black Hundreds organizations nurtured antisemitism in Ukraine in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Russian Civil WarEdit

Jewish corpses after a pogrom in Ovruch, February 1919.

When the Tsentralna Rada proclaimed the III Universal in November 1917, the Imperial Russian Army initiated a pogrom in Uman in central Ukraine.[citation needed] In February 1919 a brigade of UNR troops killed 1500 Jews in Proskurov.[2] In Tetiev on March 25, 1919, Cossack troops under the command of Colonels Cherkovsky, Kurovsky and Shliatoshenko murdered 4000 Jews.[3]

During the Russian Civil War the Jews of Uman in eastern Podolia were subjected to two pogroms in 1919, as the town changed hands several times. The first pogrom, in spring, claimed 170 victims; the second one, in summer, more than 90. This time the Christian inhabitants helped to hide the Jews. The Council for Public Peace, with a Christian majority and a Jewish minority, saved the city from danger several times. In 1920, for example, it stopped the pogrom initiated by the troops of General Denikin.[4]

During the Russian Civil War, between 1918 and 1921 a total of 1,236 violent incidents against Jews occurred in 524 towns in Ukraine. The estimates of the number of killed range between 30,000 and 60,000.[5][2] Of the recorded 1,236 pogroms and excesses, 493 were carried out by Ukrainian People's Republic soldiers under command of Symon Petliura, 307 by independent Ukrainian warlords, 213 by Denikin's army, 106 by the Red Army and 32 by the Polish Army.[6] During the dictatorship of Pavlo Skoropadsky (29 April 1918[7] to December 1918[8]), no pogroms were recorded. When the Directorate replaced Skoropadsky's government, pogroms once again erupted.[9]

Directorate of Ukraine (1918–1920)Edit

In December 1918 Hetman of the Ukrainian State Hetmanate, Pavlo Skoropadskyi, was deposed and the Directorate (also called the Directoria) was established as the government of the Ukrainian People's Republic (Ukrayins'ka Narodnia Respublika, abbreviated UNR).[7][8]

This new Ukrainian government immediately reacted to the acts of violence which happened in January 1919 in Zhytomyr and Berdychiv. The Ukrainian government informed the Jewish leaders and the government of Berdychiv on January 10 that the instigators had been shot, and that the army squadron which took part in the action had been disbanded. The head of the government, Volodymyr Vynnychenko, stated that the pogrom actions were initiated by the Black Hundreds. He also stated: "the Ukrainian government will actively fight anti-Semitism and all occurrences of Bolshevism".[9]

The pro-Bolshevik delegate of the Bund, Moisei Rafes, who initially stated that “the special detachment that was sent to Zhytomyr and Berdychev to fight the Soviets initiated a pogrom”, later in a speech at the meeting of the Labour Congress of Ukraine on January 16, 1919, changed his mind: "The Directoria states that it is not to blame, that it is not to blame for the pogroms. None of us blames the Directoria for the responsibility of the pogroms."[9]

Symon Petliura made attempts to stop the occurrence of pogroms among Ukrainian detachments. When he discovered from the Minister of Jewish affairs of the UNR that the transiting squadron at the Yareska station had initiated violent acts against the Jewish population, he immediately sent a telegram to the military commandant of Myrhorod: “I command that the matter be investigated and reported back to me, and to use immediate measures so that similar excesses do not have a place and will be punished – 28 January – Head Otaman S. Petliura.[9]

When Petliura took charge of the Directoria in 1919, at his initiative the government investigated the Jewish pogroms in Kamianets-Podilskyi and Proskuriv, demanding that the commanders “use decisive actions to totally liquidate the pogromist anti-Jewish actions, and the perpetrators are to be brought before a military tribunal and punished according to the military laws of war”.[9]

A representative of the Jewish party Poale Zion, Drakhler, told Petliura: “We understand, having enough facts, that the Zhytomyr and Berdichev pogroms took place as acts against the (Ukrainian) government. Immediately after the Zhytomyr pogrom the Russian and Polish Black Hundred members boasted 'The planned pogroms had worked extremely well, and will bring an end to Ukrainian aspirations'”. Drakhler continued: “I am deeply convinced that not only we, but all Jewish democracy in its activities will take active participation in the struggle to free Ukraine. And in the rows of the army the Jewish Cossack hand in hand will fight, carrying its blood and life onto the altar of national and social freedom in Ukraine”.[9]

Petliura replied to the Jewish delegates that he would use "the strength of all my authority to remove the excesses against the Jews, which are obstacles to our work of establishing our statehood".

One document states in reference to the Kiev pogroms of June–October 1919: "When General Dragomirov, known for his liberalism, had to leave Kiev because of the Bolshevik offensive, turned to his officers (recorded in a stenogram) with the following words: 'My friends, you know, as much as I do, the reasons for our temporary failures on the Kievan front. When you, my heroic and never dying eagles, retake Kiev, I grant you the possibility to take revenge on the grubby Jews.'"[9]

When Denikin's Volunteer army occupied Kiev [ru] ( 31 August [O.S. 18 August]  1919) it inflicted robbery and murder on the civilian population. Over 20,000 people died in two days of violence. After these events, the representative of the Kharkiv Jewish Community, Mr. Suprasskin, spoke to General Shkuro, who stated to him bluntly: "Jews will not receive any mercy because they are all Bolsheviks."[9]

In 1921 Ze'ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky, the father of Revisionist Zionism, signed an agreement with Maxim Slavinsky, Petliura's representative in Prague, regarding the formation of a Jewish gendarmerie which would accompany Petliura's putative invasion of Ukraine and protect the Jewish population from pogroms. The agreement did not materialize and most Zionist groups heavily criticized Jabotinsky. Nevertheless, he stood by the agreement and took pride in it.[10][11][12]

Middle 20th centuryEdit

World War IIEdit

Jews dig their own graves, Zborov, Western Ukraine, 1941

Operation Barbarossa of 1941 brought together native Ukrainian populations of both, Soviet Ukraine and the territories of Poland annexed by the Soviet Union, under the German administrative control of the Reichskommissariat Ukraine to the north-east, and the General Government to the south-west. Many historians argue that the destruction of the Jewish population of Ukraine, reduced from 870,000 to 17,000, could not have been accomplished without the aid of the local population, because the Germans lacked the manpower to reach all of the communities that were annihilated, especially in the remote villages.[13]

The nationalist OUN-Bandera faction of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army "openly advocated violence against Jews", wrote Jeffrey Burds.[14] In August 1941 at its Second Congress in Kraków OUN-B embraced anti-Semitism. "Twenty so-called 'foreign' nationalities were listed as enemies of Ukraine: Jews were first, Poles were second." The resolution stated: "OUN combats the Jews as the prop of the Muscovite-Bolshevik regime."[13] On September 1, 1941, Ukrainian language newspaper Volhyn wrote: "The element that settled our cities (Jews)... must disappear completely from our cities. The Jewish problem is already in the process of being solved."[15] The Lviv pogroms were two massacres of Jews that took place from 30 June to 2 July and 25–29 July 1941 during Operation Barbarossa. According to Yad Vashem six thousand Jews were killed primarily by rioting Ukrainian nationalists and a newly formed Ukrainian militia. The pretext for the pogrom was a rumor that the Jews were responsible for the execution of prisoners by the Soviets before their withdrawal from Lviv.[16] Ukrainian nationalists assisted German Security Police and the Einsatzgruppen.[17] They compiled lists of targets for the branch offices of the KdS and assisted with the roundups (as in Stanisławów, Włodzimierz Wołyński, Łuck), as well as in Zhytomyr, Rivne and Kiev among other locations.[18][19][20] In Korosten, the nationalists carried out the killings by themselves,[21] same as inn Sokal. Other locations followed.[22]

Late 20th, early 21st centuryEdit

The inscription "Lenin is a Yid" and "Death to Moskali" on a street in Lviv, 2008

There were a number of right-wing nationalist and antisemitic groups in Ukraine in the 1990s. Among the most conspicuous was the MAUP, a private university with extensive financial ties to Islamic regimes. In the March 2006 issue (No. 9/160) of the Personnel Plus magazine by MAUP, an article "Murder Is Unveiled, the Murderer Is Unknown?" revives false accusations from the Beilis Trial, stating that the jury recognized the case as ritual murder by persons unknown, even though it found Beilis himself not guilty.[23]

A 2014 report published by Vyacheslav Likhachev of the National Minority Rights Monitoring Group revealed that the antisemitic vandalism and violence peaked in 2005–2006, and declined since then.[24]

In the early 2010s Jewish organizations in and outside of Ukraine have accused the political party All-Ukrainian Union "Svoboda" of open Nazi sympathies and being antisemitic.[25] In May 2013 the World Jewish Congress listed the party as neo-Nazi.[26] "Svoboda" itself has denied being antisemitic.[27] In the 2012 Ukrainian parliamentary elections "Svoboda" won its first seats in the Ukrainian Parliament,[28] garnering 10.44% of the popular vote and the 4th most seats among national political parties.[29] In the 2014 Ukrainian parliamentary elections the party got 6 parliamentary seats (it won 4.71% of the popular vote in this election).[30] In the 2019 Ukrainian parliamentary election other parties joined Svoboda to form a united party list, these were the Governmental Initiative of Yarosh, Right Sector and National Corps.[31] But in the election this combination won 2.15% of the votes, less than half of the 5% election threshold, and thus no parliamentary seats via the national party list.[32] Svoboda itself did win one constituency seat, in Ivano-Frankivsk.[32][33]

According to the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress Jews supported the 2013–2014 Euromaidan revolution which ousted Viktor Yanukovych from the presidency of Ukraine. The organisation claims few antisemitic incidents were recorded during this period.[34][35] According to Eduard Dolinsky, executive director of the Kyiv-based Ukrainian Jewish Committee, Ukrainian Jews overwhelmly supported the 2014 Euromaidan, however, its aftermath led to the raise of anti-semitism and social acceptance of previously marginal far-right groups, together with government's policy of historical negationism in regard to the WWII ethnic cleansing committed by the Ukrainian nationalist movement against the country's minorities.[36][37] After the revolution Ukrainian Jews making aliyah from Ukraine reached 142% higher during the first four months of 2014 compared to the previous year.[38] 800 people arrived in Israel over January–April, and over 200 signed up for May 2014.[38] Also at least 100 Jews left the country and went to Israel assisted by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.[39]

In April 2014, a leaflet was handed out to the Jewish community in the city Donetsk as if by the pro-Russian separatists who had taken over control of the city. The leaflet contained an order to every Jew over the age of 16 to register as a Jew, and also to declare all the property they own, or else have their citizenship revoked, face deportation and see their assets confiscated, ostensibly as retribution for being Ukrainian loyalists.[40] Denis Pushilin, head of the pro-Russian separatist Donetsk People's Republic, said it was a fake that was meant to discredit his movement. Donetsk Chief Rabbi Pinchas Vishedski also claims it was a hoax, and said that "Anti-Semitic incidents in the Russian-speaking east were rare, unlike in Kyiv and western Ukraine".[41] An April 2014 listing of anti-Jewish violence in Ukraine in Haaretz no incidents outside this "Russian-speaking east" were mentioned.[42]

There were also cases of exploitation of anti-Semitism and “the Jewish question” in propaganda campaigns, such as speculations used by the administration of President Viktor Yanukovych in the first (November 2013) days of the Euromaidan mass protests.[24] The conclusion of the (earlier mentioned) National Minority Rights Monitoring Group report describes a peak of antisemitic incidents in 2014, probably due to the instabilily in Ukraine.[24] In March 2014, Yaakov Bleich, the Chief Rabbi of Ukraine, accused Russian sympathizers and nationalists of staging antisemitic provocations to be blamed on Ukrainians. He claimed that these provocations were used by the Russian Federation to justify its 2014 invasion of Crimea.[43]

According to a 2016 report by Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, there was a significant drop in xenophobic violence in Ukraine, with the exception of the Russian-occupied areas in Eastern Ukraine.[44]

In January 2017, thousands of Ukrainian nationalists marched in Kyiv while celebrating the birthday of Stepan Bandera, of these many participants chanted "Jews out" in German .[45]

Since 2018, the United Jewish Community of Ukraine [uk; ru] has been systematically monitoring cases of anti-Semitism in Ukraine. In January 2019, UJCU published its first report,[46] In that report, UJCU recognizes the existence of anti-Semitism in Ukraine, but notes its household nature.The report refers to an increase of cases of indirect anti-Semitism and vandalism.At the same time, the organization draws attention to the fact that in 2018 not a single case of physical violence was recorded due to intolerance towards Jews. It is worth noting that, according to the report, the total number of recorded incidents of an anti-Semitic nature is 107, of which 73 cases were aimed at humiliating Jewish nationality, conveying thoughts about their inferiority, direct insults and threats against them.


  1. ^ "Melitopol |".
  2. ^ a b D. Vital. Zionism: the crucial phase. Oxford University Press. 1987. p. 359
  3. ^ M. I. Midlarsky. The killing trap: genocide in the seventeenth century. Cambridge University Press. 2005. p. 46.
  4. ^ Encyclopaedia Judaica, second edition, vol. 20, p. 244
  5. ^ "History and Culture of Jews in Ukraine ("«Нариси з історії та культури євреїв України»)«Дух і літера» publ., Kyiv, 2008, с. 128 – 135
  6. ^ R. Pipes. A Concise History of the Russian Revolution. Vintage Books. 1996. p. 262.
  7. ^ a b Orest Subtelny, Ukraine: A History, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988, ISBN 0-8020-5808-6
  8. ^ a b Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States: 1999, Routledge, 1999, ISBN 1857430581 (page 849)
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Сергійчук, Володимир. Симон Петлюра і єврейство. Київ: національний університет імені Тараса Шевченка; Центр українознавства, 2006. 152 стор.: стор.90-97. 2-ге вид.[ Volodymyr Serhiychuk. Suymon Petliura & Jews. Kyiv: Tarash Shevchenko National University; 2006. 152 pp: p 90-97] ISBN 966-2911-02-2 (in Ukrainian)
  10. ^ Shmuel Katz, Lone Wolf, Barricade Books, New York, 1996, Vol. 1.
  11. ^ Israel Kleiner, From Nationalism to Universalism: Vladimir (Ze'ev) Jabotinsky and the Ukrainian Question, Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Study Press, 2000.
  12. ^ Joseph B. Schechtman, The Jabotinsky-Slavinsky Agreement, Jewish Social Studies, XVII (1955), 289–306.
  13. ^ a b Alfred J. Rieber. "Civil Wars in the Soviet Union" (PDF). Project Muse: 145–147. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  14. ^ Jeffrey Burds (2013). Holocaust in Rovno: The Massacre at Sosenki Forest, November 1941. Springer. pp. 24–25. ISBN 978-1137388407.
  15. ^ "NAAF Holocaust Project Timeline 1941". January 24, 2012.
  16. ^ The Lemberg Mosaic, Jakob Weiss, Alderbrook Press, New York (2011)
  17. ^ Symposium Presentations (September 2005). "The Holocaust and [German] Colonialism in Ukraine: A Case Study" (PDF). The Holocaust in the Soviet Union. The Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. pp. 15, 18–19, 20 in current document of 1/154. Archived from the original (PDF file, direct download 1.63 MB) on 16 August 2012. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  18. ^ PWL. "Mord w Czarnym Lesie (Murder in the Black Forest)". Województwo Stanisławowskie. Historia. PWL-Społeczna organizacja kresowa. Archived from the original on 27 November 2014. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  19. ^ I.K. Patrylyak (2004), Військова діяльність ОУН(Б) у 1940—1942 роках (The Military Activities of the OUN (B), 1940–1942). Shevchenko University; Institute of History of Ukraine, Kiev, pp. 522–524 (4–6/45 in PDF).
  20. ^ Іван Качановський (30 March 2013). "Сучасна політика пам'яті на Волині щодо ОУН(б) та нацистських масових вбивств" [Contemporary politics of memory about OUN (b) in Volhynia and the Nazi massacres]. Україна модерна. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  21. ^ Ronald Headland (1992), Messages of Murder: A Study of the Reports of the Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police and the Security Service, 1941–1943. Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. Press, pp. 125–126. ISBN 0838634184.
  22. ^ Dr. Frank Grelka (2005). Ukrainischen Miliz. Die ukrainische Nationalbewegung unter deutscher Besatzungsherrschaft 1918 und 1941/42. Viadrina European University: Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 283–284. ISBN 3447052597. Retrieved 17 July 2015. RSHA von einer begrüßenswerten Aktivitat der ukrainischen Bevolkerung in den ersten Stunden nach dem Abzug der Sowjettruppen.
  23. ^ "То есть изуверское убийство было совершено с ритуальной целью, но не Бейлисом, а кем-то другим. Кем?" ВБИВСТВО РОЗКРИТО. ВБИВЦЯ НЕ ВІДОМИЙ?, Yaroslav Oros
  24. ^ a b c Likhachev, Vyacheslav. "Anti-Semitism in Ukraine – 2014: report based on monitoring data". The National Minority Rights Monitoring Group. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  25. ^ Rise of Ukrainian Svoboda party. Also in:
    Ukraine election: President Yanukovych party claims win, BBC News (29 October 2012).
    Svoboda plays nationalist card.
    2012 Top Ten Anti-Israel/Anti-Semitic Slurs: Mainstream Anti-Semitism Archived 2013-12-21 at the Wayback Machine, Simon Wiesenthal Center (27 December 2012).
    – Winer, Stuart. Ukraine okays ‘zhyd’ slur for Jews, The Times of Israel, December 19, 2012.
    Svoboda: The rise of Ukraine's ultra-nationalists, BBC News (26 December 2012).
    Svoboda: The Rising Spectre Of Neo-Nazism in the Ukraine. International Business Times, 27 December 2012.
    Svoboda promoting hatred.
  26. ^ World Jewish Congress calls Svoboda a neo-Nazi party, Ukrinform (14 May 2013)
  27. ^
    Oleh Tyahnybok: “The three opposition parties should not be required to act completely in sync”, The Ukrainian Week (31 March 2013)
    "Ukrainian nationalists protest over Jewish pilgrims". Kyiv Post. Reuters. 25 September 2011. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 25 September 2011.
    "Ukrainian party picks xenophobic candidate". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 25 May 2009. Archived from the original on 9 June 2012.
    Tiahnybok denies anti-Semitism in Svoboda, Kyiv Post (27 December 2012)
    Ukraine’s Ultranationalists Show Surprising Strength at Polls, (8 November 2012)
    Ukraine party attempts to lose anti-Semitic image, The Jerusalem Post (21 January 2013)
  28. ^ Ukraine election:President Yanukovych party claims win, BBC News (29 October 2012).
    2012 Top Ten Anti-Israel/Anti-Semitic Slurs:Mainstream Anti-Semitism Threatens World Peace Archived 2013-12-21 at the Wayback Machine, Simon Wiesenthal Center (27 December 2012)
    Winer, Stuart. Ukraine okays ‘zhyd’ slur for Jews, The Times of Israel, December 19, 2012.
    Svoboda: The rise of Ukraine's ultra-nationalists, BBC News (26 December 2012)
    International Business Times, Svoboda: The Rising Spectre Of Neo-Nazism In The Ukraine, 27 December 2012.
  29. ^
    Party of Regions gets 185 seats in Ukrainian parliament, Batkivschyna 101 – CEC, Interfax-Ukraine (12 November 2012)
  30. ^ Poroshenko Bloc to have greatest number of seats in parliament Archived 2014-11-10 at the Wayback Machine, Ukrainian Television and Radio (8 November 2014)
    People's Front 0.33% ahead of Poroshenko Bloc with all ballots counted in Ukraine elections - CEC, Interfax-Ukraine (8 November 2014)
    Poroshenko Bloc to get 132 seats in parliament - CEC, Interfax-Ukraine (8 November 2014)
    After the parliamentary elections in Ukraine: a tough victory for the Party of Regions, Centre for Eastern Studies (7 November 2012)
  31. ^ "Ярош, Тягнибок та Білецький таки сформували єдиний список на вибори" [Yarosh, Tyagnibok and Biletsky have all formed a single list for the elections]. 9 June 2019.
  32. ^ a b CEC counts 100 percent of vote in Ukraine's parliamentary elections, Ukrinform (26 July 2019)
    (in Russian) Results of the extraordinary elections of the People's Deputies of Ukraine 2019, Ukrayinska Pravda (21 July 2019)
  33. ^ "Електоральна пам'ять".
  34. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-04-29. Retrieved 2014-04-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  35. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-04-29. Retrieved 2014-04-28.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  36. ^ Dolinsky, Eduard (April 11, 2017). "Opinion | What Ukraine's Jews Fear" – via
  37. ^ "JerusalemPost: Ukrainian Jewish Leader Says Community In Danger Of Extinction". Archived from the original on 2016-11-26. Retrieved 2017-04-22.
  38. ^ a b "Ukrainian Jews immigrate to Israel amid growing unrest". Times of Israel. 4 May 2014. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  39. ^ "Ukrainian Jews flee to Israel amid anti-Semitism in war torn country". March 4, 2016 – via
  40. ^ "Vandals deface grave of Lubavitcher Rebbe's brother". CFCA. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
  41. ^ "Ukraine rabbi calls anti-Semitic leaflet a political hoax". The Jerusalem Post |
  42. ^ "Ukrainian Jews Look to Israel as anti-Semitism Escalates" – via Haaretz.
  43. ^ "Ukraine chief rabbi accuses Russians of staging anti-Semitic 'provocations'". JTA. Retrieved 16 April 2015.
  44. ^ "Ukraine sees drop in xenophobic violence everywhere but Russian-occupied Crimea". Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group.
  45. ^ "Ukrainian marchers in Kiev chant 'Jews out'". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 3 January 2017. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  46. ^ United Jewish Community of Ukraine [uk; ru], “Anti-Semitism in Ukraine-2018.” (in Russian)

External linksEdit

  Media related to Antisemitism in Ukraine at Wikimedia Commons