Text of Kalinin’s Statement on Jewish Question in Russia
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Text of Kalinin’s Statement on Jewish Question in Russia

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(Jewish Telegraphic Agency)

The statement of M. Kalinin, chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets, dealing with the Jewish question in Soviet Russia and particularly with the Jewish Colonization question and the opposition manifested against it by some peasant elements, was published here in the “Isvestia,” the official organ of the Soviet government. The statement attracted wide attention here and was reprinted by the “Krestianskaya Gazeta” (Peasants’ Paper) and the Yiddish Communist daily “Emes.”

The statement was issued by M. Kalinin in reply to an inquiry addressed to him by a member of the Crimean Young Communist League named Vassili Ovchinnikoff.

“I am a member of the Young Communist League,” Ovchinnikoff writes, “eighteen years of age. I am employed in the Post Office and my work is to distribute letters and parcels among the peasant masses. I am day after day in the villages and I find myself called upon to answer the many questions put to me by the peasants. One of these questions is a very serious one and it is very much in the minds of the peasants. I want to pass on this question to you, because I am unable to answer it. It is a question about the Jewish settlers who daily arrive in the Crimea and especially in our district. The peasants, my dear Michael Ivanovitch, express themselves to me with much indignation and protest against these settlers. Our sons and brothers, they say, fought at Perekop. Tens of thousands of our brothers lost their lives there. We conquered the Crimea and our victory cost us dearly, and now what do we see? Our demands to be settled in the Crimea have been rejected and we are told to settle in Siberia. What have the Jews done to deserve to be settled in the Crimea?”


M. Kalinin in his reply, begins by tracing the causes of anti-Semitism “We get at our meetings large numbers of notes, some signed, some anonymous, dealing with the Jewish question in general and the Crimean Jewish land settlement in particular. Some are frankly anti-Semitic. Others are like this inquiry from Comrade Ovchinnikoff, honest attempts to find out why the Government is thus favoring the Jews,” Kalinin writes.

“Anti-Semitism is an old disease. There are no doubt many causes for it. One cause was that a Jewish family in order to obtain the right to leave the Pale of Settlement and live among the general population, had to be endowed with special abilities. If a Jew was given the diploma of a merchant of the first guild, which meant that he could do business anywhere in Russia, he obviously was of a higher grade of ability than the average Russian merchant with whom he had to compete, and he proved a dangerous competitor.

“Inside the Pale, the condition of the Jews was a terrible one. It was not for nothing that tens of thousands of Jews emigrated year after year from Russia. The Jews had no right to own land.

The Czarist Government for its own ends consciously fostered anti-Semitism, making the workers and peasants believe that the only reason for their poverty was the exploitation by the Jews.


“There is an impression abroad,” M. Kalinin continues, “that the Jews are an alien element, that their home is not the country where they live, but Palestine. The Jews, in fact, have lived in Russia for centuries, and they have as much right here as any other part of the population. It was only the oppression of the Czarist Government which shut them up in the Pale of Settlement. Which prevented them from living together with the rest of the population and assimilating with it. And this same Government which was responsible for the isolation of the Jews afterwards accused the Jews of aloofness from the rest of the population and of living together only with Jews and helping only Jews. It was the Czarist Government which forcibly separated the Jews from the rest of the population, by depriving a whole people of all rights, political and economic.

“Every Jewish family, even of the middle-class, finding itself constantly subjected to the arbitrary force of the police, was against its will compelled to sympathize with the revolutionaries and to help them directly or indirectly.

“A Jew coming into any city outside the Pale could find shelter only among these Jews who had the privilige of living outside the Pale. They were forced to develop a sense of cunning in order to outwit the authorities.

“Under the pretense of keeping maidservants, they enabled Jewish girls to study at the University. Other Jewish girls who wanted to study had to take out the shameful yellow passports. (Certificate of prostitution). Is it any wonder that the Jews hated Czarism and fought against it?

“Deprivation of rights and oppression caused suffering to the Jews, but on the other hand it resulted in bringing forward from among the Jews a considerable percentage of revdiutionaries.


“With the advent of the Soviet regime the Jews, together with all others who had been deprived of their rights, obtained every legal equality, including also the right to work on the land. What objection can be raised against this and who will accuse the Soviet Government of having done wrong in allowing the Jews to work on the land? The Soviet Government is accused of being a Jewish Government, but this is so much nonsense. It is true that the Soviet Government restored their rights to the Jews, but to which Jews? It restored rights only to the impoverished working class Jews, but the Jewish capitalists it treated exactly like all other capitalists. Compared to the numbers of the Jewish population, there were many rich Jews. Jewish factories, storehouses, banks, bonds, etc., were confiscated by us like all other property. We whom the anti-Semites call the defenders of the Jews destroyed Jewish capital like all other capital. Let anyone show us a Jewish factory or bank or other property which was not confiscated.

“I must say that in the Jewish small towns the Jewish masses confiscated the property of the rich Jews more zealously than was the case elsewhere. Oppressed by their poverty, the Jewish masses wanted to settle accounts with their direct exploiters, the rich Jews of their own towns. I, as the President of the Central Executive, Committee have very often to resist the demands of the Jewish youth who want to confiscate the synagogues and convert them into clubs.

“There are among the counter-revolutionaries in various countries many Jewish ex-capitalists. It is sufficient to mention one of the chief leaders of the Cadet Party, M. Vinaver.


“The war and the revolution hit the Jewish population very hard. It was through the Jewish Pale that the trenches were dug, The Czarist generals, anti-Semites every one, shut their eyes to the looting of the soldiers among the Jews and from time to time a pogrom was organized as a diversion to draw attention from the defeats of the Czarist armies,” Kalinin stated.

“When the revolution began, the Jewish districts became the centre of the fighting between the Soviets and the various groups of counter-revolutionary adventurers. Pogroms took place on a vast scale and many of the Jewish towns were literally wiped off the face of the earth.


“The Soviets destroyed those bands of the robber Attamans who went about killing and robbing the Jewish population. The Soviet Government liberated all peoples from oppression and pogroms. But the Soviet Government which provided security of life for the Jews brought upon the Jews a whole series of economic catastrophes.

“The first stages of the revolution fell most severely upon the small traders and the artisans, upon just that section of the population which consisted almost exclusively of Jews. The destruction of trade, the ruination of the artisan industry, the economic crisis in the Jewish small towns fell heavily upon the shoulders of the impoverished Jewish masses and the Jews found themselves in a desperate position from which there seemed no escape.

“During the famine years, I visited among other places, the Jewish small towns, and I was seized with panic when I tried to think what possibility there could be of saving the Jewish masses from their terrible and hopeless poverty. The Russians who were dying of hunger had still the hope that there might yet be a good harvest, but even this faint hope was denied to the Jews.

“Four years have passed since the famine, and the prosperity of the Soviet Republics is growing. The small nationalities feel that the Soviet Government is a real mother, not a step-mother. We have discovered among us peoples of whose existence no one knew and today they are equals among equals. All of them enjoy national autonomy. Only the Jews dispersed among the other nationalities could not obtain territorial autonomy, although their numbers, from two-and-a-half to three million people in the Soviet Union, gives them the right to autonomy.


“The Jewish impoverished masses for whom there is no longer any hope of ever being able to live by trade and artisanship, from which they are being systematically driven by the co-operative movement, have naturally turned to the land. Only the land will give the Jewish masses the possibility of saving themselves from famine, from dying-out and from losing their nationality. So the Jews have asked the Soviet Governments to provide them with land. The Government of the Soviet Union realized that the greatest part of the Jewish masses can be saved from ruin and destruction only by settling them on the land and for this reason a committee was formed for settling the Jewish toiling masses on the land.

“Many anti-Semites ask venomously why the Government does not organize committees for settling other nationalities on the land. We reply that the other nationalities have no committees for their settlement on the land, but they have autonomous republics which contain big areas of land. They have their own Governments, their own land, their own executive organs, which safeguard their national interests. Only the Jewish nationality has no Government of its own, and its only official representative now is the Comzet.


“White Russia has settled 1,650 Jewish families; the Ukraine 7,600 families. In Greater Russia, too, the settlement of Jews on the land is planned. No one raised any clamor against this. The clamor started only with the reports that the Crimea is being peopled with Jews.

“It must be stated that when a population is being transplanted, its mode of life must be taken into account. For instance, the Steppes are being settled mostly with Ukrainians or Russians from the Central Black soil area, and places covered with extensive forests are being settled with Northern people from the Novgorod, Volodok, Viatka and other provinces. These things must be taken into account if good results are to be obtained. The Jews have by fate been made accustomed to life in a temperate Southern climate. They live in the Ukraine, Poland and South Russia. Czarism did not allow them to go northward and Siberia was closed to them.


“So the Government seeks to settle them in places where the climate and other conditions are not dissimilar from those to which they are accustomed. During the Czarist regime, a great number of Jews emigrated to America and of late there is the idea of settling most of the Jews in Palestine, an idea supported by foreign Jewish capitalists. This movement is still very strong. The Zionists wage a campaign against the Soviet Government, enticing the Jewish impoverished masses to Palestine where they fall into slavery to British and Jewish capital. The Soviet Government cannot sit by and see not the rich man but the beguiled Jewish poor learning its territory. The Jewish communists, not those communists who occupy important positions with us who are only Jews by descent, but those Jewish communists who live among the Jewish masses have approached the Government asking it to settle in the Soviet Union those emigrants who would go to Palestine and for this purpose to raise the funds which are being collected abroad for the settling of the Jews on the land in Russia.


“The Crimea is one of the places where the Jews are being settled. ‘How splendid,’ people say. People go to the’ Crimea for the good of their health, the sky is always blue there, there are roses and vineyards and other lovely things. So people envy the Jews who are being settled in the Crimea while Russian. Ukrainian and White Russian peasants are sent to Siberia and further to the Far East. Of course the Soviet Government is famring the Jews.

“But I ask this question-why have all these wonderful places remained unsettled till now? Was the Crimea not peopled before the Moscow area?

“The reason is simply that given by our agricultural experts who are exploring the Crimean territories: ‘We are selecting places for settlement. We choose of several evils the least. There is not a single place where we could expect with certainly to obtain a sufilciency of water of good quality. In all the districts save fifty-five water can be obtained only from wells at a depth of 140 to 350 feet. The natural wells in the nighten are mostly bitter and full of salts. Up to now we have suceeded in obtaining water from one well in the 22nd district where we hope to construct a new well. We have concluded an agreement for the construction of two new wells, one in the 39th district in the regim of Ikor and the other in the 62nd district. We have conduded a contract for two other wells, the cost of the construction without material is: 50 roubles for a well 140 feet deep and 75 roubles more for every additional seven feet.

“The problem of irrigation in these districts is so serious and so complicated. the agricultural experts conclude, ‘that we must again raise the question of the possibility of settling the districts of the Eupatoria region.’

“You see from this quotation.” M. Kalinin proceeds, “that this land cannot be settled. In order to settle people there several hundreds of roubles have to be spent on every desiatin of land. Neither the Soviet Government nor the population which is being settled in Soberia can afford to give these sums. They can only be collected abroad and the Jews are collecting them abroad.


“But even at most it is only a case of much ado about nothing. For the whole area of land given to the Jews in the Crimea consists of only 60.000 desiatin. while the Crimea contains 2,360,000 desiatin. It means that the Jews have been given land in the Crimea which has never before been exploited by anyone and that the whole area given to the Jews constitutes only two and a half per cent of the area of the Crimea.

“Under the Czarist regime, single Jewish landowners, like Baron de Guenzburg. owned much more land than we have now given to the toiling Jews in the Crimea. There is no basis at all for the outcry which is being made about the whole affair.

“To the Soviet Government, all nationalities are equal. The Soviet Government wants to make of all its people a productive, working population. The Jews, as a result of evil fate, have formed an urban population in the small Jewish towns, the land being closed to them. Only a few individuals among the rich capitalist Jews were able to own land by special decree of the Czar. The Soviet Government confiscated this land given to the Jewish capitalists by the Czar. But it desires to convert the propertyless Jewish population of the small towns into a toiling agricultural population and it has already attained considerable success in this direction.

“All honest people will realize that the Soviet Government could not and cannot now have acted differently,” he concluded.

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