Death of Larin Prominent Figure in Soviet Government and Promoter of Jewish Colonisation in Russia

M. Larin, one of the leading men in the Soviet Government and one of the initiators and chief workers in the Jewish land settlement movement in the Soviet countries, having held the position of President of the Jewish Colonisation Society (Ozet), died here last night after an attack of pneumonia.

M. Larin, whose real name was Michael Lurie, was only 49 years of age.

The funeral is being arranged by the Government at the expense of the State, and a special Larin Funeral Committee has been appointed.

The body has been placed in the White Hall of the Moscow Soviet, and the guard of honour consists of members of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets, of the Soviet Government and other prominent people.

When the Jewish colonisation movement in Russia was in its early stages in the beginning of 1925, M. Larin, presiding at a meeting of the Ozet, addressed an appeal to the Jews of the world to help the Jewish population of the Soviet countries to be settled on the land. The number of Jews settled up to that time in Russia since the October Revolution exceeded, he claimed, the number of Jewish farmers in the rest of the world. The greatest work towards the land settlement of Jews was being done, he said, by the Agrojoint, the instrument of the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee of America.

He was from the beginning an ardent champion of the idea of compact Jewish settlements, to build up Jewish autonomous districts and enable the Jewish settlers to retain their distinctive national culture.

In this he encountered the strenuous opposition of the Jewish Communist leaders of the now defunct Jewish Sections of the Communist Party (Yevsekzies).

At the Jewish Colonisation Conference held in Moscow in 1926, which was attended by representative of outside organisations, among them the late Dr. Paul Nathan of the Hilfsverein der deutschen Juden and Dr. D. Jochelman, the Chairman of the London Federation of Jewish Relief Organisations, who was there in his capacity as Chairman of the London Society for Assisting Jewish Colonisation in Russia, M. Larin declared that the Jewish colonisation movement in Russia was not intended as a counter-move to Zionism. If the Zionist Organisation damaged the Jewish colonisation work in Russia, he said, it would be harming the interests of the Jewish impoverished masses, but we, for our part, he said, will not combat Zionism inside the Jewish land settlement organisations.

He put forward in the same speech his idea of working towards Jewish national autonomy in the settlements, and when M. Tchemerisky, one of the leaders of the Yevsekzies, spoke in opposition to the idea, denouncing it as savouring of Jewish nationalism and denying M. Larin’a right to speak in the name of the Jews, asserting that this was the province only of the Yevsekzies, M. Larin replied in a vigorous speech, contending that the Jews have a right to independence and to the establishment of a Jewish autonomous life.

He was altogether strongly in favour of developing the distinctive qualities of the minority nationalities and on one occasion, when he was addressing the All-Russian Conference of the Soviets in his capacity as a member of the Central Executive Committee, he complained of the attitude of the Soviet National Republics like the Ukraine, White-Russia, Crimea, etc. towards their national minorities, especially the Jews. He attacked them for trying to force the majority language on the minorities and cutting down their representation in the self-governing bodies. The Jews in the White Russian villages, he said, constitute 7½ per cent, of the total population, but their representation in the local Soviets is only 3-7/10ths, per cent., about half what it should be. In the Ukraine only one-third of the Jewish population was given representation in the Soviets. The Crimean Government was imposing restrictions against Jewish colonists coming to the Crimea under the Government land settlement scheme. In some places Yiddish was being discriminated against. He therefore urged the national minorities to organise themselves, and where they had a majority, he said, they should secure their proper representation in the Soviets, and where they are in a minority they should fight against the dominating tendencies of the ruling majorities in the national Republics.

Since the Jewish settlement plan in the Bureya region in Siberia has come up, M. Larin found himself in opposition to those who have been furthering the movement, urging instead the claims of the Jewish settlement work in the Crimea. Without extensive drainage of the swamps, he claimed, it is impossible for Bureya and the Far East generally to take a mass Jewish population. In addition, the present methods of settling Jews in Bureya are not of a kind that can lead to a mass Jewish settlement, and in the third place, the Far East, he said, is not an easy country to dominate.

In the last few weeks, M. Larin was again engaged in a dispute with the Jewish Communists of the Yevsekzie group conncted with the Yiddish, daily “Emess”, defending against their attack the work of building Jewish factories in the Eupatoria district of the Crimea, with the aid of the Comzet, Agrojoint and O.R.T.

I am asked, he wrote, why I want to continue the work in the Crimea when there is the work of settling Bureya. First of all, he explained because Bureya is not ready to absorb the entire mass of Jewish poor who need to be settled; secondly, our quota must be filled, otherwise the 4,500 Jewish families, about 20,000 souls, who are already settled in the Crimea will not be able to work all the land which has been allotted for Jewish settlement in the Crimea. It is impossible, he said, to take these 20,000 souls who are already settled in the Crimea and transfer them to Bureya.

There are in the Soviet countries enough Jewish families both for the Crimea and for Bureya, he contended, and also to fill the unsettled areas in the Jewish collective farms in the Ukraine. Those who think otherwise should suggest, he concluded, that the Comzet and the Ozet should be immediately closed down, but those who agree with me should welcome the decision to establish 5,000 Jewish families this year in the Crimea, half of them in industry.

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