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Judeophobia - History and analysis of Antisemitism, Jew-Hate and anti-"Zionism"
Chapter 11: Conspiratorial Theories and Russian Judeophobia ('Anti-Semitism')

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Chapter 11: Conspiratorial Theories and Russian Judeophobia ('Anti-Semitism')


Main Page: Judeophobia ('Anti-Semitism') - A History and Analysis of Jew Hate

Judeophobia ('anti-Semitism',Jew Hate) in the Pagan Ancient World

Judeophobia (Anti-Semitism, Jew Hate) in the Early Christian Church

Medieval Persecution of Jews I - Proselytization, Conversions and Ghettos

Medieval Persecution of Jews: II- Crusades, Expulsions, Inquisitions and Massacres 

Medieval Persecution of Jews: III- Blood Libels and other Myths

Persecution of the Jews Under Islam

Judeophobia ('anti-Semitism') in the Reformation

Judeophobia in the Enlightenment and 19th Century France

Germany: Racism and Judeophobia ('Anti-Semitism')

Conspiratorial Theories and Russian Judeophobia ('Anti-Semitism')

Marxism and Judeophobia ('Anti-Semitism')

Judeophobia ('Anti-Semitism') in The United States

Contemporary Anti-Zionism

Holocaust Denial

Theories of the Etiology of Judeophobia ('Anti-Semitism')

Our two previous chapters were devoted almost entirely to the first two types of modern Judeophobia, found in France and Germany respectively. This lesson I will present the third paradigm, “the conspirational.” As we saw in lesson # 6, the country with the highest incidence of modern Blood Libels is Russia. The czars’ attitude towards the slander was far worse than that of the popes and Western monarchs.

The first Russian case took place in Senno in 1799 shortly before Passover, when four people were arrested following the discovery of a dead woman. In the same year the authorities appointed the poet Gabriel Derzhavin to investigate the Jews’ life style, and in his “Opinion submitted to the Czar on the organization of the status of the Jews in Russia,” he denounced their “economic parasitism” and that “in these communities persons are to be found who perpetrate the crime, or at least afford protection to those committing the crime, of shedding Christian blood, of which Jews have been suspected at various times in different countries. If I for my part consider that such crimes, even if sometimes committed in antiquity, were carried out by ignorant fanatics, I thought it right not to overlook them.” Thus a semiofficial seal was given to the libel in Russia at the beginning of last century.

Alexander I gave instructions to revive the libel in Velizh, where the trial lasted for ten years. Although the Jews were ultimately exonerated, the mere accusation was enough for Nicholas I to contend that “there are among the Jews wild fanatics or sects that require Christian blood for their rituals,” and therefore he refused to sign an 1817 circular addressed to local authorities instructing not to indict Jews without evidence. Imagine how Judeophobia was fortified throughout the duration of these trials, regardless of the nature of the eventual verdict.

Several libels shocked Russian Jewish communities (Kovno, Zaslav, Volhynia, Saratov, etc.) until in 1855 an official committee was appointed to investigate the issue. Once again its conclusions were categorical: no evidence could be found to support charges against the Jews. Nevertheless, the libel continued to spread and many “experts” on the subject published books “describing” Jewish procedures for utilizing Christian blood (Lutostansky and Pranatis in Russia; Desportes and Cholewa further afield).

Following the partition of Poland in the late 18th century, Russia became governor of the largest body of Jews. Egged on by successive libels, Russian Judeophobia intensified during the 19th century, at which time approximately half of the world-wide Jewish population (5 out of 10 million) lived within Russian borders. The Jews concentrated in the “Pale of Settlement” (an area beyond which their residence was forbidden) since when Catherine II extended foreigners a generous invitation to enter Central Russia, she specified: “all except the Jews.” In this sense, she was loyal heir to Empress Elizabeth who, when asked to admit Jews for commercial purposes, replied: “From the enemies of Christ I accept no profit.”) Among the worst victims of the czars’ Judeophobia were Jewish children, due to the system of Cantonism, of which an explanation follows.

In 1827 military service was made compulsory for Jews. The age set for draft was 12 years old, in order to exclude adults who had families to support. The statute provided that “Jewish minors (under 18) shall be placed in preparatory training establishments” to serve in the Czar’s army for 25 years, during which they were to be “guided” regarding how to adopt Christianity. The Cantonists were the children thus drafted in barracks (hence “cantonments”) where they were instructed in drill and military training, and disciplined by threat of starvation and corporal punishment.

Community leaders were held personally responsible for attaining the high quota of adolescents, who usually came from the poorest homes, from which they were cut off forever. Every community was forced to resort to the help of thugs who snatched the children to the accompaniment of the screams of parents and neighbors. These officers, the “khapers” (Yiddish for kidnappers) incarcerated children from 8 years old in the communal building and handed them over to the army. The system was imposed more rigorously during the Crimean War (1854) when a Jewish quota of 30 conscripts per thousand males was required, and gangs of khapers prowled with intent to hunt down victims.

The children were transferred from the Pale of settlement to Siberia, the journey taking several weeks. The Russian thinker Alexander Herzen recalled that when he met a convoy of cantonists in 1835, the official explained to him that “a Jew boy is such a frail, weakly creature... he is not used to tramping in the mud for ten hours a day and eating biscuit among strangers, no father nor mother petting; well, they cough and cough till they cough themselves into the graves... Not half of them will reach their destination, they just die off like flies... A third were left on the way” he said, pointing the earth.

Once in the barracks, the surviving children were handed to sergeants who had been instructed to “influence” the children towards baptism. These “educators”’ tools included starvation, sleep-deprivation, lashing and all kinds of physical torture till baptism (or death) was achieved. Czar Nicholas I regarded it as a means for “correcting” the Jews of the realm. After the ceremony, the youngsters changed their names, were registered as the children of their sponsors, and started training. Their new comrades frequently reminded them of their Jewish origins by ongoing maltreatment.

A side-effect of Cantonism was that many parents reluctantly sent their children to state schools or agricultural colonies, since in this way they were exempted from the draft. These schools were financed by candle-tax, which was levied on candles used by Jews for ritual purposes, including memorial and wedding candles.

During three decades of Cantonism, up to 40,000 Jewish children were “recruited.” The Hebrew name “Be-emek Ha-Bakha,” In the Valley of Tears, which we mentioned three weeks ago, was also the title of a novel by the Yiddish writer Mendele Mokher Seforim (d. 1917), in which the horror of Cantonism is told.

The fearful state of the Jews in Russia was the reason for which when it came to happen that a new czar with new ideas ascended to the throne, the Jews felt a new dawn of hope was imminent. Alexander II is still called “the Czar liberator” in Russian historiography for his liberal policy, the Age of the Great Reforms. As far as the Jews were concerned, Cantonism was abolished, and the Pale of Settlement was eased. As Chaim Potock states in his book “Wanderings,” the Russian Enlighteners thought emancipation would follow, and “the dance started.” But they did not reckon with the subsequent backlashes.

What happened next is deja vu to us, veteran students of Judeophobia in the middle of the ninth lesson. Just as in France and Germany, Jews entered the arts, became journalists, lawyers, dramatists, novelists, poets, critics, composers, painters, sculptors. They seemed suddenly ubiquitous in the economic, political and cultural life of the motherland. But the Gentile reaction to this Jewish participation in Russian life was far less enthusiastic. Russian writers (like Lermontov, Gogol and Pushkin) included in their works repulsive stereotypical Jews. Dostoevsky went further in “The Jewish Question” (1873) justifying this attitude by blaming the Jews for being wily exploiters, ruthlessly leeching on the surrounding populace, especially the defenseless and ignorant peasants. For him, the Jews, enthroned on sacks of gold, inspired all manner of politics against Russia from Western Europe. According to him, Russians, citizens of the only land in which Christianity still represented a life-determining power, were regarded by the Jews as beasts of burden.

But the party went on. Jewish literature and press throve, mainly in Hebrew and in Yiddish, and also in Russian. Zevi Dainow published a Hebrew sermon in honor of the Czar and Lev Levanda called the Jews to “wake up under the scepter of Alexander II” - until the party was abruptly disrupted.

March 13, 1881, one of the most fateful dates in Jewish history. This was to catalyze the biggest exodus of Jews ever, millions of them establishing communities in the Americas and the Land of Israel. The assassination of Alexander II was the springboard for the most ferocious Judeophobia backlash in Russia. This new era brought the beginning of pogroms (Russian for “assault,” a new entry in  our Judeophobia lexicon, which describes an attack on a defenseless population by mobs, accompanied by destruction, looting, murder and rape.) Since a Jewess was in the revolutionary cell that murdered the Czar, the new, precarious regime rallied the people by blaming “the Jews” for the assassination. The blood-bath of government-inspired pogroms took place in three waves of increasing furor, leaving tens of thousands dead and innumerable maimed and wounded. The first pogrom took place in April in Yelizavetgrad. Count Nicholas Ignatiev, the new minister of interior affairs, called the pogroms “acts of spontaneous justice launched by the exploited Russian people.”

Revolutionary gangs increased their activity and ultra-Conservative organizations rose to combat them, and to reverse the liberal measures of Alexander II. Among these organizations: the Sacred League, the Union of the Russian People, the Black Hundreds, the United Nobility. Their motto was “Strike the Jew and save Russia.” Many revolutionaries accepted the pogroms as a means to wake up the masses, who would eventually turn against the regime. The revolutionary motto was “Strike the bourgeoisie and the Jews!”

Ignatiev wrote to Czar Alexander III that “over the last 20 years the Jews have gradually gained control of commerce and industry... made every effort to exploit the general population... They have thus fomented a wave of protest, which has taken the unfortunate form of violence... Justice demands severe regulations which will alter the unfair relations between the general inhabitants and the Jews and protect the former from the harmful activity of the latter.” These “severe regulations” were known as the May Laws, “temporary” decrees that applied to the Jews until the 1917 revolution, and which forbade Jews to settle outside the towns and townlets and canceled deeds of sale and lease in the name of Jews in the forbidden areas. Thus Russian merchants got rid of their Jewish rivals, and the police were given a source of constant extortion and harassment of Jews still living in villages.

Another restriction in the “new Russia” was Numerus Clausus (“closed numbers,” quotas) for Jews who wanted to study (a practice that prevailed in many countries, even in the US). In July 1887 the Ministry of Education decided that the proportion of Jews in all secondary schools and higher institutions was not to surpass 10% in the towns within the Pale of Settlement, 5% in the towns outside it, and 3% in Petersburg and Moscow. In some cases it even applied to converted Jews.

One of the main supporters of the Numerus Clausus was Count Konstantin Pobedonostev “Supreme Prosecutor of the Holy Synod” (1880-1905) a type of minister for religious affairs, who believed that because Jews were more talented than Russians, in time they would dominate the latter. Pobedonostev strove for Russification and defined the fate of the Jews in Russia: “One-third will die, one-third will leave the country, one-third will be assimilated within the Russians.”

A feature of Russian Judeophobia which had far-reaching influence was its manner of self-justification. The Czarist secret police looked for a means to ideologically justify its actions. They finally found it in a book, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” written by Sergei Nilus around 1902, which is a modern adaptation of the old demoniac tradition.

The book supposedly included the “true” Protocols of the Jewish conference held in Basle, Switzerland in 1897 (the First World Zionist Congress) which while presenting its aims as the establishment of a national home for the Jews, really conveyed a plan to dominate the world. In it, rabbis and leaders speak about their blood-thirsty inclinations, machinations and power.

There were some precedents to the Protocols, but only Nilus’s book was a resounding success, as we will see. Three previous similar manuscripts were written in 1869: one German (“The Rabbi’s Speech” by Hermann Goedsche), one French (“The Jew, Judaism and the Judaization of the Christian Peoples” by Gougenot de Mousseaux), and one Russian (“The Book of the Kahal”, by Jacob Branfman). Many of the conspiracy-believers quoted other sources. The idea had first appeared after Barruel and the Sanhedrin (see lesson # 7). But the English source appeared not in Judeophobic propaganda but rather in the spirit of a naughty joke. Benjamin Disraeli included in his novel “Coningsby” (1844) a passage in which the rich Jew Sidonia describes how he traveled from country to country to raise a loan, and in each capital found that the minister concerned was a Jew. He ends his tale with the comment: “So you see, my dear Coningsby, that the world is governed by very different personages from what is imagined by those who are not behind the scenes” (bk. 3, ch. 15). And this paragraph came from a Jew who was later to become Prime Minister! (Needless to say, Judeophobes who quoted this “proof of the power of the Jews,” overlooked the fact that the various ministers named were in reality non-Jews).

A further German ground breaking publication was “World Conquest by the Jews” by Millinger (alias Osman-Bey), which by 1875 had reached its seventh edition and foresaw a world without Jews where “wars will be less frequent, because nobody will stir one nation up against another; class-hatred and revolutions will cease, because the only capitalists will be national, who never exploit anyone. “The Golden Age would lie before us all, it would be the ideal of progress itself. Drive out the Jews with an enthusiastic shout... The Alliance Israelite Universelle can be destroyed only through the complete extermination of the Jewish race.”

The story of the Protocols was fully told in 1967 by Norman Cohn in “Warrant for Genocide.” For some years The Protocols had little influence. But after an article published in the London “Morning Post” suggested a Jewish world government (August 7, 1917) the Russians substantiated this thesis by sending the Protocols to numerous newspapers. The Protocols sold millions of copies in more than twenty languages, was diffused and believed as no Judeophobic book had been before. In America the main mentor of this myth was Henry Ford who spread the word in The Dearborn Independent in 1920. In that year The Spectator of London requested that a Royal Commission be appointed to investigate the existence of a world-wide Jewish conspiracy whose goal was the destruction of Christianity. Were the answer to be affirmative, “we shall be justified in moving with great caution in our admission of Jews to the fullest rank of citizenship ... We must drag the conspirators into the open, and show the world how evil are such pests of society.”

It smacks of the Synod of Converts of 1235 (see lesson # 6). Do Jews eat Christian blood? Do they secretly dominate us? The Royal Commission was never appointed, since The Times correspondent in Constantinople, Philip Graves, discovered that the Protocols had been copied from a pamphlet directed against Napoleon III and dated 1865. The source was the satirical novel “Dialogues in Hell” by Maurice Joly, in which the French -and not the Jews- were the dominating power. Out of 2,560 lines, 1,040 had been literally copied by Nilus, failing even to change word order. On August 18, 1921, “The Times” devoted a resounding editorial to admitting its error. The Protocols were false, the conspiracy another Judeophobic myth.

But as with the Blood Libel, manifest falsehood did not change much. The Protocols continued to be sold by the millions in many languages. In October 1992 the Russian Orthodox Metropolitan of Petersburg, Yoann, published a series of articles on the first page of the “Sovetskaia Rossiia,” claiming the Protocols were proof of the Jewish conspiracy, of which Russia was enemy number one.


Deja vu all over again (remember the Enlightenment after centuries of Church Judeophobia?). What do I see on the horizon? It looks like the salvation of the Jews from the accumulated myths, discrimination and disdain, the lies and legends. It is 20th century Russia: rationalism and socialism are in the air, egalitarian revolutionaries scorn superstition and plan the religion of reason in a world of brotherhood. Surely the Bolshevik revolution will put an end to the discrimination and violence caused by gratuitous hatred.

But, alas, many of those who held high the banner of ideological revolution turned out to be Judeophobes themselves. This includes even the theoreticians of Anarchism, who advocated the total reversal of the previous establishment’s ideology. Thus, in 1847 the French Pierre Proudhon wrote about the Jews: “This race poisons everything by meddling everywhere without ever joining itself to another people. Demand their expulsion from France, with the exception of individuals married to Frenchwomen. Abolish the synagogues; do not admit them to any kind of employment, pursue finally the abolition of this cult... The Jew is the enemy of the human race. One must send this race back to Asia or exterminate it... By fire or fusion or by expulsion, the Jew must disappear... What the peoples of the middle ages hated by instinct I hate upon reflection and irrevocably.” The fact that many ideologues of the Left shared this view is most striking.

To conclude this chapter we will quote their chief theorist. Karl Marx was baptized when he was 6 by his father, Hirschel, the son, son-in-law and brother of rabbis, and descendant of Talmudic scholars. Hirschel became Heinrich and a Protestant, when a Prussian edict in 1817 forbade Jews to be advocates [lawyers] (he was one of the thousands referred to in Chapter 8, who converted to Christianity in response to the reversion of Emancipation after Napoleon’s defeat).

Karl Marx’s first essay was “On the Jewish Question” (1844), a response to Bruno Bauer’s position that the Jews could be emancipated if and only if they gave up their faith. Wrote Marx: “The chimerical nationality of the Jews is the nationality of the merchant... The secular basis of Judaism is practical need, self-interest. What is the worldly cult of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly god? Money. Out of its entrails bourgeois society continually creates Jews... Emancipation from huckstering and from money, and consequently from real Judaism, would be the self-emancipation of our era.” The emancipation of humanity is in Marx’s book a synonym of the abolition of Judaism. As for Marx’s followers and Communist Russia, we will examine their Judeophobia in the next chapter.

Next: Marxism and Judeophobia ('Anti-Semitism')

Start - Judeophobia - A History and Analysis of Jew Hate or so-called Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism

Gustavo Perednik


These pages are adapted by the kind permission of Dr. Gustavo Perednik.They  are based on a twelve-lecture Internet course prepared for "The Jewish University in Cyberspace." During 2000 and 2001, the book by Gustavo Perednik "Judeophobia" was published in Spanish. This course summarizes the core ideas of the book. It presents a comprehensive and unique analysis of the development of Jew hate (Judeophobia or anti-Semitism) throughout history. It tries to answer the question "why the Jews?" - why have Jews been particularly singled out for ethnic, racial and religious persecution, and it traces the relationship between anti-Zionism and racist Judeophobia or so-called anti-Semitism.

Zionism and Israel Information Center is grateful to Dr. Perednik for his permission to popularize his works.

History of anti-Zionism External link: Antisemitism


Reproduced by permission. This work is copyright ©1997-2005 by Gustavo Perednik. Please do not copy it in any form without direct permission from the author.  All rights reserved

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