Battle for Kremlin November 1917
Riot on Nevsky Prospekt, Petrograd
Funerals of students and youths
Battle for Kremlin November 1917
Riot on Nevsky Prospekt, Petrograd
Funerals of students and youths
Why did my grandfather only save a Guild Certificate from Odessa, a place never mentioned by my family, and no documents from anywhere else? As my mother had once said on a tape she made about her family before she died, that she thought her father might have had a shoe factory in Kiev, I decided to turn my search to Kiev in 1902. Could my grandfather have begun working towards his Guild Certificate in Kiev and then continued in Odessa? My grandparents had originally come from Baranovichi, west of Minsk, where their first two children, Aron and Sara, were born. That the family stayed there until they went to Odessa would have been another possibility, but I have never found any online records for Baranovichi. One possibility is that the next two children, the ones who may have mysteriously died in the Odessa pogrom, were born very close together before the family arrived in Odessa in late 1902. If my grandfather had wanted to end up in Odessa, why might he have started out in Kiev? Was it easier for some reason to start a machine shoe factory in Kiev than in Odessa? Did he have relations in Kiev who could help him? I needed some evidence of where my grandparents were living in order to find the birth records and names of the two missing children which might then lead me to their death certificates if they died naturally.
I wondered again about the photograph I have of the two eldest children possibly taken in 1902 when the daughter was about 18 months and the son nearly 4. I assume this was taken around the time the next child was born. Could it have been taken in Baranovichi or Kiev? The stone wall prop in the photograph looks like many photographs of children taken in Odessa at that time, but I have never found one with exactly the same background. Possibly it was from Kiev although there are far fewer studio portraits from turn-of-the-century Kiev online to compare.
Aron and Sara 1902?
Kiev portrait 1898
Then I looked back at the Odessa Craft Guild Certificate at the few words of handwriting written in the blanks on the half of the document which still exists. On the line above where it says ‘the year 1902’ and ‘No.205’, it says in print ‘the document issued to him from’ and then there followed a word I couldn’t decipher until now, when I realised, by checking some of the letters with a couple of words above, that it said ‘Gorodische’, the town where my grandfather and two more generations of my grandparents’ families were from. The next word is illegible as it is on the torn edge. Could it be that my grandfather originally received a craft certificate in 1902 in Gorodische (near Baranovichi) as it was his birthplace, the place he originally became a shoemaker or their home in 1902? Was the certificate then transferred to Kiev or Odessa?
1905 Odessa Craft Guild Certificate of Yankel-Khaim Leib Rabinovich (Jacob Leon Rabinovich)
I had looked for information about Kiev before I realised that the Guild Certificate was from Odessa and I had downloaded a few Kiev directories from 1905, 1906 and 1912. I had not seen my grandfather in them and had not given them any thought since then. I had found a jeweller on the main street, Kreschatik 25, named Yakhnovich, my grandmother’s maiden name, which was very uncommon, and wondered if this was a relative and my grandparents’ link with Kiev. My grandmother also had had two older sisters who had lived and studied in Kiev as teenagers in the 1880s before emigrating to America. Now I realised I needed some earlier years of the directory, particularly 1902-1904. I returned to the website where I had found the directories. They had the years I wanted but the download did not seem to be working. Nothing could have been more frustrating, and after struggling with it for a couple of days, I found another website where the directories from 1899-1914, minus 1904, could be seen online but not downloaded. (search Цифрова бібліотека – НБУВ)
I scrolled through the years I wanted and found that there was a Shmuel Meer Rabinovich and Shaya Shevelevich Rabinovich who had leather shops or businesses in Kiev. One was on the same street as Sholem Aleichem’s house, Bolshaya Vasilkovskaya, number 2, at the top of the main street Kreschatik. The other was on Aleksandrovskaya Square, at the beginning of Konstantinskaya Street, a main business and shopping street which lay between the lower town and the steep hills rising above it. Also, only in the years 1902 and 1903, there was a Rabinovich, the only Rabinovich with no initials, who had a shoe shop. He was also in another list called ‘bootmakers’ which in later years became a list of master shoemakers. I looked at the two addresses for these businesses, Konstantinskaya 2 and Dmitrievskaya 14, and with much searching on several very comprehensive websites of old photographs of Kiev, before the city was redeveloped in the 1990s, discovered that the address of the bootmaker, probably a workshop address, was a building with several leather businesses. This address was probably very close to the leather business of Shaya Rabinovich.
Kiev directory 1902 shoe shop ad
The address with the shoe shop, Dmitriskaya 14, was a long street higher up in the city which began with rows of mostly two-storey buildings with shops but further on became more residential. Some of the buildings in the first stretch of the street had several shops but 14 had only one.
Dmitriskaya at its beginnings, where number 14 would have been, at the corner of Bulvarno-Kudryadskoi
Could this Rabinovich be my grandfather? Normally I would not give any thought to a Rabinovich with no first initials as there were so many Rabinoviches. But this was a Rabinovich shoemaker. There were no other Rabinovich shoemakers in Kiev at that time and I had not come across any in Odessa. I had come across two wealthy Jacob Leon Rabinoviches, the exact name of my grandfather, in Odessa, so I could conclude possibly that names were less important than trade or business. It was a very long shot but somehow to find a Rabinovich who had both a shoe shop and workshop in the exact years I was looking for seemed like something that should not just be instantly ignored. If both these Rabinoviches without initials are the same shoemaker, and it seems highly unlikely there were suddenly two for the same few years, it seems very ambitious of my grandfather to start out in a new city with two businesses at some distance from each other. If he had got this far, there must have been some calamity that forced him to give up his life in Russia in 1906.
15 and 17 Dmitriskaya (across from the shoe shop)
Checking the directories in the years after my possible grandfather left Kiev, I found that Shmuel and Shaya Rabinovich had their leather businesses in 1905 but only Shmuel is there in 1906. He also began to have a shoe business in a large permanent market at the lower end of the town, the Jewish area of Podol which he kept from 1906-1908. Shmuel no longer had either business after 1908 but in 1910 his son, Meer Shmuelevich Rabinovich has his previous tile stove business and is running his father’s leather business.
Did my grandfather have a relation or relations in Kiev, one or both of the Rabinoviches with leather businesses, who advised him, possibly helped him, possibly sold his shoes afterwards in the market? Was the jeweller Yakhnovich also a relation? Was that why my grandfather began creating his business in Kiev rather than Odessa? There was another particularly strange coincidence in the Kiev directories, although this time the years did not match my grandparents last few years in Russia. Beginning in the 1906 directory, there was a woman feldsher, a medical assistant or midwife, Rebekka Moishe Rabinovich, the exact name of my grandmother, who worked with another feldsher at the house of a feldsher who later became a doctor, Andrevsky Descent 38, one of the steep slopes rising from the lower part of Kiev. Andrevsky Descent 38 is the last house at the top of the hill in the shadow of the Andrevsky Church which dominates the skyline.
Rebekka is in the directory one more year, 1907, so if it was my grandmother there would have had to have been a mistake. Unfortunately there is no directory for 1904 and the pages for medical professionals are missing from the 1905 directory, so it is difficult to tell when this Rebekka Rabinovich began working. Previous to 1904 there do not appear to be any women feldshers listed, so it might be that women were not listed until after 1903. Later the category of feldsher included the masculine and feminine forms of the word. There has never been any mention that my grandmother had any medical training, but one of her older sisters, Anna, had studied nursing in Vienna, and a couple of her cousins were very successful pharmacists. She also very much wanted her youngest son to be a pharmacist and supposedly encouraged my mother to study medicine. The younger son had been interested in languages but studied pharmacy for a couple of years, probably dropping out at the end, and worked for a few years in a shoe shop before drowning at the age of 23. My mother studied English and German, possibly fulfilling her brother’s wish.
In Natan M Meir’s Kiev, Jewish Metropolis: A History, 1859-1914 (2010), he describes an example from the records of a family moving from Odessa to Kiev in 1901 and their problems with residence permits and craft certificates, which puts my grandparents’ situation in context.
Rukhlia (Rokhel) Aronovna Roitman moved to Kiev with her husband Aron and child in 1901 from Odessa; the couple was originally from Zhitomir. According to a petition that Roitman submitted to the Kiev provincial governor in 1904, Aron, a typesetter by trade, found work at a printing shop and applied for a residence permit, but soon fell ill and travelled to stay with relatives so that he could convalesce. Since the relatives could not be expected to support their entire family – they now had three children – Roitman decided to stay in Kiev to work as a seamstress; she had received a certificate attesting to her mastery of the craft from the Zhitomir Artisan Board in 1894. Since her details are sketchy, we do not know if Roitman practised her craft while her husband was working or why the couple decided to move to Kiev. However, it seems likely that they had left Odessa for Kiev in the hopes that Aron would find employment there; perhaps the downturn in the Odessa economy had put him out of work. As for Roitman, it may be that she had obtained her artisan certificate while an unmarried adolescent or young woman and had worked as a seamstress until she married Aron or perhaps until they had their first child; the wording of her petition suggests that she had not been working while Aron was employed. (113-114)
As neither of my grandparents’ younger children were born in Odessa, it may be that they did not move there until 1905 and were able to get the Guild Certificate quite quickly on the basis of the workshop and shop in Kiev. I want to fantasise so far as to think that my grandmother was a feldsher, possibly working part-time while a nanny watched the children, like Sholem Aleichem’s wife who worked as a dentist, but it makes more sense that she might have been minding the shop while my grandfather ran the workshop. And then, I will imagine them, with their four children, moving everything to Odessa to set up another shop and workshop by the sea, where they could grow fruit trees and grapes. And the hunt for how and where the four children became two children continues.
Before becoming involved in the story of Sara Rabinowitz and her baby son who was not registered in the 1905 Odessa birth records, I had been trying to find Odessa orphans travelling from Hamburg to New York in 1905 or 1906 as I saw a reference to a file of 1906 pogrom orphans in the Hamburg ship’s manifests. I was not particularly concerned about whether their family names were in the pogrom death records, as I think there were many more unrecorded names of people who were killed during the pogrom or died shortly afterwards from their injuries. I found several orphans travelling with another family, travelling with an older child to relations in America, and one sponsored by the New York Industrial Removal Office, but I could not find records for any of them after their arrival, often because the spelling was difficult to decipher. Then I came upon nearly a whole page of orphans on a ship’s manifest, the SS Amerika travelling from Hamburg, arriving in New York 25 August 1906, all sponsored by the New York Industrial Removal Office. One family of five children, from ages 15 to 6 were from Odessa. Unfortunately the name was long and fairly indecipherable, and it is transcribed as Nachwan… on the manifest. The children were listed on the manifest as: Simon 15 Kishinev, Isaac 13 Odessa, Esther 11 Odessa, Hinde 9 Odessa, Selde 6 Odessa.
I tried many combinations in my search for the family and eventually struck lucky with Nachman and thought the original name might have been Nachmanovich (Нахманович). In the 1910 census, I found a 12-year-old Sarah Nachman in Kansas City, Missouri, the adopted daughter of a well-off merchant, living with his wife, Rose, 14-year-old son, mother, sister and two servants. Sarah had emigrated from Russia in 1906. The family lived on a main street in Kansas City, now rebuilt with modern buildings on the block where they lived, but there are older houses a few blocks away.
The Paseo, Kansas City (Google streetview at sunset)
Was this Selde who was probably fostered when she arrived at the age of 6 going on 7. A young orphan girl being sent from New York to Missouri brought to mind the orphan trains of the late 1800s and early 1900s run by Christian charities. A recent novel Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline is based on the lives of Irish Catholic children orphaned in New York and sent to the midwest where they were often used as unpaid servants or farm labourers from an early age. The highest numbers of orphans were sent to Missouri.
Orphan train children
But Jewish orphans sent to the midwest? As a six-year-old I assume Sarah was treated as the daughter of the family, not as a servant. But how much of a daughter? How much would she have been made to feel she was one of the family? I checked the New York Hebrew Orphan Asylum records to see if Sarah or any of her brothers and sisters had spent any time at the asylum but there was only a different Sarah Nachman of the same age but with other siblings during the years 1909-13. Most of those years Sarah was definitely in Missouri.
I looked up the New York Industrial Removal Office and found nothing about orphans. They did look for job openings across the country for new immigrants, and placed young boys in apprenticeships at quite early ages, like the Scheindless boy who was sent to a mining town in Pennsylvania, a placement that did not last long. He ended up at the New York Hebrew Orphan Asylum, possibly because he wanted to be with his brother. Brothers and sisters on the orphan trains were apparently most likely sent to different homes as the important thing was simply to find homes. In the New York Industrial Removal Office online record guide (http://findingaids.cjh.org//IRO5.html ) Kansas City, Missouri is mentioned for the years 1905-1907 as a destination for their travelling agents looking for employment opportunities through Jewish organisations. There is no mention of looking for homes for orphans but this may have been a secondary part of their job, especially in 1906 when pogrom orphans were being sent from Russia.
I tried to find out more about the couple, Julius and Rose, who had only had one child and had decided to take on a Russian orphan girl from the pogrom in Odessa. In 1900 Julius and Rose, both from New York, were already living in Missouri with their little boy. The 1890 census is mostly destroyed and Julius only turns up in 1880 as a nine-year-old living in New York with his parents, Sigismund,56, and Esther, 36, and three siblings, Naomi, Abraham and Hannah, obviously a Jewish family. His father is listed as English, a doctor and disabled, and he died the next year. Sigismund is on one census in England, the 1860 census, a widow and merchant living with two unmarried sisters and a servant. He remarried in America in 1863 to Esther Hanff. On the 1870 census he is listed as a clerk in a clothing store, married with two children. On his 1875 naturalisation form he states his profession as physician. Had he trained in medicine in the 1870s or was he practising as an alternative doctor of some kind? A chiropractor or homeopath? It is impossible to find out how Esther managed after her husband died without the 1890 census. She does not turn up again in the records except as the mother of Naomi who married in 1893 and Hannah who married in 1899. Julius did very well for himself in Missouri, later moved to Chicago and then went into business with his journalist son in Florida, buying a newspaper. His son, Herbert, had started out as a reporter in Missouri, then moved to a job as a journalist in New York where he was living with his wife and son in 1920, and then in 1930 he was living in Florida.
Before looking up the Davidson family, I searched for the other Nachman siblings and soon found her two brothers in Missouri, Simon who had become Samuel, and Isaac who had become Henry. Henry, at 13, was fostered by the Kessel family. Paul Kessel was German and worked in wholesale millinery and lived in the same general area as the Davidson family. By 1910, Henry was a lodger in a house even nearer to his sister and working as a clerk in a millinery shop so must have learned the trade from his foster father. In 1920, at 27, he was again living with the Kessels and their two teenage children, and managing a millinery shop.
Victor Street, Kansas City, Kessel home 1920
In 1917, on his WW 1 registration, he was also living with the Kessels, was in the National Guard, and said he was born in Kishinev, like his older brother. At some point in the 1920s Henry went to New York, and by 1940 he was living on West 86th Street, with a wife and 11-year-old son, working as a millinery buyer. He puts his place of birth as Germany, the country of his foster father, so he may have felt accepted by this family or at least identified with them as he had continued with his foster father’ s business. Sarah had preceded him to New York, probably as soon as she left school, as she married in 1918 at the age of 19 in New York to Louis Schwartz, a fur operator, also 19. Sarah probably did not feel quite like a daughter to the Davidsons as she left their home at a young age for the Russian Jewish community of the Lower East Side. I never found her older sisters, Esther and Hinde, but possibly they had remained in New York and Sarah had kept in contact with them, planning to reunite. Splitting up families may have been necessary to find homes for as many of the younger children as possible, but it was always very difficult and siblings often searched for family later on if they had not been able to keep in touch. According to Louis’ WW 1 registration, in 1918, shortly after he married he was living on 4th Street near his family. He next appears on the 1940 census living in Brooklyn with Sarah and their three children.
Sarah’s marriage record, with the names of her parents, Bennie Nachmanowitz and his wife Lena Schneider, made it possible to trace her family in Russia. I found the births of all of the Nachmanovich children, except Sarah, in Kishinev.
There is a Russian website about the history of Kishinev with a page of old maps and another on old street names and street signs.
In the Kishinev records, the parents are Beynish Shloime or Shimon and Edel Liba Abram Yehoshua, and the children are Shimon 1891, Ayzik 1893, Ester 1894, and Gnendlya 1897. The death of their mother is recorded as 12 December 1901. The father’s death is recorded as 16 November 1905, about three weeks after the Odessa pogrom. The last residence of the children on the ship’s manifest is Odessa so it could be that the family moved to Odessa at some point after the mother died, possibly after the 1903 Kishinev pogrom. The Kishinev 1903 pogrom was the first pogrom of the 20th century, and modern communication methods meant that news of it travelled around the world in minutes and journalists were able to see the situation for themselves. It became an icon of horror like 9/11 or possibly the recent burnt out tower block in London. Symbols of failure in society. Kishinev made Russian Jews wary of their lives in Russia, but also may have set the tone for future pogroms. The death toll was 47 and there is a list of the victims online. http://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/chisinau/LIF_POGROM1903_Victims.asp
Kishinev street after the pogrom 1903
As the Nachman family was probably living in Odessa in 1905, Sara’s father’s death record in Kishinev may indicate that he had been wounded in the Odessa pogrom and returned to Kishinev to recover and died there, or possibly the record is in the Kishinev records because he was originally from there. It seems likely that the father’s death is linked to the Odessa pogrom, as the children are part of a group of orphans leaving from Hamburg sponsored by the New York Industrial Removal Office. Somehow the stories, like that of the Feld and Stitelman families, who possibly fled from a pogrom in their hometown to the Odessa pogrom, seem sadder, seem double the horror, and remind me of the famous tale of death in Samarkand.
In the Samarkand legend, “A servant encounters a woman in the market place and recognizes her as Death. The ominous figure looks into the face of the servant and makes what seems to him a threatening gesture. Trembling with fear, the servant runs home, borrows his master’s horse, and rides like the wind all the way to Samarkand so that Death will not be able to find him. Later, the master sees Death and asks her why she had threatened his servant. And Death says, “There was no threat. I was merely startled to see your servant here, for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarkand.”
In 1932, Sam’s daughter, Mabel, married a radio technician in a Baptist Church in Los Angeles. Sam’s birthplace is listed as Petrograd and Mabel’s mother is Stella Perryman. In 1938, Evelyn died, age 39, in California. On the 1940 census, Sam is a widower and lodger with a young couple in Los Angeles, working as a salesman. His older son, Lawrence, a mechanic of 26, is living with his mother and stepfather, Stella and Floyd Perryman, in Los Angeles in 1940. It says on the census that in 1935 Lawrence was living in Kansas City. When he enlisted in the army in 1942 he was divorced with no children. It seems that his sister may have gone to California earlier than her brother, although they may have visited their mother on and off. A younger son, Sam, does not appear in the records after 1930 when he was 9. In 1942 on his WW 2 registration Sam, the father, is still living with the young couple and not employed. I could not work out who Stella and Estelle were in relation to Sam and the children. Sam’s life seems to have been the most disjointed of the Nachman children, probably because he was not fostered, did not go to school in America, possibly never learned to write in English, and probably had a difficult time when he first found himself alone in Missouri. His one aim must have been to become American, like everyone around him. In 1947, living in Ocean Park, Santa Monica, he married a divorced woman from New York of Russian Jewish parents.
Ocean Park, Santa Monica by Ansel Adams 1939
Looking to see where Ocean Park, the address on the marriage certificate, was, I discovered a 1939 series of photographs of Santa Monica by Ansel Adams, most of the large trailer park set up to accommodate the many homeless families moving west during the depression. The sign for Broadway and Fifth Avenue is a nice touch.
Olympic Trailer Court, Santa Monica, Ansel Adams 1939
Olympic Trailer Court
On the certificate, Sam is the owner of a gas station and this is his second marriage. The first names of his parents are listed as ‘unknown’ even though he was 10 when his mother died and 14 when his father died.
Sam Nachman marriage license 1947
He has travelled a long way, literally and figuratively, from Odessa to Missouri to Santa Monica, and left his parents behind in Kishinev, even though he has chosen to marry someone from the same Russian Jewish background. People do what they have to do to carry on with their lives, even if it means forgetting their parents’ names.
For Sarah, who probably had no memories of her mother, and few of her father, they may have remained alive in her imagination. All of the Nachman children for whom I found records found some success – they had jobs, had married and had children. Henry and Sam both named sons after themselves as if rejecting the Jewish tradition of not naming children after living relations, and following the American tradition of passing down the father’s name. Unlike the Scheindless brothers, none of the children named a child after their father. Possibly having been split up as children, even if some of them came together later, it might have been difficult to talk about the past and pass on any memories of traditions that one or the other may have remembered. Although it does not seem likely that some of the children kept in touch, like Henry in New York and Sam in California, there were similarities in the way they adapted to their new lives, possibly because they had grown up together in Kishinev and Odessa and shared certain ideas of who they were and what they hoped for in life.
The Royal Academy of Art in London has had an exhibition called Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932 which was inspired by a Leningrad exhibition in 1932 Fifteen years of artists of the Russian Soviet Republic, an exhibition which showed the incredible diversity of Russian art at a time when the avant-garde and social realism still existed side-by-side. However, from the late 1920s pressure mounted against abstraction in art and after 1932 it was deemed to be unacceptable. The exhibition includes paintings, prints, posters, photographs, ceramics and film clips, some from the 1929 film The man with a movie camera. A few of the art works from the exhibition are copied below, along with others by the exhibition artists that were not in the exhibition. Some celebrate the excitement of the time, while others express something more ominous. Many of the photographs, like futurism, play on the repetition of industrialisation and mechanised work, but others delve into blurred identities, overlapping images, and images taken at disconcertingly strange angles, possibly hinting at the confusion and uncertainties of the times.
Boris Kustodiev The Bolshevik 1920
Kazimir Malevich 1915
Dmitry Moor Help!
Pavel Filonov Formula of the Petrograd Proletariat 1920
Andrei Golubev fabric
Kandinsky Blue Crest 1917
Heroes and Victims 1918 Vladimir Kozlinsky and others
El Lissitsky 1924
Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin 1919 sketch for 1925 Anxiety
Daria Preobrazhenskaya fabric
Ivan Puni 1919
Vladimir Kozlinsky Then and Now
Arkady Shaikhet 1928
I had never looked up the town of Bialystok until I came upon David Wissotzky’s wife Anna Sackheim, who came from Bialystok and was my great great aunt Asna’s sister-in-law, through her husband Leon Sackheim.
Bialystok Lipowa St
Reading online, one quickly becomes aware that there was a horrific pogrom in Bialystok in June 1906, eight months after the Odessa pogrom. Bialystok was a mostly Jewish town – there were 48,000 Jews out of a population of 64,000. And 200 Jews were killed in the three-day pogrom, one of the highest death rates after the Odessa pogrom.
Bialystok pogrom 1906
The pogrom quickly appeared in my searches for the Sackheim family in Bialystok as a Sackheim child was listed as one of the victims of the pogrom (Zakgeym, Sender Davidov—10 yr., shot & killed on Argentinova St, June 2, morning). A very detailed report of the pogrom and list of 77 of the victims was published in the Jewish Chronicle on 13 July 1906. This report and list (http://museumoffamilyhistory.com/ajc-yb-v08-pogroms.htm ) are probably a good indication of what happened in Odessa and the many other Russian cities involved in the pogroms in late 1905. The following is taken from the report:
(1) On Friday Lejba Ginzburg was in his lodging in the house of Bronekera in the Zaniejska Street. He was afraid to go out. Somebody knocked at the door. Ginzberg did not open it. The door was then broken open and the police-sergeant of the fourth district, named Bajbok, accompanied by soldiers, entered and ordered the soldiers to fire. One of the soldiers fired and killed Ginzburg’s wife, Chana Binema, and wounded her sister, Rochla Annalni. The latter, still suffering from the wounds, gave evidence to the Commission. Bajbok, not satisfied with the work he had already done, dragged out of Ginzburg’s lodging a Jewess, named Kustinowa Hinda Leja, who was carrying a baby, and ordered a soldier to fire. The soldier fired, but instead of the mother, the baby was killed. The same sergeant searched the house, but did not discover anything. Nevertheless, he ordered two Jews, Joselowi Wot and Nachim, to follow him. When they came to the wall of a newly built house he commanded the soldiers to fire on them. Wot was severely wounded. Nachim fell on his knees and begged for mercy. He was bayonetted.
Background to the pogrom from Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bia%C5%82ystok_pogrom
At the beginning of the 20th century, Białystok was a city with a predominantly Jewish population. In 1895, the Jewish population numbered 47,783 (out of 62,993, or about 76%). Białystok was primarily a city known for its textile manufacturing, commerce and industry.
During the 1905 Russian Revolution the city was a center of the radical labour movement, with strong organisations of the Bund and the Polish Socialist Party as well as the more radical anarchists of the Black Banner association.
In the summer of 1904, an eighteen-year-old anarchist, Nisan Farber, stabbed and seriously wounded Avraam Kogan, the owner of a spinning mill, as he walked to the synagogue on Yom Kippur. On October 6, Farber threw a bomb into a police station, injuring several policemen inside. Farber himself was killed by the explosion.
On February 21, 1905, the district’s Chief of Police, Yelchin, was killed, and on June 8 the city’s new Police Chief, Pelenkin, was wounded by another bomb blast. In July 1905, two police officers were wounded by a bomb thrown by Jewish anarchist Aron Elin (Gelinker).
As a consequence of the violence, martial law was declared in Białystok in September 1905, which lasted until March 1906. After martial law was lifted, the series of assassinations and acts of terror began anew.
Between the years 1905 and 1906 there were seven police chiefs. The police did not enter Surazh Street, which was considered a stronghold of anarchists.…On 11 June 1906 the Police Chief of Białystok, Derkacz, was murdered, most likely on the orders of the Russian commissar and fervent anti-semite Szeremietiev. Derkacz, who was Polish, was known for his liberal sympathies and opposition to anti-semitism; for this he was respected by both the Jewish Bund and the Polish Socialist Party. His murder was a foreboding of the violence to come, as people in the city noted that after Derkacz’s death Russian soldiers began preparing for a pogrom.…On 14 June, two Christian processions took place; a Catholic one through the market square celebrating Corpus Christi and an Orthodox one through Białystok’s New Town celebrating the founding of a cathedral. The Orthodox procession was followed by a unit of soldiers. A bomb was thrown at the Catholic procession and shots were fired at the Orthodox procession. These incidents constituted signals for the beginning of the pogrom. Witnesses reported that simultaneously with the shots someone shouted “Beat the Jews!” After the pogrom, a peasant who was arrested for unrelated charges in the nearby town of Zabludow confessed that he had been paid a substantial amount of money to fire on the Orthodox procession in order to provoke the pogrom. Russian authorities announced that Jews had fired on the Orthodox procession.
The following is the first 30 from the list of 77 victims of the Bialystok pogrom. This is the most detailed list, including some photographs, of pogrom victims I have seen – with information on the person’s occupation, their injuries and where they were attacked.
Even though martial law had been declared in Bialystok from September 1905, 22 Jews were still killed in a pogrom that began on 18 October. There had also been pogroms on 12 July, when 10 Jews were killed, and 14 August, when 60 were killed (http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/Bialystok/bia2_114.html). Although the government tried to suppress information about the Bialystok pogrom, details were quickly reported in newspapers around the world. The report was produced because by the summer of 1906 Russia had its first Duma and representatives were asked to investigate the pogrom. The San Francisco Call covered the pogrom extensively including stories of individual victims and families described on the pogrom victims list. (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/s over 10 earch/pages/results/?state=California&date1=1906&date2=1906&proxtext=Bialystok&x=8&y=6&dateFilterType=yearRange&rows=20&searchType=basic)
The horrific violence of this pogrom shows the hatred that can develop between different groups in a community, especially if stoked by lies, as many of the pogroms were. If we find it difficult to understand why there are so many tribal and civil wars, and terrorism around the world now, we only need to study an example like this.
Here lies the martyr young man Sender Leib son of Rabbi David Chaim Zakheim was murdered on the holy Sabbath 23 Sivan 5666 (http://www.bagnowka.com/index.php?m=cm&g=zoom&img=63015&gal=38)
The one style that probably did influence everyday life in the early 1900s was Art Nouveau, which permeated design on every level, from architecture to furniture, wallpaper, illustration, jewellery, advertisements, posters, postcards, shop signs and textiles. There is no one who would not have seen posters on the street, shop signs, book illustration and postcards with the typical swirling patterns of art nouveau, and many household items would have been influenced to some extent.
Odessa postcard 1902
Russian Art Nouveau soap ad
Illustration Vasalisa by Bilibin, 1899
Popular artistic styles like the swirling figures and lettering of art nouveau would only have touched people’s lives minimally in their own homes, through the covers of books or magazines, a vase, or decorated tin.
Vysotsky tea tin
At the same time, an explosion into abstraction in art was beginning in the early 1900s, slowly in Germany and France, following the lead in Art Nouveau with artists like Klimt and Kandinsky, who went back and forth from Germany to Russia. At first, abstraction was brought into design, such as in fabrics, furniture and architecture, but painting soon followed with an incredible liveliness.
Frances Macdonald 1896
Fabric Riemerschmid 1905
Fabric Jonasch 1910
In early 1900s Russia, there was the realist style of painting of Repin, the satirical art of political posters and newspapers, and an Impressionism which moved close to abstraction at times. Artists of different styles responded to the events of 1905, especially the political graphic artists, but others as well.
Ivanov The execution 1905
Isaac Brodsky Mother and sister 1905
Isaac Brodsky was from Odessa. My first impression of this painting of his mother and sister was that the girl seemed frightened and the two were clutching each other. This might be an over interpretation.
The earliest purely abstract art began with Malevich in Russia in 1912, inspired by a movement called suprematism in avant-garde poetry and modernist literature.
This movement rejected that art needed to come from the natural or real world but could be centred solely on itself. Kandinsky was originally part of this movement but was later rejected because of his mysticism, seeing other meanings behind his purely abstract forms. The later Russian movement, constructivism, which grew up after the revolution, was inspired by Italian futurism and other movements that developed as artists watched the destruction and mechanisation of life during World War I. It developed through painting, sculpture, graphic design, textiles, theatre design and architecture.
To be continued…
I was still puzzling over how people, whether rich, poor or somewhere in the middle, lived in Odessa in 1905. Which modern inventions were filtering down to people’s houses? They may have had bathrooms in middle-class houses but was there piped water to the bath? The 1902-3 Odessa directory was filled with illustrated ads for baths and toilets. There were none in the 1900 directory or later on, so these very early years of the new century must have been the moment when indoor plumbing became affordable and the idea needed getting across to people.
But what about decor? Were art nouveau ideas, common in advertisements and posters, entering homes in other ways? There were very few photographs of interiors at that time as the lighting was difficult, and the interiors portrayed by painters, many of their friends’ or patrons’ houses, may have been more modern, simpler, bohemian or avant-garde than ordinary people’s houses. When I recently first saw the painting by Ilya Repin ‘Unexpected visitors’ (in Russian ‘Не жда́ли’ ‘they did not expect anyone’) in a TV programme on perception (the painting was used by a Russian psychologist in the 1960s to research ideas about how the eyes track images), I thought it had been painted in the early 1900s but the date is 1883-1888 (there were several versions and reworkings) and the room in the painting is the artist’s country house sitting room.
Repin Unexpected visitors 1888
The painting is about the return of a political exile from Siberia. I love the way he has created this story around the incongruous figure in such a light, summery cheerful room. Possibly because it is a country house used in good weather, there are bare floorboards and the windows do not have heavy drapery. It has a feeling more of Swedish design than an overcrowded Victorian sitting room.
Carl Larsson c1890s
And so I went back to my search of how people might have lived in Odessa in 1905, such as the artisans and shopkeepers who were probably in the forefront of those whose businesses, homes and lives were destroyed in the pogrom. First I looked through a film I had recently found online of Kataev’s The cottage on the steppe (Хуторок в степи) for images of the family’s apartment in Odessa and the smallholding they later rented at Bolshoi Fontan. The story begins with the news of Tolstoy’s death in 1910 and, soon after, the Bachei father loses his teaching job after making a speech about the greatness of Tolstoy, who had been excommunicated by the Orthodox Church. After trying various unsuccessful ways to make ends meet, the aunt, who has brought the two Bachei children up, decides on a move to a rented smallholding with several acres of fruit trees in Bolshoi Fontan.
The Bachei apartment on Kanatnaya
I was also able to find a couple of catalogues of household objects sold in Russia at that time.
Robert Kent Moscow 1903
When the family begins their move to the smallholding, Petya stays with his working-class friend in Near Mills until his exams are over. There are a few outdoor shots of the cottage in Near Mills, a rare view of the little farmhouse on the smallholding, and a few scenes showing the interior.
The cottage on the steppe
Bentwood rocking chairs and dining chairs were very common at the time. There is an ad in the Odessa 1908 directory for the Austrian-German company that originally made bentwood furniture in the mid 19th century. The company was set up by the cabinetmaker Michael Thonet (1796-1871) whose work was carried on by his sons and their factories and showrooms spread across the world.
Thonet Brothers 1908 Odessa directory
Thonet Brothers catalogue
Chagall interior 1917
The few Russian photographs of interiors from around 1900 that exist show rooms very similar to those in the Kataev film, which must have been the common style for anyone who could afford to buy furniture, either new or second-hand, and gives an idea of the everyday lives of people around 1905.
Officers St Petersburg 1900