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Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  285 ratings  ·  60 reviews
So shattering were the aftereffects of Kishinev, the rampage
that broke out in late-Tsarist Russia in April 1903,
that one historian remarked that it was “nothing less
than a prototype for the Holocaust itself.” In three days of violence,
49 Jews were killed and 600 raped or wounded, while
more than 1,000 Jewish-owned houses and stores were ransacked
and destroyed. Recounted in
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 27th 2018 by Liveright
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Jan Rice

Map of Bessarabia from the Wikipedia page for Modern history of Ukraine

In 1903, what is now known as a pogrom took place in Kishinev, an event that the author claims looms large, even for those who never heard of it. That's what convinced me to read this book. How could something affect the way I think, even without my knowing anything about it? Not impossible, given our current awareness of misinformation, or disinformation. But I really couldn't think along those lines until after I read the b
Harrowing. Beautifully concise.
Steven Z.
Jul 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
At a time when American society is confronted with pictures of immigrants incarcerated at the US border with Mexico it is a good time to step back and try and understand why people choose to flee their homelands and come to America. In the case of people arriving on our southern borders their motivations are diverse from economic hardship to fear of death. These reasons are in a sense universal when examined from a historical perspective. Earlier in American history we witnessed a flood of Jewis ...more
Shirley Revill
Exceptionally well written and thought provoking book. Very highly recommended. I would give more than five stars if I could.
Jan 12, 2020 rated it liked it
A bit less than what I expected. Only one of the book's chapters focuses on the events themselves. The rest deals with the impact and aftermath of the pogrom: how Krushevan spread anti-Semite propaganda and authored or co-authored the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, how Haim Bialik wrote his famous poem In the City of Killing, how Irish activist and journalist Michael Davitt came to Chișinău, interviewed the survivors and victims and how his reporting informed the rest of the world, how paralle ...more
Mal Warwick
May 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
It was the event that introduced the word "pogrom" to the world outside Russia.

It's name is little known elsewhere today, but among generations of Israelis and in the homes of many older Jews around the world, the murderous rampage that took place in the Eastern European city of Kishinev on April 19 and 20, 1903, is a household word. Four decades before the worst days of the Holocaust, the pogrom in the city now known as Chișinău epitomized the violence directed at the Jewish people in the Russi
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I had never heard about the riot of Kishinev until reading this book. Mr. Zipperstein has written a well researched book about the anti-Semitic sentiment in Russia. I am grateful to Goodreads Giveaway for being able to learn about this history. It gave me insight into how the stage was being set for the pogroms of Hitler many years later in WWII. We should learn from history and not be nonchalant about history possibly repeating itself, ie) North Korea and Russia today.

Margaret Heller
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Reviewed for Library Journal. Looks grim, but the actual rape and murder part takes up relatively little of the book, the cultural history part is can't put it down. ...more
Nate Merrill
Dec 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very good. I expected the descriptions of the pogrom to be exceedingly horrifying, but they weren't, so that was good (I don't mean "good" but you know what I mean. I read the first three chapters in one sitting. The fourth, however, was the most intriguing on its own, with its description of how the pogrom fit into the zionism of ahad haam and bialik, which was a story I had only heard in passing before, and has inspired me to move Daniel Boyarin's Unheroic Conduct up my list. The 5th on krushe ...more
James Crabtree
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The pogrom that took place in Kishinev in what was in 1903 the Russian province of Besserabia was not the first nor the last nor even the worst of the pogroms which periodically rocked the Jewish population living in the Pale of Settlement but it was one which, for the first time, touched the imagination of people around the world to the plight of Jews living in the shadow of the Russian eagle, assuring the entry of the word "pogrom" into the English language. Zipperstein gives the reader an acc ...more
Mary  Allen
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I won the book thru a GOODREADS giveaway. A good story of what man is willing to do to another, disturbing but I finished it. Glad I did, Good Read/
Jonathan Bein
Apr 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Not a particularly well written book, but it does convey the context of a very important event of history that has been, if not forgotten, then shunted out of the mainstream. My interest in the story is enhanced by the fact that my paternal great grandfather was from Kishinev and immigrated to the U.S. after his business was wiped out in the Pogrom. The author draws the story through the contemporary reportage and subsequent studies of the violence. He draws some conclusions as to responsibility ...more
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In April, 1903, 49 Jews were murdered in the small city of Kishinev, the capital of Moldova, in the Pale of Settlement section of the Russian Empire. 600 Jews were raped or wounded, and over 1000 homes and businesses were ransacked.

Unlike previous such incidents (which have precedents going all the way back to the First Crusade and before) this time the Western press mobilized public opinion against the Russian Empire for allowing the carnage. Hearst Newspapers carried one lurid photo after anot
Kathy Reback
Jul 31, 2018 rated it liked it
While I learned so much about this event and the context in which it occurred, I can give it only three stars as the writing and organization of the book were challenging. I gather this was excerpted out of a much longer academic endeavor. Better transitions and clarifications would have been helpful. Also, the footnotes did not contain any information other than where to look. He makes some pretty big claims which we have to take on faith. Still, our coed book club had an excellent discussion o ...more
Nathan Scheer
Aug 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion, jewish, race
I don't usually leave reviews, but I had to get this out of my system. I was genuinely interested in what this book had to offer. I'm a student, with Jewish history being an interest of mine. Three months ago, I completed my thesis for my bachelors in history about the Jewish American community during the American Progressive Era. I came across information about the Kishinev pogrom in my research, specifically the American reactions to the news of the massacre. I was very interested to see Zippe ...more
Apr 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: jewish
p. 85
"Kishinev was said to have cut wide open a web of wretched, cowardly compromises stretching as far back as the last of the Maccabees, a welter of congealed terrors cleverly disguised that had over the centuries made Jews into who they now were: an overly cautious people who knew well how to negotiate but were incapable of fighting for their own lives or, for that matter, defending the honor of their kinfolk."

p. 111 (talking about Ahad Ha'am)
"This goal amounted to little less than the salvag
Jeff Francis
Jun 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
I remember considering whether to read Steven Zipperstein’s “Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History,” which I’d heard was good, when I saw that the main blurb came from Philip Roth. That sealed it. Roth had died two days earlier, and I was kind-of perturbed at how little attention his passing received. So at that moment it seemed like the universe was telling me to go ahead.

After reading “Pogrom” I was torn on whether to rate it 3/5 or 4/5, but in the end I decided on the later.

The dilemma w
Michael Lewyn
Jul 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As the title indicates, this book is about the 1903 Kishinev pogrom. The first half of the book discusses the pogrom itself- a riot that involving dozens of murders and dozens of rapes as well.

Much of the book, however, focuses on the post-pogrom spin. I had always thought that the Russian government was responsible for the pogrom; although local officials (like American mayors who have often been slow to act) did not act as rapidly as they could, they did try in good faith to stop the pogrom. A
Jul 06, 2019 rated it liked it
I give this 3.5 stars. The book tells of a series of massacres that took place over a few days against the Jewish community in 1903 in a "sleepy" part of the Russian empire known as Bessarabia, or modern day Moldova in the capital Chisinau. I am glad the author chose to write on this subject to educate others on the origins of the word "pogrom" and how the 1903 tragic events were known to the world, especially the United States. There are not a ton of available first hand sources and I understoo ...more
Dec 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Zipperstein's book is a solid social commentary. It is not the sort of book I normally read. I typically read history books as opposed to books that combine heavy social commentary. This book is presented as five discrete essays on the event. The section detailing the actual event was short, too short. Although the events were horrific, it seemed to me that the section was too short to fully describe the horror and the author should have spent more time and detail on it. On the other hand the ca ...more
Cristi Vlas
Dec 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Zipperstein gives a comprehensive overview of the different journalistic and literary perspectives on the 1903 Kishinev (Chișinău now) Pogrom, but also its political effects in the Russian Empire and in the US.
Zipperstein makes the case that the bloody Pogrom was the first event that penetrated all the Jews' conscience around the world. It led them to think about the environments they lived in for centuries, whether their future is still bright, causing waves among both the Zionist and the Socia
Jeffrey Green
Apr 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Before reading this book, Kishinev was just a name for me, the name of a notorious pogrom, but I wouldn't have been able to tell you the date of the pogrom or where Kishinev is. Now, for me, Kishinev refers to a very real place, and I could probably point to it on a map of what was once Bessarabia, part of the Russian Empire, and what is now Moldova. This book is about much more than what actually happened in Kishinev in 1903. It is about the response the pogrom aroused throughout Western Europe ...more
Jul 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
This summer I've been reading histories of short-lived, dramatic events: the Boston smallpox epidemic of 1721 ("The Fever of 1721: The Epidemic That Revolutionized Medicine and American Politics"), the sinking of the whaleboat Essex ("In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex"), and this book, about the pogrom in Kishinev in 1905. There is something so interesting when a write delves into a subject like this, trying to figure out the number of things that created the possibilit ...more
Dec 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mimi-cass, owned, jew-ish
Brilliantly composed, this non-fiction (erring on academic) text provides a harrowing account and analysis of the Kishinev pogrom - considered the most gruesome, anti-Semitic act of modern mass violence committed against Jews prior to the Holocaust.

Zipperstein provides the reader with ample social and political context for the Russian pogrom, takes the reader through the difficult days of the pogrom itself, and points to the ways in which Kishinev, indeed, "tilted" Jewish history: in many ways
Ruth Adar
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anti-semitism
In April, 1903, 49 Jews were murdered in the small city of Kishinev, the capital of Moldova, in the Pale of Settlement section of the Russian Empire. 600 Jews were raped or wounded, and over 1000 homes and businesses were ransacked.

Unlike previous such incidents (which have precedents going all the way back to the First Crusade and before) this time the Western press mobilized public opinion against the Russian Empire for allowing the carnage. Hearst Newspapers carried one lurid photo after anot
Judy G
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
I am a jewish woman and I read many books about our history.
I think this book has a select audience of readers. It is about an event in 1900 in Russia where the men in a place there named Kishinev set out to destroy the jewish people in every way possible. Mass destruction
It is also about writers from that time who traveled there to record what had happened.
Pogroms were forerunners of the Nazi regime's destruction of the jewish people these were in Russia.
It is very interesting I think that
David Findley
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I learned a lot from reading the book: the Kishinev pogrom was not the first or the last or the worst of the many pogroms within the Pale of Jewish settlement on the western edges of imperial Russia. However, it was the most influential in capturing the interest of the West. It lead to forgeries on both sides of the issue: the antisemites produced the infamous “Protocols” to justify murder of Jews and (according to SZ) the Jewish left (likely) produced a forged letter from Russian government off ...more
Aug 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
The book is a must read for people with a serious interest in Jewish or Russian history. The book eloquently describes how the world fell apart for what had, at the time, been probably the largest concentration of world Jewry. A combination of envy, greed and hatred boiled over and resulted in anti-Jewish riots that in many ways foreshadowed the Holocaust, or Shoah.

I have major disagreements with some aspects of the book. The author takes issue with the a poem that popularized the view that the
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
A concise but thorough telling of an atrocity and its ripple effect through history. The story of Kishinev's Jews could be any oppressed people (as the author mentions throughout) treated as an 'other', made less than human, and then attacked because of perceived wrongs. Hence how the ripples of this event on the other side of the world leads to the founding of the NAACP. I read this because I am interested in how people can convince themselves so completely that another race or ethnicity or rel ...more
Sep 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, judaica
This book was all too timely as we see a new rise of anti-Semitism around the world and what it means for Jews in the United Kingdom, the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and especially in the former Soviet Republics.

We all grew up knowing of the Kishinev Pogrom. It's still remembered during memorial services, and for some of my family from the Bessarabia region of Rumania/Russia/Moldavia it was part of our personal history. Zipperstein digs deep into the research, separating fact from m
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34 likes · 7 comments
“Had the same events occurred a few hundred miles to the east, it is unlikely that they would have had a comparable impact; the details would have been reported on fleetingly and peppered with fewer updates, and the tragedy, like others then and later, would have almost certainly been mourned locally without much resonance beyond the town itself.” 0 likes
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