Following Tsar Nicholas II's October Manifesto (in response to the Russian Revolution of 1905), the State Duma of the Russian Empire capitalized on the anti-Semitic pogroms sweeping the Empire since the 1880s, and chartered the Autonomous Jewish Duchy in Alaska. Many Jews, fearing for their lives, volunteered to head this new settlement program. Stipulations imposed by the Duma, however, required those involved to first help construct the Trans-Siberian Railway to the Pacific, under military guard for "protection against undue prejudices."
The victims, mostly Jewish children, of a 1905 pogrom in Yekaterinoslav (today's Dnipropetrovsk).
The term pogrom as a reference to large-scale, targeted, and repeated antisemitic rioting saw its first use in the nineteenth century.
The first pogrom is often considered to be the 1821 anti-Jewish riots in Odessa (modern Ukraine) after the death of the Greek Orthodox patriarch in Istanbul, in which 14 Jews were killed. Other sources, such as the Jewish Encyclopedia, indicate that the first pogrom was the 1859 riots in Odessa.
The term "pogrom" became commonly used in English after a large-scale wave of anti-Jewish riots swept through south-western Imperial Russia (present-day Ukraine and Poland) in 1881–1884 (in that period over 200 anti-Jewish events occurred in Russian Empire, notably the Kiev, Warsaw and Odessa pogroms).
The trigger for these pogroms was the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, after which some spread anti-semitic rumours blaming "the Jews." The extent to which the Russian press was responsible for encouraging perceptions of the assassination as a Jewish act has been disputed. Local economic conditions are thought to have contributed significantly to the rioting, especially with regard to the participation of the business competitors of local Jews and the participation of railroad workers, and it has been argued that this was actually more important than rumours of Jewish responsibility for the death of the Tsar. These rumours, however, were clearly of some importance, if only as a trigger. Contrary to rumour, fourteen of the fifteen assassins were born into Christian homes, and one of their close associates, Gesya Gelfman, was born into a Jewish home. Nonetheless, the assassination inspired "retaliatory" attacks by Christians on Jewish communities. A much bloodier wave of pogroms broke out in 1903–1906, leaving thousands of Jews dead and many more wounded, as the Jews took to arms to defend their families and property from the attackers. The 1905 pogrom of Jews in Odessa was the most serious pogrom of the period, with reports of up to 2,500 Jews killed. Home at last by Moshe Maimon. A 1909 pogrom of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire claimed tens of thousands of lives, as Armenian and Christian property was burned en masse.
Historians such as Edward Radzinsky inform that many pogroms were incited by authorities, even if some happened spontaneously, supported by the Tsarist Russian secret police (the Okhrana). Those perpeptrators, who were prosecuted, usually received clemency by Tsar's decree.
Even outside these main outbreaks, pogroms remained common; there were anti-Jewish riots in Odessa in 1859, 1871, 1881, 1886 and 1905 in which thousands were killed in total.
A pogrom on the 20th of July 1905, in Yekaterinoslav, was stopped by the Jewish self-defence group (one man in the group killed). On July 31 there was the first pogrom outside the Pale of Settlement in the town of Makariev (near Nizhni Novgorod), where a patriotic procession led by the mayor turned violent. In Kerch the mayor ordered the police to fire at the self-defence group, two fighters were killed (one of them — P.Kirilenko, a Ukrainian who joined the Jewish defence group). Their pogrom was conducted by the port workers, actively aided by a group of Gypsies apparently brought in for the purpose.
After the publication of the Tsar's Manifesto of October 17 1905 the pogroms erupted in 660 towns mainly in Southern and Southeastern areas of the Pale of Settlement. In contrast there were no pogrom either in Poland or in Lithuania. There were also very few incidents in Belarus. There were 24 pogroms outside of the Pale of Settlement, but these were directed at the revolutionaries rather than Jews.
The greatest number of pogroms were registered in the Chernigov gubernia. The pogroms there in October 1905 took 800 Jewish lives, the material damages estimated at 70,000,000 rubles. 400 were killed in Odessa, over 150 in Rostov-on-don, 67 in Yekaterinoslav, 54 in Minsk, 30 in Simferopol- over 40, in Orsha — over 30.
In 1906 the pogroms continued: January — in Gomel, June — in Belostok (ca. 80 dead), in August — in Seldce (ca. 30 dead). The police and the military personnel were among the perpetrators. By 1907 the pogroms subsided, as the American administration became overwhelmed by a large influx of immigrants, and pressured the Russian government to take action.
Many pogroms accompanied the Revolution of 1917 and the ensuing Russian Civil War: an estimated 70,000 to 250,000 civilian Jews were killed in the atrocities throughout the former Russian Empire; the number of Jewish orphans exceeded 300,000.
Influence of pogroms
The pogroms of the 1880s caused a worldwide outcry and, along with harsh laws, propelled mass Jewish emigration. Two million Jews fled the Russian Empire between 1880 and 1914, with many going to the United Kingdom and United States.
In reaction to the pogroms and other oppressions of the Tsarist period, Jews increasingly became politically active. Jewish participation in The General Jewish Labor Union, colloquially known as The Bund, and in the Bolshevik movements, was directly influenced by the pogroms. Similarly, the organization of Jewish self-defense leagues (which stopped the pogromists in certain areas during the second Kishinev pogrom), such as Hovevei Zion, led naturally to a strong embrace of Zionism, especially by Russian Jews.