Alexander Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1969. He became a darling of the American conservative party, providing a first-hand account of Communist atrocities in the Soviet Union. His book The Gulag Archipelago became an international best seller and he was widely applauded.

But then he fell out of favor.

solzhi
Solzhenitsyn became a literary hero when he criticized the Russian government.

His 2001 book, 200 Years Together, was a expansive two-volume historical essay, discussing the role of Jews in communist Russia. Immediately, the book was decried as anti-semetic. Moreover, publishing houses in New York would not translate the novel into English.  In short, Solzhenitsyn went from a literary darling to a persona non grata overnight.

So I decided to read the book in question. I’d like to be my own judge on the matter (thank you very much). And after completing the book, I’ve reached a conclusion:

200 Years Together is, arguably, the most accurate description of the Russian-Jewish relationship ever written. Solzhenitsyn’s research is comprehensive. The book is filled with footnotes, specific examples, and a plethora of sources from opposing sides. By doing this, he establishes a convincing case for a controversial claim:

Jewish people were, in part, responsible for mass genocide in the Ukraine during the 1930s; moreover, this atrocity has been downplayed – and often ignored – by the international community.

Here are some of the major points, which lead up to the Ukranian genocide (called the Holodomor).

1.) The Soviet Union Was the Home of the Jewish People for 200 Years

Many people think of Israel when they think of the Jews. Or, they might also think of the United States. However, they overlook the fact that prior to the birth of Israel, the Soviet Union was the home of the Jewish people.

Judging by its stable manner of life, it was in neighboring Poland that the biggest Jewish community emerged, expanded and became strong from the 13th to the 18th century. It formed the basis of the future Russian jewry, which became the most important part of World jewry until the 20th century (p. 9)

This historical background is important. The old saying is true…you can’t know the present unless you know the past. Jewish people have strong historical ties to Russia, and it was their homeland long before Israel became a nation.

Solzhenitsyn continues:

A contemporary Jewish progressive wrote, that ‘Jews, as a nation, do not exist’, that they ‘consider themselves Russians of the Mosaic faith…’‘Jews recognize that their salvation lies in the merging with the Russian people’.” (p. 59)

jews in russia
For 200 years, more Jews lived in Russia than any other country.

Moreover, many Jews considered themselves to be Russian. Many American Jews are unaware of this fact: i.e. the importance of Russia in Jewish history. These histories are glossed over in Hebrew schools, as well as secular American institutions. A Jew might learn about scripture or a variety of stories: i.e. from the Torah, Talmud, etc. Or, he might learn about Israeli history, like as the 7-Day War. But as for Russian history, it’s largely ignored.

2.) Eventually, Jews Became Influential Members of the Communist Party

Solzhenitsyn points out that after the revolution of 1917, the Jews gained more power in Russia.

“Soon after the March Revolution of 1917, everywhere in Petrograd you could see groups of Jews, standing on benches, soap boxes and such, making speeches…. There had been restrictions on the rights of Jews to live in Petrograd, but after the Revolution they came in droves, and the majority of agitators were Jews … they were apostate Jews” (p. 105)

Solzhenitsyn continues:

“Myself, having worked for many years on the “February” press and memoirs…could not fail to notice…in those materials, from the most varied witnesses and participants of those events, there are so many Jewish names, and the Jewish theme is very loud and persistent” (p. 105)

In short, the Russian revolution was, at first, a peasant uprising. However, later the movement was co-opted by Jews. Note that most of these Jews were apostate, meaning they gave up the traditional elements of their culture: i.e. the wearing of the kippah, etc.

marx
Karl Marx was, arguably, the most famous communist Jew that was an apostate. Many more were to follow…

The most famous apostate Jew in Russia was Karl Marx. He did not wear the traditional garb or follow the Hasidic traditions. Yet he was Jewish in this cultural sense: i.e. he was reared in the traditions of that faith.

3.) Jewish Members of the Communist Party Were Guilty of Mass Murder

Nearly 10 million people died in the Holodomor. This was an act of systematic starvation, where the Ukranian farmers were arrested and deported by Joseph Stalin. Soon after, millions of Ukranian peasants would die of starvation. Yet Stalin himself did not organize these actions; instead, he relied on “henchmen”: individuals that he knew would carry out the murders.

LK
Lazar Kaganivich, Stalin’s Jewish brother-in-law, organized the greatest mass murder of the 20th century: the Holodomor.

The most notorious of these mass murderers was Stalin’s brother-in-law, a Jewish man by the name of Lazar Kaganovich. Solzhenitsyn has no kind words for Kaganovich; he indicts him as the greatest mass murderer of the 20th century. Moreover, and he lambastes the Western media for refusing to publicize the genocide.

Editorial note: If we continually hear about the Holocaust, then why don’t we hear about the Holodomor?

holodomor
The photos of the Holodomor resemble those of the Holocaust.

Another Jewish mass murderer was Isai Berg, As it turns out, Berg invented the mobile gas chamber, which he used to murder opponents of the Holodomor.

And from the astonishing disclosure in 1990 we learned that the famous mobile gas chambers were invented, as it turns out, not by Hitler during the World War II, but in the Soviet NKVD in 1937 by Isai Davidovich Berg, the head of the administrative and maintenance section of the NKVD of Moscow Oblast (sure, he was not alone in that enterprise, but he organized the whole business)…the victims were stripped naked, tied, mouths plugged, and thrown into a closed truck, outwardly disguised as a bread truck. On the road the exhaust fumes were redirected into the prisoner-carrying compartment, and by the time the van arrived to the burial ditch, the prisoners were “ready.

gas van
The Jewish man, Isai Berg, invented the first mobile gas chamber. It was used to silence opponents of the Holodomor (Ukrainian genocide).

And there were more culprits:

Molotov delivered the main report on this topic and among the debaters were the murderers of the peasantry — Schlikhter and Yakovlev-Epstein (250)

The death total in the Holodomor is estimated to be 7-10 million. However, these numbers are widely disputed, and it’s believed to be closer to 20 million. In short, genocides are not carried out by one individual. It takes many people, working together, to organize the murders. In the case of the Ukranian Holodomor, many of the culprits were Jewish.

4.) Counterargument: Jews Should Be Forgiven for Any Atrocities Since They Were Persecuted in Russia

I’ve brought this topic up with Jews in the past: i.e. that Jewish individuals were responsible for genocide in the Ukraine. The retort is usually the same:

  • “Yes, that might be true…but Jews were heavily persecuted in the Soviet Union.”

Yes, that’s true to a certain extent. There were pogroms, as well as a variety of discriminatory actions perpetuated against Jews: i.e. the quotas regarding Jewish membership in various arenas, such as colleges or the government. And Russian Jews had every right to feel slighted in this regard.

However, two wrongs don’t make a right. Note that most wars are reprisals of some sort. Hiroshima was a response to Pearl Harbor; the bombing of Dresden, a response to the invasion of Poland, etc. Nearly all murders are retaliatory in nature. Somewhere…somehow…war must end. Somebody must learn to forgive.

But there is a more important point, which almost everyone can agree on – there is no justification for genocide. Even Hitler had legitimate grievances: i.e. the unfair treaties that were signed after World War 1. However, that doesn’t make Auschwitz a good thing.

Conclusion

200 Years Together is a must read. We learn important lessons, many of which are not being taught in Western schools.

  • The Soviet Union Was the Home of the Jewish People for 200 Years
  • Jews Became Influential Members of the Communist Party
  • Jewish Members of the Communist Party Were Guilty of Mass Murder

Why has the Holodomor ignored in history books? And why does Hollywood not  dramatize the event? So much death…so many families destroyed. There are many answers, but I think Solzhenitsyn says it best:

They [the Jews]have forgotten it. They have sincerely and completely forgotten it. Indeed, it is so difficult to remember bad things about yourself. (379)

See Related Article: Article Review: Richard Wagner’s “On Judaism in Music”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Judging by its stable manner of life, it was in neighboring Poland that the biggest Jewish community emerged, expanded and became strong from the 13th to the 18th century. It formed the basis of the future Russian jewry, which became the most important part of World jewry until the 20th century (p. 9)

Ivan IV: “We absolutely do not permit the entry of the Jew into my lands, because we do not wish to see evil in our lands, but rather may God grant that the people in my land may have rest from that irritation. And you, our brother, should not write us on account of the jews again,” for they had “alienated the Russians from [G24] Christianity, brought poisonous plants into our lands and done much evil to our lands.”

“When Jews manage to find out about the impending Imperial Manifest about recruit enrollment before it is officially published … all members of Jewish families fit for military service flee from their homes in all directions….” (p. 44)

A contemporary Jewish progressive wrote, that ‘Jews, as a nation, do not exist’, that they ‘consider themselves Russians of the Mosaic faith…’‘Jews recognize that their salvation lies in the merging with the Russian people’.” (p. 59)

We just read in the old Jewish Encyclopedia: in Balta one Jew was killed, and wounded – several. But in the new Jewish Encyclopedia, after a century from the events, we read: in Balta “soldiers joined the pogromists…Several Jews were killed, hundreds wounded, many women were raped.” (p. 79)

“…the Jews did not forgive the Russian Government for these pogroms – and never have since. And although the pogroms originated mainly with the Ukrainian population, the Russians have not been forgiven and the pogroms have always been tied with the name of Russia (p. 89)

“…there arose the alarming connection that together with the increase of Jews among the students, the participation of students in the revolutionary movement noticeably increased” (p. 92)

“Myself, having worked for many years on the “February” press and memoirs…could not fail to notice…in those materials, from the most varied witnesses and participants of those events, there are so many Jewish names, and the Jewish theme is very loud and persistent” (p. 105)

“Soon after the March Revolution of 1917, everywhere in Petrograd you could see groups of Jews, standing on benches, soap boxes and such, making speeches…. There had been restrictions on the rights of Jews to live in Petrograd, but after the Revolution they came in droves, and the majority of agitators were Jews … they were apostate Jews” (p. 105)

 

The February Revolution was carried out by Russian hands and Russian foolishness. Yet at the same time, its ideology was permeated and dominated by the intransigent hostility to the historical Russian state that ordinary Russians didn’t have, but the Jews — had.(p. 107)

This mass departure of Jews from agriculture in the 1920’s and 30’s resembles similar Jewish withdrawal from agricultural colonies in the 19th century, albeit now there were many new occupations available in industry (and in administration, a prohibited field for Jews in Tsarist Russia) (222)

 

By far, the largest figure of Soviet cinematography was Sergei Eisenstein….The worldwide fame of Battleship Potemkin was a battering ram for the purposes of the Soviets and in its irresponsibly falsified history encouraged the Soviet public to further curse Tsarist Russia. Made-up events, such as the “massacre on Odessa Steps” scene and the scene where a crowd of rebellious seamen is covered with tarpaulin for execution, entered the world’s consciousness as if they were facts. First it was necessary to serve Stalin’s totalitarian plans and then his nationalistic idea. Eisenstein was there to help (233)

 

Molotov delivered the main report on this topic and among the debaters were the murderers of the peasantry — Schlikhter and Yakovlev-Epstein (250)

The spirit of the decree was itself an example of nationalist hatred: It was the history and language of the Great Russians that was no longer needed. During the 20’s the very understanding of Russian history was changed — there was none! And the understanding of what a Great Russian is changed — there was no such thing. (238).

  1. Bloom in Moscow Evening could brazenly demand the removal of “history’s garbage from *city+ squares”: to remove Minin-Pozharsky monument from the Red Square, to remove the monument to Russia’s thousand-year anniversary in Novgorod and a statue of St. Vladimir on the hill in Kiev. “Those tons of metal are needed for raw material.”(238)

 

And from the astonishing disclosure in 1990 we learned that the famous mobile gas chambers were invented, as it turns out, not by Hitler during the World War II, but in the Soviet NKVD in 1937 by Isai Davidovich Berg, the head of the administrative and maintenance section of the NKVD of Moscow Oblast (sure, he was not alone in that enterprise, but he organized the whole business). This is why it is also important to know who occupied middle-level posts. It turns out, that I.D. Berg was entrusted with carrying out the sentences of the “troika” of the NKVD of Moscow Oblast; he dutifully performed his mission, which involved shuttling prisoners to the execution place. But when three “troikas” began to work simultaneously in the Moscow Oblast, the executioners became unable to cope with the sheer number of executions. Then they invented a time-saving method: the victims were stripped naked, tied, mouths plugged, and thrown into a closed truck, outwardly disguised as a bread truck. On the road the exhaust fumes were redirected into the prisoner-carrying compartment, and by the time the van arrived to the burial ditch, the prisoners were “ready.” (Well, Berg himself was shot in 1939, not for those evil deeds, of course, but for “the anti-Soviet conspiracy”. In 1956 he was rehabilitated without any problem, though the story of his murderous invention was kept preserved and protected in the records of his case and only recently discovered by journalists) (264)

So, even the purest and most immaculate Russian patriotism has no right to exist – not now, not ever?

Why is it so? And why it is that Russian patriotism is thus singled out?  (274)

Jews were unjustly accused of evasion of military service and in particular, of evasion of front line service.”65 “It was often said about Jews that instead of fighting, they stormed the cities of Alma-Ata and Tashkent.”66 Here is a testimony of a Polish Jew who fought in the Red Army: “In the army, young and old had been trying to convince me that … there was not a single Jew on the front . `We’ve got to fight for them.´ I was told in a `friendly´ manner: `You’re crazy. All your people are safely sitting at home. How come you are here on the front?´”67 I. Arad writes: “Expressions such as `we are at the front, and the Jews are in Tashkent´, `one never sees a Jew at the front line´could be heard among soldiers and civilians alike. (311)

 

Jewish family camps originated among the Jewish masses fleeing into the woods and there “were many thousands of such fugitives.” Purely Jewish armed squads were formed specifically for the protection of these camps. (Weapons were purchased through third parties from German soldiers or policemen.) Yet how to feed them all? The only way was to take food as well as shoes and clothing, both male and female, by force from the peasants of surrounding villages. “The peasant was placed between the hammer and the anvil. If he did not carry out his assigned production minimum, the Germans burned his household and killed him as a `partisan´. On the other hand, guerrillas took from him by force all they needed”159 – and this naturally caused spite among the peasants: they are robbed by Germans and robbed by guerrillas – and now in addition even the Jews rob them? And the Jews even take away clothes from their women? (p. 324)

 

“Zionism is the instrument of the American imperialism.” So the “Jews had to prove their loyalty in one way or other, to somehow convince the people around them that they had no connection to their own Jewishness, especially to Zionism.” (360)

 

Yet why should not the Jewish question exist — the question of the unprecedented threethousand-year-old existence of the nation, scattered all over the Earth, yet spiritulally soldered together despite all notions of the state and territoriality, and at the same time influencing the entire world history in the most lively and powerful way? Why should there not be a “Jewish question” given that all national questions come up at one time or other, even the “Gagauz question” *a small Christian Turkic people, who live in the Balkans and Eastern Europe]? (369)

 

The same was true for Russia too. In pre-revolutionary Russian society, as we saw, it was the omission of the Jewish question that was considered “anti-Semitic.” In fact, in the mind of the Russian public the Jewish question — understood as the question of civil rights or civil equality — developed into perhaps the central question of the whole Russian public life of that period, and certainly into the central node of the conscience of every individual, its acid test.” (369)

 

So when exactly did it happen that the Jews, once such a reliable backbone of the regime, turned into almost its greatest adversary? (371)

 

Here’s Dan Levin, an American intellectual who immigrated to Israel: “It is no accident, that none of the American writers who attempted to describe and explain what happened to Soviet Jewry, has touched this important issue — the [Jewish] responsibility for the communism…. In Russia, the people’s anti-Semitism is largely due to the fact that the Russians perceive the Jews as the cause of all the evil of the revolution. Yet American writers — Jews and ex-Communists … do not want to resurrect the ghosts of the past. However, oblivion is a terrible thing. (374)

 

But today, when it is clear how many Jews were in the iron Bolshevik leadership, and how many more took part in the ideological guidance of a great country to the wrong track — should the question not arise [among modern Jews] as to some sense of responsibility for the actions of those *Jews+? It should be asked in general: shouldn’t there be a kind of moral responsibility — not a joint liability, yet the responsibility to remember and to acknowledge? For example, modern Germans accept liability to Jews directly, both morally and materially, as perpetrators are liable to the victims: for many years they have paid compensation to Israel and personal compensation to surviving victims. (375)

 

They have forgotten it. They have sincerely and completely forgotten it. Indeed, it is so difficult to remember bad things about yourself. (379)

Of course, as is always true for both individuals and nations, it is unreasonable to expect words of remorse from Jews regarding their past involvement. But I absolutely could not expect that the Jews, while deserting Bolshevism, rather than expressing even a sign of repentance or at least some embarrassment, instead angrily turned on the Russian people: it is the Russians who had ruined democracy in Russia (i.e., in February 1917), it is the Russians who are guilty of support of this regime from 1918 on. (382)

 

Let us note that any insulting judgment about the “Russian soul” in general or about the “Russian character” generally does not give rise to the slightest protest or doubt among civilized people. The question “of daring to judge nations as one uniform and faceless whole” does not arise. If someone does not like all things Russian or feels contempt for them, or even expresses in progressive circles the belief that “Russia is a cesspool,” this is no sin in Russia and it does not appear reactionary or backward. And no one immediately appeals to presidents, prime ministers, senators, or members of Congress with a reverent cry, “What do you think of such incitement of ethnic hatred?” We’ve said worse of ourselves since the 19th century and right up to the revolution. We have a rich tradition of this.) (385)

7 thoughts on “Book Review: 200 Years Together by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

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