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A White propaganda poster depicting a demonic Leon Trotsky wearing a Satanic Star, sitting near a pile of skeletons. The caption reads "Peace and Freedom in Soviet Russia."

Jewish Bolshevism, Judeo-Bolshevism, Judeo-Communism, and known as Żydokomuna in Poland, is a pejorative stereotype [1] based on the claim that Jews are the driving force behind the modern Communist movement, specifically the Russian Bolsheviks.

The expression was the title of a pamphlet, The Jewish Bolshevism, and became current after the October Revolution (1917) in Russia, featuring prominently in the propaganda of the anti-communist "White" forces during the Russian Civil War. It spread worldwide in the 1920s with the publication and circulation of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It made an issue out of the Jewishness of some leading Bolsheviks (most notably Leon Trotsky) during and after the October Revolution. Daniel Pipes says that "primarily through the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the Whites spread these charges to an international audience."[2] James Webb writes: It is rare to find an anti-Semitic source after 1917 which does not stand in debt to the White Russian analysis of the Revolution."[3]

The label "Judeo-Bolshevism" was used in Nazi Germany to equate Jews with communists, implying that the communist movement served Jewish interests and/or that all Jews were communists.[4] In Poland before World War II, Żydokomuna was used in the same way to allege that the Jews were conspiring with the USSR to capture Poland. The allegation still sees use in antisemitic publications and websites today.



Jews had been a persecuted minority in the Russian Empire. They had endured a form of racial segregation in the Pale of Settlement, as well as sporadic pogroms. In the period from 1881 to 1920, more than two million Jews left Russia.[5]

According to Berel Wein:

Expulsions, deportations, arrests, and beatings became the daily lot of the Jews, not only of their lower class, but even of the middle class and the Jewish intelligentsia. The government of Alexander III waged a campaign of war against its Jewish [citizens]... The Jews were driven and hounded, and emigration appeared to be the only escape from the terrible tyranny of the Romanovs."[6]

Jews in relatively large numbers joined various ideological currents favoring gradual or revolutionary changes within the Russian Empire. Those movements ranged from the far left (anarchists,[7] Bundists, Bolsheviks, Mensheviks[8]) to moderate left (Trudoviks[9]) and constitutionalist (Constitutional Democrats[10]) parties. Such monarchist parties as Union of the Russian People expressed clearly antisemitic attudes, and included antisemitic paragraphs in their political program.

Jewish Bolsheviks

Conditions in Russia (1924) A Census -Bolsheviks by Ethnicity

A high percentage of ethnic Jews in comparison to the percentage of the total population took an active part in Bolshevik movement and revolutionary leadership before the revolution and for years after[11][12] - see details below. Most of these Jews were hostile to traditional Jewish culture and Jewish political parties, and were eager to prove their loyalty to the Communist Party's atheism and proletarian internationalism, and committed to stamp out any sign of "Jewish cultural particularism".[citation needed]

On the eve of the February Revolution, the Bolshevik party had about 10,000 members, of whom 364 were ethnic Jews.[5][13]

Of the 21 members of the Central Committee (CC) of the Bolshevik party in April 1917,[14] three were ethnic Jews: Lev Kamenev[15][16], Grigory Zinoviev[15][16], and Yakov Sverdlov[15][17]. Of the thirteen committee members who, during the historic meeting on October 10, 1917, agreed for the necessity of armed revolution (leading to the October Revolution), six were Jewish: Zinoviev, Kamenev, Leon Trotsky, Moisei Uritsky[15][18], Sverdlov, and Grigory Sokolnikov[15] – although Kamenev and Zinoviev opposed the revolution, and Trotsky abstained).[19] The ethnic lineage of Vladimir Lenin, the head of the committee and the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution, was diversely composed of Russian, German, Swedish, Jewish, and Kalmyk blood (see Blank family).

Of the 25 Bolsheviks who worked alongside Lenin as members and candidate members of the Politburo of the Central Committee from August 1917 to 5 March 1918 (between the 6th and 7th congresses)[14] there were six ethnic Jews: Adolph Joffe[20], Kamenev, Sokolnikov, Trotsky, Uritsky, and Zinoviev. Concurrently, there were eleven Russians (Bubnov[21], Bukharin[22], Kiselyov[23], Krestinsky[24], Milyutin[23], Oppokov[25], Preobrazhensky[26], Sergeyev, Stasova[27], and Yakovleva[28]), two Latvians (Berzin[29][30] and Smilga[30]), two Ukrainians (Muranov[31] and Skrypnyk[32]), two Georgians (Dzhaparidze[33] and Stalin), one Pole (Dzerzhinsky[34]), the Finnish-and-Russo-Ukrainian Alexandra Kollontai[35][36], and one Armenian (Shahumyan[37]).

Of the 22 Politburo Bolsheviks working alongside Lenin from 8 March 1918 to 17 March 1919 (between the 7th and 8th congresses)[14] as members or candidate members there were seven ethnic Jews: Joffe, Mikhail Lashevich[38], Sokolnikov, Sverdlov, Trotsky, Uritsky, and Zinoviev. Concurrently, there were nine Russians (Bukharin, Kiselyov, Krestinsky, Oppokov, Sergeyev, Alexander Shlyapnikov[39], Vasili Shmidt[40], Stasova, and Mikhail Vladimirsky[41]), three Latvians (Berzin, Smilga, and Stuchka), one Ukrainian (Petrovsky[42]), one Pole (Dzerzhinsky), and one Georgian (Stalin).

The Second All-Russian Congress of the Workers', Soldiers', and People's Deputies' "Decree Instituting the Council of People's Commissars" of 17 October 1917 established the Narkomats[43],or People's Commissariats. These were to be coordinated by a central body, the Council of People's Commissars, or, effectively, the cabinet of the Bolshevik government. Besides Lenin as chairman of the council and Gorbunov as secretary, it was to be composed of fourteen ministerial positions. These were occupied by fifteen officials called the People's Commissars (or Narkoms) – of whom only Trotsky was ethnically Jewish.[44] (The position of People's Commissar for Military Affairs was concurrently filled by both Vladimir Antonov-Ovseyenko and Nikolai Krylenko, while no People's Commissar for Railways was temporarily appointed.)[45]

After Lenin's death, the title of the chairman of the Narkom passed to Alexei Rykov, an ethnic Russian.[44][46] Among the 23 Narkoms between 1923 and 1930, there were thirteen Russians (including Rykov), five Jews, two Georgians (Stalin and Ordzhonikidze), one Pole (Dzerzhinsky), one Moldovan (Frunze), and one Latvian (Rudzutak).[44] In the 1930s, there was one person of Jewish descent in the Politburo: Lazar Kaganovich.[15]

According to the 1922 party census, there were 19,564 Jewish members of the Bolsheviks, comprising 5.21% of the total.[15] The same year's figures for the 44,148 members of the Bolshevik party that had joined before October 1917  – the Old Guard, as Lenin referred to them, which included those who had joined the Bolshevik Party during its massive growth phase between February and October 1917 [13][44] – indicated that 7.1% were ethnic Jews.[44] 65% were ethnic Russians.[44]

Among members of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Union (parallel to the Central Committee of the Communist Party) in 1929, there were 402 Russians, 95 Ukrainians, 55 Jews, 26 Latvians, 13 Poles, and 12 Germans – Jewish representation had actually declined from 60 members in 1927.[47]

Of the 417 Communists who constituted the ruling circles of the Soviet Union in the mid-1920s – as members of the Central Executive Committee, the party Central Committee, the Presidium of the Executive of the Soviets of the USSR and the Russian Republic, the People's Commissars, and the chairman of the Executive Committee – a mere 27, or just 6%, were ethnic Jews.[15]

The numbers of Jews in important positions continued to shrink in the 1930s when Stalin had his old comrades Kamenev and Zinoviev executed while in prison, after a rigged trial in 1936. Zinoviev and Kamenev had previously been expelled, in October 1927 and December 1927 respectively, from the top positions they shared with Stalin in the Soviet ruling elite. Leon Trotsky had concurrently been expelled from the Soviet Union in 1927 and was then assassinated in Mexico City in 1940, by a Soviet agent, the Catalan Spaniard Ramón Mercader.

Between 1936 and 1940, during the Great Purge, Yezhovshchina and in particular after the rapprochement with Nazi Germany, Stalin had largely eliminated Jews from top level party, government, diplomatic, security and military positions in the Soviet Union[48]. After dismissing Maxim Litvinov as Foreign Minister in 1939,[49] Stalin immediately directed incoming Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov to "purge the ministry of Jews".[50] Although some scholar believe that the latter decision was affected mostly by domestic reasons,[50] others argue it possibly was a signal to Nazi Germany that the USSR was ready for non-aggression talks.[49][51] Remaining Jews were eliminated (with a few notable exceptions) after the war, during the antisemitic campaigns in 1947-1953.

According to historian Iakov Etinger, many Soviet state purges of the 1930s were antisemitic in nature, and a more intense antisemitic policy developed toward the end of World War II,[52] Stalin in 1946 allegedly said privately that "every Jew is a potential spy."[52][53]

Walter Laqueur states in his book The Changing Face of Antisemitism: From Ancient Times to the Present Day:

To what extent did the presence of many Jews among the Communist leadership contribute to antisemitism? It certainly played an important role in antisemitic propaganda, and it is certainly true that during the 1920s Jews were heavily overrepresented in the ranks of party and state officials. With the rise of Stalin, Jews were removed from key positions and very often "liquidated." The fact that other minorities were also disproportionately highly represented did not greatly matter - there was no tradition of anti-Latvianism in Russia, nor were Latvians found in the very top positions. Nor did it matter that Jews were equally strongly represented among other anti-Communist parties of the left such as the Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionaries, or that the anti-Stalinist opposition was to a considerable extent of Jewish extraction.[12]

In his 1938 book The Protocols of the Elders of Zion: A Proved Forgery, based on his testimony at the Berne Trial, Vladimir Burtsev wrote:

"Antisemites... refused to acknowledge the important and indisputable fact that the Jews who participated in the Socialist and Anarchist movements around the world, including the Russian Jews in particular, were renegades of the Jewish nation who had no connection with Jewish history nor with Jewish religion nor with Jewish masses, but were rather exclusively internationalists, promoting the ideas shared by Socialists of other ethnicities, and were hostile to the Jewish nation in general."[54]


According to figures provided by the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, there was a total of 49,991 Cheka operatives as of 1 October 1921: 38,648 Russians, 4,564 Jews, 1,770 Latvians, 1,559 Ukrainians, 886 Poles, 315 Germans, 186 Lithuanians, 152 Estonians, 102 Armenians, and 1,808 from other ethnic groups.[55] The Cheka's Board of thirteen functionaries was composed of three Russians (Kedrov, Ksenofontov, and Mantsev), three Jews (Messing, Unszlicht, and Yagoda), two Latvians (Latsis and Peters), two Poles (Dzerzhinsky and Menzhinsky), one Ukrainian (Bokiy), one Belarusian (Medved), and one Armenian (Avanesov).[55]

The ethnic breakdown for mid-level and upper-level officials of the OGPU leadership (the Cheka's successor agency in the 1920s) for 15 November 1923 consists of 54 Russians, 15 Jews, 12 Latvians, 10 Poles, and 4 others.[55]

Of the 2,402 functionaries in the central apparatus of the OGPU as of 1 May 1924, there were 204 Jews, 1,670 Russians, 208 Latvians, 90 Poles, 80 Belarusians, and 80 Ukrainians, with functionaries from other ethnic groups the remaining 3.5%.[55]

Yagoda's secret police oversaw the execution of both Zinoviev and Kamenev, but fell victim to Stalin's next round of purges. In September 1936, Yagoda was replaced by Nikolai Yezhov, not of Jewish descent [56], until Yezhov was also arrested and executed in March 1937, becoming replaced by Lavrentiy Beria, an ethnic Georgian[57] like Joseph Stalin. No other Jew besides Yagoda held the highest position within the bureaucracy of Soviet state security organizations. Under Yezhov, the number of Jews fell precipitously (to just 6 people) while the number of ethnic Russians among the leadership of the NKVD secret police rose to 102 people (67%) – and the purges, at Stalin's instigation[58][59], then entered their bloodiest period (1937–1938) (see Great Purge).

Vadim Abramov's monograph "Jews in the KGB" demonstrated that although Jews were trusted by the early communist authorities because as formerly disenfranchised they were not expected to harbor any loyalties to Tsarist regime, their number in the security services at no point in history exceeded 9%, and from 1927 never exceeded 4%[60].

Walter Laqueur, in Russia and Germany, A Century of Conflict, traces this conspiracy theory to Nazi ideologue and Baltic German, Alfred Rosenberg:

Rosenberg's obiter dicta about Russia and Communism are found in the Mythos and in countless brochures and booklets: Bolshevism is the revolt of the Jewish, Slavic and Mongolian races against the Germans (Aryan) element in Russia; it is the revolt of the steppe, the hatred of the nomads of everything great, heroic, racially healthy; all big things in Russian history had been achieved by Germans or those of German blood, but the revolution of 1917 had exterminated the Aryan element. . . ., nor did the Jewish-Soviet Government represent the Russian people. To the Nazi ideologists, all leading Soviet statesmen were Jews: Lenin and Trotsky, Lunacharsky and Rakovsky, Kuibyshev and Krasin, Kaganovitch and Manuilsky among them. Whoever was not a Jew was a Chinese. Rosenberg developed an elaborate theory about the leading role of Chinese silk merchants in the Russian revolution. While other observers of the Soviet scene engaged in political speculation and social analysis, the Nazis' Russian experts were preoccupied with another kind of scientific investigation which hardly left them time for anything else. They tracked down the 'real' (Jewish) names of all Soviet leaders; Lunacharsky, for instance, became Mondschein - for who did not know that 'luna' was 'moon' in Latin? This, by and large, was the level of Nazi Sovietology.
—Laqueur, Ibid., pp. 21-22

Nazi Germany

1941 Nazi propaganda poster in the Lithuanian language, equating Stalinism with the Jews. The text reads "The Jew is our enemy forever".

In Nazi Germany, this term expressed the common perception that Communism was a Jewish-inspired and Jewish-led movement seeking world domination from its very origin. The term was popularized in print by German journalist Dietrich Eckhart, who authored the pamphlet "Der Bolschewismus von Moses bis Lenin" ("Bolshevism from Moses to Lenin") in the early 1920s, thereby tying Moses and Lenin as both Communists and Jews. Alfred Rosenberg's 1923 edition of the Protocols "gave a forgery a huge boost".[61] This was followed by Hitler's highly inflammatory statement in Mein Kampf (1924): "In Russian Bolshevism we must see Jewry's twentieth century effort to take world dominion unto itself."

According to Michael Kellogg, the author of The Russian Roots of Nazism. White Émigrés and the Making of National Socialism, 1917–1945:

In his groundbreaking 1939 book, L’Apocalypse de notre temps: Les dessous de la propagande allemande d’après des documents inédits (The Apocalypse of Our Times: The Hidden Side of German Propaganda According to Unpublished Documents), Henri Rollin stressed that "Hitlerism" represented a form of "anti-Soviet counter-revolution" which employed the "myth of a mysterious Jewish-Masonic-Bolshevik plot." Rollin investigated the National Socialist belief, which was taken primarily from White émigré views, that a vast Jewish-Masonic conspiracy had provoked World War Ⅰ, toppled the Russian, German, and Austro-Hungarian Empires, and unleashed Bolshevism after undermining the existing order through the insidious spread of liberal ideas. German forces promptly destroyed Rollin’s work in 1940 after they occupied France, and the book has remained in obscurity ever since.[62]

A major source for propaganda about Jewish Bolshevism in the 1930s and early 1940s was the pro-Nazi and virulently antisemitic international Welt-Dienst / World-Service / Service Mondial news agency founded in 1933 by Ulrich Fleischhauer.

United States and Great Britain, 1920s

The American ambassador to Russia, David R. Francis, wrote in January 1918 that most of the Bolshevik leaders were Jewish.[63] A report by British Intelligence, "A Monthly Review of the Progress of Revolutionary Movements Abroad", states in the first paragraph that international Communism is controlled by Jews.[64] Capt. Montgomery Schuyler, a military intelligence officer in Russia, reported regularly to the chief of staff of U.S. Army Intelligence, who relayed the reports to the US president. In one of these reports, declassified in 1958, Schuyler states: "It is probably unwise to say this loudly in the United States, but the Bolshevik movement is and has been since its beginning, guided and controlled by Russian Jews of the greasiest type..."[65] In another report on June 9, 1919, Schuyler wrote the following, which the historical record shows to be inaccurate:[citation needed]

A table made up in 1918, by Robert Wilton, correspondent of the London Times in Russia, shows at that time there were 384 commissars including 2 Negroes, 13 Russians, 15 Chinamen, 22 Armenians and more than 300 Jews. Of the latter number, 264 had come from the United States since the downfall of the Imperial Government.[65]

Lucien Wolf, one of the voices of the period who took issue with the propagation of the Jewish Bolshevism conspiracy and the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion hoax concurrently being spread in the West, writes in The Myth of the Jewish Menace in World Affairs (1921):

"...I find a notorious German anti-Semitic book quoting... Wilton, of the Times, as its authority for the statement that 'of 384 People's Commissars who constitute the Government only 13 are Russians, while 300 are Jews.' What are the facts? The only officials in Soviet Russia who are authorised to hold the rank of People's Commissars are the members of the Cabinet. These number 17, and of them 16 are indisputably Gentiles, while only one – Trotsky – is Jewish by birth... The other so-called Jewish Commissars are all men of the second and lower ranks of officials belonging exclusively either to the Civil Service or the Soviet analogue of our municipal life. They are probably fairly numerous, but in what may be called the second rank they do not number more than ten at the outside. The others may or may not be convinced Bolsheviks. They are servants of the State who may have many other motives for serving the Soviets than an enthusiasm for Lenin's politics...Trotsky has in his War Office and Corps of Officers probably as many ex-Tsarist officers – including sixteen Generals – as there are 'Jewish Commissars' in the whole Soviet Administration. And yet nobody dreams of describing the Red Legions as a Tsarist Army. These officers are probably not even Bolsheviks. If we could know their motives we should probably find that they were not very widely different from those which actuate the 'Jewish Commissars.'

"All this is not to say that there are no professing Jews in the Bolshevist ranks, or that the number of indifferent and apostate Jews who have thrown in their lot with the Soviets is quite negligible. What is contended is that normally the Jew is intensely antipathetic to Bolshevism, and that at the beginning of the Revolution relatively very few Jews – even of those who were Jews by race only – rallied to the call of Lenin. That this situation has changed during the last year is not improbable. But with whom does the blame rest? If Jews have reluctantly turned toward Bolshevism, it is because they have been forced into it by the anti-Bolsheviks. They cannot but be alarmed by the persistancy and passion with which the charge of Bolshevism is levelled against them, and the threats which come from all sides to avenge in their persons the sins of Lenin and Trotsky."[66]

In an article in the Illustrated Sunday Herald on February 8, 1920, Winston Churchill asserted::

There is no need to exaggerate the part played in the creation of Bolshevism and in the actual bringing about of the Russian Revolution by these international and for the most part atheistic Jews. It is certainly a very great one; it probably outweighs all others. With the notable exception of Lenin, the majority of the leading figures are Jews.[61][67]

Churchill declared that Bolshevism must be "strangled in its cradle."[68] However, according to Churchill biographer Sir Martin Gilbert, Churchill had been sent a copy of The Protocols a few weeks prior to the publishing of this article.[69]

Such attitudes were not uncommon in the UK at the time of the allied intervention in the Russian Civil War. The British court of inquiry, appointed to investigate the Arab 1920 Palestine riots, associated Zionism with Bolshevism and identified the Jewish nationalist leader Ze'ev Jabotinsky with a Labor Zionist party, Poale Zion, which the court called "a definite Bolshevist institution."[70] In reality, Jabotinsky was a staunch anti-socialist[70] who had fought with the Jewish Legion of the British Army in World War I and was already emerging as a leader of the right-wing Revisionist Zionist opposition to the Labour Zionist movement.[71]

In the early 1920s, a leading British antisemite, Henry Hamilton Beamish, announced that "Bolshevism was Judaism."[72]

Iran, 2006

The allegation was revived in a December 28, 2006 interview by Iranian Presidential Advisor Mohammad Ali Ramin who was appointed secretary-general of the new "World Foundation for Holocaust Studies" established at the International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust:

"The Bolshevik Soviet government in Lenin's time, and later, in Stalin's - both of whom were Jewish, though they presented themselves as Marxists and atheists... - was one of the forces that, until the Second World War, cooperated with Hitler in promoting the idea of establishing the State of Israel."[73]

See also

Further reading

  • Mikhail Agursky: The Third Rome: National Bolshevism in the USSR, 1987, Westview Press, ISBN 08133-0139-4
  • Frank L. Britton: Behind Communism, 1952, Author, Los Angeles
  • Dennis Fahey: Rulers of Russia, 1940, 3rd American edition, revised and enlarged, Condon Printing Co., Detroit
  • Jeffrey Herf: The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda During World War II and the Holocaust, 2006, Harvard University Press, ISBN 0674021754, 9780674021754
  • Michael Kellogg: The Russian Roots of Nazism: White Émigrés and the Making of National Socialism, 1917-1945, 2005, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521845122
  • Benjamin Pinkus. The Jews of the Soviet Union: The History of a National Minority. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990. ISBN 0521389267, 9780521389266
  • Johannes Rogalla von Bieberstein: '"Juedischer Bolschewismus". Mythos und Realität'. Dresden: Antaios 2003, ISBN 3-935063-14-8
  • Yuri Slezkine: The Jewish Century, 2004, Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-11995-3
  • Alexandre Soljenitsyne: Deux Siecles Ensemble. Tome 2. 1917-1972. Juifs et Russes pendant la periode Sovietique.1917-1972, 2003, Fayard, Paris. ISBN 2-213-61518-7
  • Arkady Vaksberg: Stalin against the Jews, 1994, Vintage Books (a division of Random House, New York), ISBN 0-679-42207-2
  • Robert Wistrich: Revolutionary Jews from Marx to Trotsky, 1976, Harrap, London, ISBN 0-245-52785-0


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