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123 Griboedov channel, Room 123
190068 Saint Petersburg
123 Griboedov channel
On May 22, the presentation of a new book by Darius Staliunas "Enemies for a Day: Antisemitism and Anti-Jewish Violence in Lithuania under the Tsars" was held by the Centre for Historical Research and the History Department of the Higher School of Economics in St. Petersburg. The organizer of the meeting was the Junior Research Fellow of the CHR Anton Kotenko.
Darius Staliunas is deputy director of the Institute of Lithuanian History, author of works on the history of Lithuanian nationalism, history of this region within the Russian Empire and interethnic relations of the region. The new book by D. Staliunas is devoted to the history of anti-Jewish violence in the territory of the Lithuanian provinces of the Russian Empire in the late 19th - early 20th centuries. The book describes the structural preconditions for collective anti-Jewish violence, as well as its specific causes. It is important for the author to build a comparative context in the analysis of pogroms in the territory of modern Lithuania, while the historical material of the pogroms in other provinces of the Northwestern Territory of the Russian Empire and Bessarabia serves as sources for comparison.
The author began his report with the definition of the term "pogrom" as a prolonged act of mass violence against the Jewish population. One of the main problems in writing the history of pogroms in the Russian Empire is the question of the responsibility of the imperial authorities for anti-Jewish violence. On the one hand, the government in most cases was not directly responsible for the pogroms, and the police tried to suppress them and protect the victims, but we should not forget about the responsibility of the ruling elites for creating the structural situation of discrimination against Jews and, accordingly, the atmosphere of anti-Semitism. Another important topic is the assessment of the involvement of the local population in pogroms.
Further D. Staliunas touched upon the reasons for the pogroms and motivation of the porgromists themselves. The speaker believes that religious antisemitism played a key role here. In Lithuania, as in other regions of Eastern Europe, we can see regular accusations of blood libel, often even without an alleged victim. Thus, Jews easily became a legitimate object of hunting. Another important question is whether modern Lithuanian nationalism was one of the reasons for anti-Semitism? D. Staliunas argues in his book that it was Lithuanian nationalists who were most often not interested in anti-Jewish violence, and since the beginning of the twentieth century we can speak of a "pragmatic alliance" between Jewish and Lithuanian activists in the region, an alliance whose main opponent was the Polish national project. Were the Jews important for Lithuanian nationalism as an image of the "Other", for explaining on their example the boundaries of identification? Rather no, because such constitutive "Other" for the Lithuanian project was primarily the Poles. Because Lithuanian identity remained problematic in comparison with the Polish project, and a large number of Lithuanian peasants were bilinguals. In these conditions, the main problem of national mobilization for the Lithuanian intellectuals was the possibility of separation from the Polish cultural space.
Thus, the Jewish pogroms on the Lithuanian lands were a complex phenomenon. On the one hand, developed anti-Semitism unquestionably existed in many ideological and political fields. On the other hand, it should be remembered that in Lithuania in the late XIX - early XX centuries there were no cases analogous to the truly large-scale and bloody pogroms of southern Russia and Bessarabia. The problem of responsibility for pogroms and the analysis of the reasons behind them remains a difficult question.
The report of D. Staliunas was followed by a lively discussion, during which the problems of historization of anti-Semitism, the differences between rural pogroms and urban uprisings of the early 20th century, as well as assessing the involvement of Lithuanian peasants in anti-Jewish violent actions were touched upon.
Report by Nikita Fomin