Kishinev and the Tilt of History

Steven J. Zipperstein (Author)

Logo markA Liveright book


Separating historical fact from fantasy, an acclaimed historian retells the story of Kishinev, a riot that transformed the course of twentieth-century Jewish history.

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 lurid detail by newspapers throughout the Western world, and covered sensationally by America’s Hearst press, the pre-Easter attacks seized the imagination of an international public, quickly becoming the prototype for what would become known as a “pogrom,” and providing the impetus for efforts as varied as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the NAACP. Using new evidence culled from Russia, Israel, and Europe, distinguished historian Steven J. Zipperstein’s wide-ranging book brings historical insight and clarity to a much-misunderstood event that would do so much to transform twentieth-century Jewish life and beyond.

Book Details

  • Hardcover
  • March 2018
  • ISBN 978-1-63149-269-3
  • 6.5 × 9.6 in / 288 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Endorsements & Reviews

“The methodical slaughter of forty-nine Jews on the streets of Kishinev, the capital of Moldova, over the course of three days in April, 1903, was a pivotal event in the history of modern anti-Semitism, the rise of Zionism, and, as a symbol of racist violence, a catalyst for the rise of the N.A.A.C.P. With extraordinary scholarly energy, Zipperstein uncovers sources in Russian, Yiddish, and English that show not only why this bloody event ignited the Jewish imagination, its sense of embattlement in exile, but also why it had such lasting resonance internationally.” — The New Yorker

Pogrom is a splendid book that pinpoints the moment at the start of the twentieth century when exile in Europe turned deadly in a way that foretold the end of everything. It tells us the horror that occurred street by street, butchery by butchery—with gripping clarity and an admirable brevity.” — Philip Roth

“This book, a model of the historian’s craft, demonstrates how a single event in a provincial town can shape the imagination of a century. Structural grace and clear prose allow a lifetime of historical meditation and a decade of multilingual research to reach virtually any reader interested in Jewish, Russian, and, indeed, American history.” — Timothy Snyder

“In this splendid book, Steven J. Zipperstein not only illuminates the causes and global consequences of the Kishinev pogrom but also reveals the inner motivations of Pavel Krushevan, the vicious antisemite who helped incite the pogrom and fathered The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Zipperstein’s detective work is brilliant, and his prose is riveting.” — Derek J. Penslar, Harvard University

“A riveting, often painful and vivid picture of a pogrom which captured attention worldwide, Zipperstein looks beyond the event itself and demonstrates how the tragedy at the heart of Russia served as a catalyst for the widest range of institutions including the NAACP. Written with the insight of an impeccable historian, his account—that will intrigue scholars as well as the widest array of readers—can be seen as a harbinger of what would come but four decades later.” — Deborah Lipstadt, author of The Eichmann Trial

“A re-examination of one of the most lavishly remembered events of Russian Jewish history that is also the most edited and misunderstood. . . . Looking for a cause of the massacre, the author points to Pavel Krushevan, an anti-Semitic local publisher whose publications were rife with blood libel. Zipperstein shows with little doubt Krushevan's hand in fomenting the riot and his role as principal ‘author’ of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a ridiculous, fabricated text that nonetheless became the most influential anti-Semitic text ever produced. The author ably illustrates the wide influence of this pogrom, with comparisons to American violence against Southern blacks, the formation of the NAACP, and, especially, Hitler's reliance on the Protocols. A thorough and fair examination of an event whose mystery seems so misplaced.” — Kirkus Reviews