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The Kishinev Pogrom of 1903: On the Occasion of the 100th Anniversary

About the Exhibition

New York, New York (July 10, 2003)—The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research announced today the opening of its new exhibition, The Kishinev Pogrom of 1903: On the Occasion of the 100th Anniversary. The Kishinev pogrom and the hundreds of pogroms in Southern Russia, which followed from 1903 to 1906, marked a turning point in Jewish history.

"Our exhibition explores the facts of this gruesome event and its aftermath, using original documents, photographs, leaflets, books and posters of the time," Dr. Carl J. Rheins, YIVO Executive Director, commented. "All the exhibition materials are taken from the YIVO Archives and the YIVO Library. I urge everyone to view the exhibit in order to understand these events and their consequences."

The Kishinev Pogrom of 1903 exhibition is open to the public through December 31, 2003, free of charge, at the Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York City. Hours: Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.


On April 6, 1903, the last day of Passover, which coincided with Easter, there was a terrible pogrom in Kishinev, a city located in the Bessarabia region in the Southern part of the Russian Empire. What distinguished this pogrom from its predecessors, besides the fact that it was the first to take place in the 20th century, was that it was implicitly encouraged the Tsarist regime. Rumors about the pogrom circulated in Kishinev a few days before Passover. A Jewish delegation approached Governor Von Raben asking him for increased police protection. The governor replied that he knew of no reason why the Jewish community would require special police attention.

Left to fend for themselves, the Jewish citizens of Kishinev did their best to hide or run away. During the 48 hours that the pogrom raged, 49 people were killed and more than 500 injured or raped. Dozens of houses, shops, and synagogues were destroyed and looted.

The Kishinev pogrom marked a turning point in modern Jewish history, as the historian Simon Dubnow wrote in his memoirs. This pogrom and ensuing ones demonstrated beyond a doubt that Tsarist Russia could not or would not protect its Jewish subjects. Immediately after the Kishinev Pogrom, a self-defense movement sprang up, with individual groups forming in communities throughout the Russian Empire. A sharp rise in emigration from Russia to America followed the pogrom, in keeping with the mass departures after the pogroms of the early 1880s.

The Zionist movement, as well, gained in impetus after the events of 1903. Many people came to the conclusion that Jews could only be secure in a homeland of their own, and a new wave of emigration to Palestine ensued that was eventually known as the second Aliyah. Finally, Jewish revolutionaries, especially members of the Jewish Labor Bund, became convinced that only the overthrow of the Tsarist government could prevent atrocities of the kind that occurred in 1903.