“Anti-Jewish Pogroms in Tsarist Russia”

February 6, 2018 | NH Institute of Politics

Boston area scholars, Irina Astashkevich and Diane Covert discuss pogroms that drove so many Jews from Russia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. (Approximately 75% of American Jews today trace their ancestry to refugees who fled these pogroms.) An exhibit of recently discovered historic photos documenting the pogroms will be on display before and after the lecture. The exhibit of photos, assembled by Ms. Covert, are from a Russian book, Jewish Pogroms: 1918-1921, which was published in Moscow in 1926.

Irina Astashkevich is a visiting research associate of the Tauber Institute and holds a Ph.D. from Brandeis University. Her dissertation is titled “Pogroms in Ukraine 1917-1920: An Alternate Universe.” Astashkevich received her MA in History, Jewish History and Archives from the Project Judaica – a joint project of the Russian State University of Humanities, Historical Archival Institute, Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and the YIVO Institute of Jewish Research in New York. She has worked in various archives in Russia, Lithuania, and the US, as well as in Jewish philanthropic organizations, such as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Moscow.

Diane Covert (BFA, MSW) is a documentary artist who primarily works in photography. Her current piece, Why They Left, is a broad collection of rare photographs of pogroms made during the Russian Civil War. These images were collected in the book, Jewish Pogroms 1918-1921, published in Moscow in 1926, and were originally part of a larger exhibition of photographs and documents of the era. They appear to represent the first known deep photographic view into a genocide. The photographs enlarge the story of the great emigration from the old Pale of Settlement, where almost seventy-five percent of US Jews trace their family roots, to the United States. Ms. Covert has used digital technology techniques to bring these fragile images to artists, academics other interested parties.

Ms. Covert and Dr. Astashkevich are working on an English translation of this book, which they hope to publish soon with an academic press. Ms. Covert describes the book as follows:
The book contains a large collection of photographs of the Russian Civil War pogroms and includes documentation by survivors and family members, medical providers, regional officials and archival teams from Moscow who toured the region. In all there are just under two hundred photographs of survivors, family members, victims, perpetrators, local officials and landscape photographs of ravaged communities. It turns out that the images in the book are the first large archive of an ethnic cleansing/genocide. This is because of the invention and availability of consumer cameras and roll film, which permitted individuals to make more than one exposure per day. Some of the images in the book were clearly made by professionals; others appear to have been images created by competent amateurs. They are valuable to students and scholars studying Jewish history, immigration, the history of genocide and ethnic cleansing, and the history of photography. The original Russian book was printed in a run of only 5,000, and most of those have disappeared, so republishing this material will open up various avenues of research to students and professionals from many disciplines.

Cosponsors: Jewish Federation of New Hampshire, Saint Anselm College Department of Philosophy, MLK Jr. Planning Committee, Multicultural Center, and the New Hampshire Institute of Politics


February 6, 2018 7:00 PM

NHIOP Auditorium