Igor Boțan: Chisinau program was an outburst of anti-Semitism in Russian Empire

The Chisinau pogrom of 1903 was a kind of outburst behind which there were anti-Semitist feelings cultivated in time in the Tsarist Empire, said political pundit Igor Boțan. In a public debate entitled “Pogrom of 1903: executioners, victims and lessons”, which was hosted by IPN, he noted the available studies show that the violence against the Jews was planned and the anti-Semitist atmosphere was actually a general state in the Russian Empire.

Speaking about the reason of the pogrom, the expert said the Russian language newspaper “Bessarabets”, the Chisinau edition, included a series of articles saying that the murder of a young man from Dubăsari was committed by the Jewish community for ritual purposes. It was not one account, but a whole campaign.

“This publication paved the way for this dissipation that made Bessarabia ill-famed. We can see the ears of the intelligence services here. If we invoke the studies carried out over this case, we will see that this pogrom was planned and that tragedy with the young man was the trigger. The body was later exhumed and it turned out that the assertions about those rituals were simple inventions. It was shown that there was no reason for this publication to incite hatred against the Jewish community in Chisinau. It was a banal family tragedy. We must realize that this pogrom was a kind of outburst here, in Chisinau, which meant that there were anti-Semitist feelings cultivated in time in the Tsarist Empire behind it,” stated Igor Boțan.

He reminded that renowned Russian intellectuals of those times took attitude and condemned the use of violence against the Jews, but there were also persons who supported those developments. “For example, later those who conducted investigations found also the previous statements of Tsar Alexander III, who after the Warsaw pogrom said that he liked when the Jews were beaten, but measures should be taken for such a thing not to happen often as there was pressure exerted from outside. So, that was the general atmosphere then in the Russian Empire,” stated Igor Boțan.

The standing expert of IPN’s project said the Chisinau program is another lesson that society should learn to prevent similar events in the future.

“If we want to be a community, a civilized state, we, as citizens who support and embrace particular values, should be honest towards ourselves and study these phenomena as we have this occasion – the 120th anniversary of that pogrom. I think we should commemorate those Jews who were affected. It is a reason to remind everyone that the Jewish community here, in the Republic of Moldova, made an extraordinary contribution to the development of culture, science. They made the country famous abroad. We have very solid reasons to commemorate them and to transmit a very clear message that such sad events should never happen again,” opined Igor Boțan.

The public debate entitled “Pogrom of 1903: executioners, victims and lessons” was the eighth installment of IPN’s project “Impact of the Past on Confidence and Peace Building Processes” that is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation of Germany.

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