The capital of the Black Banners: how the city of weavers Bialystok became the epicenter of Russian anarchism
The fact that the children of more or less prosperous Jews for the most part went to study abroad, primarily to Germany, Switzerland and France, where they encountered the propaganda of European revolutionaries and perceived their ideological views, also played a role. On the other hand, temporary labor migration to European countries was developed among the poor part of the Jewish population. Guest workers from the western corners of the Russian Empire, encountering student propagandists in Europe, became even more convinced revolutionaries than the propagandists from "decent families" themselves.
It was from Europe that anarchism came to Bialystok — the third in influence, after Social Democratic and Social Revolution, left ideology in pre-revolutionary Russia. Thus, in 1903, a certain Shlomo Kaganovich appeared in Bialystok, who had previously spent six years working in the UK, France and Switzerland. In August, 1903, together with Grigori Brumer, he created the first anarchist organization on the territory of the Russian Empire - the International Struggle anarchist communist group, which included 10 activists.
For the agitation activities of the available group of leaflets and pamphlets to meet the demand of the working masses for anarchist propaganda was clearly not enough. Not enough, and sent in January 1904 from overseas literature. But the authors of Belostok anarchists did not have their own authors, and no money for printing. There was no one to seek help from. By this time, in the Russian Empire, the anarchist circle, except Belostok, existed only in the small town of Nizhyn in the Chernigov province.
But Belostochans knew only about the group “Irreconcilable”, which operated in Odessa and consisted of Makha’s sympathizers with anarchism - supporters of the original theory of the worker’s conspiracy of the Polish revolutionary Jan Vatslav Makhaysky. It was rumored that the "Implacable" relatively well with the literature and with money. The hopes of the Belostochans for help from the Odessa Makha residents were justified: The “implacable” gave the emissary of the Belostok anarchists, Yithokh Bleher, literature and a certain amount of money, and he returned to Bialystok with a sense of accomplishment.
Fighting group "Fighting"
From the very beginning of its existence, Belostok anarchists did not fail to switch not only to propaganda activities, but also to more radical actions. At first, members of administrative bodies and the police became victims of attacks and terrorist acts. So, after police broke up a rally in one of the outskirts of Bialystok in July 1903, the anarchists seriously injured the policeman Lobanovsky, and a few days later they fired at the police chief of Bialystok Metlenko.
Attacks on policemen contributed to the growth of anarchist popularity among a part of the radical youth, in whose eyes policemen and police officers symbolized the existing political and social order. As their propaganda intensified, the anarchists attracted an increasing number of Belostok youth and working people.
In 1904, Bialystok and its suburbs were gripped by a deep economic crisis. Workshops and factories have reduced production or idle. Thousands of people were left without livelihoods. The situation of non-resident people, especially those from the Belostok suburbs who came to the city in search of work, was especially grave. Nonresident in the first place and were the victims of reductions in enterprises and total unemployment. Discontent grew among hungry people. In the end, it resulted in a mass riot in the Bialystok bazaar. Crowds of hungry unemployed rushed to seize and smash bakeries and butchers. Shopkeepers were forcibly seized products, primarily bread. The speech of the unemployed was suppressed with great difficulty. Hundreds of artisans were arrested, nonresidents were forcibly expelled from Bialystok at the place of birth.
At the end of the summer of 1904, in the midst of the economic crisis, a strike broke out at the weaving factory of the famous businessman in Bialystok, Abram Kogan. Kogan was a faithful Jew and headed Agudas Akhim, a kind of professional union of Bialystok factory owners and entrepreneurs. He was not going to satisfy the demands of the striking workers. Instead, with the help of the Belostok police chief, Kogan organized the discharge from Moscow of workers who were ready to replace the strikers at the bench. The strikers Kogan fired. This act brought out even the relatively moderate in terms of the radical actions of the Jewish Social Democrats from the Bund party. The Bundists sent fighters to the Kogan 28 factory to remove the scabs. The fighters cut the cloth on two looms, but the “scribers” managed to repel the attack with the help of iron rollers and beat the militants. One Bund was killed, the rest fled. Arriving police began arrests among the striking workers.
The Belostok anarchists decided to react, but in their own way. 29 August 1904, during the Jewish holiday of the Doomsday, the anarchist Nisan Farber, laid in wait for Avram Kogan at the entrance to the synagogue in the Bryansk suburb of Krynka and struck him two blows with a dagger - in the chest and in the head. This was the first act of economic terror not only in Bialystok, but also throughout the Russian Empire.
It is a little about the person who attempted to eat, which is important, above all, as a typical portrait of the Belostok (and in general West Russian) anarchist of those times. Nisan Farber was only eighteen years old. He was born in 1886 in the town of Porozove, Volkovysk district, Grodno province, in a very poor family. Nisan's mother soon died, and her father dragged the existence of a beggar at the local synagogue. The child was placed in the care of someone else's family. Since he showed a great desire to study, at the age of eight the boy was sent to a Jewish charity school in Bialystok. Two years later, without being able to continue his studies at school, Nisan entered the bakery as a student. When the first anarchists appeared in Bialystok, Nisan got carried away with their ideas.
During the famine riot in the Belostok bazaar of Nissan, led by a crowd of unemployed. As one of the instigators, he was arrested and, step by step, sent to his native Porozov. But he soon returned illegally to Bialystok and began to expropriate products, transporting them to political and criminal prisoners. When Nisan handed over food to the prison, he was arrested, severely beaten at the police station and sent out of the city. But Nisan is back. He was caught six times in transit and expelled to Porozov, and six times he returned to Bialystok.
However, Farber did not live long after the attempt on Kogan. October 6 1904, Farber disguised as a visitor entered the first police station of Bialystok. He hoped to meet here all the camarilla of the highest police officers headed by the police commander. But there were no senior officers, and delays could be costly. The movement of the hand - and there was a deafening explosion. When the smoke cleared, the disfigured bodies of the wounded and killed lay on the floor. The police warden, two policemen, the secretary of police and two visitors, who happened to be in the office of the police department, were wounded by the “Macedonian” splinters.
The attempt on Kogan and the explosion at the police station opened up a long-term epic of bloody terrorist acts, the victims of which were not always the people who were at all involved in the actual exploitation of workers or police repression against revolutionary organizations. Very often casual passers-by, junior police officers, and janitors died at the wrong time at the wrong place. The most radical part of the anarchists developed even the concept of “non-motivated terror”, according to which any more or less wealthy person was a priori guilty of being richer than the starving lumpen proletarians and therefore worthy of death.
10 January 1905, Benjamin Friedman threw a bomb into a synagogue in Belostok where a meeting of the Agudas Ahim union of merchants and industrialists was held. In April, 1905, who passed to the anarchists from the social revolutionaries, Aron Elin (Gelinker) killed a janitor, a well-known police scammer.
In the same period, the ideas of the notorious Black Flag group began to spread in Bialystok. This faction in the pre-revolutionary anarchist movement took more radical positions than the followers of Peter Kropotkin, and called for immediate terror against the state and the capitalists.
Despite the fact that the Black Banner magazine, which expressed the point of view of the direction, came out in a single number, in December 1905 in Geneva, the ideas of direct action promoted by it turned out to be in tune with the mood of many anarchists, especially Belarusian, Lithuanian and Ukrainian. It is not surprising that the leading ideologue of the “Black Banner” became an active participant in the Belostok international group of anarchist communists “Struggle” Judas Grossman, who wrote under the pseudonym Roshchin.
Shortly after the 9 events of January 1905 in St. Petersburg, the Belostok committee of the Bund social democratic party declared a general political strike. A little later, the second general strike was announced by the committees of the Socialist Revolutionary Party and the Polish Socialist Party. Although the anarchists did not take an active part in the strikes because of their rejection of the political activities of the parties, they diligently agitated the workers, seeking to radicalize them.
In the end, the workers put forward economic demands. Entrepreneurs of Bialystok went to their satisfaction - in factories and factories, the working day was reduced from 10 to 9 hours, in workshops - to 8 hours, and wages increased by 25 - 50%. But meeting the workers' demands only made them believe in the success of radical actions. The situation is tense. To pacify the workers, the bourgeoisie called the Cossacks. The latter, of course, were not always correct with the inhabitants of Bialystok and, ultimately, the city began to organize itself in order to resist the sent Cossack units. The first were cab drivers, among whom anarchist ideas had long been popular - they created an armed detachment. Following the cab drivers, an armed detachment appeared in the Wrestling anarchist communist group itself.
Direct action tactics promoted by anarchists became increasingly popular among rank-and-file members of the Bund and the Socialist Revolutionary Party. Hiding their actions from the party leadership, the Social Revolutionaries and the Bundists attacked in the Belostok synagogue the manufacturer Weinreich, who was one of the initiators of the call to the city of the Cossacks. In May, the 1905 of the Bialystok Communist anarchist group, “The Struggle”, joined in full as a whole. "Agitation meeting" of the local committee of the Socialist Revolutionary Party.
By May 1905, the number of the “Struggle” group, which had not recently exceeded twelve comrades, had grown to almost seventy people. In order to facilitate the work of the group and the coordination of the actions of its members, it was decided to divide the “Struggle” into five “federations”, which were formed according to two fundamental principles - either according to the working conditions, or on the basis of comradely sympathies and personal affections. The "Socialist-Revolutionary Federation" united people who came from the Socialist Revolutionary Party, who had switched to anarchist positions. The “Polish Federation” focused on propaganda among Polish workers - the most isolated part of the Belostok proletariat, among which, due to language differences (the Poles did not speak Yiddish, and the Jews - Polish), anarchists had practically never done any work.
Three “federations” were responsible for the activities of the entire group - technical, armed and literary. The technical "federation" was in charge of only the printing house. Armed provided Belostok anarchists weapons, first of all - by bombs. The literary “federation” played the role of an intellectual center, supplying the group with literature brought from abroad, and handing over to the printing house manuscripts of appeals and leaflets. The strengthening of the positions of anarchists in Bialystok was greatly facilitated by the creation of their own illegal printing house “Anarchy”, on which brochures and leaflets were printed. For the needs of the printing house at the general meeting of anarchists 200 rubles were collected. But expropriation in one of the private printing houses in Bialystok, during which anarchists managed to capture more than 20 pounds of typographical font, was crucial for its creation. The activity of the printing house "Anarchy" led by Boris Engelson.
In 1905, both in the city itself and in its suburbs, there were a number of strikes by textile and leather workers. One of these strikes took place in a place called Khoroshch near Bialystok. Here, on the estate of Moes, more than seven thousand people worked in the cloth factory and in agricultural work. When the strike began, both clothmakers and agricultural workers took part in it. The first thing strikers seized the barns and cellars of the estate. Moes fled abroad. The workers waited for him to return a few days, and then, seeing that Moes, fearing reprisals, would not return, decided to take workshops. When Moes was informed by telegraph, he hurried to make concessions immediately. In addition to this performance, in the spring and summer of 1905, there were several strikes by shoemakers, tailors, tanners, bakers, painters and carpenters. The performance of bristle workers in the town of Trostyani in June 1905 was quite large.
The intensification of anarchists in Bialystok and its suburbs caused a negative reaction among rival socialist parties - the Social Revolutionaries, the Bundists, the Polish socialists. Back in 1904, the Bundian newspaper Proletary in No. 28 noted: “Anarchists have become a thunderstorm of local hosts. It was enough to mention that the strike was being led by a “group” —the host either satisfied the demands or left the city. The prestige of the anarchist fist also rose in the eyes of the working masses. They interpreted that, in terms of conducting strikes, the palm belongs to the groupists, that thanks to the use of energetic measures on the side of the latter, any strike ends in success. ”
In 1905, the Bundian Social Democrats pulled together all their ideologically competent forces to fight the anarchists — according to some estimates, theoretically trained agitators around 40. Surazhskaya Street, popularly referred to as the “Exchange”, became a place of fierce discussions between anarchists and social democrats. We talked in pairs, and 200-300 listeners gathered around each pair of disputants. Gradually, anarchists in Bialystok became masters of the situation on the left political flank, pushing aside all local committees of the socialist parties to the background. All working speeches in the city and surrounding towns were conducted with the assistance of anarchists.
Communards Striga and Belostok Uprising
The shooting of the 9 January 1905 demonstration in St. Petersburg, which sparked a revolutionary protest throughout the Russian Empire, was followed by the suppression of an uprising of textile workers in the Polish city of Lodz. He was suppressed by units of the regular Russian army, which led to considerable casualties and caused outrage at the revolutionary-minded part of the population of the western provinces of the Russian Empire.
Of course, Bialystok, located relatively close and also the center of the textile industry, took the Lodz uprising most acutely. Under his impression, among the Belostok black-bannermen, a group of Communards emerged, the informal leader and ideologist of which was Vladimir Striga (Lapidus). The idea of a “temporary commune” put forward by Striga was to raise an uprising in the particular city or village like the Paris commune 1871 of the year or Lodz 1905 of the year, destroy power, expropriate property and hold on under the blows of government troops for at least some time before manages to put down the rebellion. The communards understood that such a revolution in one particular city would certainly be doomed to defeat, but they believed that it would be a role model for workers in other cities and towns and ultimately lead to a general revolutionary strike.
Striga began to carry out plans for an armed uprising in Bialystok, intending to turn this city with the most powerful anarchist movement in the country into a “second Paris commune”. To do this, it was necessary to seize the city, arm the people, drive out government forces outside the city limits. At the same time, a continuous and expanding process of seizing and expropriating plants, factories, workshops and shops had to go. The picture of Bialystok, freed, even if only for a short time, from the royal power, fascinated many members of the anarchist group. Belostok anarchists began to seriously prepare for the uprising. First of all, for the uprising it was necessary to acquire a significant number of weapons. One of the "federations" of the group attempted a major expropriation, but due to the fact that everything was done in a hurry, the operation failed.
In the meantime, the workers, not waiting for anyone to give a battle cry, stopped working themselves. More than 15-20 thousands of people went to rallies, at which anarchist orators called for an armed uprising. Three days later the strike was over. The workers dispersed to factories and workshops, but the failure did not break the anarchists' readiness for further action. On Surazhskaya street, the confrontation between the police and the workers who were going to the “stock exchange” continued. Every now and then on the labor exchange policemen appeared trying to arrest someone. In such cases, anarchists avoided open clashes. Using dozens of walk-through yards, the activists pursued by the police hid, and dispersed, turned out into intricate work lanes, pursued by the police. The police were left alone on the street, and more than a quarter of an hour nobody showed up. And after twenty-five to thirty minutes, the people filled the street again, hundreds of piles were formed, continuing interrupted discussions.
In the end, the police authorities decided to resort to extreme methods. In the alleys bordering Surazhskaya Street there were several mouths of infantry. When the people gathered on the “stock exchange” most of all, soldiers suddenly appeared and opened fire on the crowd. Ten people died, several more were injured. This happened around 22 hours, and the next morning there was already a general strike in the city. That is, the plan of the police chief not only did not contribute to the pacification of the city, but on the contrary caused widespread unrest in it. At this time, the "exchange" on Surazhskaya street was at the peak of its rise. Up to 5 thousands of people gathered here every evening, anarchist propaganda literature dispersed right before the eyes of the police.
31 July 1905, the police and soldiers appeared on Surazhskaya street before ten o'clock in the morning. The workers gathered slowly and at one o'clock no more than a thousand people were on the “stock exchange”. The soldiers, on the orders of the officers, began to disperse the workers. Those did not disperse. One of the soldiers approached the worker Schuster and ordered him to leave. “And what will happen if I do not leave?” Asked Schuster. "You will not leave, I will shoot" - the soldier answered. Schuster took the soldier's words for a joke and, smiling, said “Shoot”. The soldier walked a few steps away and shot Schuster on the chest in the chest. Then a few more shots rang out. On the sidewalks lay the wounded. The street was empty, but ten minutes later, crowds of indignant workers poured into it. Anticipating misfortune, the anarchists walked along the street, urging the workers to disperse and not endanger themselves. Meanwhile, one of the anarchists went for the bomb. He hoped that until he returned with her, the street would become empty and he would be able to undermine the police. But the calculation was wrong.
“They are asking to leave the exchange, there must be a bomb,” the workers talked and nobody wanted to leave, wanting to look at the explosion. The returning anarchist saw that there were thick crowds of workers on both sidewalks, coming into close contact with the soldiers. But this did not prevent him from throwing a bomb. There was an explosion. When the smoke cleared, an officer, four soldiers and the bomber himself were writhing on the ground wounded by shrapnel. The explosion killed the propagandist from the Bund standing in the crowd. The panic began. Half an hour later, the entire city was already firing.
In the morning of the next day, all the workers in Bialystok and the nearby townships gave up work. A general strike began, which lasted until the end of the funeral. In the courtyard of the Jewish hospital, about 15 thousand people gathered at the rally. Two days after the funeral of the dead workers, the activity of the “exchange” on Surazhskaya Street was resumed. The city gradually entered into the usual rhythm of life, recovered from the blow and the working-class anarchist movement. Two weeks later, a new clash occurred.
This time, the reason was that the owner of the steel plant, Mr. Vechorek, demanded that his workers sign under the promise that they would not hold any strikes for a year. From 800, 180 factory workers refused to sign the statement. For this unreliable workers were fired, and the apartment and the factory Vechorek surrounded by soldiers. But security measures did not save the breeder. In the evening of August 26, anarchists - Poles Anton Nizhborsky nicknamed "Antek" and Jan Gainsky nicknamed "Mitka" infiltrated Vechorek's apartment and threw two bombs at its inhabitants. Martial law was declared in Bialystok. 20 September 1905 was crushed by the Anarchy publishing group, and its organizer, Boris Engelson, was arrested (however, despite this failure, the anarchists soon expropriated eighteen pounds of font in one of the private printing presses).
Under the current conditions within the Belostok group of anarchists, discussions began on the question of forms of activity. The entire old core of the group, sympathizing with the Black Banners, was inclined to strengthen the combat component as the only means of radicalizing the class struggle and preventing it from fading. However, a few comrades who belonged to the food stream from abroad came out in favor of legalizing the group’s activities. There was a split.
Supporters of legalization adopted the name of the group “Anarchy”, released an article from “Bread and will” “Anarchism and political struggle”, and then ceased their activities. The radical wing of the Anarchists of Belostok officially proclaimed itself Chernomnaments and reorganized the group, transforming the circles into professional federations based on the shop floor. It was assumed that these federations, rooted in the environment of a particular profession, would take the initiative of the strike actions.
In May 1906, a general strike began in Bialystok. The first to strike were the yarns - about 300 people. But due to the peculiarities of the production of easy-to-work yarns, other textile workers were inactive - only a few thousand people. During the removal from work in one of the factories, a clash occurred with the police. Bialystok entrepreneurs finally decided to put all their dots on the "and." “We have to decide who is the boss in the city - are we or anarchists?” - something like this was put on the agenda during the meeting of big businessmen of the city. The merchants united in the trade union refused to fulfill the demands of the strikers. Without paying wages to the workers, the manufacturers were sure that from starvation the workers themselves would be forced to return to the enterprises and continue their work. The manufacturers Freundkin and Gendler proposed to the capitalist syndicate to declare a lockout, dismissing all the workers in order to force them to refuse the strike. The idea of the lockout was supported by the owners of many factories.
One by one, bombs flew into the houses of factory owners Gendler and Richert, who did considerable damage to the mansions, but did not injure anyone. Then the anarchist Joseph Myslinsky threw a bomb into the home of the Freundkin lockout initiator. The manufacturer received a strong concussion. Another bomb exploded in the apartment of the plant director Komichau and injured his wife.
The 1906 summer of the year was noted in Bialystok with numerous terrorist acts of anarchists. In many respects, it was precisely the tendency of the “black banner” to armed clashes and terrorist acts that caused the actual “fading” of the Belostok anarchist movement to the 1907 year. During the terrorist attacks and exchanges with the police, the entire “color” of the Belostok anarchists died. So, another 9 of May 1906, Aron Elin was killed in a shootout with police, and Benyamin Bakhrah was shot dead in a shootout with policemen. In December, 1906 of the Warsaw Citadel was hanged by anarchists, jailed from Belostok, by militants Joseph Myslinsky, Tselek, and Savely Sudobiger (Tsalku Taylor).
However, by no means in all cases the score in the opposition of the law enforcement system and anarchists was 1: 0 in favor of the authorities. Sometimes, even when they were arrested, anarchists were dangerous — at least, the event included in history as "Slonim escape".
16 March 1906 was anarchists arrested in Bialystok, during which they found stuffed bombs and propaganda literature in Russian and Yiddish. The bombs were wick, and the anarchists had no matches to set the wick on fire. Therefore, they could not provide armed resistance and managed to detain them. At first, the detained anarchists were detained in the Bialystok gendarme administration, where they were interrogated. Three active workers appeared before the investigators — militants from the Belostok group — contractor Abram Rivkin, baker Mikhail Kaplansky and tailor Gersh Zilber (“London”). They were charged with belonging to the organization of anarchist communists and possessing explosive shells and literature.
At the trial, which began on November 29 1906, the anarchists were transferred to the small town of Slonim. The authorities hoped that in Slonim, where there was no strong anarchist group, prisoners would not be able to escape. Anarchists got fifteen years of hard labor. But Zilber and Kaplansky, as a minor, were reduced to ten years in prison, and Abram Rivkin was charged yet another time in the Yekaterinoslav Military District Court.
Almost simultaneously with Zilber, Kaplansky and Rivkin, another Belostochina was tried in Slonim. Benjamin Friedman, a fifteen-year-old youth, was known in the anarchist group under the nickname “Little German”. 10 January 1905, he blew up a bomb in the synagogue of the Belostok suburb of Krynka. Little German also refused to testify and was sentenced to twenty years in prison, but, given the age of the defendant, the court reduced the sentence to eight years.
Separately, the Social-Maximalist Jan Zhmuidik (alias Felix Bentkovsky) was tried. Coming from a peasant family in the Slonim district, he propagandized agrarian terror among the peasants of the surrounding villages, for which he was given an eternal settlement in Siberia. All three trials ended in the Slonim Court of Justice 1 December 1906. And on December 6, the anarchists sentenced to penal servitude and the maximalist Zhmuidika were sent under escort to Grodno, to the provincial prison. The arrested Zionist socialist Girsh Graevsky was also convoyed with them. They were transported in the prison carriage of the Slonim-Grodno train.
The soldiers escorting the anarchists did not differ with special vigilance: the convicts managed to hide browning in bread (!). Having improved the moment when the train, having passed four versts, was walking in the forest near the Ozertsy station, the comrades attacked the escorts. All the anarchists shot at the same time and accurately - four soldiers were killed at once, the fifth tried to shoot a rifle, but was also shot. Three anarchists left, dropping a window. The other three men passed through the door, killing two more escorts. A week the fugitives hid in Slonim, waiting for the hype associated with their escape to subside, then they moved to Minsk. The backbone of the Minsk group of communist anarchists, the Black Banner, was composed of Gersh Zilber, Benjamin Friedman and Jan Zhmuidik.
In a short time of activity in Minsk, the Belostok anarchists were noted with several notable attempts and terrorist actions. Gersh Zilber killed Beloventsev, the chief of artillery, while Spindler periodically visited Belostok, where every visit left a policeman’s corpse or a spy. Understanding perfectly well what awaits them for the murder of seven escorts, the Slonim fugitives behaved appropriately to suicide bombers. On January 11 of 1907, they killed the senior warder of the Kokhanovsky prison, while the police and the anarchist left the trail, fearing to be caught, killed himself. Gersh Zilber was killed during a bomb detonated by him at the Broide-Rubinstein Bank Office.
30 March 1907, the police went on the trail of anarchists in Minsk. A bomb laboratory was set up, which belonged to the “Powerless” and “Black Banner” groups operating in the city. When she was captured, Jan Zhmuidik put up armed resistance by shooting the policeman and wounding another police officer and assistant bailiff. In the anarchist tradition, Zhmuydik wanted to commit suicide with the last bullet, but they managed to grab him. In August 1907, he was shot in Vilna by a court sentence for his crimes.
In the end, the Russian authorities managed to significantly weaken the anarchist and revolutionary movement in general on the western outskirts of the empire. The death and arrests of the most prominent activists led to a natural weakening of the movement, on the other hand, the liberalization of the empire’s policy after the adoption of the 1905 Manifesto of the Year, which granted political freedoms, also affected. Ultimately, by 1907-1908's. Anarchist movement in the region of Bialystok has lost its former position. The First World War became the final point in the history of Belostok anarchism and, during the Civil War, the former capital of the Russian “Black Banners” did not show itself in this respect, did not give new and equally determined opponents of the state system.
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