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Who Is to Blame?

In response to:

Reds from the July 14, 1994 issue

To the Editors:

Far be it from me to take issue with the generous review of my Russia under the Bolshevik Regime by Robert Conquest [NYR, July 14]. However, the review contains one factual error which stands in need of correction.

Referring to my discussion of the anti-Jewish pogroms in the Russian Civil War (1918-1920) which claimed between 50,000 and 100,000 lives, Mr. Conquest asserts that “over nine tenths of anti-Semitic pogroms and other excesses were committed by forces associated with the Whites.” This assertion is not supported by the available evidence. According to information published in the Annual of YIVO, which I cite in the book, responsibility for anti-Jewish massacres has to be attributed as follows:40 percent to the Ukrainian nationalists of Semyon Petlura; 25 percent to independent Ukrainian warlords; 17 percent to the White Armies (almost exclusively their Cossack contingents); and to 8.5 percent by the Red Army. In other words, the pogroms, whose main objective was plunder, were perpetrated by all the armed groups operating in the Ukraine, with the Whites bearing only partial responsibility.

Richard Pipes
Harvard University
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Robert Conquest replies:

Professor Pipes is right. In my context Iwas using “White” loosely—too loosely—for all anti-Bolshevik forces. As Prof. Pipes also writes, the Whites proper—the Volunteer Army—in the worst period operated “in areas with hardly any Jewish population” (their irregulars, like the other irregulars he mentions were, however, much involved in pogroms, as he also recounts). One small quibble: the percentages he gives are not, strictly speaking, for “massacres” only but include excesses “which did not reach mass proportions.” But this probably does not affect the point substantially:and I am grateful to have been sent back to reread Pipes’s very illuminating treatment of the whole dreadful story.

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