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Jews in the Russian Empire

A Government Blood Libel: The Beilis Affair


Mendel Beilis...



During the Beilis trial...



"Beilis and his Defenders"...



In this telegram...



Mendel Beilis, reunited...


IN FEBRUARY 1911, the liberal and socialist factions in the Third Duma introduce a proposal to abolish the Pale of Settlement. Right wing and monarchist organizations such as the Union of the Russian People and the Congress of the United Nobility react violently: they embark on a campaign to harshen anti-Jewish policies instead of lessening them. For this campaign, both organizations receive secret state subsidies from a government that has lost practically all support in parliament. When in March 1911 the body of a young Christian boy is found in Kiev, the Czarist authorities seize the opportunity to revive the age-old accusation of ritual murder. A Jewish inhabitant of Kiev, Mendel Beilis, the superintendent of a brick kiln, is arrested and charged, although by that time the authorities already know the true perpetrators.

For more than two years, Beilis remains in prison while the authorities try to build a case against him by falsifying papers and pressurizing "witnesses." But the case backfires. In October 1913, the jury unanimously declares Beilis not guilty. The Beilis case not only draws international attention to the plight of the Jews in Russia, it also unites the conservative Octobrists and the radical Bolsheviks in their opposition to the government.

The Czarist government finds it difficult to accept this humiliating defeat. G. Zamyslovsky, one of the prosecutors in the case, repeats the accusation against Beilis in his book The Murder of Andrei Yushinsky. The book is published on the eve of the revolution in 1917 with secret funds of the Interior Ministry that have been approved by the Czar.


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