Finding Aid

Poalei Zion organizations in the USSR, 1917-1928

Published by IDC Publishers, 2005



Descriptive Summary

Creator: World Socialist Union of Jewish Workers--Po'alei Zion
Title: Poalei Zion organizations in the USSR
Dates: 1917-1928
Abstract: The archive of Poalei Zion sheds light on various issues of social and political history: the emigration of the Jewish population of various countries to Palestine and the activities of various Jewish parties and organizations in the USSR.
Languages: Most of the material is in Yiddish, with the rest mostly in Russian and Hebrew, but there are also some texts in German, French, Arabic, Ukranian, and Polish.
Extent: 5039 microfiches; 758 files
Order Number: PT-1



Location of Originals

Russian State Archive of Social and Political History (RGASPI), Moscow. Fond 272.




History Note

Poalei Zion (Laborer of Zion) was one of the organizations of the worldwide Zionist movement which, unlike the others, made active use of the slogans of Socialism. The first Poalei Zion groups emerged in Russia in 1890 as clandestine organizations, and were legalized following the revolution of 1917. Some members of the party turned to bolshevist positions and entered the ranks of the RKP(b). These groups remained active in the USSR until 1928 when the NKVD (forerunner of the KGB) arrested many members of these organizations. Their basic goal was to create a Jewish national state and to move Jews from all over the world to Palestine, a minority considered the possibility of creating a state in Uganda or Mesopotamia. In order to fulfil the emigrants' political aims, the Jewish Social-Democratic (from 1923, 'Communist') Labor Party of Poalei Zion organized a vast network of Jewish Poalei-Zionist clubs, libraries, schools, trade unions, cooperatives and cultural centres, and published numerous newspapers, journals, brochures and books in the printing houses of Moscow, Petrograd, Kiev, Minsk, Odessa and Berdichev.




Scope and Content

The Archive of Poalei Zion sheds light on various issues of social and political history: the emigration of the Jewish population of various countries to Palestine and the activities of various Jewish parties and organizations. It includes the documents of Jewish political parties and organizations such as the Jewish Social-Democratic (from 1923, Communist) Labor Party (Poalei Zion) 1917-1928 (Russian abbreviation: ESDRP-EKRP Poalei Zion); the Jewish Communist Party (Poalei Zion) (EKP Poalei Zion); the United Jewish Socialist Labor Party; the Jewish Party of Socialist-Territorialists; the Jewish Socialist (from 1923, `Communist") Union of Working Youth (Jugend Poalei Zion), 1918-1928 affiliated with the first two parties listed above; the Central Jewish Club, and also the Palestine Labor Foundation, and others.

The archive also includes works and correspondence of prominent leaders of the World Zionist movement, among them two Israeli presidents (born in Eastern Europe) Ben Gurion and Ben Zvi; the ideologist of Russian Zionism, B. Borokhov; as well as of other figures active in the Palestine movement.

The Poalei Zion archive contains a large collection of national and local newspapers and journals, which now have great rarity value. In addition to political literature, there are also works of creative artistic writing, such as a collection of poetry by the well-known poet David Hofstein, with illustrations by Marc Chagall (1922). Also included are volumes and other collections of documents located in the central state archives of the USSR, amongst others, works prepared for publication in 1926-1927, including "Iz istorii Evreĭskoĭ kommunisticheskoĭ rabocheĭ partii" (From the History of the Jewish Communist Labor Party), and "O poalei-tsionistskoi mysli za 20 let" (On Poalei Zionist Thought over 20 Years). Special sheets of signatures have been preserved, as have postage stamps, lottery tickets and receipt books showing specific sums received from organizations and individuals.

Most of the material is in Yiddish and Russian. There are also documents in Hebrew, German, French, Arabic, Ukrainian and Polish. The Yiddish documents have been annotated and the annotations are attached to the corresponding materials. There are no Poalei Zion documents from before 1917 in RGASPI.




Organization and Arrangement

The collection has been subdivided into the following series and subseries:



Selected Search Terms

Organizations
World Socialist Union of Jewish Workers--Po'alei Zion--Soviet Union--History--Sources
Topics
Jews--Soviet Union--History--Sources
Labor zionism--Soviet Union--History--Sources
Political parties--Soviet Union--History--Sources



Custodial History

The Poalei Zion documents now in the Russian State Archive of Social and Political History (RGASPI), the former Central Party Archive, were acquired from the Archive of Revolution and Foreign Policy in the 1930s, and from the Kiev Provincial Historical Archive in the 1940s. Part of the material has come directly from the KGB Archive in Lubianka in recent years. The NKVD (forerunner or the KGB) confiscated the documents of Poalei Zion for use as evidence in the 1920s, when many members of this organization were arrested. For years, fond 272 "Poalei Zion organizations in the USSR" was not processed and the documents were kept simply in unordered piles. Only in 1987 were the documents completely described and organized in 758 files and three inventories (opisi). However, even then the fond did not enter scholarly circulation, since it was still assigned to the category of secret documents. Only from 1990 have researchers been able to study the documents of Poalei Zion.

The Poalei Zion archive did not enter scholarly circulation for 70 years, since it was assigned to the category of secret documents. The Poalei Zion documents were received by Central Party Archive, in the 1930s from Archive of Revolution and Foreign Policy, and in the 1940s from the Kiev Provincial Historical Archive. Part of the material came directly from the KGB Archive in Lubianka in recent years. The NKVD (predecessor of the KGB) confiscated the documents of Poalei Zion for use as evidence in the 1920s, when many members of this organization were arrested.

For years, fond 272 "Poalei Zion organizations in the USSR (1917-1928)" was not processed and the documents were kept simply in heaps. Only in 1987 were the documents completely systematized in 785 files and described in 3 inventories (opisi).