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  • Cited by 11
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
September 2019
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Book description

When the Bolsheviks came to power in 1917, they announced the overthrow of a world scarred by exploitation and domination. In the very moment of revolution, these sentiments were put to the test as antisemitic pogroms swept the former Pale of Settlement. The pogroms posed fundamental questions of the Bolshevik project, revealing the depth of antisemitism within sections of the working class, peasantry and Red Army. Antisemitism and the Russian Revolution offers the first book-length analysis of the Bolshevik response to antisemitism. Contrary to existing understandings, it reveals this campaign to have been led not by the Party leadership, as is often assumed, but by a loosely connected group of radicals who mobilized around a Jewish political subjectivity. By examining pogroms committed by the Red Army, Brendan McGeever also uncovers the explosive overlap between revolutionary politics and antisemitism, and the capacity for class to become racialized in a moment of crisis.


Winner, 2019 Ronald Tress Prize, Birkbeck, University of London

Winner, 2020 Reginald Zelnik Book Prize in History, Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies

Honorable Mention, 2020 W. Bruce Lincoln Book Prize, Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies

Honourable Mention, 2019 Alexander Nove Prize, British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies.

Winner, 2021 Book Prize, British Association for Jewish Studies


'With a remarkable mastery of the historiography and a deep investigation of primary sources, McGeever unveils the conflation between war and revolution, class and ethnos in the early Soviet Union. Displaying a style both analytical and narrative, he shifts elegantly from macro- to micro-history and rebuilds the complexity of the relationship between Bolshevism and the 'Jewish question'. This is an outstanding work.'

Enzo Traverso - Cornell University, New York

'In this highly original and deeply researched study, McGeever reconstructs the efforts of the Bolshevik leadership to confront antisemitism in the Red Army during the Civil War (1918–21), but rigorously and dispassionately exposes the ideological and practical limitations of their efforts.'

S. A. Smith - University of Oxford

'An outstanding contribution to scholarship on early Bolshevik policy toward Jews, our understanding of pogroms, and the dynamics of early communist rule. McGeever reveals the role of non-Bolshevik socialists in combating antisemitism and offers a corrective to the received wisdom that Red Army soldiers did not participate in pogroms. A tour-de-force of historical scholarship.'

Robert Weinberg - Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania

'Exceptionally well written, based on extensive, original, research, compellingly argued, and characterized by sound judgment and impressive insight, this is a work which makes a major contribution to scholarly debates revolving around the relationship(s) between the Bolsheviks and antisemitism, and which richly deserves to reach a wide audience.'

Jack Jacobs - City University of New York

'A vital contribution to the history of the Russian Revolution, of socialism more generally, and of antisemitism as a modern political force.'

Laura Engelstein - Yale University, Connecticut

‘… Antisemitism and the Russian Revolution is one of the most important new contributions to our understanding of 1917 and its immediate aftermath that has appeared in recent years. It offers a valuable contribution to both Soviet and Jewish history, and deserves a broad readership in both fields.’

Faith Hillis Source: Revolutionary Russia

‘… thoroughly researched, highly readable, and important … Antisemitism and the Russian Revolution is a work with remarkable contemporary relevance given current debates over the politics of class versus that of identity or race.’

Henry Reichman Source: The Russian Review

‘McGeever combines an engaging writing style with meticulous research … painting a fascinating, complex and unexpected picture of the role of Jewish political activists in Russia in the fight against antisemitism before, during and after the revolution.’

Julia Bard Source: Ethnic and Racial Studies

‘McGeever (Birkbeck College, Univ. of London, UK) uses detailed archival research to reveal and explore the phenomenon of Red Army units that engaged in anti-Jewish violence in Ukraine during the Russian Civil War … This is a deeply researched study of great value … Highly recommended.’

R. M. Shapiro Source: Choice

‘A remarkable book.’

Mario Kessler Source: International Review of Social History

‘… revealing and nuanced exploration of antisemitism … McGreever has tapped rich and little-used sources to tell a textured, nuanced story that centres on the fratricidal civil war in Ukraine where the bulk of pogroms took place.’

Ronald Grigor Suny Source: Patterns of Prejudice

'McGeever’s account deserves a wide reading, not just among those with an interest in Russian revolutionary politics and the Bolshevik encounter with a troubled imperial legacy, but among scholars of the political left and those beyond academia …'

James Dunne Source: Europe-Asia Studies

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