The first Russian revolution brought the Jews not only hope for emancipation, but also a wave of bloody pogroms, the largest of which occurred in Kiev, Odessa, and Byalostok and lasted several days. In some cases, for example in Byalostok, the troops took part in the pogroms; in other cases the army and the police did not intervene. These pogroms hit the Jewish poor hardest of all. In response, the Jews started to organize Jewish self-defense squads. They were poorly armed, but proved to be effective since the pogromists did not expect resistance. The Jewish self-defense was most successful where it united with students' and workers' squads. The pogroms of 1905 are well described in Jewish and Russian literature. They continued after the decline of the revolution.
The tsarist government persisted in denying elementary human rights for the Jews, causing many young Jews to participate in the revolutionary activities. Jews played an active role in Russian political parties and created Jewish ones. Emancipated and well-off Jews tended to support the Constitutional Democratic Party. They created The Union for the Emancipation of the Jewish People in Russia and the Jewish People's Group. Most craftsmen and workers living inside the Pale were inclined towards socialism and sympathized with the Bund. However, not all Jews deemed it necessary to struggle for socialism and not all believed in the future of their people in Russia.
The Zionist movement was gaining strength. Some 40 thousand Jews moved to Palestine from East Europe and Russia between 1904 and 1914. In general, the Second Aliyah leaders shared socialist views. Some of them later took leading positions in the state of Israel (Berl Katsnelson, David Ben-Gurion and others). Following Ahad Ha Am, most Zionists still rejected the Diaspora as a form of existence of the Jewish people. For example, the editor of the German-language magazine "Die Welt", Yakov Klyatskin, put it as follows: "Either migration, or assimilation. Galut does not deserve survival, it distorts the character of the nation and deprives it of dignity". However, at that time Ahad Ha Am himself reached the conclusion that Jews needed both their national home and the Diaspora.
Ber Borokhov, Nakhman Syrkin, and Yosef Khaim Brenner thought that the future Jewish state had to be a workers' state and genuine socialism would solve the Jewish problem "on the lines of Zionism". The "Poalei Tzion", or "Workers of Zion", groups which appeared in the early 20th century, served as the basis for creation of the Zionist Socialist Workers' Party, Socialist Jewish Workers' Party, and Jewish Territorialist Workers' Party in 1904-1906. At the end of 1905 the socialist Palestinophiles united into the Jewish Social-Democratic Party, "Poalei Tzion", the largest of all Zionist organizations in Russia. The party paid much attention not only to spreading its propaganda among adults, but also to the education of Jewish working youth, creating "Poalei Tzion" youth clubs and centers.
Jewish youth who tended towards Zionism learned Hebrew not only as the holy language and not only in cheders, but also in groups and Jewish gymnasiums - "Tarbut" ("Culture") in operation by that time. The new self-awareness generated the need for a new literature. Hebrew language literature manifested the growing national sentiments. The works of prominent Jewish poet Haim Nakhman Byalik were highly appreciated by the Jewish and Russian reading public, including the leading Russian writers. Another outstanding Jewish poet, Shaul Chernikhovsky, aquainted the Jewish readership with the greatest works of world literature by translating Homer, Goethe, Longfellow, and the Kalevala into Hebrew.
The defeat of the revolution enhanced the growth of government anti-Semitism which culminated in a trial on charges of ritual murder. In 1911, the body of a boy named Andrey Yuschinsky was found in an outlying district of Kiev on the eve of Passover. A brick plant clerk, Mendel Beilis, was accused of murdering the boy for ritual purposes. Although it soon became clear that the murder was committed by a gang of thieves in order to get rid of a witness, the judicial authorities insisted on the religious motives of the crime. In the person of Beilis the government sought to condemn the whole Jewish people. The Beilis case split Russian society. Confident of a guilty verdict, the minister of justice and the emperor were preparing awards for the prosecutors, but to their disappointment Beilis was acquitted by the jury, owing to the effective defense of Russian and Jewish lawyers.
In July 1914 the First World War broke out. Many provinces inside the Pale came inside the war zones. Unable to overcome the armies of Germany and Austro-Hungary, the Russian command took out its anger on the defenseless Jewish population. This was a policy of real genocide. The Russian troops (especially the Cossacks) killed thousands of residents of Jewish settlements, used them as human shields during offensives, and deported them deep into the country during retreat. In this connection, the Jewish Committee for Relief of the Victims of War and Pogroms was established. Evacuated Jews were temporarily allowed to settle outside the Pale. The education quota for the children of Jewish soldiers was increased. Notwithstanding their unprecedented suffering, the majority of Russian Jews supported continuation of the war.
The birth of the Jewish resistance. L. Krestin,1905