Zionists and Communists
The main purpose of the Bolsheviks' work among the Jewish population was to involve the general public of "Jewish workers" in the sphere of Communist influence. For that purpose, in 1918, Jewish Sections of the RKP(B) were established. In Petrograd, their work had little success because of the particular features of the local community. Most of the Petrograd Jews held to anti-Bolshevik positions. There were few Jewish workers in Petrograd. Jewish craftsmen and shop people, in general, supported traditional Jewish parties. Among the non-assimilated Jewish intelligentsia and young people, Zionist ideas were popular. Petrograd Jewish Bolsheviks suffered from a lack of Yiddish-speaking agitators. The number of figures in Soviet Jewish establishments (first of all, the Jewish Department of Komnats) was quite small.
The Jewish Department of Komnats was primarily occupied with spoken propaganda. Later, it undertook publishing. Literature was printed at the Togblat printing-house based in the 12th and 14th government printing offices. During the six years of its existence, the Department produced only one double-paged issue of "Di Freye Stimme" ("The Free Voice") newspaper. It also took part in publishing the newspaper "Der Iddisher Arbeiter" ("The Jewish Worker"). Moreover, propaganda paperbacks as well as political and scientific literature were produced in Yiddish. Supported by Komnats, some issues of "Yevreyskaya Starina" ("Jewish Antiquity") were produced. Some other Jewish periodicals were published in Petrograd, too, but they all were Zionist in character.
The Zionist organizations Club Gekholuts, Society Ha-tkhio, and the Society of Palestinian Labor Cooperation operated in Petrograd. The Zionist Chronicle of Jewish Life was published and there was a Kadima publishing house. The Central Committee of the Zionist Organization was situated in Petrograd. Primarily, the Soviet government tolerated Zionist organizations. In 1918, the conductor of the orchestra of the Mariinsky Theater, Mordekhai Golynkin, a devoted Zionist, persuaded F.I. Shalyapin to give a benefit recital. Shalyapin usually refused such requests, but this was a special event. The proceeds were to benefit the foundation of an opera house in Palestine. Shalyapin sang Ha-Tikva at the recital.
In the summer of 1919, the Bolsheviks began their struggle against Zionism. Hebrew was declared a reactionary language. A blow was struck against Tarbut (Culture) organizations. Although VTsIK proclaimed officially that the Zionist Organization "has not been declared counter-revolutionary", the persecution continued. In the beginning of September, a group of Chekists invaded the Petrograd office of the Central Committee of ZO and ransacked it. All money and correspondence were seized, the leaders were arrested. The "Jewish Life Chronicle" was closed. The charges against the arrested Zionists were not repudiated, and some days later all who had been arrested were set free and confiscated objects and money were returned. However, the activity of Zionist organizations in Russia, and in Petrograd in particular, faced ever mounting obstacles. Gradually, all legal forms of Zionists activity in Petrograd were abolished.
A title of "Der Emes" newspaper. 1923