Jews in politics and power
During the February revolution, when the Duma was trying to find a counterbalance to the rebellious people who had taken over the streets of the capital, there were no Jews on the State Duma's Provisional Committee and its Military Commission. A Jewish deputy of the Duma, Meier Bomash, headed the commission for removing dead bodies from the streets and maintaining sanitary conditions in St. Petersburg. The February revolution brought power to the liberal parties. Despite the fact that some leaders of the Constitutional Democrats' party were Jewish, none of them assumed any position in the Provisional Government. After March 20, 1917 a number of prominent Jewish lawyers (Gruzenberg, Vinaver and others) were unexpectedly given honorary positions in the Senate, to which they had never aspired. Vinaver even declined senatorship several times.
At the same time, there were more than a few Jews in the Soviets, which presented an alternative source of power, and in the leadership of socialist parties. Thus, for example, Jews accounted for at least 20% of the members in both the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies and in the Executive Committee of the All-Russian Soviet of Peasants' Deputies. However, the most active of the leftist politicians of Jewish origin had little in common with the Jewish people. A member of the Bureau of the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet and editor of the "News of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies", Yuri Steklov, had thrice adopted Christianity (in order to avoid having "of Jewish origin" written in his passport) and petitioned Nicholas II for a change of name. Other revolutionary leaders used Russian pseudonyms as well.
Formed in September 1917, the Council of the Russian Republic (Pre-Parliament) included representatives of socialist and democratic parties, local self-government organs and ethnic minorities' organizations. Jews also accounted for at least 20% of its membership. They represented all political parties, and various social associations, as well as Jewish national parties and organizations. In August 1917, Galpern was appointed Secretary of the Provisional Government. It is noteworthy that at the same time, Leonty Bramson declined the offer of a position as deputy minister of justice, since he preferred his work in ORT.
There was another reason why the leaders of revolutionary parties who had not completely broken with their Jewish roots did not aspire to leading government positions in 1917. A prominent leader of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, Abram Gots, declined to take the position of interior minister in the Provisional Government in order to avoid stirring up anti-semitism. His fellow Jews in the Bolshevik leadership - Grigory Zinovyev, Lev Kamenev and Lev Trotsky - were less punctilious. On the whole, in 1917 the Jews occupied an important position in the leadership of socialist parties (first of all, Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik), in the soviets, trade unions, various front committees and organizations, and, to a lesser degree, in liberal parties and associations of businessmen and intellectuals; but not in the government.
Smol´ny Institute, which during the summer and fall of 1917 was headquarters for the Soviets and in October became Bolshevik headquarters. Photograph, 1917