November 01, 2019

The Story Behind an Inscription

The Story Behind an Inscription

Vladimir Lvovich Burtsev (1862-1942) was an ardent opponent of monarchism, Bolshevism, and Nazism. Dubbed “the Sherlock Holmes of the Russian Revolution” for exposing misdeeds of the tsarist secret police, he has always been a fascinating figure. My curiosity was therefore instantly provoked when, as I was doing research in the UCLA library, I happened upon a dedication he had written in one of his books. The book was Protocols of the Elders of Zion – A Proven Forgery.* The inscription read: “To dear Vasily Alexeyevich Maklakov from his client (1913). Vladimir Burtsev, February 24, 1938. In this book, I defend that which you have always defended.”

Just what was it that Burtsev spent his life defending? “The fight against anti-Semitism is our common cause!” he never tired of proclaiming, and, over the course of his long life, he was unwavering in his adherence to this idea. This fight took on new importance after the October Revolution, when the presence of a few prominent, ethnically-Jewish Bolsheviks among its leaders led many in the White émigré community to blame Jews as a whole for the revolution. (Even today, Jews are called on to publicly repent the misdeeds of Sverdlov, Zinoviev, Yurovsky and other prominent revolutionaries with Jewish roots.) During the Civil War that followed the revolution, frenzied anti-Semitism led to a spike in bloody pogroms.

In late 1919, Burtsev began a series of trips to Crimea and the Caucasus to gain audiences with Generals Denikin and Wrangel, to ask, convince, and ultimately insist that they take urgent measures to stop the barbarity. He tenaciously argued that the communist leaders were “renegades of the Jewish nation” with “no ties to Jewish history, Jewish religion, or the Jewish masses,” calling them “nothing but internationalists preaching ideas shared by socialists from other ethnic groups” and “outright enemies of the Jewish nation as a whole.” They were “swindlers who cut their ties to Judaism” and had absolutely nothing to do with it. Russia’s Jews as a whole “were not involved in Bolshevism and were not responsible for it, including those Jews forced to live and work under the Bolsheviks despite not being Bolsheviks themselves, just like many Russians who are committed anti-Bolsheviks.”

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