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Bund Foreign Committee Records

 Collection
Identifier: RG 1401

Scope and Content Note

The material contains minutes of congresses and conferences of the Bund, correspondence, memoranda, appeals, leaflets, notes, drafts of articles, financial documents, newspaper clippings, and publications. Many letters contain reports of the Bund activities in Russia and in Europe. Most of the documents are in Russian and Yiddish, with materials in other languages including German, French, Polish, English, Latvian and Lithuanian. Among other documents are materials on the history of the revolutionary movement in Tsarist Russia; the socialist, anarchist, territorialist, and labor movements. The collection includes a wide range of notes and drafts of articles on various aspects of social and political movements of the early 20th century Russia and Europe, on social and legal condition of workers, especially Jewish, statistics on Bund activities and strikes in Russia, on measures of the Russian Tsarist authorities to counter the influence of the Bund and other Socialist parties in Russia.

The correspondence in the collection contains in many cases an admixture of private information and can give an idea of what was the everyday life and intellectual life of the Russian-Jewish émigré revolutionaries in the first decades of the 20th century. The correspondence with the supporters in Russia presents a wealth of information on the Bund activities and on persecution by the Russian Okhrana (Secret Police).

The Bund Foreign Committee records are part of a larger Bund archives. See Related Material for more information.

Dates

  • undated, 1893-1933
  • Majority of material found in 1898-1916

Language of Materials

The collection is in Russian, Yiddish, and German.

Access Restrictions

Permission to use the collection must be obtained from the YIVO Archivist.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish part or parts of the collection must be obtained from the YIVO Archives. For more information, contact:

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011

email: archives@yivo.cjh.org

Historical Note

The Bund, a Jewish political party espousing socialist democratic ideology as well as cultural Yiddishism and Jewish national autonomism, was founded at a clandestine meeting in Vilna (now Vilnius, Lithuania) in October 1897 by a small group of Jews who were profoundly influenced by Marxism. Colloquially known as the Bund during the entire span of its existence, the full name of the party was changed several times, but its original name to 1921 was Algemeyner Yidisher Arbeter Bund in Lite, Poyln und Rusland (The General Union of Jewish Workers in Lithuania, Poland and Russia).

The Bund members, dedicated to the overthrow of the Tsarist system in Russia and to defense of the Jewish working masses, were convinced that a free Russia would insure civil and economic rights of the Jewish population of the Russian Empire. Among the founders of the Bund were Arkadii Kremer, Vladimir Kossovskii, Isai Aizenshtat, Abram Mutnikovich (Mutnik, Gleb) and John (Yoysef) Mill. In March 1898 its delegates participated in the founding of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDRP). The Bund joined the RSDRP as an autonomous group. In 1903 the Bund split with the RSDRP over the question of autonomy, but rejoined the Russian party again in 1906. Many Bund members took active part in the revolutionary events of 1905-1906 in Russia, which is considered a pinnacle of the Bund influence in Russia and in the Social-Democratic movement. After a history of uneasy relations with the Lenin’s faction within RSDRP, and the final split in the RSDRP between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks in 1912, the Bund sided with the Mensheviks, remaining in alliance with the Menshevik party, and gaining a considerable number of seats in the All-Russian Statutory Assembly, elected in 1917 and dispersed by Bolsheviks in early 1918. The local groups of Bund in Russia were liquidated in 1921-1923, but Bund remained a formidable force as a representative of the Jewish workers in Poland, Romania, Latvia, the US, Argentina and some other countries.

Among the founders of Bund were persons like John Mill (Yoysef Mil, 1870-1952), who soon after would become the founding members of its Foreign Committee. Mill set up a printing press in Geneva, Switzerland, and arranged for the transmission of illegal literature. At the end of 1898 Mill, together with Tsemakh Kopelson (1869-1933) established a Foreign Committee of the Bund, which officially functioned from December 1898 to mid-1917 as a European representative of the Bund in Russia and a coordinating body for the local support groups of Bund in Russia and throughout the world. The Foreign Committee functioned as a self-sufficient entity, having funds of its own and equipped with its own administration, editors, network of smugglers and distributors of clandestine literature, printing press, library and a an immediate circle of supporters among the Russian-Jewish émigrés and students in Geneva.

It was as early as 1899 that the Bund established an organizational archives in Geneva, Switzerland, in order to facilitate gathering evidence of the Bund’s activities. The Foreign Committee took active part in preserving the Bund’s permanent record of struggle against the Tsarist autocracy and in maintaining a collection of its leaflet, pamphlet and newspaper publications, which were clandestinely sent to Russia. The members of the Committee kept abreast with the theoretical developments in the Social-Democratic and Marxist thought, monitored developments in the national and social movements in Europe and Russia, gathering an extensive collection of publications on those topics. Since 1903 the Foreign Committee has settled permanently in Geneva at rue de Carouge 81. From Geneva it worked for almost 15 years, coordinating the Bund activities and producing clandestine anti-Tsarist literature. After the revolution in Russia in February 1917, when the Tsar was deposed and the power was taken by seemingly democratic forces, the Bund decided to move to Russia and the aims of the Foreign Committee’s existence were considered to be accomplished.

In 1917 the Foreign Committee of the Bund was dissolved and its members prepared to return to the new Russia, liberated from Tsarism and anti-Jewish oppression. They also planned to bring with them the Bund archives. Meanwhile, the outbreak of the Bolshevik revolution in October 1917 put an end to the idea of bringing the Bund archives to Russia. From Geneva the Bund archives made its way to Berlin. In 1933, with the rise of the Nazi Party, the Bund Archives was brought to France. The documents were confiscated by the Germans during the occupation period, but survived the war. The Archives was brought from France to the United States in 1951 and was functioning as a department within the Jewish Labor Bund till 1992.

Extent

20 Linear Feet (38 boxes, 747 folders)

Abstract

The collection contains the records of the Foreign Committee of the Bund, a Jewish political party espousing socialist democratic ideology as well as cultural Yiddishism and Jewish national autonomism. While a Central Committee led the Bund in the Russian empire, outside of Russia the party was represented by its Foreign Committee, which was based in Geneva, Switzerland. During the period when the Bund had no legal status or was semi-legal in Russia, the Foreign Committee assumed many important organizational functions of the party apparatus.

Other Finding Aid

A paper finding aid with a folder list for RG 1401, which was created in 2002, and edited in 2007 by Rivka Schiller, can be found in the Lillian Goldman Reading Room at CJH.

Acquisition Information

The Bund Foreign Committee materials, as a part of the Bund Archives, were acquired by YIVO in 1992.

Related Material

The Bund Foreign Committee materials deposited in the YIVO Archives comprise a part of the Bund records and is related to a number of other Bund materials, which are described in the Guide to the YIVO Archives.

Among them are John Mill Papers (RG 415), Tsemakh Kopelson collection (RG 1403), Mark Liber Papers (RG 1405), Bund Leaflets collection (RG 1400. MG 7), and Bund illegal press collection at the Bund Archives library segment.

Processing information

The processing was done by Laiba Kaplan in 1999 and by Vital Zajka in 2002. The additional processing was done by Vital Zajka in 2013. The collection includes a large number of incomplete and fragmented documents, which presented a formidable challenge for the processing. Some materials are brittle and fragile, and basic preservation was done by putting the fragile items in mylar sleeves and by flattening the deformed items.
Title
Guide to the Bund Foreign Committee Records 1893-1933 bulk 1898-1916 RG 1401
Status
In Progress
Author
Initially processed by Leiba Kaplan and Vital Zajka. Edited by Rivka Schiller in 2007 with the assistance of a grant from the Gruss Lipper Family Foundation. Additional processing by Vital Zajka as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation.
Date
©2012
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Repository

Contact:
15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States