Skip to main content

Elias Tcherikower Collection

Identifier: RG 81

Scope and Contents

The Elias Tcherikower Collection documents the professional and personal life of Elias Tcherikower, a scholar, communal activist, and one of the founders of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, and to a smaller extent personal life of his wife, Riva Tcherikower, née Teplitski. Elias Tcherikower’s legacy as a scholar and activist is well documented by the abundance of his writings, correspondence with leading figures and organizations affiliated with the field of Jewish studies. Additionally, his involvement with the field is illustrated by materials dealing with his editorial work at two important Jewish periodicals: At the Crossroads and the YIVO periodical, Historishe Shrift.

Between 1927 and 1935, Elias Tcherikower was involved in three significant trials, the David Frankfurter trial, Shalom Schwarzbard trial, and trial over The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in Berne (Zionistenprozess). His role as a witness is well documented by correspondence, press releases, trial reports and bulletins, clippings, witness statements, manuscripts, and research materials.

Collected in the collection are materials dealing with many aspects of Jewish life in the Russian Empire, Western Europe, and Palestine. These materials deal with the Jewish experience during World War I, pogroms, Jewish participation in political and communal activities, antisemitism, Jewish Cantonists, blood libel accusations and other prejudices against the Jews, and Jewish Enlightenment.

Additionally, there are materials concerning Jewish communal and political organizations, Jewish Conferences and Congresses, correspondence with organizations and individuals representing a wide spectrum of academic, communal, and political organizations, and research materials on a large number of local Jewish communities throughout Europe. Elias Tcherikower personal life is documented by extensive correspondence with friends and family members, personal diaries, personal documents, and photographs.

Additionally, the collection includes personal materials of Riva Tcherikower and Chaim Tcherikower. These materials consist of a large volume of correspondence, memoirs and diaries, and photographs.


  • 1793-1976


Conditions Governing Access

The collection has been digitized and is available online without restrictions. The physical collection is closed.

Conditions Governing Use

The images, documents, film footage, audio materials, and texts displayed in any portion of this web site may be copyrighted. Permission to use this web site is given on condition that the user agrees to follow U.S. copyright laws. The user agrees that she or he assumes liability for any copyright violations resulting from unauthorized use of items appearing on this web site and to hold YIVO harmless from any action involving copyright infringement. It is the responsibility of the user to carry out a due diligence search under U.S. copyright laws to determine the copyright status of items displayed on this web site.

Biographical / Historical

Elias Tcherikower, historian of Russian Jewish life and anti-Jewish violence was born in 1881 in Poltava. He was raised in a merchant-class, Zionist household in Poltava. After gymnasium in Odessa, where he joined socialist Zionist circles, he attended university in Saint Petersburg and was active in the Russian revolutionary movement. His university studies were interrupted by his arrest at a Menshevik meeting in 1905. After the 1905 Revolution, Tcherikower devoted himself to scholarship and legal public activism, first in the Russian Jewish circles of Saint Petersburg and then in the Yiddishist movement.

Tcherikower’s career as a writer began in 1905, with his Marxist treatment of the work of Sh. Y. Abramovitsh in the Russian Jewish journal Evreiskaia zhizn’ and articles for the Russian radical press under the pseudonyms E. Mikhaelovitsh and E. Chuzhoi. In the years before World War I, Tcherikower was a major contributor to Evreiskaia entsiklopedia and the Society for the Promotion of Culture among the Jews of Russia ; he edited the latter’s pedagogical journal Vestnik OPE and wrote its in-house history. He also contributed to the Jewish historical journal Perezhitoe and Evreiskii mir, a meeting place for moderate socialists and diaspora nationalists. The outbreak of World War I found Tcherikower outside Russia. He spent the war years in New York, writing in Yiddish and publishing articles on Jewish affairs in New York’s socialist Tsukunft, the Labor Zionist Yidisher kempfer, and the daily Tog. He also wrote to promote the establishment of a Jewish Congress. Returning to Russia after the February Revolution, he initially associated with venues identified with the reemergent Russian Zionist movement: the Petrograder togblat and the Moscow Russian-language journal Safrut. In late 1918, Tsherikover moved to Kyiv, attracted by the promise of formal Jewish national autonomy in Ukraine. There he worked for the Yiddishist, diaspora nationalist publishing venture, the Folks-Farlag, and assumed a managerial role in the last institutions of Jewish national autonomy.

The 1919 Bolshevik suppression of Jewish autonomy and the simultaneous wave of violence and mass murder against Ukrainian Jewish communities by nationalist, White, and other strongly shaped Tcherikower’s subsequent scholarly career. He helped compile an essential collection of documents and testimonies on Jewish autonomy and its dissolution (Di idishe oytonomie un der natsyonaler secretariat in Ukraine; 1920) and later edited a related volume of documents and memoirs on revolutionary-era Jewish life, In der tkufe fun revolutsye (Berlin, 1924). From 1919, Tcherikower devoted himself to gathering evidence about pogroms. By the time he left Russia for Berlin 1921, he had compiled a massive archive. Settling in Berlin, he began a scholarly project on pogroms with other Jewish scholars and activists, including Simon Dubnow, Yosef Schechtman, Nokhem Shtif, Jakob Lestschinsky, and N. Gergel. Tcherikower himself wrote two historical studies on pogroms: Antisemitizm un pogromen in Ukraine, 1917–1918 (published in Yiddish and Russian, 1923) and Di Ukrainer pogromen in 1919, published posthumously (1965). Tcherikower and his archive also played an important role in the 1926–1927 Paris trial of Shalom Schwarzbard.

Tcherikower lived in Berlin until 1933. That year, he moved to Paris, and in 1940 to New York. Throughout this period, he devoted himself primarily to research on modern Jewish history while also continuing his involvement in Jewish public affairs and playing a significant role in the political and cultural life of the Russian Jewish and Yiddishist émigré communities in these centers. In 1925, he had been a founder of the Yidisher Visnshaftlekher Institut—YIVO—and thereafter headed its Historical Section and edited the three volumes of its Historishe shriftn. He also participated in the international Yiddishist effort to create a Yiddish encyclopedia, the partially completed Algemeyne entsiklopedye in yidish. His own scholarship embraced many features of modern Jewish history in addition to the history of pogroms and antisemitism, including, most notably, the story of the Jewish labor movement and Jewish involvement in revolutionary movements in France and tsarist Russia. As a public intellectual, he played a role in interwar efforts to facilitate and direct Jewish emigration, served as an expert in trials relating to antisemitism (the Protocols of the Elders of Zion trial in Bern, 1934–1935; the trial of David Frankfurter in Davos, 1936), and coedited the 1939 Paris journal Afn sheydveg, which recorded the doubts and despair of many leading diasporist and Yiddishist figures by the late 1930s. In his last years, he was active in the American branch of YIVO.


45 Linear Feet

Language of Materials












The Elias Tcherikower Collection documents the professional and personal life of Elias Tcherikower, a scholar, communal activist, and one of the founders of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, and to a smaller extent personal life of his wife, Riva Tcherikower, née Teplitski. Collected here are Tcherikower’s writings, professional and personal correspondence, photographs, manuscripts by other scholars, research materials, printed materials, financial documents, conference and exhibit materials, minutes of meetings, bibliographic materials and personal materials of Riva Tcherikower, née Teplitski, and Chaim Tcherikower.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Collection was donated by Riva Tcherikower

Guide to the Papers of Elias Tcherikower
Materials processed, described, prepared for digitization and finding aid encoded by Yakov Il'ich Sklar in 2021.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Processed, conserved and digitized as part of the Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Online Collections project (2015-2022).

Repository Details

Part of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States