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- This article is part of the History of the Jews in Bessarabia.
The most popular newspaper in Kishinev, the Russian-language anti-Semitic newspaper Бессарабец (Bessarabetz, meaning "Bessarabian"), published by Pavel Krushevan regularly published articles with titles in reference to the Jewish population such as "Death to the Jews!" and "Crusade against the Hated Race!". When a Christian Ukrainian boy, Mikhail Rybachenko, was found murdered in the town of Dubossary, about 25 miles north of Kishinev and a girl committed suicide by poisoning herself, proclaimed dead in a Jewish Hospital, allegations by Bessarabetz insinuated that both were murdered by the Jews using the claim of blood libel (alleging that the children had been killed to use their blood in preparation of matzo for Passover). Another newspaper, Свет (Svet, "Light") made similar allegations. These allegations sparked the rioting along with the urging of the town's Russian Orthodox Bishop.
The Kishinev pogrom started on April 19 (April 6 O.S.) after the Christian population of the town got out of church on Easter Sunday. It spanned three days of rioting against the Jews. Forty-seven (some put the figure at 49) Jews were killed, 92 severely wounded, 500 slightly wounded and over 700 houses and many businesses looted and destroyed. The Times published a forged dispatch by Vyacheslav von Plehve, the Minister of Interior, to the governor of Bessarabia, which supposedly gave orders not to stop the rioters, but, in any case, no attempt was made by the police or military to intervene to stop the riots until the third day. This non-intervention is an argument in support of the opinion that the pogrom was sponsored or, at least, tolerated by the state.
The New York Times described the first Kishinev pogrom:
- The anti-Jewish riots in Kishinev, Bessarabia, are worse than the censor will permit to publish. There was a well laid-out plan for the general massacre of Jews on the day following the Russian Easter. The mob was led by priests, and the general cry, "Kill the Jews," was taken- up all over the city. The Jews were taken wholly unaware and were slaughtered like sheep. The dead number 120 and the injured about 500. The scenes of horror attending this massacre are beyond description. Babes were literally torn to pieces by the frenzied and bloodthirsty mob. The local police made no attempt to check the reign of terror. At sunset the streets were piled with corpses and wounded. Those who could make their escape fled in terror, and the city is now practically deserted of Jews. 
The Kishinev Pogrom captured the attention of the world community and was mentioned in the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine as an example of the type of human rights abuse which would justify United States involvement in Latin America. The 1904 book "The Voice of America on Kishinev" provides more detail as does the book Russia at the bar of the American people: A Memorial of Kishinef 
A second pogrom took place on October 19-20, 1905. This time the riots began as political protests against the Tsar, but turned into an attack on Jews wherever they could be found. By the time the riots were over, 19 Jews had been killed and 56 were injured. Jewish self-defense leagues, organized after the first pogrom, stopped some of the violence, but were not wholly successful. This Pogrom was part of a much larger movement of 600 pogroms that swept the Russian Empire after the October Manifesto of 1905.
Official Russian version of events
- "There is in Russia, as in Germany and Austria, a feeling against certain of the Jews. The reason for this unfriendly attitude is found in the fact that the Jews will not work in the field or engage in agriculture. They prefer to be money lenders. ... The situation in Russia, so far as the Jews are concerned is just this: It is the peasant against the money lender, and not the Russians against the Jews. There is no feeling against the Jew in Russia because of religion. It is as I have said—the Jew ruins the peasants, with the result that conflicts occur when the latter have lost all their worldly possessions and have nothing to live upon. There are many good Jews in Russia, and they are respected. Jewish genius is appreciated in Russia, and the Jewish artist honored. Jews also appear in the financial world in Russia. The Russian Government affords the same protection to the Jews that it does to any other of its citizens, and when a riot occurs and Jews are attacked the officials immediately take steps to apprehend those who began the riot, and visit severe punishement upon them."
A memorial to the 1903 Pogroms now stands in Kishinev
Results of the pogroms
Despite a worldwide outcry, only two men were sentenced to seven and five years and twenty-two were sentenced for one or two years. This pogrom was instrumental in convincing tens of thousands of Russian Jews to leave to the West and eventually to the land of Israel.
In the arts
A large number of artists and writers addressed the pogrom. Russian authors such as Vladimir Korolenko wrote about the pogrom in House 13, while Tolstoy and Gorky wrote condemnations blaming the Russian government — a change from the earlier pogroms of the 1880s, when most members of the Russian intelligentsia were silent. It also had a major impact on Jewish art and literature. Playwright Max Sparber took the Kishinev pogrom as the subject for one of his earliest plays. Poet Chaim Bialik wrote "In the City of Slaughter," about the perceived passivity of the Jews in the face of the mobs:
- ...the heirs
- Of Hasmoneans lay, with trembling knees,
- Concealed and cowering—the sons of the Maccabees!
- The seed of saints, the scions of the lions!
- Who, crammed by scores in all the sanctuaries of their shame,
- So sanctified My name!
- It was the flight of mice they fled,
- The scurrying of roaches was their flight;
- They died like dogs, and they were dead!
- Davitt, Michael (1903). Within The Pale. London: Hurst and Blackett. pp. 98–100.
- YIVO Institute for Jewish Research: Pogroms
- "Jewish Massacre Denounced", New York Times, April 28, 1903, p 6.
- "Current Literature: A Magazine of Contemporary Record (New York). Vol. XXXV., No.1. July, 1903. Current Opinion. V.35 (1903). p. 16". babel.hathitrust.org.
- Kishinev Pogrom unofficial commemorative website
- Rosenthal, Herman and Rosenthal, Max, "Kishinef (Kishinev)", in the Jewish Encyclopedia (1901-1906)
- Resources about the pogrom
- Penkower, Monty Noam, 1942 : The Kishinev Pogrom of 1903: A Turning Point in Jewish History