Union of the Russian People
The Union of Russian People (URP) (Russian: Союз Русского Народа, translit. Soyuz Russkogo Naroda (СРН/SRN) was a loyalist extreme right nationalist political party, the most important among Black-Hundredist monarchist political organizations in the Russian Empire between 1905 and 1917.
Founded in October 1905, its aim was to rally the people behind 'Great Russian nationalism' and the autocracy, espousing anti-socialist, anti-liberal, and above all antisemitic views. By 1906 it had over 300,000 members. Its paramilitary armed bands, called the Black Hundreds, fought revolutionaries violently in the streets. Its leaders organised a series of political assassinations of deputies and other representatives of parties which supported the Russian Revolution of 1905.
Ideology and political views
The Union was the leading exponent of antisemitism in the wake of the 1905 Revolution. It has been described as 'an early Russian version of the Fascist movement', as it was anti-socialist, anti-liberal, and 'above all anti-Semitic'.
The Union of the Russian People called for the 'restoration of the popular autocracy', a concept they believed had existed before Russia had been taken over by 'intellectuals and Jews'. Antisemitism was brought into the URP by what became the organisation's ideological core, chairman Alexander Dubrovin, Vladimir Purishkevich, Pavel Krushevan, Pavel Bulatsel and some other 'radical temperament anti-Semitic rabble rousers', who had seceded from the Russian Assembly. The methods of the Union were not what the Russian Assembly considered proper conduct. Save lawyer and journalist Bulatsel, another leading intellectual of the URP was B. V. Nikolsky, privatdozent (senior lecturer) at Petersburg University.
The Union was above all a movement of 'Great Russian nationalism'. Its very first aim it had declared to be a 'Great Russia, United and Indivisible'. Its nationalism was based on xenophobia and racism.
The union of the Russian people was by far the most important of the extreme rightist groups formed in the wake of the 1905 Revolution. It was founded in October 1905 as a movement to mobilise and rally the masses against the Left, by the two 'minor government officials' Alexander Dubrovin and Vladimir Purishkevich. The idea to create the union originated between several public figures of Russia whom entered its political arena before the 1905 Russian Revolution.
Five days after the proclamation of the October Manifesto on 30 October [O.S. 17 October] 1905, Purishkevich, Apollo Apollonovich Maikov (son of poet Apollon Maykov), Pavel Bulatzel, Baranov, Vladimir Gringmut and some others gathered at Dubrovin's home. At this meeting they concurred with Dubrovin's idea to set up a political organization (Dubrovin opposed to calling it a party). In a couple of weeks initiators worked out an organisational structure, devised a program, and on 8 November [O.S. 26 October] 1905 formally announced the founding of the Union of the Russian People. Dubrovin was elected its chairman.
The Union's Manifesto expressed a 'plebeian mistrust' of every political party, as well as the bureaucracy and the intelligentsia. The group looked at these as obstacles to 'the direct communion between the Tsar and his people'. This struck a deep chord with Nicholas II, who also shared the deep belief in (and fantasy of) re-establishment of autocratic personal rule, as had existed in the Muscovite state of the 1600s. It also stood for the russification of non-Russian citizens. The charter was adopted in August 1906.
After the 1905 Revolution the Orthodox Church's conservative clergy members allied with extreme Rightist organisations, the Union of the Russian People being one of them, in opposing the liberals' further attempts at a church reform and extension of religious freedom and toleration. Several prominent, leading church members were also supportive of the organisation, among them the royal family's close friend and future Orthodox Saint John of Kronstadt, Iliodor the monk, and Bishop Hermogenes. It also had support from leading members of the court and government, one of the supporters being the Minister of the Interior Nikolai Maklakov.
Tsar Nicholas II was highly supportive of the Union and patronised it: he wore the badge of the Union, and wished the Union and its leaders 'total success' in their efforts to unite what he called 'loyal Russians' in defence of the autocracy. The Tsar also gave orders to provide funds for the Union, and the Ministry of the Interior complied by funding the Union's newspapers, and also providing them with weapons through secret channels. Dubrovin was also in contact with senior officials and the secret services of Russia. Minister of the Interior Pyotr Durnovo was completely in the know about the foundation of the Union while his subordinates actively worked upon creation of an open organisation to counteract the influence of revolutionaries and liberals among the masses. Around the same the head of the political section of gendarmes department Pyotr Rachkovsky reported his chief, Colonel (later General) Alexander Gerasimov about such attempts and proposed Gerasimov to introduce him to Dubrovin. Their meeting took place in late October 1905 in the apartment of Rachkovsky.
With powerful administrative support and funding at their disposal the Union of the Russian People managed to organise and conduct its first mass public event less than a fortnight after its creation. The first public rally of the URP, with about 2,000 attendance, was held on November, 21 [O.S. 8] 1905 in Mikhailovsky Manege, a popular venue in Petersburg. An orchestra was playing, a church choir sang "Praise God" and "Tsar Divine"; leaders of the URP (Dubrovin, Purishkevich, Bulatsel, Nikolsky) addressed the mob from a rostrum erected in the centre of the arena. Special guests from the "Russian Assembly": Prince M. N. Volkonsky, journalist from Novoye Vremya Nicholas Engelhardt and two bishops also welcomed the new party with their speeches.
Members of the Tsar's court, like Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich, Alexander Trepov, and other government officials and clergy members 'unquestionably welcomed a movement such as this'. Sergei Witte was a rare occasion among high-ranking officials being 'unequivocally hostile to the URP' (in his memoirs he calls Dubrovin a 'high-handed and abusive leader').
The Union was horrified by Tsar Nicholas II's inability to strike down on the Leftist revolutionaries. The Union therefore decided to organise this for the Tsar, and organised paramilitary bands, which came to be known as the 'Black Hundreds' by the democrats, to fight revolutionaries in the streets. These militant groups marched through the streets holding in their pockets knives and brass knuckles, and carrying religious symbols such as icons and crosses and imperial ones such as patriotic banners and portraits of Tsar Nicholas II. They marched through the streets fighting to 'revenge themselves' and restore the old hierarchy of society and races. Their numbers were swelled by thousands of criminals who had been released as a part of the October amnesty, who looked at it as a chance of violence and pillaging. Often encouraged by police officers, they beat up suspected democratic sympathisers, making them kneel before tsarist portraits or making them kiss the Imperial flag. In October 1906, they formed a Black-Hundredist organisation called Russian People United (Russian: Объединённый русский народ, translit. Ob’yedinyonniy russkiy narod).
By 1906 the Union had a total of 300,000 members spread over 1,000 different branches. Most of their supporters came from the social stratum which 'had either lost – or were afraid of losing – their petty status' in society as a result of reform and modernisation – much like the supporters of fascism – among them urbanised peasants working as labourers, policemen and other low-ranking state officials who risked losing their power, and small shopkeepers and artisans who were losing the competition against big business and industry. By 1907 it is said about up to 900 local URP branches existed in many cities, towns and even villages. Apart from the ones named above, the largest were in Kiev, Saratov and Astrakhan; Volhynian Governorate is also mentioned among the largest by the representation of the URP.
The Union opposed Stolypin's reforms, being supporters of the 'legitimist bloc' which, through its support in the court, church, nobility and the Union, defeated nearly all of Stolypin's reform proposals.
The Union also became the main instigator (through meetings, gatherings, lectures, manifestations and mass public prayers) of the pogroms against Jews (especially in 1906 in Gomel, Yalta, Białystok, Odessa, Sedlets and other cities), in which members of the URP often took an active part. In the wake of the Beiliss Affair, Nicholas II used the large wave of antisemitism in the population, spread and rallied by groups such as the Union of the Russian People, to rally support for his regime. It was one of the first to extreme Rightist groups which had proclaimed a charge of ritual murder in the so-called Beiliss Affair, and supported the anti-Semitic persecution throughout the trial of Menahem Beiliss.
In 1908–10, the infighting in the URP broke the organisation into several smaller entities, which were in constant conflict with each other: Union of Archangel Michael (Russian: Союз Михаила Архангела, translit. Soyuz Mikhaila Arkhangela), Union of the Russian People (Russian: Союз русского народа, translit. Soyuz russkogo naroda), Dubrovin’s All-Russian Union of the Russian People in Petersburg (Russian: Всероссийский дубровинский Союз русского народа в Петербурге, translit. Vserossiysky dubrovinsky Soyuz russkogo naroda v Peterburge), etc. After the February Revolution of 1917, all of the Black-Hundredist organisations were forcefully dissolved and banned.
Party leaders and organisation
The supreme body of URP was called the Main Council (Russian: Главный Совет, translit. Glavny Soviet). Its chairman Alexander Dubrovin had two deputies: noble landowner and future Duma Deputy Vladimir Purishkevich and engineer A. I. Trishatny. From six other board members (Pavel Bulatzel, George Butmi, P. P. Surin and others) four belonged to the merchant estate, and two were peasants by origin. A merchant from Petersburg I. I. Baranov was the treasurer of the URP, and barrister Sergei Trishatny (elder brother of a Deputy Chairman) performed as secretary.
Later the Main Council increased to 12 members, among which S. D. Chekalov, M. N. Zelensky, Ye. D. Golubev, N. N. Yazykov, G. A. Slipak are mentioned.
URP’s chief newspaper was Russkoe znamya (Russian Banner), a newspaper which first published notorious "Protocols of the Elders of Zion". In provincial Russia The Pochayev Circular (Russian: Pochayevsky listok) was the most popular of the URP newspapers. URP also printed its propaganda materials in Moskovskiye Vedomosti ("Moscow News"), Grazhdanin ("Citizen"), Kievlyanin ("Kievan") and others.
Modern revival and current activity
The Union of the Russian People has seen a revival in Russia since 2005, and has several followers and 17 offices in large cities. The first chairman of the refounded group was Vyacheslav Klykov. The Union's main activities can be described as national patriotism with strong emphasis on the Russian Orthodox Church and revival of Russian traditions gone into the past after the October Revolution.
- Figes, Orlando (2014). A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891–1924. London: The Bodley Head. ISBN 9781847922915.
- Rawson, Don C. (March 1995). Russian rightists and the revolution of 1905. Cambridge Russian, Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies (No. 95). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-48386-5.
- Klier J.D., Lambrozo S. (1992). Pogroms: Anti-Jewish Violence in Modern Russian History. Cambridge University Press. p. 415. ISBN 978-0-521-40532-4.
- John D. Klier (2005). "Black Hundreds". In Richard S. Levy. Antisemitism: a historical encyclopedia of prejudice and persecution. ABC-CLIO. p. 828. ISBN 1-85109-444-X.
- Rogger, Hans (1986). "Was there a Russian Fascism? The Union of Russian People". Jewish policies and right-wing politics in imperial Russia. University of California Press. p. 289. ISBN 0-520-04596-3.
- Rogger, Hans (1986). "The Formation of the Russian Right: 1900–1906". Jewish policies and right-wing politics in imperial Russia. pp. 191–193.
- Ascher, Abraham (1986). The Revolution of 1905: Authority restored. University of California Press. pp. 240, 276, 285, 358. ISBN 0-520-04596-3.
- John D. Klier (2005). "Black Hundreds". In Richard S. Levy. Antisemitism: a historical encyclopedia of prejudice and persecution. — p. 71–72.
- Figes, p. 245
- Figes, p. 196
- Rogger, p. 191–3
- Rogger, p. 193
- Rogger, p. 204
- Figes, p. 246
- ПАНИХИДЫ ПО Т. ШЕВЧЕНКЕ И ЧЕРНОСОТЕННОЕ ДУХОВЕСТВО. Украинская Жизнь. — М., 1912. — № 5 — С. 82.
- Rawson, p. 59
- Figes, p. 69
- Figes, p. 82 & 196
- Rogger, p. 266, note number 43
- Rogger, p. 203–204
- Rogger, p. 205
- The Memoirs of Count Witte, p. 829
- Figes, p. 197
- Figes, p. 227
- "KIEV REPORTS POGROMS; Pillage Subordinated to Murder in Massacres by "Black Hundred."". The New York Times. 21 May 1922.
- "... Две силы создают погромы: во-первых, черносотенные организации, к тому времени сильно окрепшие, и, во-вторых, крайний правительственный антисемитизм. Первый сам по себе мне представляется не страшным, значение второго было очень грозно. Правительственный антисемитизм, исходя из центра в виде отдельных проявлений известного настроения, по иерархической лестнице доходил до низов правительственного механизма вылитым в прямой призыв к избиениям евреев; оттуда призыв подтверждался и выполнялся черносотенными кружками." (A. A. Lopukhin (А. А. Лопухин) "Отрывки из воспоминаний" 1923, p. 85
- Figes, p. 82
- Link text, Союз Русского Народа.