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Microform Collection: Poalei Zion Archive

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Poalei Tsion (Zion) Archive

Poalei Zion (Labor Zionism) in Russia and the USSR
Poalei Zion was one of the organizations in the worldwide Zionist movement which, unlike the others, made active use of the slogans of socialism. The Poalei Zion
groups emerged in Russia in 1890 as clandestine organizations. They were legalized following the revolution of 1917 and were active in the USSR until 1928 when the NKVD (forerunner of the KGB) arrested many members of these organizations. Their basic goal was to create a Jewish national state and to move Jews from all over the world to Palestine. In order to fulfill the emigrants' political aims, the Jewish Social-Democratic (from 1923 "Communist") Labor Party of Poalei Zion organized a vast network of Jewish Poalei-Zionist clubs, libraries, schools, trade unions, cooperatives and cultural centers, and published numerous newspapers, journals, brochures and books in the printing houses of Moscow, Petrograd, Kiev, Minsk, Odessa and Berdichev.

Hidden archive collection
The Poalei Zion documents now in the Russian Center of Conservation and Study of Records for Modern History (formerly the Central Party Archive) in Moscow were received from the Archive of Revolution and Foreign Policy in the 1930s and from the Kiev Provincial Historical Archive in the 1940s. Part of the material came in recent years directly from the KGB archive on Lubianka Square in Moscow. The NKVD confiscated the documents of Poalei Zion for use as evidence in the 1920s, when many members of this organization were arrested.

For years, fond 272 "Poalei Zion organizations in the USSR (1917-1928)" was not processed and the documents were kept simply in unordered piles. Only in 1987 were the documents completely systematized in 758 files and described in three inventories (opisi). However, even then the fond did not enter scholarly circulation since its contents were still classified as secret documents. Only since 1990 have researchers have been able to study the documents of Poalei Zion.

Various historical materials
The Archive of Poalei Zion sheds light on various issues of social history: the emigration of the Jewish population of various countries to Palestine and the activities of
various Jewish parties and organization. The archive contains a wide variety of materials:

  • Documents of Jewish political parties and organizations such as the Jewish Social-Democratic (from 1923, "Communist") Labor Party of Poalei Zion (Russian
    abbreviation: ESDRP-EKRP Poalei Zion); the Jewish Communist Party of Poalei Zion (EKP Poalei Zion); the United Jewish Socialist (from 1923, Communist)
    Union of Working Youth (Ugend Poalei Zion) affiliated with the two parties listed above; the Central Jewish Club; and also of the Palestine Labor Foundation,
  • Works and correspondence of prominent leaders of the World Zionist movement, among them two Israeli presidents (both born in Eastern Europe) Ben Gurion
    and Ben Zvi; B. Borokhov, the ideologist of Russian Zionism; as well as by other figures active in the Palestine movement.
  • A large collection of national and local newspapers and journals, many of which are now very rare.
  • Works of creative artistic writing, such as a collection of poetry by the well-known poet David Hofstein, with illustrations by Mark Chagall (1922).
  • Volumes and other collections of documents located in the central state archives of Russia; works prepared for publication in 1926-1927, including Iz istorii
    Evreiskoi kommunisticheskoi rabochei partii ("From the History of the Jewish Communist Labor Party"), and O poalei-tsionistskoi mysli za 20 let ("On
    Poalei-Zionist Thought over 20 Years").
  • Special sheets of signatures have been preserved, as have postage stamps, lottery tickets and receipt books showing specific sums received from organizations
    and individuals.

Most of the material (55-60%) is in Yiddish, 20-25% in Russian, and 15-20% in Hebrew. There are several documents in German, French, Arabic, Ukrainian, and
Polish. The Yiddish-language documents have been annotated and the annotations are attached to the corresponding materials. There are no Poalei Zion documents
from before 1917 in RTsKhIDNI.

A printed guide to the collection is also available in the Slavic Reading Room. Scholars can consult the collection in the Microform Reading Room, located in the
basement of Sterling Memorial Library.

Sterling Library's hours of operation
LOCATION: SML, Microform (Non-Circulating)
CALL NUMBER: Fiche B3889