Russia was the land of pogroms—that was at least the widespread perception in many parts of Europe around 1900. In many languages, the Russian term »pogrom« became synonymous with a specific form of violence that was generally anti-Jewish. But what was specific about pogroms? Who was involved in perpetrating them? Did they occur spontaneously or were they planned? And why did they take place in such numbers in the Russian Empire?
Answers to these and other questions are revealed by Wiese’s careful study of the actions of those involved—perpetrators, victims, bystanders, and representatives of the state authorities. Each group had specific resources and pursued specific goals, and each group observed the others and responded by adapting its actions accordingly. The results of these interactions were situations that created opportunities for violence or prevented its occurrence. Stefan Wiese argues that, in pogroms that targeted Jew, the strategies and resources of the actors involved played a more significant role than the heritage of antisemitism. Evidence that supports this finding comes from his comparative analysis of pogrom violence in Russia that was directed against Armenians, Germans, and the intelligenzia.
With this investigation of what pogroms are and how they begin, develop, and come to an end, Wiese refutes misconceptions and recontextualizes earlier findings. His work underlines the significance of the contingencies of space and opportunity. This book offers a phenomenology of pogroms, as a specific form of collective violence in the final decades of the Russian Empire, that is an outstanding analytical achievement and highly readable, as well.