Hoover Institution Acquires Papers Of Pavel Krushevan And Elena Kontsevich

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Elena Kontsevich

By Anatol Shmelev

Pavel Aleksandrovich Krushevan (1860-1909) was a lawyer, a journalist, and a Duma deputy. He is considered one of the chief architects of the Kishinev pogrom of 1903, which erupted after a series of newspaper articles by Krushevan purporting to describe the murder of a local boy and attributing the act to Jews. Krushevan was the first owner and publisher of the St. Petersburg newspaper Znamia (August/September 1903), one of the leading black hundred publications of the time. He is considered either the author or co-author of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

The collection includes Krushevan’s diary for the period 1877-1879, part of an unfinished novel by P. Kukuvanchik (literary pseudonym?) entitled “Happier than Others,” (published under Krushevan’s name in 1882), and various poems and other writings by Krushevan.

Among the political documents, several are of particular interest. There is a pamphlet entitled Chto nuzhno Rossii? (What Does Russian Need), c. 1905, in which Krushevan counsels against reforms he considers pure copies of European norms, while proposing his own medicine for Russian governmental ills, the chief of which he felt to be centralization. Krushevan felt that the establishment of a unitary State Duma would not cure this ill, but only make it worse. Instead, he proposed the establishment of “a hundred” regional and local dumas, essentially calling for greater powers of self-government to be vested in the regions of the Russian Empire, but retaining autocratic authority in the person of the Emperor. A two-page document 1896 contains a proposal for a new daily for Bessarabia (this territory largely corresponds to present-day Moldova) called “Bessarabets”. Krushevan later purchased this publication and redirected its editorial policy. It was this newspaper that ultimately carried the stories that incited the Kishinev pogrom.

Elena Kontsevich
Elena Kontsevich (nee Kartsov) was the wife of Ivan Mikhailovich Kontsevich, an émigré writer and religious philosopher.

A small volume of correspondence covers both personal topics as well as Krushevan’s literary and journalistic activity. In particular, the researcher gains a view into his finances, which appear to be always on the edge of bankruptcy.

This is not a complete collections of Krushevan’s papers, but rather diverse odds and ends, including an entrance ticket to an agricultural and industrial exhibit held in Odessa in 1884, identity documents, contracts, government service records, papers relating to his journalistic activity, empty envelopes and even an inventory of Krushevan’s possessions confiscated as the result of lost court proceedings over an unpaid debt. Though fragmentary, this collection offers a valuable window on Krushevan’s life and thought and, more broadly, on a forgotten corner of Imperial Russia. This material will definitely be of interest for those studying Moldova, the Pale of Settlement and the activities of Russian right-wing political figures in the late Imperial period.

Another recent acquisition that would be of interest to researchers focusing on this period is a collection of papers of Elena Iur’evna Kontsevich. Elena Kontsevich (nee Kartsov) was the wife of Ivan Mikhailovich Kontsevich, an émigré writer and religious philosopher, author of several books, including one on Leo Tolstoy’s relationship with the Orthodox Church. She was also the niece of Sergei Aleksandrovich Nilus, popularizer of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The collection consists primarily of personal papers: correspondence and photographs, including a photograph of S.A. Nilus and other members of her and Nilus’s family. Though small in volume, the collection helps illustrate the milieu of the Nilus, Kartsov and Kontsevich families and would be of interest to researchers studying the society and culture of early 20th century Russia.

Both these acquisitions serve as an excellent complement to the Boris Nicolaevsky collection and Vladimir Burtsev papers.