Simon Dubnow (standing, center) at the first international YIVO conference, Vilna, 1935. Other historians and notables on the stage and dais include (seated, from left) Joseph Tshernikhov, Elias Tcherikower, Yankev Botoshansky; (behind Botoshansky’s left shoulder) Zelig Kalmanovitch; (to Dubnow’s right) Ignacy Schiper; (behind Dubnow’s right shoulder) Rafail Abramovich; (seated, first to fourth from right) Yudl Mark, Yankev Shatzky, Max Weinreich, Zalmen Reyzen; (standing behind Weinreich), Nakhman Meisel. The portrait of Tsemaḥ Szabad (right) is draped in black in commemoration of his death, which had occurred a few months earlier. (YIVO)

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Abramovich, Rafail

(1880–1963), revolutionary and publicist. Born in Dünaburg (Dvinsk; mod. Daugavpils, Latvia), Rafail Abramovich (originally surnamed Rein) studied in a modern (nonclassical) secondary school and later at Riga Polytechnic University. He was involved in the student revolutionary movement and in 1901 joined the Bund. He then began publishing in the revolutionary press in Yiddish.

After being expelled from university in 1902 for revolutionary activity, Abramovich devoted all his energy to party work. He fled abroad and settled in Geneva, where the leadership of the Bund and that of the general Russian revolutionary movement were located. In the wake of the Kishinev pogrom (1903), he began paying particular attention to the nationality problem in Russia. In 1904, Abramovich arrived in Warsaw, where he was arrested for revolutionary activity but soon released. That same year, he became a member of the Bund’s central committee, and in 1906, a member of the central committee of the Russian Social Democratic Workers Party. During the 1905 Revolution, he was a Bund representative to the Saint Petersburg Soviet.

Abramovich participated in publishing the journal Evreiskii rabochii (Jewish Worker) in Saint Petersburg and another Bundist publication, Nashe slovo (Our Word), in Vilna. In March 1910, he was arrested and exiled to Vologda province, whence he escaped abroad in 1911. From then until 1917, he lived in Heidelberg and Vienna and worked energetically for the Bundist press, and also wrote for the New York–based Forverts (The Forward) and Tsukunft (The Future). In the Russian socialist camp he belonged to the “liquidators,” whose approach stressed legal types of activity, and in the context of European socialism he belonged to the internationalists or “Zimmerwaldists,” who opposed World War I.

Abramovich returned to Saint Petersburg in May 1917, when he became a leader of the Menshevik internationalists. He believed that “only a full and decisive democratization of the entire life of the country could put a permanent end to the oppression of the Jewish people . . . and guarantee it all the political and civil rights . . . of national autonomy.” He considered the Bolshevik revolution “the greatest misfortune for true revolution, for the working class, and for all of Russia,” and constantly called for the establishment of a multiparty socialist government. However, he categorically rejected an alliance with the bourgeoisie that would work to suppress the Bolshevik revolution.

Abramovich was a Menshevik representative in the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, where he criticized both the foreign and domestic policies of the Bolshevik government. In July 1918 he was arrested, along with other socialists, and was in danger of being executed, but pressure from West European socialists led to his release six months later. After the split of the Bund in April 1920, at its Twelfth Conference, he became a founder of the Social Democratic Bund, which based itself on Menshevik principles.

Abramovich emigrated in late 1920. Initially he worked for the Soviets, but soon, at Lenin’s insistence, his aid was no longer accepted. He lived in Berlin, where he took part in publishing Sotsialisticheskii vestnik (The Socialist Herald), and was among the leaders of the 2½ Internationale and, later, of the Socialist Workers Internationale. He moved to Paris in 1933 and settled in the United States in 1940. Abramovich was a correspondent for Forverts for many years. He published short works about Soviet Russia and the Bolshevik terror, as well as his memoirs, In tsvey revolutsyes (In Two Revolutions; 1944).

Suggested Reading

Arye Gelbard, Sofo she-lo ki-teḥilato: Kitso shel ha-“Bund” ha-rusi (Tel Aviv, 1995); Yitskhok Kharlash, “Abramovitsh, Refoyl,” in Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur, vol. 1, cols. 12–16 (New York, 1956); A. A. Kornikov and M. M. Cherviakova, “Abramovich,” in Politicheskie deiateli Rossii, 1917: Bibliograficheskii slovar’, ed. Pavel Vasil’evich Volobuev, Aleksei S. Velidov, et al., pp. 9–10 (Moscow, 1993); Dmitrii Borisovich Pavlov, Bol’shevistskaia diktatura protiv sotsialistov i anarkhistov (Moscow, 1999), pp. 33 and 73.

YIVO Archival Resources

RG 1139, Abraham Cahan, Papers, 1906-1952; RG 1400, Bund Archives, Collection, ca. 1870-1992; RG 390, Raphael Abramovitch, Collection, 1920s-1930s.



Translated from Russian by Yisrael Cohen