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Brutskus, Iulii

(1870–1951), physician, political figure, and historian. Born in Polangen (Palanga), Courland, Iulii Brutskus (Julius Brutzkus) was the brother of the economist Boris Brutskus (1874–1938). Iulii studied medicine in Moscow (earning his medical degree in 1894), where he joined the Ḥibat Tsiyon movement. When Jews were expelled from Moscow in 1891–1892, he came to their aid. In 1894, he moved to Saint Petersburg, where he was active in the Society for the Promotion of Culture among the Jews of Russia (OPE) and the Jewish Colonization Association (ICA). From 1898, he was a member of the editorial board of Voskhod but resigned with other Zionist sympathizers when the journal’s editors became hostile to the Jewish national movement. He showed little sympathy for socialism.

Brutskus then served as an editor of Evreiskaia zhizn (1904–1906), and later of Razsvet (from about 1923). In addition to his Zionist activities, he was an advocate of equal rights for Jews, and during the turbulent beginning of the twentieth century he compared events to the strife of the French Revolution. In early 1917, he was elected to the All-Russian Constituent Assembly as a representative of the Minsk region on the Jewish list.

When Lithuania achieved independence in 1918, Brutskus helped establish autonomous Jewish institutions and was a leader at the Kovno conference of Lithuanian Jewish communities in February 1922. He became a member of the Lithuanian parliament in 1922 after serving briefly as minister of Jewish Affairs, following the resignation of Menaḥem (Max) Solieli in 1921.

With the progressive curtailing of Jewish autonomous rights in Lithuania, Brutskus moved to Berlin. There he joined the executive board of ORT and served as vice president of OSE; he was also closely connected to Revisionist Zionism. With the rise of the Nazis to power in Germany, Brutskus moved to France. During World War II, he was arrested and detained by the Vichy authorities, but was freed after the intervention of friends and colleagues who brought him to the United States. At the end of his life he moved to Israel, where he died in Tel Aviv.

Brutskus made several contributions to East European Jewish historiography, notably the bibliographical guide Sistimaticheski ukazatel literatury o evreiakh (Systematic Guide to Literature on Jews; with Leon Bramson, 1892) and a number of studies devoted to Khazars (“Di ershte yedies vegn yidn in poyln” [The Earliest Information on Jews in Poland], YIVO Historishe shriftn 1 [1929]: 55–72) and medieval Kiev. His papers are held in the Goldstein-Goren Diaspora Research Center at Tel Aviv University.

Suggested Reading

Jonathan Frankel, Prophecy and Politics: Socialism, Nationalism, and the Russian Jews, 1862–1917 (Cambridge, 1981); Šarūnas Liekis, A State within a State?: Jewish Autonomy in Lithuania, 1918–1925 (Vilnius, 2003); Mendel Sudarsky, Uriyah Katsenelenbogn, and Y. Kisin, eds., Lite, vol. 1 (New York, 1951).



Translated from Hebrew by the editorial staff