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Zaslavskii, David Iosifovich

(1880–1965), Bundist activist and Soviet publicist. Born in Kiev, David Zaslavskii became interested in Russian Jewish literature and Jewish history while still in his youth. In 1899, he took part in a Jewish student organization established by Zionists and socialists at Kiev University and was expelled from the university in 1901 for participating in student riots. He began his activities at the Bund in 1903, simultaneously writing for the Russian-language press. In 1905 and 1906, he worked for the Bund Central Committee, publishing in their press in both Yiddish (Di tsayt) and Russian (Evreiskie vesti). From 1907 to 1917, he also published widely in the general liberal Russian press in Kiev and Saint Petersburg.

Zaslavskii was arrested several times for revolutionary activity and was imprisoned in Vilna and Kiev. He became a member of the Bund Central Committee in April 1917 and was the Bund’s representative to the Petrograd Soviet. Coeditor of Arbayter shtimme (Workers’ Voice), he also joined the editorial board of the Menshevik newspaper Den’ (Day). Zaslavskii reacted negatively to the Bolshevik coup; in January 1918 he was arrested and spent a month in jail. He then moved to Kiev, where he edited Jewish publications in Yiddish and Russian. He was expelled from the Bund in 1919 for publishing with a press associated with the White Army general Anton Denikin. After the establishment of Bolshevik rule in Ukraine, Zaslavskii published a letter renouncing his former views.

In 1921, Zaslavskii moved to Moscow and then to Petrograd, where he wrote mainly about the history of the workers’ movement. He was a member of the Jewish Historical and Ethnographical Society, and headed a commission on the history of the Jewish workers’ movement. In 1924, Zaslavskii published a letter in Pravda expressing support for Communist Party policy and, from that time, earned a reputation as a loyal Soviet publicist and writer of satirical articles. He joined the staff of Izvestiia in 1926 and of Pravda in 1928. In 1934, he became a member of the Communist Party.

Zaslavskii participated in official Soviet Jewish life: in the late 1920s he was on the editorial board of Tribuna and in 1932 he published the brochure Evrei v SSSR (Jews in the USSR). He also wrote for Der emes and, later, for Eynikayt, the organ of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, of which he was a member.

Zaslavskii took the position that the committee should limit itself to propaganda aimed at the West and not become involved with the problems of Soviet Jews. During the postwar period when state antisemitism was strong, he was reprimanded by the party for his wartime activities with the committee and was removed from his position as head of the department of journalism at the Higher Party School. In the 1950s, he published harshly anti-Israeli articles. He also gained notoriety for his role in the persecution of Osip Mandel’shtam and, later, of Boris Pasternak.

Suggested Reading

Gennadii Kostyrchenko and Shimon Redlikh, eds., Evreiskii antifashistskii komitet v SSSR, 1941–1948: Dokumentirovannaia istoriia (Moscow, 1996).



Translated from Russian by Yisrael Cohen