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Nepomniashchii, Shlomo Iakov Moiseevich

(1896–1930), publicist and literary critic. Born in Krolevets, Ukraine, Nepomniashchii was raised in a traditional Jewish family that after numerous moves finally settled in Poltava. His father was a supporter of Ḥoveve Tsiyon who devoted special attention to the Jewish education of his eldest son. Nepomniashchii showed an inclination for writing at an early age. While still a child he took part in editing a children’s magazine. As he grew older he was sent to a nearby yeshiva where, along with studying Talmud and Jewish law, he read Hebrew poets Ḥayim Naḥman Bialik and Sha’ul Tchernichowsky.

In 1912 Nepomniashchii went to Palestine and studied at the Herzliya gymnasium in Tel Aviv. When he went to Ukraine on vacation in 1914, the outbreak of World War I prevented his return to Palestine. In Poltava he took part in the work of the regional Zionist Committee, becoming its secretary.

In 1918 Nepomniashchii moved to Kiev where he took up oriental studies at the university and obtained work as a proofreader at the Vozrozhdenie Jewish printing house. He was active in Tse‘ire Tsiyon and wrote articles for their newspaper Erd un arbeyt.

In 1919 Nepomniashchii worked for the commission headed by Elias Tcherikower to gather materials on the history of pogroms in Ukraine. He concluded that “Only the Soviet government saves us from a blood bath, and any weakening of the Soviet government is a danger for us . . . the best self-defense is the Red Army.” In 1920 he joined the Red Army as a volunteer frontline journalist.

After the Soviet–Polish War, Nepomniashchii began working for the Cheka (the Soviet secret police). In the following years he continued to identify with the Soviet regime, although he never became a party member. In 1920 he began working on the Kiev Jewish Communist newspaper Komunistishe fon. In 1922 he returned to Poltava. To earn a living he continued working both for the Cheka, which in that year became the GPU, and as a journalist.

In 1923 Nepomniashchii moved to Moscow, where he received a position in the press department of the RCP(b) (i.e., the Russian Communist Party–Bolshevik) Central Committee. This work gave him the opportunity to read banned newspapers and books, follow the development of Jewish literature abroad, and keep abreast of Hebrew publications. During this period Nepomniashchii wrote for Yiddish- and Russian-language periodicals, including Emes, Oktiabr’, and Shtern, using the pseudonym Sh. Elkin.

In 1926 Nepomniashchii was dismissed from his position because he was not a Party member, although he considered himself a Evsektsiia loyalist who hated Zionism and Palestine. That same year he helped organize the first convention of the Society for the Settlement of Jewish Toilers on the Land (OZET), formulating its official protocol. Later he became the editorial secretary of OZET’s Russian-language organ.

Until his last days, Nepomniashchii believed in the possibility of a proletarian culture, “international in content and national in form.” He died in 1930 at the age of 33 during an operation. His early death probably saved him from the persecutions that destroyed many of his comrades in the following years.

Suggested Reading

Yehuda Slutsky, “Nefesh keru‘ah,” Shvut 3 (1975): 80–89.



Translated from Russian by I. Michael Aronson