Kopelson, Ẓemaḥ

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KOPELSON, ẒEMAḤ (pseudonyms: Timofey ; Timoshin ; Grishin ; Polyakevich ; 1869–1933), leading pioneer of the *Bund. Born in a merchant family in Vilna, while still a student in high school in Panevezys (Ponevezh) he formed a socialist youth study circle. In 1887 he belonged to the Narodnaya Volya (Populist) circle in Vilna which also included L. Axelrod and Charles *Rappoport. He then turned to Marxism, and with L. *Jogiches began to organize Social Democratic groups of workers and intelligentsia in Vilna, in 1889–90 serving as their chief instructor. Subsequently Kopelson studied dentistry in Warsaw. Imprisoned for a time for political activities, on his return to Vilna he made use of the experience he had gained in the struggle of the Polish workers' movement. In 1895 he left the country and lived in Switzerland and Berlin. Kopelson was active on behalf of the Bund in the "Union of Russian Social Democrats Abroad" and acted as its secretary. In it he became involved in the ideological controversy between the "youth" and the "economists" with Plekhanov and P. *Axelrod, and later with the "Iskra" (Lenin; *Martov), being more in sympathy with the former. At the fifth congress of the Bund (1903) he dissented from its national Jewish program. He was a member of the "Committee Abroad" of the Bund until 1905, when he returned to Russia secretly and took charge of the Bund publishing house Die Velt. In 1908 he immigrated to the United States. He contributed to the Yiddish and Russian socialist press, and also served on the executive of the Jewish Socialist Federation of America. After the 1917 Revolution he returned to Russia and joined the Communist party, although he was not active in public affairs. His important memoirs of the period preceding the founding of the Bund were published in the Arbeter Luekh ("Workers' Calendar," 1922), and in greater detail in the collection Revolyutsionnoye dvizheniye sredi yevreyev, edited by S. Dimanstein (1930). He died in a road accident in Moscow.


Rejzen, Leksikon, 3 (1929), 518–20; D. Mil, Pionern in Bund, 2 vols. (1946–49), index.

[Moshe Mishkinsky]