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Minsk Conference


MINSK CONFERENCE , the second conference of Russian Zionists, held publicly and with the government's permission in Minsk from Sept. 4 to Sept. 10, 1902. The number of representatives was estimated at 526. The Minsk Conference was in essence the "first all-Russian Zionist Congress," an assembly of a national minority in a state that had suppressed national minorities and denied them the right of assembly. Two organized factions were represented at the conference: *Mizrachi with 160 representatives and the *Democratic Fraction with about 60 representatives. The majority of representatives did not align with either group but organized a neutral faction. The main point of contention between Mizrachi and the Democratic Fraction was the cultural question. Mizrachi opposed the Zionist Organization's conducting cultural activities, demanding instead, practical work in Ereẓ Israel by means of the *Jewish National Fund (jnf) and the *Jewish Colonial Trust. Jehiel *Tschlenow was elected chairman. M. *Ussishkin proposed the establishment of a "Zionist Guard" composed of young men whose task would be to deliver public speeches on the Zionist idea, organize schools, write propaganda pamphlets, etc. This call for practical efforts enthused many delegates, especially among the youth. The focal point of the conference was the delivery of reports on cultural activities by N. *Sokolow and *Aḥad Ha-Am. The latter explained his outlook on the close relationship between the movement of national renaissance and cultural work; Sokolow proposed that Hebrew be the official language of the Zionist Organization. Isaac *Reines, the Mizrachi leader, expressed his objections to the Zionist Organization's conducting cultural activities. After a vehement debate, the conference's presidium summoned both Aḥad Ha-Am and Reines to a consultation, in which the latter accepted the proposal to choose two educational committees – a traditional one and a progressive one. This arrangement dissolved the crisis that threatened to split the Russian Zionist Movement. After the conference, there was a marked change for the worse in the government's attitude toward the Jews in general and the Zionist Organization in particular. During Passover 1903 the *Kishinev pogrom took place, and in June of the same year all Zionist activities were totally prohibited in Russia.


M. Nurock, Ve'idat Ẓiyyonei Rusyah (1963), includes introduction by I. Klausner; A. Boehm, Die Zionistische Bewegung, 1 (1935), 200, 296, 517ff.; Ch. Weizmann, Letters and Papers, 1 (1968), index; M. Kleinman, in: Lu'aḥ Aḥi'asaf (1902), 454–70; He-Avar, 9 (1962), 94–106; A. Raphaeli (Zenziper), in: Kaẓir, 1 (1964), 60–75; Die Welt, nos 37, 38, 40 (1902); S. Eisenstadt (ed.), Yeḥi'el Tschlenow (Heb., 1937).

[Israel Klausner]

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