Reginald Zelnik Book Prize in History

2020 Recipient

Brendan McGeever

Anti-Semitism and the Russian Revolution

The Reginald Zelnik Book Prize in History, established in 2009 and sponsored by the Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, is awarded annually for an outstanding monograph published on Russia, Eastern Europe, or Eurasia in the field of history in the previous calendar year.

Co-Winner: Brendan McGeever
Title: Anti-Semitism and the Russian Revolution (Cambridge University Press)

Anti-Semitism and the Russian Revolution is a strikingly original and deeply researched study that speaks to pressing issues of political identity past and present. Set during the Civil War, a period of large-scale pogroms against the Russian Jewish population, the book traces the shift in Bolshevik policy from neglect of anti-Semitism to active and effective opposition. McGeever deftly explores the Party’s dilemma about how to build support among peasants and workers who frequently conflated brutal anti-Jewish violence with class struggle. He analyzes not only the well-known anti-Semitic violence of the White army but the smaller, less familiar “Red pogroms,” showing that the Soviet response to anti-Semitism was not the result of its internationalist or universalizing ideals, but rather pressure applied by young, non-Bolshevik Jewish socialists, or “racialized outsiders,” who joined the new socialist government. McGeever brings to bear on Russian history a global literature on colonialism, racial violence, and racism to demonstrate how social movements and states respond to demands for justice made by oppressed minorities. He has produced a brilliant, timely, politically astute book that offers many lessons to broad transnational social movements today.

Co-Winner: Kate Brown

Honorable Mention: Isolde Thyrêt