VLADIMIR ZHABOTINSKY (ZEEV JABOTINSKY) (October 18, 1880-August 3, 1940)
He was born in Odessa, southern Russia, into a family of the Jewish middle class. He was orphaned on his father’s side at age six and raised by his mother who supported them by running a small shop selling writing materials. He began studying Hebrew at age six—his teacher at the time was Y. Ḥ. Ravnitsky—and also attended a Russian public school; he subsequently graduated from the sixth-year class of a Russian state high school. At the time, he was writing poetry, epigrams, and parodies for the Russian-language school newspaper that he published; he edited a hectographically produced paper entitled Pravda (Truth), managed according to commonplace school discipline. In the middle of the seventh year of high school, he left to help his family and became a private tutor. Earlier he had taken to studying foreign languages and, with the help of dictionaries, he mastered German, Spanish, Italian, and Esperanto. He translated Shir hashirim (Song of Songs) and Y. L. Gordon’s “Bemitsulot hayam” (Amid the refuse of the sea) into Russian. In 1896 he wrote a novel and sent it to Vladimir Korolenko who encouraged him to write. At the end of that year, he left for Berne, Switzerland, where he studied law at the local university, and then moved on to Rome where, in the winter of 1902, continued his education and decided to abandon writing altogether. On August 22, 1897 he debuted (using the pseudonym “Vladimir Ilirets”) in print with an article on “pedagogical considerations” in the Russian educational periodical Yuzhnoie obrazovanie (Southern education). At the time he also began to contribute to the Odessa Russian-language daily newspaper Odesskii listok (Odessa flier), in which he published, among other items, his translation of Edgar Allen Poe’s Di rob (The raven). From 1898 until 1901, he was a regular correspondent (using such pen names as Almalin and A. Z. Agol) from Italy for the Russian daily Odesskiia novosti (Odessa news). In 1901 he returned to Odessa and wrote articles, feature pieces, poems, and dramatic works—his play Krov’ (Blood) was staged in the Odessa Russian state theater—and he began to play a role in Jewish community life. Following the Kishinev pogrom of 1903, he founded a Jewish self-defense group in Odessa and was arrested by the Tsarist authorities. In that year he moved to St. Petersburg and there officially joined the Zionist movement, became one of its foremost speakers and publicists in the Russian language, and contributed as well as served on the editorial board of Rassvet (Dawn) and Evreiskaia zhizn’ (Jewish life). The same year he served as the Odessa delegate to the sixth Zionist congress and spoke out publicly against the Uganda project. He published the pamphlets: Nedrugam siona (To the enemies of Zion) (Odessa, 1905), 16 pp.; Chto delat’ (What is to be done?) (Odessa, 1903), 18 pp.; Kritiki sionizma (Critics of Zionism) (Odessa, 1905), 24 pp., or Di kritiker fun tsienizm in Yiddish (Odessa, 1906), 32 pp.—all of which appeared in Russian and Yiddish. He also contributed to the socialist daily newspaper Avanti! (Forward!) in Rome, and he edited the Russian weekly newspapers: Nasha zhizn’ (Our life) and Khronika evreiskoi zhizni (Chronicle of Jewish life) in St. Petersburg; at the same time, he was publishing his Russian translations of Bialik’s poetry which made Bialik famous in Russian literary circles (published in book form in Berlin in 1922), was a cofounder of the publishing house of Kadima (Onward) which brought out, aside from his pamphlets in Russian and Yiddish, also his Hebrew translation of Giovagnoli’s novel Spartak (Spartacus [original: Spartaco]), Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective stories, and other works of European literature. In 1905 after the Odessa pogrom, he wrote proclamations and pamphlets against the Tsarist authorities, founded the League for Equal Rights for Jews in Russia, translated Bialik’s “Massa nemirov” (In the city of slaughter) into Russian, and published such pamphlets as: Skazane o pogrome (The story of a pogrom) (Odessa, 1906), 16 pp.; Tsienizm un erets-yisroel (Zionism and the land of Israel); O territorializme︡, Sionizm i Palestina (On territorialism, Zionism and Palestine) (Odessa, 1905), 23 pp.; Far vos viln mir davke erets-yisroel, un nit glat a teritorye in der velt arayn? (Why do we want nothing less than the land of Israel, and not just a territory somewhere in the world?) (London, 1905), 30 pp.; Chto takoe Bazelskaya Programma? (What is up with the Basel Program) (Vilna, 1908), 16 pp., or Vos iz azoyns dos bazeler program (Odessa, 1907), 61 pp.—all of which appeared in Russian and Yiddish. In 1906 he assumed a leading position at the “Conference of the Zionist Press” (Odessa-Vilna), which prepared the Helsinki Program of the Zionist Organization. At the Helsinki Conference he was the main speaker opposing Yitskhok Grinboym’s “positive diaspora program.” He was a regular contributor to the Russian daily newspapers Slovo (Word) and Rus’ (Russia), among others, in which he published features and articles on timely Jewish topics (on conversion to Christianity, assimilation, anti-Semitism, national issues, and the like). In the same year he was the Jewish candidate for the Volhynia region to the second Russian “state Duma.” In the winter of 1907 he wrote the dramas Extern abram (External student Abram) and Chuzhbina (A strange land) in verse; the latter he reworked the following year as a comedy entitled [in English translation] “The Struggle with Assimilation” (Berlin, 1922) and his “political fables.” In 1908 he made his first trip to Israel. When the “Young Turks’” revolution succeeded in 1909, Zhabotinsky, as the representative of the political bureau of Russian Zionists, settled in Constantinople with the goal of influencing the new Turkish regime in favor of a Jewish Israel. He edited the publications Le Jeune Turc (The young Turk) and the anthology Hamevaser (The herald). He left Turkey in 1910 and returned to Russia. En route home, he participated in the Zionist congress in Hamburg. He published his famous articles on Turkey in Rassvet. He traveled about reporting to the Jewish Diaspora, before arriving back in Odessa. In 1912 he settled in St. Petersburg, where he received his diploma as a lawyer for a dissertation on the “state and nation.” That same year he was selected to be a candidate for the third Duma. In 1914 he was the traveling correspondent for the major Moscow newspaper Russkie vedomosti (Russian gazette). He visited South Africa, Egypt, the countries of the Near East, Scandinavia, England, France, and elsewhere. His travel narratives and feature pieces exerted a strong influence at the time on serious readers of the newspaper.
When Turkey entered the war on the German side, and after the expulsion of the Jews of Jaffa, Zhabotinsky raised his notion of a Jewish Legion which would fight on the side of the Entente. Toward that end, he founded in Copenhagen the Yiddish periodical Di tribune (The tribune), 1915-1916, which later came out as a daily newspaper in London. His agitation aroused opposition among radical Jewish circles, but did gain success among Jewish refugees who had been driven out of Turkey and were living in Alexandria, Egypt, and from them Zhabotinsky formed the first cadre of the Jewish Legion. The Englishmen who held principal authority over the front sector had not consented to send the group to the front in Israel, but he created the so-called “mule battalion” which, instead of Israel, was sent to Gallipoli. He alone, though, left for Europe, lived in London, and there in 1917 published his English-language book, Turkey and the War (London, 1917), 263 pp. For the first time in 1918 he took part as an officer in the fighting between England and the Turkish military and was wounded on the front in Israel. Demobilized in 1919, he was a member of the Vaad Hatsirim (Delegates committee), and he edited the newspapers Ḥadashot haarets (News of the land) and Haarets (The land) in Jerusalem (1919-1920). During the pogrom in Jerusalem (April 1920), he was commandant of the local Hagana [voluntary Jewish self-defense force] and was thus sentence by the British war court to fifteen years of forced labor. A prisoner in the Acco Prison, there he wrote in Hebrew the “Song of the Acco Prisoners,” as well as translated into Hebrew the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám and the Divine Comedy of Dante. In August 1920 he was pardoned by High Commissioner Herbert Samuel, left Israel, settled in Berlin, revived Rassvet there, and published a second edition of Chuzhbina and the first volume of Targumim (Translations) (Berlin, 1923), 62 pp.—including translations from Poe, Edward Rostand, and Omar Khayyám. He was a member of the Zionist world executive. For the first time in 1922 he visited the United States. In 1923 he published in Rassvet his famed article concerning a revision of Zionism—from whence the concept and the term “revisionist” for his direction in Zionism—and he founded “Brit Trumpeldor” (or Betar), while at the same time writing articles, poetry, dramas, the novels Piatero (The Five) and Shimshon, roman (Samson, a novel) (published in Yiddish in Tsukunft [Future] in New York as Shimshon der nozer (Samson the nazirite), and chapters of his autobiography. He was a cofounder of the publishing house of Hasefer (The book). Together with Dr. Sh. Perlman, he published Kol bo latalmid (Everything for the student) and Atlas (a Hebrew-language geography), his own Hamivta haivri (Hebrew pronunciation), and his translation of Gabriele D’Annunzio’s writings into Hebrew. In 1923 he resigned from the Zionist world executive. He settled in Paris in 1925, and there he founded the association of Zionist Revisionists and began the struggle against the official Zionist Organization, against the Jewish Agency, and against British policies in Israel. To this end, he established the monthly journal Der nayer veg (The new way) in Paris, while remaining a contributor to the Yiddish newspapers: Morgn-zhurnal (Morning journal) in New York; Tsayt (Times) in Vilna; Lodzer tageblat (Lodz daily newspaper); Frimorgn (Morning) in Riga; Idishe tsaytung (Jewish newspaper) in Buenos Aires; and to the Polish Jewish Nasz Przegląd (Our overview) in Warsaw—for the latter he wrote a timely series of articles entitled “what the typewriter recounts.” In 1928 he returned to Israel, became editor of the daily Doar hayom (Today’s mail) in Jerusalem, and a regular contributor to Haynt (Today) in Warsaw, in which, aside from articles, he published “Di geshikhte fun idishn legion” (The history of the Jewish Legion), published in book form in Warsaw in 1929 (207 pp.). He left Israel in 1929 for the sixteenth Zionist congress, but the British administration in Israel forbade him from returning. In those years he made his great campaign trip through a number of countries and spent a longer period of time in Poland where he led his campaign exclusively in the Yiddish language; although he remained the same stubborn fighter for Hebrew, he now changed his attachment to Yiddish, even working on a Yiddish grammar—see Ayzik Remba, Zhabotinskis ṭeg un nekht, erinerungen fun zayn privat-sekretar (Zhabotinsky’s day and night, the experiences of his private secretary) (Paris, 1951), 317 pp.—and writing to Professor Shimen Dubnov that “Yiddish is a powerful instrument for thought and culture”—see Dubnov, Fun “zhargon” tsu yidish un andere artiklen, literarishe zikhroynes (From “zhargon” to Yiddish and other articles, literary memoirs) (Vilna, 1929), 177 pp. He then went on to settle once again in Paris, founded there the New Zionist Organization and the Irgun Tsvay Leumi (National Military Organization), and began his agitation for military training of Jewish youth. At the same time, he developed a plan to evacuate Jews from Poland and for a merciless fight against England. He was a regular contributor to: Moment (Moment) and Unzer veg (Our way) in Warsaw; Frimorgn in Riga; and Hamashkif (The spectator) in Jerusalem. He spent the years 1936-1939 in London and published in Moment the series of articles entitled “11 a zeyger” (11:00 a.m.) and “Fun mayn tog-bukh” (From my diary). With the outbreak of WWII, he returned to Paris and from there traveled on to the United States. He died of a heart attack in Camp Betar, not far from New York City.
Aside from those works by Zhabotinsky cited above, others of his writings in book form include: Sheelot avoda (Questions of faith) (Tel Aviv, 1933), 80 pp.; Gola vehitbolelit (Exile and assimilation) (Tel Aviv, 1936), 340 pp.; Kitve zeev zhabotinski (The writings of Zev Zhabotinsky) (Tel Aviv, 1959), 14 vols., including his poetry, dramas, feature pieces, novels, and important articles. In Yiddish: Di soydes fun der hebreisher bavegung (The secrets of the Hebrew movement) (Warsaw, 1928), 16 pp.; Der sotsyaler program fun revizyonizm (The social program of Revisionism) (Buenos Aires, 1934), 24 pp.; Aktuele artiklen (Timely articles) (Riga, 1936), 158 pp.; Religye (Religion) (Warsaw, 1936), 18 pp.; Di naye tsienistishe organizatsye (The New Zionist Organization) (Warsaw, 1936), 16 pp.; Di revizyonistishe yugnt-bavegung (The Revisionist youth movement), with Y. Klinov (Warsaw, 1934), 16 pp.; Di naye beylisyade (The new Beilis ordeal) (Warsaw, 1936), 32 pp.; Havloge iz farat (Forbearance is treason) (Riga, 1938), 31 pp.; Far der keniglikher komisye (For the royal commission) (Riga, 1938), 64 pp.; Di dray gebotn fun der sho (The three commandments of the hour) (Riga, 1939), 32 pp.; Zamlbukh far beytarisher yugnt (Collection for Betar youth) (Munich, 1947), 137 pp. A great number of his works appeared in Russian, Polish, French, Italian, Spanish, and English. Many monographs have addressed Zhabotinsky’s life and work, the most important of which being: Dr. Joseph Schechtman, The Vladimir Zhabotinsky Story: Rebel and Statesman (New York, 1956), 467 pp.; Nokhum Sumer (Nahum Summer), Vladimir zhabotinski, der mentsh un zayn arbet (Vladimir Zhabotinsky, the man and his work) (New York, 1947), 175 pp.; Yitskhok Isakson, Seyfer zhabotinski (The Zhabotinsky volume) (Buenos Aires, 1949), 287 pp.; and Ayzik Remba, Zhabotinskis ṭeg un nekht, erinerungen fun zayn privat-sekretar (Zhabotinsky’s day and night, the experiences of his private secretary) (Paris, 1951), 317 pp.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Dr. Sh. Bernshteyn, in Di varhayt (New York) (November 30, 1915); Vl. Grosman, in Tsukunft (New York) (October 1920); Sh. Gorelik, in Di tsayt (New York) (January 21, 1921); A. Kritshmar-Izraeli, in Di tsayt (November 12, 1921); Dr. N. Sirkin, in Di tsayt (December 10, 1921); Dr. Chaim Zhitlovsky, in Di tsayt (February 19, 1922); Y. Sh. Stupnitski, in Frimorgn (Riga) (February 14, 1926); Sh. Rozenfeld, in Der veg (New York) (February 2, 1926; November 11, 1932; January 13, 1934; August 27, 1935); M. Ribalov, in Hadoar (New York) (October 24, 1930; August 9, 1940); Dr. A. Ginzburg, in Tog (New York) (November 19, 1932); Ginzburg, in Forverts (New York) (January 9, 1932; February 2, 1935); Ben-Guryon, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (January 9, 1935); Shmuel Niger, in Tog (New York) (January 5, 1932; March 7, 1932; August 30, 1932); P. Vyernik, in Morgn-zhurnal (April 7, 1935); Tsvien, in Forverts (July 18, 1931; January 2, 1932; January 9, 1932; April 6, 1935); Dr. A. Korlonik, in Tog (July 16, 1931; January 6, 1932; February 14, 1932; January 13, 1936); Dr. A. Mukdoni, in In varshe un in lodzh (In Warsaw and in Lodz) (Buenos Aires, 1955), vols. 1 and 2; Y. Klinov, in Morgn-zhurnal (September 30, 1932); A. Sh. Yuris, Kemfer un dikhter (Fighter and writer) (Riga, 1931); Y. Kahan, In un arum tsienizm (In and around Zionism) (Bialystok, 1932); M. Fishman and M. Y. Nirenberger, in Morgn-zhurnal (August 5, 1940); Y. Medresh, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (August 6, 1940); M. Ginzburg, in Keneder odler (August 7, 1940); B. Smolyar, in Keneder odler (August 9, 1940); Y. Y. Sigal, in Keneder odler (August 16, 1940); Khayim Grinberg, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (August 9, 1940); Osip Dimov, in Tsukunft (September 1940); B. Shefner, in Der veker (New York) (June 1, 1942); R. Abramovitsh, In tsvey revolutsyes (In two revolutions) (New York, 1944); Dr. Y. Tsinamon, Geshikhte fun tsienizm (History of Zionism), vol. 1 (Paris, 1947); Dr. Maks Reyzin, Groyse yidn vos ikh hob gekent (Great Jews whom I have known) (New York, 1950); Y. Libman, Boyer un shefer fun mayn dor (Builders and creators of my generation) (New York, 1952); Z. Shniur, in Hadoar (July 24, 1955); Ben-Tsien Kats, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (December 18, 1955); Y. Heftman, Am veadam (Nation and man) (Tel Aviv, 1956); Kh. Sh. Kazdan, Fun kheyder un shkoles biz tsisho (From religious and secular primary schools to Tsisho) (Mexico City, 1956), see index; Zalman Shazar, Or ishim (Light of personalities) (Tel Aviv, 1955), pp. 103-23; M. Mozes, in Fun noentn over (New York) 2 (1956); Kh. Finkelshteyn, in Fun noentn over 2 (1956), pp. 121, 122, 123, 135; A. Granot, Ishim beyisrael (People in Israel) (Tel Aviv, 1957), pp. 159-82; D. Tidhar, in Entsiklopedyah leḥalutse hayishuv uvonav (Encyclopedia of the pioneers and builders of the yishuv), vol. 1958 (Tel Aviv, 1947), pp. 3017-24; M. Braun, Mit yidishe oygn (With Jewish eyes) (New York, 1958), pp. 249-51; Dr. Y. Klausner and Y. Klorman, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (July 20, 1958); Dr. Sh. Margoshes, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (August 8, 1958); Dr. Shloyme Bikl, in Keneder odler (October 2, 1958); Y. Shekhman, Zeev zhabotinski (Zev Zhabotinsky), vols. 2 and 3 (Tel Aviv, 1959).
Khayim Leyb Fuks.