ISAY (SHAYE) YUDIN-AYZENSHTADT (February 19, 1867-July 21, 1937)
Known as well by his party name of Vitaly, he was born in Vilna. His father Leyb Ayzenshtadt was a scholar, a synagogue warden, and a Torah reader in the small synagogue on Tanner Street, which he had founded himself and was not unfamiliar with secular matters as well. His mother came from a pedigreed family (Perelman) in Minsk, had received a worldly education, and read Yiddish novels that a bookdealer would bring to their home each week. Yudin studied until age eight in religious primary school and thereafter in the Russian public school of the Vilna Jewish teachers’ institute. In 1880 he entered high school. Around 1885 he joined an illegal circle for self-education which was led by the populist Isaak Dembo (killed in 1889 in Zurich while testing a bomb for an attempted terrorist assassination in Russia). In this circle, they studied Russian revolutionary literature of the day, and Yudin was infused with the ideas of “Narodnaya Volya” (People’s will). Some of the members of Dembo’s circle were arrested after the assassination of Tsar Alexander III (March 1, 1887), but Yudin was still unknown to the Gendarmerie, and he thus graduated high school without incident. He then entered the Demidov Lycée in Yaroslavl, central Russia, where he joined another illegal circle, was arrested, and spent eleven months in prison until the court sentenced him to six more months which he spent in the Kresty prison in St. Petersburg. He returned to Vilna in the summer of 1889, now disappointed in the ideology of Narodnaya Volya and one of the first Marxist social democrats in Russia. In Vilna he was one of the pioneers in the Jewish labor movement, and he participated in early social democratic propaganda work among Jewish laborers through study circles, from which was created in 1891 the Group of Jewish Social Democrats and in 1897 the General Jewish Labor Bund. In Vilna he married Lyuba Levinson (also a pioneer in social democratic activity among Jewish laborers), and in late 1893 they both departed for Berlin to study the world of ideas and the practical actions undertaken by German social democracy—mainly, to transport illegal literature from there to Russia. In Berlin, Yudin met Vladimir Ulyanov—later, known as Lenin—and had a conversation with him on principles and moral issues. This conversation agitated Yudin greatly, and he later noted that Lenin “would consequently reduce Marxism to an absurdity” (M. Rozenbaum, Erinerungen fun a sotsyal-revolutsyoner [Remembrances of a Social Revolutionary], pp. 178ff). He again returned to Vilna in 1895, and there he met a second celebrated Russian social democrat, L. Martov, who in his memoirs years later characterized Yudin from that earlier time as the “best educated theoretical Marxist in our camp.” In short order the Vilna social democratic group dispatched Yudin to Odessa. He made ties there with Jewish workers in various trades, led the first mass strike of Jewish tobacco workers in February 1896, was arrested during the strike, and remained in jail until July 1897. In jail in Odessa, where he contracted tuberculosis, he was subsequently exiled to Vilyuysk, Yakutsk district; he returned from there to Minsk in 1902. He was then coopted onto the central committee of the Bund (at all subsequent conferences of the party he was reelected onto the central committee), settled down for a time once again in Vilna, and wrote editorials for the local Russian newspaper Severo-zapadnoie slovo (Northwestern word). In 1903 he traveled illegally abroad as a delegate to the fifth conference of the Bund in Zurich and to the second conference of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party in London in October 1905. He was also a delegate to the sixth conference of the Bund in Zurich. In December 1905 he was the chief editor of the first legal daily newspaper of the Bund, Der veker (The alarm), in Vilna, and he wrote the declaration of principles published in the first issue of the newspaper, but he knew little about running a newspaper (aside from writing editorials in the first few issues), and at the beginning of January 1906 he was thrown into Lukashker Prison in Vilna. He spent five months there, contracted typhus in prison, when he recuperated, he was sentenced to exile in Arkhangelsk region, but because of his weak condition this was replaced with a sentence of exile abroad. He soon, however, returned to Russia, took an active role in the elections for the second state Duma, edited (with Vladimir Medem and Dovid Zaslavski) the Bundist journal in Russian, Nasha tribuna (Our tribune)—1906-1907, and Yudin also wrote under the name V. I. Talin—and he also contributed to the daily Folks-tsaytung (People’s newspaper) in Vilna, published in place of the closed down Der veker, and Hofnung (Hope), published after the closing down of Folks-tsaytung; he also served (with Medem, Zaslavski, and A. Vayter) on the editorial board of the Bundist weekly Der morgenshtern (The morning star) in Vilna (late 1907), and he wrote for Di shtime fun bund (The voice of the Bund) and the Russian-language Otkliki bunda (Echoes of the Bund), both in 1909, as well as other Bundist publications. Together with Ester Frumkin and Moyshe Rafes, in 1912 he traveled to Odessa to carry out election campaigning to the fourth Duma. They began to publish a propaganda newspaper in Yiddish and Russian, but soon all three of them were arrested and Yudin—because he was known among the secret police from his first arrest there back in 1896—was sent back to the city of his birth, Vilna, where the court sentenced him to exile to four years in Narym district, Siberia. Because of his illness, though, this sentence was replaced with exile to Astrakhan district, near the Volga River. He spent two years in Chyorny Yar, and then moved to Astrakhan where he ran a consumer cooperative and edited the Russian-language Astrakhanskii kooperator (Astrakhan cooperative). After being freed by the March Revolution in 1917, he and the central committee of the Bund moved to Minsk, ran a Jewish consumer cooperative “Eynikeyt” (Unity) which published Yudin’s pamphlet Vos iz azoyns a konsum-gezelshaft? (What is this thing, a consumer society?) (Minsk, 1918), 32 pp. In the struggle between right and left in the years 1918-1920, he belonged to the right wing of the Bund, and in 1920 at the twelfth conference (the split conference) in Moscow, he was included on the central committee of the social-democratic Bund. He remained living in Moscow, was a member of the Moscow Soviet as a delegate of a chemical factory, and held a governmental post—initially in the revolutionary archives, later in the Institute of Marx and Engels, but in early 1921 he was arrested by the Bolshevik authorities, spent a year in prison, and in early 1922 was deported abroad. He lived in Berlin until 1933, served as manager of the Menshevik journal Sotsialisticheskii Vestnik (Socialist herald), contributed to the “foreign delegation” of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party, and was represented (at international socialist congresses) as the agent of the Russian social-democratic Bund. When the Russian socialists moved to Paris and the rift within split right and left, Yudin found himself with the leftist group, led by Fyodor Dan. In early 1937 the Russian social democrats and Bundists in Paris celebrated Yudin’s seventieth birthday, and several months later he died. His body was cremated, and the urn with his ashes was placed beside the urns of the great French socialist Giles Guesde and the Russian social democrat Nikolai Potresov.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1 (with a bibliography); M. Rozenbaum, Erinerungen fun a sotsyal-revolutsyoner (Remembrances of a Social Revolutionary), vol. 1 (New York, 1921), p. 130; A. Kirzhnits, “Bund un rsda״p” (The Bund and the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party), Visnshaftlekhe yorbikher (Moscow) 1 (1929); obituary notices in Folkstsaytung (Warsaw) (July 22, 1937), Vilner tog (July 23, 1937), and Der veker (New York) (July 31, 1937); Sh. Halevi, in Der veker (August 14, 1937); Kh. L. Poznanski, Memuarn fun a bundist (Memoirs of a Bundist) (Warsaw, 1938); F. Kurski, Gezamlte shriftn (Collected writings) (New York, 1952), see index; A. Liessin, Zikhroynes un bilder (Memories and images) (New York, 1954), pp. 121ff; G. Aronson, in in Doyres bundistn (Generations of Bundists), vol. 1 (New York, 1956), pp. 137-54.