Thursday, 26 November 2015


SHIMEN DIMANSHTEYN (SEMYON DIMANSHTAIN) (February 19, 1888-August 28, 1938)
            He was born in Sebezh, Vitebsk region.  His father Mortkhe was a tinsmith.  He studied in the yeshivas of Telshe (Telz), Slobodka, and Lyubavitsh.  He received rabbinic ordination from many rabbis, among them: R. Chaim Ozer Grodzensky.  Over the years 1903-1904, he became captivated by the revolutionary burst of energy.  He moved to Vilna to pursue his studies and there was drawn to socialist circles.  At the same time he began his literary activities and translated into both Yiddish and Hebrew the programs of the “Russian Social Democratic Party” (the Hebrew text was published in 1906 in Hazman [The times] in Vilna).  Over the years 1905-1908, he helped to transport illegal literature, and he worked in the publishers of the Bolsheviks’ northwestern committee in Minsk.  He was arrested in 1908 in Riga at a Party meeting and was sentenced to five years hard labor.  In 1913 he was exiled to Siberia.  On the eve of WWI, he escaped initially to Germany and later to Paris.  He worked there in a factory, and he graduated from a school for electrical technology, led anti-war agitation, and founded a Jewish workers’ club.  He returned to Russian in May 1917 and assumed an assortment of positions in the Party organization.  After the October Revolution, he worked in the People’s Commissariat for Labor.  On January 20, 1918 he was appointed by Lenin to be Commissar for Jewish National Affairs.  He edited the organs of the Jewish Commissariat.  He was the first editor in the Yiddish Communist press.  In the spring of 1919, he was named People’s Commissar for Labor in the Lithuanian-Byelorussian government in Vilna.  When this state was occupied by the Poles, he escaped, returned to Moscow, and again assumed his position as Commissar of Jewish Affairs.  He was also chairman of the Jewish Section in the Communist Party, manager of the division for national minorities in the central committee of the Russian Communist Party.  He worked in Turkestan, 1920-1921, as People’s Commissar for Education, and assumed high positions in Tashkent, Orenburg, and Krasnoyarsk.  From 1922 he was in charge of “political enlightenment” and assistant to the head of the cultural division of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (Bolsheviks), and from 1924 until February 1930 he was the representative of the head of the cultural division to the Central Committee of the Party in Byelorussia, as well as chief of the sector for national minorities.  Dimanshteyn later returned to Moscow and became chairman of the central administration of Gezerd (All-Union Association for the Agricultural Settlement of Jewish Workers in the USSR), a member of the Communist Academy, director of the Institute of Nationalities at the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Union, and editor of the Russian publication, Revoliutsiia i natsional’nosti (Revolution and nationalities).  He wrote as well under the pen names: Naftali Gorfinkel, Dan, and A Royter, among others.  Among his longer works: Baym likht fun komunizm (By the light of Communism), articles (Moscow, 1919), 295 pp.; Der tsienizm unter a komunistishn shlayer (Zionism under a Communist mantle) (Moscow, 1919), 16 pp.; A yor komunistishe arbet (A year of Communist labor), the activities of the Central Jewish Commissariat and the Jewish Communist Section (Moscow, 1919), 32 pp.; Natsyonale momentn afn 13tn tsuzamenfor fun der rk”p (National considerations at the 13th Conference of the Russian Communist Party) (Moscow, 1924), 64 pp.; the preface to the volume (in Russian) by Professor S. Semkovskii on Marxism and the national question (Kharkov, 1924); a foreword to a book by B. Orshanski (Minsk, 1925); “Di revolutsyonere bavegung tsvishn di idishe masn un der revolutsye fun 1905 yor” (The revolutionary movement among the Jewish masses and the Revolution of 1905), Royte bleter (Red leaves) (Minsk) 1 (1929), pp. 1-42; Di revolutsyonere bavegung tsvishn di idishe masn un der revolutsye fun 1905 yor (Moscow, 1929), 93 pp.; Di problem fun natsyonaler kultur (The problem with national culture) (Moscow, 1930), 80 pp.; “Stalin vi a bolshevistisher teoristiker fun der natsyonaler frage” (Stalin as a Bolshevik theorist on the national question), Tsaytshrift (Periodical) (Minsk) 4 (1930); a detailed introduction to a volume (in Russian) on the revolutionary movement among the Jews (Moscow, 1930), from the section on learning about the revolutionary movement among Jews for the association of those exiled to hard labor; Der kamf fun leninizm kegn lyuksemburgizm (The struggle of Leninism against Luxemburgism) (Moscow, 1933), 104 pp.; Di natsyonale frage afn tsveytn tsuzamenfor fun der partey (The national question at the second conference of the Party) (Moscow, 1934), 82 pp.; Di yidishe avtonomye gegnt, a kind fun der oktober-revolutsye (The Jewish autonomous region, a child of the October Revolution) (Moscow, 1934), 56 pp.; “Fun tsarishn tkhum biz sovetisher avtonomye” (From the Tsarist pale to Soviet autonomy), in his edited anthology Yidn in fssr (Jews in the USSR) (Moscow, 1935), pp. 13-27; “Tsu der shprakhbaratung” (To the language conference), Afn shprakhfront (On the language front) (Kiev) 3-4 (1935), pp. 288-338; Der prezidyum funem tsentraln oysfir-komitet fun fssr vegn der yidisher avtonomer gegnt (The Presidium of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR concerning the Jewish Autonomous Region) (Moscow: Emes, 1936), 24 pp.  In addition to those mentioned above, he also edited Di varhayt (The truth), organ of the Social Democrats (Bolsheviks) and Left Socialist Revolutionaries (first issue appeared in St. Petersburg on March 8, 1918; from no. 4 it was being published in Moscow by the Jewish Commissariat); Evreiskaia tribuna (Jewish tribune), Russian-language organ of the Jewish Commissariat, together with Tuvye Akselrod, Nokhum Bukhbinder, and Zerekh Grinberg; Der emes (The truth), daily newspaper, organ of the Jewish Section of the Russian Communist Party (Moscow, 1918-1919), last issue appeared February 13, 1919, after which the name (Emes) was spelled out phonetically (rather than in its Hebraic form); Kultur-fragn (Cultural issues), anthology edited with N. Bukhbinder and Z. Grinberg (St. Petersburg: Commissariat for Jewish Affairs, 1918), 95 pp.; Di komunistishe velt (The Communist world), organ of the Jewish Commissariat (Moscow), fifteen issues in all (May 1, 1919-March-April 1920); N. Lenin, Di natsyonale un yidishe frage, fun onhoyb imperialistisher milkhome (The national and Jewish question, from the start of the imperialist war), in Oysgeveylte verk (Selected writings), vol. 8 (Moscow, 1929); Yidn in fssr, zamlbukh (Jews in the USSR, an anthology) (Moscow, 1935), 284 pp.; Forpost, literarish-kinstlerisher un politish-gezelshaftlekher zhurnal fun der yidisher avtonomer gegnt birobidzhan (Outpost, literary-artistic and political-community journal of the Jewish autonomous region of Birobidzhan), of which he was a member of the editorial board, 1932-1937; According to certain information, he was executed when the Soviet regime liquidated Gezerd in 1937.[1]

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1, p. 694; D. Tsharni (Charney), in Tog (New York) (January 18, 1926); Tsharni, in Parizer bleter (Paris) (February 16, 1926); A. Glants, in Tog (June 25, 1932); Kh. Dunets, In kamf af tsvey frontn (Struggling on two fronts) (Minsk, 1932), p. 11; A, Brakhman, “Der lenin-zeksband af yidish” (Six volumes of Lenin in Yiddish), Emes (Moscow) (1934); Di komunistishe velt (Moscow) 10-11 (1934), p. 35; Kh-n, in Shtern (Kharkov) 208 (1934); Oktyaber (Minsk) 5 (1935); Yidishe bilder (Riga) 44 (76) (November 1938); G. Aronson, in Der veker (New York) (March 1, 1939); Tsharni, in Tsukunft (New York) (June 1939); Tsharni, A yortsendlik aza (A decade like that) (New York, 1943), pp. 208-14, 217, 218, 224-27, 250-57, 273-77; Tsharni, in Davke (Toronto) (1951), pp. 13-17; H. Vaynraykh, Blut af der zun (Blood on the son) (Brooklyn, 1950), p. 157; Ben-Tsiyon Kats, in Hadoar (New York) (Sivan 15=April 25, 1956); Kats, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (1954).
Aleksander Pomerants

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 198.]

[1] Translator’s note.  More recent information has found that Dimanshteyn was criticized for “nationalist” views within the Communist world in 1937 and executed for them in August 1938.


  1. Hi Joshua, thanks for making this translated leksikon entry web-accessible! Great to see Yiddish cultural figures and activists online. I noticed that your article has an image created by the digital artists at Yiddishkayt, but it doesn't link back or reference the original post. As you can see, it's featured here: Would you be able to add this information in? Thankyou!

  2. SHIMEN DIMANSHTEYN wrote a foreword to M. Altshuler's Antireligiezer lernbukh (Antireligeous textbook).- Moscow, 1929.- 230, [2] pp.
    אנטירעליגיעזער לערנבוך
    מ. אלטשולער ; פארװארט - ש. דימאנשטײן
    מאסקװע : צענטראלער פעלקער-פארלאג פון פססר

  3. SHIMEN DIMANSHTEYN edited Komyugishe politshmuesn :lernbukh far komyugishe politshuln in dray heftn (YCL political talks : anthology for YCL political schools in 3 parts).- MoskveTsentraler felker-farlag fun FSSR, 1929-1930
    קאמיוגישע פאליטשמועסן
    לערנבוך פאר קאמיוגישע פאליטשולן אין דרײ העפטן
    אונטער דער רעדאקציע פון ש. דימאנשטײן
    מאסקװע : צענטראלער פעלקער-פארלאג פון פססר