Blood Libel in Late Imperial Russia

Blood Libel in Late Imperial Russia

The Ritual Murder Trial of Mendel Beilis
Robert Weinberg
Distribution: World
Publication date: 11/20/2013
Format: Hardback 19 b&w illus., 2 maps
ISBN: 978-0-253-01099-5
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On Sunday, March 20, 1911, children playing in a cave near Kiev made a gruesome discovery: the blood-soaked body of a partially clad boy. After right-wing groups asserted that the killing was a ritual murder, the police, with no direct evidence, arrested Menachem Mendel Beilis, a 39-year-old Jewish manager at a factory near the site of the crime. Beilis's trial in 1913 quickly became an international cause célèbre. The jury ultimately acquitted Beilis but held that the crime had the hallmarks of a ritual murder. Robert Weinberg's account of the Beilis Affair explores the reasons why the tsarist government framed Beilis, shedding light on the excesses of antisemitism in late Imperial Russia. Primary documents culled from the trial transcript, newspaper articles, Beilis's memoirs, and archival sources, many appearing in English for the first time, bring readers face to face with this notorious trial.

Author Bio

Robert Weinberg is Professor of History at Swarthmore College and author of The Revolution of 1905 in Odessa: Blood on the Steps (IUP, 1993) and Stalin's Forgotten Zion: Birobidzhan and the Making of a Soviet Jewish Homeland.


“Lucidly written, well argued, and rich with primary source material . . . the story unfolds like a gripping detective novel. . . . It is social history at its finest.”
 — Jarrod Tanny, author of City of Rogues and Schnorrers: Russia's Jews and the Myth of Old Odessa (IUP, 2011)

“A concise historical reconstruction of one of the most publicized and notorious ritual murder trials in the modern world. Written in a clear and engaging style, the book analyzes a wide array of archival and published primary documents . . . all of which help capture the drama and complexity of the Beilis case.”
 — Eugene M. Avrutin, author of Jews and the Imperial State: Identification Politics in Tsarist Russia

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Table of Contents

Dramatis Personae
Introduction: A Murder Without a Mystery
1. The Initial Investigation
2. The Case Against Beilis
3. The Trial
4. Summation and Verdict