There is an old canard to the effect that Bolshevism was a Jewish phenomenon (the Nazis, for example, referred to it as Judeo-Bolshevism), and there are still many people today who stress the apparently disproportionate number of Jews who could be found within the Bolshevik movement - especially amongst those who held positions of power. Anecdotally, it has been my experience that Google searches lead either to material of an offensively antisemitic character ("white nationalist", and sometimes explicitly neo-Nazi websites), or to sites that refute this allegation without providing numbers or sources.

This is frustrating, since the claim gets repeated so often that I would like it verified and don't have the resources to do so reliably. I understand that by "bolshevik" we're really just referring to the majority party within the USSR (if that is correct?), and that Jewish communists didn't, by virtue of their communism, have much of a Jewish identity. I also understand that the statistics will be different if we are limiting ourselves to people who were raised as Jews, or if we broaden our scope to include people who, as per the Nazi definition, even had a single Jewish grandparent.

As such, I understand if this question might be a little too broad, and in lieu of a comprehensive answer would also appreciate references to any articles or books that address this issue in more depth. Effectively, what truth is there behind the claim that the Bolshevik movement was "disproportionately" made up of Jews, and how disproportionate was it? If Jews made up less than 1% of the population but 1.5% of the party, that would be disproportionate but hardly news-worthy.

  • This wikipedia article gives some quotes and some bibliography. HTH.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 8:55
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    Nowdays Judeo-Bolshevism is called "Cultural Marxism" instead so perhaps the stress of the Jewish character is less important now.
    – liftarn
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 8:55
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    I am not sure of the exact proportion. But, even if it was higher than the proportion of the population as a whole, you have to take into account that Jews were being persecuted by the Tsar and so naturally had a greater wish for change. Also, I read in a biography quoting Trotsky's explanation that Bolshevism was a phenomena of the towns and people of Jewish heritage disproportionality lived in towns in Russia during that time.
    – Virgo
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 10:30
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    @Virgo In relation with your last statement, you can read about the Pale of Settlement and the May laws, that supports the notion of an important urban Jewish population (due to laws forbidding them to settle in most of the countryside).
    – SJuan76
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 12:08
  • I don't have an answer, but one angle could be to investigate the history of the Allgemeine Jüdische Arbeiterbund which developed paralell do the russian social democratic party, to understand the relationship between the bolsheviki and jewish workers and left intellectuals.
    – mart
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 12:10

3 Answers 3


I understand that by "bolshevik" we're really just referring to the majority party within the USSR (if that is correct?)

This is the original, most concrete definition of "Bolshevik", yes. Outside of Russia however, the term quickly became a more generic appellation for left-wing revolutionaries, Russia sympathizers and so. In contemporary usage the meaning of the term is perhaps even more vague.

In the Russian Empire, Jews may have been less than 5% of the total population. They would have been less in the heart of Russia itself. With that in mind, they were probably somewhat over-represented in the early years of what later became the Bolshevik Party.

But Jews were even more over-represented among the less radical Menshevik party. From the Wikipedia article on Bolsheviks: "In 1907, 78.3% of the Bolsheviks were Russian and 10% were Jewish (34% and 20% for the Mensheviks)." And at the time of the Russian Revolution itself and in the years after, the ratio of Jews among Bolsheviks had fallen significantly. Quoting from the Wikipedia article on Jewish Bolshevism:

On the eve of the February Revolution in 1917, of about 23,000 members of the Bolshevik party 364 (about 1.6%) were known to be ethnic Jews. According to the 1922 Bolshevik party census, there were 19,564 Jewish Bolsheviks, comprising 5.21% of the total, and in the 1920s of the 417 members of the Central Executive Committee, the party Central Committee, the Presidium of the Executive of the Soviets of the USSR and the Russian Republic, the People's Commissars, 6% were ethnic Jews.

So claims that Jews were something like 40% of the party, which did circulate at the time, were pure fabrications.

In Germany, Hitler and the Nazis pushed hard on the idea that Communism and other left wing ideas emerged from the supposed racial degeneracy of the Jews. I cannot find any hard numbers like the above to support the idea that Jews were in fact disproportionately represented in Germany's left wing parties.

It must be said that none of this is objective evidence in support of anti-Jewish racism. Given the oppression faced by Jews in Tsarist Russia and the rest of Europe, it should hardly be surprising that they may have been a significant part of the base for left-wing movements.

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    Thank you, Brian... I don't suppose you know, however, what they mean by "ethnic Jews"? (I'm always wary of this term.) People with Jewish parents who were raised as Jews and who identified (at least at some stage) as being Jewish? Or people who had, say, a single grandfather who had Jewish parents? In the 30s and 40s, a lot of these claims came from people who defined Jewishness so loosely, but it produces (in my opinion) a somewhat meaningless definition of Jewish ethnicity. (+1, by the way)
    – Shimon bM
    Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 21:59
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    @ShimonbM. According to the Soviet constitution every citizen could choose what to put as his or her official "nationality", e.g. "Russian" or "Jewish".
    – fdb
    Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 0:48
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    @ShimonbM Ethnic as opposed to observant, that is by origin not religion. Being a Bolshevik implies being an atheist.
    – user58697
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 22:44
  • @ShimonbM an ethnic Jew is one who is a Jew according to his/her parentage (so has a Jewish mother). They don't have to be a religious Jew (so can be Christians, atheists, etc.). As communism pretty much is an atheist pursuit (in fact there was massive religious persecution of all religions in the USSR as there is in most all communist countries) we can expect the number of non-religious people of Jewish descent to be higher among communists than the number of actively religious Jews.
    – jwenting
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 6:24
  • Was watching this and in the first episode the Bavarian Soviet Republic was mentioned. Emphasis was put on the fact most of its revolutionary leaders, of which there were just a handful, were Jewish. And how this played into anti-Semitic theories at the time.
    – user17846
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 10:20

Of the 21 full members of the Central Committee of the Communist (Bolshevik) Party at the time of the October 1917 Revolution, six were of Jewish origin. That makes 29%.

Just for comparison: of the twelve ANC members who were arrested together with Nelson Mandela in 1963, five were Jews.


  • Black Jews in South Africa? Wow. You're not implying that the ANC was Communist, or are you?
    – jjack
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 3:52
  • @jjack. White Jews.
    – fdb
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 11:20
  • Did the NAACP send their lawyers from America?
    – jjack
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 17:40
  • @jjack. what exactly is the point of that question?
    – fdb
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 23:03
  • I'm trying to imagine what the motives of the white guys might've been working for/with/in a black organization. Maybe I should Google up on the ANC first.
    – jjack
    Commented Dec 6, 2017 at 0:12

"Who is a Jew?"

There are some statistics about Jewish Bolsheviks. But who defined who a Jew was?

In the Soviet Union your nationality was shown in your passport (There were about 200 nationalities, some only with fewer than 10.000 members).

You could choose your nationality from your parents nationalities. If one of them was a Jew and the other a Russian you could choose whether you were identified as Jew or Russian.

This seems to be a bit arbitrary, but it's not.

Most Jews married other Jews. So most Jews (according to their passports) were in fact Jews. In the rarer cases where a person could choose to be a Jew or not, most persons chose to be a non-Jew (because of widespread antisemitism).

Therefore Israeli historian Benjamin Pinkus estimates that any statistic about Jews should be about 10% higher.

Was there a Jewish over-representation in the higher echelons?


For example: In 1934 39% of the leading NKVD officials were Jews. While Jews only made up 1.9% of the population.

Does this mean that "Jewish Bolshevism" is true? No.

There are many counter-arguments to it. You should read "Neighbors" by Jan Tomasz Gross where he debunks "Jewish Bolshevism".

He is a physicist and as such very good with numbers.


Leave a comment if you wish to know more.

  • You have the making of a good answer here, but this is not a discussion forum. Answers need to stand on their own. Please visit the help center and look at how to write a well sourced answer. Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 23:02
  • I think this is a well informed answer. Perhaps you might want to add the data about Lenin's CC, as cited in my answer.
    – fdb
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 10:10
  • You stated that 6 out of 21 members were jewish. But you forgot to mention the 10 candidate members. They had no right to vote at the sessions, but they had the right to hold a speech and therefore were able to exert influence. Also they were not only candidates, they hat other party offices too. And higher numbers are better e.g. they are more statistically significant. So 7 out of 31 is a much better number. By the way: The number dropped drastically after the purges.
    – SerGay
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 19:45
  • "Jewish Bolshevism" is a Nazi term, blending two of their enemies into one (conspiracy theories seem to be especially favored by right-wing parties). All there is to do is find possible explanations as to why Jews were over-represented among early Communists. Trying to tweak the numbers doesn't do it.
    – jjack
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 4:02
  • How many "senior NKVD officials" were there? If there were only a handful, then saying that 40 percent were Jewish is already a distortion of reality, because it doesn't carry over to the population as a whole. For small numbers, giving percentages is plain wrong because it carries almost no information.
    – jjack
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 4:09

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