Monday, December 28, 2015

Chess and Antisemitism in Russia

Illustration of the famous "lost son who became Pope" medieval legend. Source: Jewish Fairy Tales and Legends (1919), by Gertrude Landa ('Aunt Naomi'). Available online here
Tomasz Lissowski notifies us that, in his research for his book on Winawer, he discovered that in April 1914, an 'All-Russian Chess Society' was founded in St. Petersburg by P. P. Sosnitsky, who was elected president and '1st honorary member'. The other two honorary members were the Jewish players Winawer and Rubinstein, quite a surprising fact considering the well-known antisemitism in Russia at the time.

Of course, antisemitism being common in Russia at the time did not mean every Russian was antisemitic. We already noted Chigorin had openly and warmly praised Winawer, which he considered his 'master and guide', in an official reception in the St. Petersburg's chess club. 

The members of the newly-founded chess society apparently had nothing against Jewish players. Alas, adds Mr. Lissowski, the first world war, which broke out a few months later, put an end to all those plans. 

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