Engelson, Boris Jakovlevich (Yiddish name Berko Jankelev Engelson) 1881 –1908)

Boris Engelson

A short biography of Boris Engelson, indefatigable publisher of Russian underground anarchist literature

Berko Engelson was born around 1881 in Minsk into a family of Jewish merchant-peddlers. In 1900 he became politically active and joined the Bund, the Jewish Social-Democratic organisation. He soon had to emigrate to Paris for fear of reprisals from the authorities where in January 1902 he joined the anarchist-communists and the Group of Russian Anarchists Abroad. In 1902-1903 he was one of those that set up the Revolution library for Russian language speakers in Paris. In June 1904 he was involved in the setting up of the publishing group Anarkhiia, in which many important anarchists took part. The group published a large quantity of agitational and propaganda literature, which was distributed in Russia and among Russian-language immigrants. In July 1904 Engelson edited the exile paper Bread and Liberty.
In spring 1905 he illegally returned to Russia and organised illegal publishing in Riga. Around ten texts were put out including works of Bakunin, Kropotkin and Jean Grave.
In May 1905 he went to Bialystock, where he worked with a local group of anarchist-communists and established contact with the anarchist group of Riga. At his house he organised illegal printing of the Anarkhiia publishing group, which put out flyers and papers. He was arrested at his print shop in September. He threw a bomb at the police which failed to explode. He very shortly escaped from prison and went to Riga, where he became one of the most important activists of the anarchist-communist group International. He then had to flee to Geneva then on to London. He maintained close contact with anarchist groups of the North- West of Russia. In this period he supported the Black Flag (Chernoe Znamia) group. In 1907 Engelson returned to Russia, organised anarchist-communist groups in Minsk and set up the paper Without Masters. In May 1907 he went to Paris and then Geneva. At his house he organised discussions for anarchists of different groups. In September 1907 he returned to Bialystock, where he planned to organise an all-Russian anarchist conference. At the end of November 1907 the police arrested him either in Minsk or Bialystock, according to different information. He resisted arrest and was wounded twice. In December 1907 Haia Budianskaia, Boris’s partner, and his friend I.Dubinsky of the Kiev anarchist -communist group tried to free him, but were both arrested themselves. In January 1908 the Vilna court condemned him to death. He was hanged on the 2nd February1908.
The Russian Anarchists by Paul Avrich
Les libertaires du Yiddishland by Jean-Marc Izrine

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May 7 2009 13:41



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