New York (State). Legislature. Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities

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During its investigation, the committee searched New York City headquarters of suspected radical organizations, collected testimony from individuals active in these organizations, and assisted in the prosecution of many individuals charged with criminal anarchy under several sections of the state's Penal Law, as part of its charge to investigate radical activity. The state's Attorney General served as the counsel to the committee and was very active during these investigations.

From the description of Legal papers relating to searches and prosecutions of suspected radical individuals and organizations, 1919-1920. (New York State Archives). WorldCat record id: 84370144

While civil war and revolution were occurring in Russia, Finland, frequently under Russian dominion, revolted and declared independence. In January 1918, the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the People's Republic of Finland came to power as a declared Socialist government. Though short-lived, it established the Finnish Information Bureau in New York City as its official, though unrecognized, mission in the United States. The mission solicited support for this Finnish government and also promoted the interests of the Russian Soviet regime to which it was closely tied. The committee asserted that the Finnish Information Bureau went beyond seeking support for the Finnish government and that it really was promoting revolutionary doctrine in this country. The committee subsequently raided the bureau and seized a number of files in order to gather evidence about the bureau's suspected subversive activities.

From the description of Finnish Information Bureau seized files, 1918-1919. (New York State Archives). WorldCat record id: 82511034

These records were created by Archibald Stevenson, chief investigator for the Lusk Committee and principal writer of the committee's final report.

From the description of Archibal Stevenson files, 1919-1920. (New York State Archives). WorldCat record id: 122537359

The American Socialist Society operated the Rand School of Social Science in New York City. The emphasis of the school's curriculum was on economics and history along with courses on English, public speaking and other practical courses for immigrants. While the Rand School's stated philosophy was to promote the spread of socialism by peaceful means, the committee maintained that it sought the overthrow of the government.

From the description of Rand School seized files, 1913-1919. (New York State Archives). WorldCat record id: 83432491

During its investigation, the committee gathered information on a broad spectrum of individuals, organizations, and events associated with radical activities during the "Red Scare" years. As part of this information gathering, the committee examined articles from newspapers reporting on these activities and their causes in the United States and throughout the world. The committee examined the newspapers not only for information about these activities but also to determine attitudes of the press and public toward radical movements.

From the description of Newspaper clippings files, 1919. (New York State Archives). WorldCat record id: 79781191

During its investigation, the committee charged that the National Civil Liberties Bureau (NCLB) was engaged in a number of seditious activities, particularly in regard to undermining the nation's efforts during World War I.

The NCLB was formed in 1917 as an outgrowth of the American Union Against Militarism, which was formed to work against American intervention in the war. The stated objectives of the NCLB were to protect free speech and civil liberties of citizens and to assist the defense of conscientious objectors during the war. The NCLB also served as a type of national clearinghouse of information relating to the legal defense of conscientious objectors and other individuals charged by the government with various types of seditious activity. In 1920, the NCLB changed its name to the American Civil Liberties Union.

During the hearings, the committee accused the NCLB of many radical activities including: encouraging individuals to register as conscientious objectors to escape military duty; assisting radical groups in obstructing the war effort; issuing propaganda for radical organizations; and furnishing attorneys for those objecting to military service and for those being prosecuted for violating the Federal Espionage Act.

The committee felt strongly that Socialist revolutionaries played upon pacifist sentiments of a large number of well-intentioned individuals to spread radical propaganda and to influence foreign policy decisions of the United States toward Soviet Russia. The committee charged that the NCLB was in the forefront of this pacifist movement and it closely investigated the bureau's activity.

From the description of National Civil Liberties Bureau subpoenaed files, 1917-1919. (New York State Archives). WorldCat record id: 82657122

In 1919, the New York State Legislature established the Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities (Concurrent Resolution, March 26, 1919). This committee was given broad authority to investigate individuals and organizations in the state who were suspected of promoting the overthrow of the American government in violation of the criminal anarchy articles of the state's Penal Code. With the exception of a minor case, this was the first time that these statutes had been implemented since their enactment following the assassination of President McKinley by an anarchist in Buffalo in 1902.

For approximately a year, the committee gathered an enormous body of information on suspected radical groups by raiding organization offices and examining documents, infiltrating meetings, assisting law enforcement agents in the arrest of thousands, and subpoenaing witnesses for the committee's hearings. The investigation generated nationwide publicity and the repressive attitude which resulted throughout the State contributed to the expulsion of five Socialist members from the New York State Assembly and the prosecution of a number of individuals on criminal anarchy charges. The committee's investigation officially ended when it submitted its final report with recommendations to the legislature in April 1920.

COMMITTEE ACTIVITIES. The Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities consisted of four senators and five assemblymen. Headed by Senator Clayton R. Lusk of Cortland County, it was known popularly as the "Lusk Committee." While most of its investigation centered in New York City, the committee also undertook investigations in Buffalo, Rochester, and Utica. Private detectives and legislative staff members assisted in the investigations, and the State Attorney General acted as the committee's general counsel. Additionally, the committee cooperated closely with local police and district attorneys and officials from the federal government's Immigration Bureau and Justice Department.

During its investigation, the committee raided the headquarters of suspected radical organizations to gather evidence that these organizations advocated the overthrow of the government. Among the organizations raided were the Russian Soviet Bureau, the Rand School of Social Science, the left wing section of the Socialist Party, the Industrial Workers of the World (all located in New York City), and 73 branches of the Communist Party. Using search warrants in the raids, the committee seized thousands of documents from these organizations, retaining the originals (or making copies) for examination and, in some cases, for inclusion in its final report. In addition, the committee seized financial records and membership lists and shared them with local district attorneys throughout the state, who, on the basis of the lists, indicted many individuals on criminal anarchy charges. The investigation also involved committee investigators who observed mass meetings held by suspected radical groups and reported to the committee on the makeup of the audience and the content of speeches.

In conjunction with the raids, the committee held a series of public hearings and gathered over 3,000 pages of testimony. Individuals associated with these organizations were subpoenaed to answer questions about their activities. Much of the testimony was given by the State Attorney General, local law enforcement officials, and private detectives who provided evidence on various aspects of the investigation of radical activity.

THE COMMITTEE'S REPORT. On April 24, 1920, the committee submitted its four-volume report to the State Senate. Entitled Revolutionary Radicalism: Its History, Purpose and Tactics, the first two volumes of the report detailed the development of radical and left wing movements in Europe and the United States and discussed how radical organizations used propaganda to spread ideology and promote seditious activity, particularly in the United States.

The last two volumes of Revolutionary Radicalism discussed existing constructive elements that could combat the spread of radical thought. The committee in particular stressed the role of education in the formation of traditional American political, economic, and social values among citizens. The committee recommended re-educating teachers and "the educated class"--those in colleges and universities and with advance degrees--by reorganizing and extending the educational system. The report's principal recommendations were embodied in four legislative bills aimed at reforming the educational system. These bills would require: 1) that teachers obtain a special certificate certifying that they were persons of good character and loyal to the institutions of the state and nation; 2) that all schools not under the supervision of the State Education Department or maintained by a religious denomination obtain a license from the Board of Regents; 3) that courses in adult and immigrant education be extended; and 4) that educational facilities be expanded to factories and other places of work.

These bills were passed by the legislature but Governor Alfred E. Smith, a Democrat, vetoed them. When Republican Nathan Miller assumed the Governor's office in 1921, the legislature passed the laws again and Miller signed them into law. When Smith took back the Governor's office two years later, his administration repealed the laws.

From the description of Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities sub-agency history record. (New York State Archives). WorldCat record id: 81892762

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was an obvious target for the committee and for other bodies investigating suspected radical activity during the "Red Scare" period. Founded in 1905 by trade unions and leading American Socialists, the IWW sought the elimination of the wage system and the overthrow of the entire capitalist system.

The philosophies of the IWW appealed directly to unskilled, migrant, and immigrant workers who had little control or influence in government or other avenues of power in society. As the chief advocate of revolutionary industrial unionism, the IWW came under close scrutiny by the committee.

From the description of Industrial Workers of the World seized files, 1918-1919. (New York State Archives). WorldCat record id: 82177003

The committee utilized search warrants to raid a number of organizations suspected of radical activities. During the raids, huge quantities of documents were seized and many individuals were arrested. The Russian Soviet Bureau in New York City was the target of the first committee raid, held June 12, 1919.

The new Bolshevik government set up the bureau as its official mission in an attempt to secure diplomatic recognition by the United States and encourage trade with American companies. The committee accused the bureau of being a radical revolutionary organization spreading Bolshevik propaganda. The committee used the documents during hearings and in its report to show ongoing seditious activity and connections between the bureau and other suspected radical organizations.

From the description of Russian Soviet Bureau seized files, 1918-1919. (New York State Archives). WorldCat record id: 79850904

In 1919, the New York State Legislature established the Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities (Concurrent Resolution, March 26, 1919). This committee was given broad authority to investigate individuals and organizations in the state who were suspected of promoting the overthrow of the American government in violation of the criminal anarchy articles of the state's Penal Code. With the exception of a minor case, this was the first time that these statutes had been implemented since their enactment following the assassination of President McKinley by an anarchist in Buffalo in 1902.

For approximately a year, the committee gathered an enormous body of information on suspected radical groups by raiding organization offices and examining documents, infiltrating meetings, assisting law enforcement agents in the arrest of thousands, and subpoenaing witnesses for the committee's hearings. The investigation generated nationwide publicity and the repressive attitude which resulted throughout the State contributed to the expulsion of five Socialist members from the New York State Assembly and the prosecution of a number of individuals on criminal anarchy charges. The committee's investigation officially ended when it submitted its final report with recommendations to the legislature in April 1920.

COMMITTEE ACTIVITIES. The Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities consisted of four senators and five assemblymen. Headed by Senator Clayton R. Lusk of Cortland County, it was known popularly as the "Lusk Committee." While most of its investigation centered in New York City, the committee also undertook investigations in Buffalo, Rochester, and Utica. Private detectives and legislative staff members assisted in the investigations, and the State Attorney General acted as the committee's general counsel. Additionally, the committee cooperated closely with local police and district attorneys and officials from the federal government's Immigration Bureau and Justice Department.

During its investigation, the committee raided the headquarters of suspected radical organizations to gather evidence that these organizations advocated the overthrow of the government. Among the organizations raided were the Russian Soviet Bureau, the Rand School of Social Science, the left wing section of the Socialist Party, the Industrial Workers of the World (all located in New York City), and 73 branches of the Communist Party. Using search warrants in the raids, the committee seized thousands of documents from these organizations, retaining the originals (or making copies) for examination and, in some cases, for inclusion in its final report. In addition, the committee seized financial records and membership lists and shared them with local district attorneys throughout the state, who, on the basis of the lists, indicted many individuals on criminal anarchy charges. The investigation also involved committee investigators who observed mass meetings held by suspected radical groups and reported to the committee on the makeup of the audience and the content of speeches.

In conjunction with the raids, the committee held a series of public hearings and gathered over 3,000 pages of testimony. Individuals associated with these organizations were subpoenaed to answer questions about their activities. Much of the testimony was given by the State Attorney General, local law enforcement officials, and private detectives who provided evidence on various aspects of the investigation of radical activity.

THE COMMITTEE'S REPORT. On April 24, 1920, the committee submitted its four-volume report to the State Senate. Entitled Revolutionary Radicalism: Its History, Purpose and Tactics, the first two volumes of the report detailed the development of radical and left wing movements in Europe and the United States and discussed how radical organizations used propaganda to spread ideology and promote seditious activity, particularly in the United States.

The last two volumes of Revolutionary Radicalism discussed existing constructive elements that could combat the spread of radical thought. The committee in particular stressed the role of education in the formation of traditional American political, economic, and social values among citizens. The committee recommended re-educating teachers and "the educated class"--those in colleges and universities and with advance degrees--by reorganizing and extending the educational system. The report's principal recommendations were embodied in four legislative bills aimed at reforming the educational system. These bills would require: 1) that teachers obtain a special certificate certifying that they were persons of good character and loyal to the institutions of the state and nation; 2) that all schools not under the supervision of the State Education Department or maintained by a religious denomination obtain a license from the Board of Regents; 3) that courses in adult and immigrant education be extended; and 4) that educational facilities be expanded to factories and other places of work.

These bills were passed by the legislature but Governor Alfred E. Smith, a Democrat, vetoed them. When Republican Nathan Miller assumed the Governor's office in 1921, the legislature passed the laws again and Miller signed them into law. When Smith took back the Governor's office two years later, his administration repealed the laws.

From the New York State Archives, Cultural Education Center, Albany, NY. Agency record NYSV91-A105

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf New York (State). Legislature. Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities. Rand School seized files, 1913-1919. New York State Archives
creatorOf New York (State). Legislature. Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities. Investigation subject files, 1919-1920. New York State Archives
creatorOf New York (State). Legislature. Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities. Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities sub-agency history record. New York State Archives
referencedIn New York (State). Governor (1923-1928 : Smith). Central subject and correspondence files, 1919-1920, 1923-1928. New York State Archives
creatorOf New York (State). Legislature. Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities. Finnish Information Bureau seized files, 1918-1919. New York State Archives
creatorOf New York (State). Legislature. Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities. Suspected radical organizations seized files, 1916-1919. New York State Archives
creatorOf New York (State). Legislature. Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities. Mass meetings investigation files, 1918-1920. New York State Archives
creatorOf New York (State). Legislature. Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities. Archibal Stevenson files, 1919-1920. New York State Archives
creatorOf New York (State). Legislature. Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities. Suspected radical propaganda file, [ca. 1890-1919]. New York State Archives
referencedIn Rand School of Social Science Records, 1905-1962 Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
creatorOf New York (State). Legislature. Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities. Hearing testimony and executive session transcripts, 1919-1920. New York State Archives
creatorOf New York (State). Legislature. Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities. Newspaper clippings files, 1919. New York State Archives
creatorOf New York (State). Legislature. Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities. Correspondence and administrative files, 1919-1920. New York State Archives
creatorOf New York (State). Legislature. Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities. New York City maps outlining concentrations of ethnic groups, 1919. New York State Archives
creatorOf New York (State). Legislature. Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities. National Civil Liberties Bureau subpoenaed files, 1917-1919. New York State Archives
creatorOf New York (State). Legislature. Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities. Industrial Workers of the World seized files, 1918-1919. New York State Archives
creatorOf New York (State). Legislature. Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities. Draft report file, 1919-1920. New York State Archives
creatorOf New York (State). Legislature. Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities. Legal papers relating to searches and prosecutions of suspected radical individuals and organizations, 1919-1920. New York State Archives
creatorOf New York (State). Legislature. Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities. Investigation files, 1918-1920. New York State Archives
creatorOf New York (State). Legislature. Joint Legislative Committee to Investigate Seditious Activities. Russian Soviet Bureau seized files, 1918-1919. New York State Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
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associatedWith American Civil Liberties Union. corporateBody
associatedWith American Friends Service Committee. corporateBody
associatedWith American Socialist Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Ameringer, Oscar, 1870-1943. person
associatedWith Atkinson, Henry A., 1877-1960. person
associatedWith Baldwin, Roger N. 1884-1981. person
associatedWith Beck, James M. 1861-1936. person
associatedWith Berenberg, David P., 1890-1974. person
associatedWith Berger, Victor L. 1860-1929. person
associatedWith Birth Control League of Massachusetts. corporateBody
associatedWith Browne, Louis Edgar, 1891-1951. person
associatedWith Chabrow, Nathan. person
associatedWith Chabrow, Nathan. person
associatedWith Chappell, Winifred L. person
associatedWith Claessens, August, 1885-1954. person
associatedWith Clark, Evans. person
associatedWith Collins, Charles Wallace, 1879-1964. person
associatedWith Communist Labor Party of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Communist Party of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Construction Workers Union. corporateBody
associatedWith Cupples, Horace Greeley, 1864- person
associatedWith Dannenberg, Karl. person
associatedWith Debs, Eugene V. 1855-1926. person
associatedWith DeWitt, Samuel A. person
associatedWith Donaldson, William. person
associatedWith Easley, Ralph M. b1858. person
associatedWith Eastman, Max, 1883-1964. person
associatedWith Eastwood, Frank M. person
associatedWith Engdahl, John Louis, 1884- person
associatedWith Engels, Friedrich, 1820-1895. person
associatedWith Fairchild, E.C. person
associatedWith Federation for Child Study (U.S.) corporateBody
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associatedWith Frothingham, Arthur L. 1859- person
associatedWith Germer, Adolph. person
associatedWith Goldman, Emma, 1869-1940. person
associatedWith Gordon, Fred George Russ, 1860- person
associatedWith Haywood, William D., 1869-1928. person
associatedWith Henderson, Arthur, 1863-1935. person
associatedWith Herron, George Davis, 1862-1925. person
associatedWith Hillquit, Morris, 1869-1933. person
associatedWith Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964. person
associatedWith Hunt, Alice Riggs, 1884- person
associatedWith Hunter, Robert, 1874-1942. person
associatedWith Industrial Workers of the World. corporateBody
associatedWith Jaeger, Henry. person
associatedWith Jewish Communist Federation. corporateBody
associatedWith Johnson, Frederick Ernest, 1884- person
associatedWith Kahn, Otto Herman, 1867-1934. person
associatedWith Karsner, David, 1889-1941. person
associatedWith Kautsky, Karl, 1854-1938. person
associatedWith Kelley, Florence, 1859-1932. person
associatedWith Kerr, Charles H., 1860- person
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associatedWith Korngold, Ralph, 1886- person
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associatedWith Lafargue, Paul, 1842-1911. person
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associatedWith London, Jack, 1876-1916. person
associatedWith Lusk, Clayton Riley, 1872- person
associatedWith Luxemburg, Rosa, 1871-1919. person
associatedWith Magnes, Judah Leon, 1877-1948. person
associatedWith Marcy, Mary E., 1877-1922. person
associatedWith Marine Transport Workers Union. corporateBody
associatedWith Martens, L.K. 1875-1948. person
associatedWith Martens, Ludwig C.A.K. person
associatedWith Marx, Karl, 1818-1883. person
associatedWith Mauro, Philip, 1859-1952. person
associatedWith Metal and Machinery Workers Union. corporateBody
associatedWith Mills, Walter Thomas, 1856-1942. person
associatedWith Mislig, Michael. person
associatedWith Mislig, Michael. person
associatedWith Morris, Robert C. person
associatedWith National Civil Liberties Bureau (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith National Security League. corporateBody
associatedWith Nearing, Scott, 1883-1983. person
associatedWith New York (State). Governor (1923-1928 : Smith) corporateBody
associatedWith Niagara Frontier Defense League. corporateBody
associatedWith Noyes, William H. person
associatedWith Nuorteva, Santeri, 1881-1929. person
associatedWith O'Hare, Kate Richards, 1877-1948. person
associatedWith Olin, John M. 1851-1924. person
associatedWith Order of the Golden Seal. corporateBody
associatedWith Orr, Samuel. person
associatedWith Pannekoek, Anton, 1873-1960. person
associatedWith Radek, Karl, 1885-1939. person
associatedWith Rand School of Social Science. corporateBody
associatedWith Ransome, Arthur, 1884-1967. person
associatedWith Recht, Charles. person
associatedWith Reed, John, 1887-1920. person
associatedWith Richardson, Noble Asa, 1858- person
associatedWith Ricker, A.W. person
associatedWith Riebe, Ernest. person
associatedWith Robbins, Hayes, 1873-1941. person
associatedWith Roberts, Richard, 1874-1945. person
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associatedWith Russell, George William, 1867-1935. person
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associatedWith Silver, Grace, b. 1889. person
associatedWith Simons, Algie M., 1870-1950. person
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associatedWith Slayton, J. W. person
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associatedWith Stedman, Seymour. person
associatedWith Stefansson, Vilhjalmur, 1879-1962. person
associatedWith Stevenson, Archibald. person
associatedWith Sullivan, J. W. 1848-1938. person
associatedWith Tippy, Worth M. 1866-1961. person
associatedWith Tridon, André, 1877-1922. person
associatedWith Trotsky, Leon, 1879-1940. person
associatedWith Tucker, Irwin St. John, 1886-1982. person
associatedWith Union of Russian Workers. corporateBody
associatedWith Vail, Charles H. b. 1866. person
associatedWith Waldman, Louis. person
associatedWith Walling, William English, 1877-1936. person
associatedWith Warbasse, Agnes D. 1877-1945. person
associatedWith Ward, Harry Frederick, 1873-1966. person
associatedWith Waton, Harry. person
associatedWith Watson, Thomas E. 1856-1922. person
associatedWith Weitz, Louis. person
associatedWith West, Henry Litchfield, 1859-1940. person
associatedWith Williams, Albert Rhys, 1883-1962. person
associatedWith Willoughby, Westel Woodbury, 1867-1945. person
associatedWith Willoughby, William F. b. 1867. person
associatedWith Wilshire, Henry Gaylord, 1861- person
associatedWith Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924. person
associatedWith Workers Defense Union. corporateBody
associatedWith Works, John D. 1847-1928. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
United States
New York (State)
Utica (N.Y.)
United States
Europe
Rochester (N.Y.)
Buffalo (N.Y.)
New York (State)
New York (State)
Soviet Union
Soviet Union
United States
United States
New York (State)
New York (State)
New York (State)
United States
Korea
Bronx (N.Y.)
New York (State)
Cleveland (Oh.)
New York (State)
United States
United States
Brooklyn (N.Y.)
United States
New York (State)
New York (State)
Finland
United States
India
Ireland
India
Queens (N.Y.)
New York (State)
New York (State)
United States
United States
Manhattan (N.Y.)
New York (State)
New York (State)
New York (State)
United States
United States
New York (State)
United States
Mexico
New York (State)
New York (State)
United States
Soviet Union
Soviet Union
Soviet Union
New York (State)
Great Britain
United States
Subject
Newspaper publishing
Socialism
Hungarians
Capitalism
Labor and laboring classes
Subversive activities
Political crimes and offenses
Civil rights and socialism
Labor unions and communism
Draft
Radicals
Communism
Working class--Education--New York (State)
Emigration and immigration
Conscientious objectors
National security
Birth control
Sugar beet industry
Socialist parties
African Americans
Ethnic relations--Political aspects
Pacifism
Education
Pacificism
Labor movement
Anarchism
Immigrants
Steel Strike, U.S., 1919-1920
Communist parties
Trade-unions and communism
Anti-communist movements
Communism--History
Philosophy--Lithuanian
Labor unions
Socialism--History
Philosophy--Ukrainian
World War, 1914-1918
Jewish radicals
Jews
Radicalism
Soviet Union--History--Revolution, 1917-1921
Adult education
Occupation
Function
Documenting ethnic groups
Investigating socialism
investigating
Investigating communism
Documenting radicalism
Investigating radicalism

Corporate Body

Active 1919

Active 1920

Russian,

Finnish,

Multiple languages,

English

Information

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