Margolin, Arnold

Image - Arnold Margolin with his wife

Margolin, Arnold [Марґолін, Арнольд], b 17 November 1877 in Kyiv, d 29 October 1956 in Washington, DC. Ukrainian-Jewish political leader, scholar, and lawyer; corresponding member of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in the United States; honorary professor at the Ukrainian Free University in Munich. Born into the wealthy Jewish merchant family of David Margolin, a known industrialist and generous philanthropist, Arnold Margolin graduated from the law faculty of Kyiv University (1900) and subsequently continued his studies at the universities of Leipzig and Lyon. After being called to the bar, he acted as defence counsel in many political trials, including the Mendel Beilis trial (see Beilis affair) and the trial against Andrii Livytsky in 1907 (with Mykola Mikhnovsky). For his role in the Beilis trial, he was disbarred and could not practice law until 1917. Margolin headed the South Russian Branch of the Union for Equal Rights for Jews in Russia (1905–17) and the Jewish Territorial Organization (1906–18). In 1914 he moved with his family to Saint Petersburg, where he lived until May 1917, when he returned to Kyiv. In June 1917, Margolin became a member of the Central Committee of the Laborist Popular-Socialist party. He supported the policies of the Provisional Government and was hostile toward the Bolsheviks. A firm believer in national self-determination, in 1918 he joined the Ukrainian Party of Socialists-Federalists. He played a prominent role in the Ukrainian struggle for independence (1917–20). The Central Rada elected Margolin as a justice of the Ukrainian Supreme Court on 2 April 1918; from July 1918, he served as a justice of the State Senate of the Ukrainian State of Hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky. On 26 December 1918 he was appointed vice-minister of foreign affairs in Volodymyr Chekhivsky’s cabinet of the Directory of the Ukrainian National Republic. Margolin was a member of the delegation of the Ukrainian National Republic (UNR) to the Paris Peace Conference and a chief of the UNR diplomatic mission to London. In 1922 he emigrated to the United States of America, where he practiced law, lectured at various universities, and promoted Ukrainian-Jewish understanding. He defended Ukraine’s right to independence and the reputation of Symon Petliura and worked to improve Ukrainian-Jewish relations. Margolin served as a professor at the Ukrainian Technical Institute in New York and was the institute’s president (1954–5). He was a member of a law section of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in the U.S. and contributed to the weekly Narodna volia. Besides numerous articles on law and contemporary history, he wrote several books: Ukraïna i politika Antanty (Ukraine and the Policy of the Entente, 1922; English trans., 1977), The Jews of Eastern Europe (1926), and From a Political Diary: Russia, the Ukraine, and America, 1905–1945 (1946).

Fedenko, Panas. ‘In Memory of Arnold Margolin,’ Annals of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in the United States 7, nos 1–2 (23–4) (1959)
Vetukhiv, Michael. ‘Arnold Davydovych Margolin,’ Annals of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in the United States 7, nos 1–2 (23–4) (1959)
Likhten, Y. ‘А. Margolin. Ioho zhyttia i pratsia,’ Suchasnist’, no 5 (1977)
Abramson, Henry. A Prayer for the Government: Ukrainians and Jews in Revolutionary Times, 1917–1920 (Cambridge, Mass 1999)
Khiterer, Victoria. ‘Arnold Davidovich Margolin: Ukrainian-Jewish Jurist, Statesman and Diplomat,’ Revolutionary Russia 18, no 2 (1 December 2005)

Larysa Bilous

[This article was updated in 2023.]

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