In 1903, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Sergei Iulevich Witte, remarked to Theodor Herzl that Jews comprised nearly half of the membership of revolutionary parties, even though they were only six million people in a nation of 136 million. If Witte exaggerated, he did so only slightly.
From 1901 to 1903, Jews composed 29.1 percent (2,269 individuals) of those arrested for political crimes. From March 1903 to November 1904 more than half of those investigated for political activity were Jews (53 percent). This fact can most easily be explained as a reaction to the Kishinev and Homel pogroms. In 1905, Jews made up 34 percent of all political prisoners; of those exiled to Siberia, 37 percent were Jews. […] The number of Jews who were Social Democrats exceeded the number of Russians (according to police data) in both the southwestern (49.4 percent to 41.8 percent) and southern territories (51.3 percent to 44.2 percent). They also comprised the lion’s share of those under investigation in Odessa (75.1 percent Jews versus 18.7 percent Russians). […] Without a doubt, the Bund, the largest revolutionary party in Russia, contained the largest numbers of Jews involved in criminal political activity. In the summer of 1904, the Bund could claim 23,000 members; in 1905–7, 34,000. […] For comparison’s sake, in the beginning of 1905, the entire Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party (RSDRP) consisted of approximately 8,400 members. There was also significant Jewish representation in the Russian revolutionary parties and organizations. During the time of the 1905 revolution, approximately 15 percent of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party (PSR) was Jewish, and there were a number of “maximalist and anarchist terrorist groups that were almost entirely Jewish.” […] At the Fifth Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party in London in 1907, nearly a third of the delegates were Jewish.
At the same time, however, it must be noted that regardless of the extent of Jewish participation in Russian or Jewish revolutionary parties, Jewish revolutionaries comprised a minute portion of the general Russian population, as well as an extremely small percentage of Russian Jewry. In the perception of the typical Russian resident—from the lumpenproletariat to the intelligentsia—the role of Jews in revolutionary activity was greater than it actually was. A typical example can be found in a joke from the satirical liberal journal Vampir from the 1905–7 revolutionary period. Though of limited wit, it is nevertheless telling. It reads, “Warsaw. Eleven anarchists were shot in the fortress prison. Of these, 15 were Jews.”
Oleg Budnitskii, Russian Jews Between the Reds and the Whites, 1917-1920