KALMEN (KOLYA) TEPER (b. 1879)
He was born (or raised) in Odessa. He received an ethnic Jewish education, later graduating from a Russian high school. In his youth he became involved in the national youth movement in Odessa, standing close to the circle around Aḥad Haam, and he was among the first to lay the groundwork for a radical Zionism. He was a delegate to the second Zionist Congress. From his youth he excelled with his extraordinary talent for speech-making. Between 1901 and 1903, more or less, he lived in Switzerland, was initially a Zionist propagandist there, then became an agitator for the Bund, and in early 1903 he left to return to Russia to work in the illegal movement. At Passover time in 1903, he was brought to Pinsk. That very month (April 1903), people write of two remarkable events in Pinsk, both associated with Teper’s name: the historical discussion concerning Zionism and Bundism between Kolya Teper and Chaim Weizmann; and the repercussions from the police. After an illegal meeting of revolutionary workers in the woods, behind the city, at which he gave one of his incendiary speeches, the police and the gendarmerie arrested him (together with his wife, also a revolutionary) and placed them in the police station. The next morning (April 18, as it happened), the Jewish laborers in Pinsk stormed the police station, broke down the doors, and freed Teper and his wife. At that point he departed for Minsk, and there, just as in other Jewish cities of Byelorussia and Lithuania, he raged at illegal gatherings of workers with his revolutionary speeches. In that year of 1903, there took place in various cities the illegal discussions between Teper, representing the Bund, and Borekh Stolpner (also a historic figure of the revolution) as representative of the Jewish “Iskrovtses” (followers of Iskra [Spark], the Communist journal). For his part, Teper did not remain among the ranks of the Bundists for very long—his socialist ideas were not far removed from those of the Bund; and his own, innovative, semi-nihilistic nature was unable to adapt to the framework of party discipline. He left Russia in 1907, escaped to Berlin, and from there went to the United States where he further withdrew himself from socialism and moved over to anarchism and individualism. Using the pseudonym “Hertsog D’Abruzzi,” he wrote for Fraye arbeter-shtime (Free voice of labor), Literatur un lebn (Literature and life), and other periodicals in New York, took to publishing essays and feature pieces which with their acuity and lightning-like quality had an immense impact on an entire array of young poets and playwrights, among them: Moyshe Varshe, Zishe Landoy, Moyshe Nadir, and H. Leivick, among others. He also at this time translated a number of works—from German, Russian, Hebrew, and English—which are considered among the best translations into our literature. Among other such works, he published in Chaim Zhitlovsky’s Dos naye lebn (The new life) Dmitry Nikolaevich Ovsyaniko-Kulikovsky’s monograph on Lev Tolstoy; together with Moyshe Varshe, he translated a series of dramas by Anton Chekhov (Gezamelte dramen [Selected plays (New York, 1911)], 224 pp. ); by himself, he translated Georg Brandes’s monographs on Ibsen (Henrik ibsen [New York, 1918], 168 pp.) and Nietzsche (Fridrikh nittsshe [New York, 1918], 141 pp.) ; he contributed to Borekh Vladek’s anthology Fun der tifenish fun harts, a bukh fun laydn un kamf (From the depths of the heart, a book of suffering and struggle) (New York, 1917); He also participated in the work on the great English-yidish entsiklopedishn verter-bukh (English Yiddish encyclopedia dictionary) (New York, 1915) (published by Y. Sapirshteyn); he also wrote for Russian-language periodicals, such as Novyi mir (New world), among others. After the March 1917 Revolution in Russia, he returned to Russia and lived for a time in Saratov where he pursued Germanic studies in university and supported himself giving lessons. In 1920 he tore himself away from Russia, lived in Vilna and Warsaw, published essays in: Vilner tog (Vilna day) in the section of “Notices,” and Ringen (Links) in Warsaw; and he did translations for the publisher “Kultur-lige” (Culture league), worked as a private tutor of English, and gave his speeches which had flashes of paradox and held his audience in tension for many an hour. In late 1922 he returned once more to Soviet Russia, studied law in Leningrad, settled thereafter in Veliky Ustyug, Arkhangelsk district, where he worked as an investigator for the people’s court. Rumors spread that in Soviet Russia he felt compelled to embrace Orthodox Christianity—as a way to spite the Bolshevik authorities. His subsequent fate remains unknown. His published books include: Zigzagen (Zigzags) (New York: Ekho, 191?), 118 pp., a collection of his current events and fictional essays which were among his most original in Yiddish (as D’Abruzzi); Di tsukunft-shul, an arbeter-shul (The school of the future, a workers’ school) (Warsaw, 1923), 63 pp. And his translations: Ibsen, Der kleyner eolf (Little Eyolf [original: Lille Eyolf]) (New York, 1910), 91 pp.; Oscar Ameringer, Onkel sems leben un oyfṭu, abisel geshikhte far dervaksene kinder (Life and deeds of Uncle Sam: A little history for big children) (Chicago, 1910), 64 pp.; Chekhov, Gezamelte dramen (New York, 1911), 224 pp., with Moyshe Varshe, including Feter vanya (Uncle Vanya [original: Dyadya Vanya]) and Der vaser foygl (The water bird [original: Chayka (The Seagull)]), a second edition (Vilna, 1923); Eugene V. Debs, Yunyonizm un sotsyalizm (Unionism and socialism) (New York, 1915), 28 pp.; M. Artsybashev, Dos lebn farn folk (Life for the people) (New York, 1916), 182 pp.; Georg Brandes, Fridrikh nittsshe and Henrik ibsen (see above); Henry Ford, Mayn lebn un mayne oyftuen (My life and my works) (Warsaw, 1931), 320 pp.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1 (with a bibliography); Z. Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 2 (New York, 1934); M. Y. Khaimovitsh, Der onhoyb (The beginning) (New York, 1918); Khayim Leyb Fuks, in Folksblat Lodz) (June 22, 1921); Y. M. Nayman, in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (February 6, 1925); Tsvi Hirshkan, in Tsukunft (New York) (August 1929); M. Nadir, Tint un feder (Ink and pen) (New York, 1936), see index; M. Ginzburg, in B. kahan-virgili, zamlbukh tsu zayn biografye un kharakteristik (B. Kahan-Virgili, collection for his biography and character) (Vilna, 1938), p. 63; Toyznt yor pinsk (1000 years of Pinsk) (New York, 1941), see index; D. Tsharni (Charney), A yortsendlik aza, 1914-1924, memuarn (Such a decade, 1914-1924, memoirs) (New York, 1943), pp. 270-72; “Fun b. vladeks arkhiv” (From the archives of Borekh Vladek), Tsukunft (New York) (November 1943); M. Ravitsh, Mayn leksikon (My lexicon), vol. 1 (Montreal, 1945); A. Glants-Leyeles, in Der tog (New York) (October 4, 1952); Glants-Leyeles, in Tsukunft (January-February 1958); R. Ayzland, Fun undzer friling (From our spring) (Miami Beach and New York, 1954), pp. 49ff; M. Kats, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (August 9, 1955); H. Abramovitsh, Farshvundene geshtaltn (Disappeared figures) (Buenos Aires, 1958), pp. 254-60; Kalmen Marmor, Mayn lebns-geshikhte (My autobiography), vol. 2 (New York, 1959), pp. 516, 518, 519; Encyclopédie de la Pléiade (Paris, 1956), p. 1181.