He inherited a strong sense of Jewish identity from his father, a Hebrew teacher and researcher. Pinsker firmly believed that the Jewish problem could be resolved if the Jews attained equal rights, but with the outbreak of anti-Jewish riots against Russian Jews in 1881, his views changed radically. He made a thorough study of Jews and Judaism and, in 1882, he anonymously published a rallying cry to Russian Jews his German language pamphlet Autoemancipation, in which he urged the Jewish people to strive for independence, national consciousness and a return to independent territorialism.
Pinsker died in Odessa on December 9, 1891, and his remains were brought to Eretz-Israel in 1934 and reburied in Nicanor’s Cave next to Mount Scopus. The yishuv of Nahalat Yehudah near Rishon Le-Zion is named after him, as well as streets in several towns in Israel.