Politics of the Russian Government With Regard to the Jewish Question
After they received more than half a million subjects of the "Jewish faith" the "Jewish Question" as such arouse before the eyes of the Russian Government. What politics to follow in relation to this ethnic group, alien to the great bulk of population not only in religion, but also in language, mode of life, and even dress, became a distinct problem?
Mass migration or eviction of numerous ethnic groups in those times was considered impossible. People hit upon this idea only a hundred fifty years later, during the Second World War.
And where could they be evicted or migrated to? There were more than a million people involved. Western Europe, where the Jews came from, hardly would agree to take them back, even if the Jews themselves wanted to go or were evicted forcefully. This question was not raised by Russia at that time.
It remained for the Russians to simply settle with the fait accomple and to search for ways for establishment of a modus Vivendi with the new subjects.
This was the way that outlined by the Empress Catherine II at the beginning of her reign. The ultimate aim of this outline was the destruction of that Jewish self-isolation which was so solidly established during their life in Poland, and jealously guarded by the Jews themselves, because the self-isolation conformed to the Jewish religious mode of understanding and views on coexistence with alien nationalities.
Understanding this, the Russian Government, in 1791, had already undertaken steps for the equalization of Jews with non-Jews in the re-annexed provinces.
In that epoch all Russian subjects belonging to the so-called" subjects of estate", that is, peasants and lower middle class artisans and merchants, did not have the right to settle just anywhere or have the right of movement in today's meaning of the word. Each one was "ascribed" to the local "society" and he occupied and conducted his matters only in a given location.
In accordance with this order, the Jews, finding themselves Russian subjects after the "division" of Poland, were ascribed to the lower middle class and merchant societies of those localities of the South-Western territories in which they lived at the time of the transfer of these provinces to Russia.
In the decree issued in 1791, Catherine II confirmed this order and even spread its application, stating that the rights for Jews to settle in the newly created vicegerency territories of Ecatherinoslavsk and Tavrichesk province would be guarded.
The known Russian historian Milukov notes and emphasizes that the main aim of the decree was nominally to reaffirm to the Jews their equal rights with the rest of population of the annexed territories.
Dealing with Milukov's opinion in his sketch "The Legal Status of Jews in Russia", published in New York, an expert of this question and himself a Jew, A. Goldenweiser, adds "but at the same time, by special petition, fearing the competition of Muscovite Jewish merchants, the same decree had stated that the Jews had no right to join the associations of merchants in the central Russian cities and ports".
With this addition to the decree the beginning of the "Jewish Pale", also known as the "Pale of Settlement", was laid, yet it was not an equalizing measure, but a limitation lasting right up the revolution of 1917.
True, this “Pale” was easy transgressed, because there were many methods of overstepping it without coming into conflict with the strict letter of law, but nevertheless it existed and provoked the dissatisfaction of all the Jews, along with a significant part of Russian society.
The limitations of the "Jewish Pale" did not apply to the following categories of Jews: Those of non-Judaic faith (not Orthodox only); merchants of the first guild (that is, the more well to do Jews); those with completed higher education such as dentists, doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, mechanics, distillers, brewers and, as was said in the decree, “all the specialists and artisans in general”. Beside that the limitations of the “Jewish Pale” did not apply also to the "salesmen or sales agents", who worked for the Jewish merchants of the first guild.
Owing to the existence of these numerous exceptions and the skilful use of them by the Jews, there was not, at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, a single city in Russia that did not have a large Jewish colony. In these colonies, as is mown, there were not so many poor Jews, as was the case in the "Jewish Pale".
The presence of the richest Jewish colonies in Petersburg, Moscow and other large cities that built such splendid buildings like the Moscow synagogue serves as the best proof that the "Pale" was easy to overstep.
As the "Pale" remained without being abolished it had not so much a practical as a psychological significance, creating and feeding among the Jews certain anti-governmental feelings that found a lively response in the liberal Russian society as well as in the press of the whole world.
To all of what is said above it is necessary to add that more and more educated Jews started to behave indifferently to the question of religion. They looked at the change in religion as an unimportant formality, fulfillment of which freed them from all limitations, including, first of all, the limitations of the "Jewish Pale". And this is why there were Jews who easily changed their religion usually to some Christian, not necessarily Orthodox faith. In most cases they took to Protestant branches of the Christian faith.
More and more Jews penetrated even the most reserved officers' environment, simply by changing their religion for any of the Christian once. Denikin in his book "Journey of a Russian Officer", published in New York, states, that in the year 1914, in the Russian army there were not only officers of the low ranks, but also generals who were of pure Jewish origin. General M. Grulevof the General Staff says the very same thing in his memoires. General Grulev was a Jew who had reached the highest rank, and was even a candidate in the War Ministry of the Russian Empire. There were also Jews among the students of privileged military institutions, for example, Kaufman, who graduated from the Pazharsky Corps.
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Soon after the decree of the year 1791, which had an equalizing significance for the Jews but did not limit their affair, came the decree of the Emperor Alexander I, in 1804 that stated: "all Jews can be accepted and educated without distinction from other children, in all Russian public schools, high schools and universities".
At that time, there did not exist in any other country of the world such a similar governmental order. In essence it is for that kind of equality or "desegregation", that even now, in the second half of the Twentieth Century, a desperate struggle is being waged, not only in backward countries, but also in the advanced ones, such as the USA, for example.
Moreover, the initiative came from the top, from the autocratic sovereign power.
By whose fault and for what reason was it then that, some eighty years later, the “percentage quota” was introduced in Russia which limited the number of Jews in higher institutions. This will be dealt with more fully in subsequent accounts.
It cannot be doubted that it was the wish and intention of the Russian Government to bring the whole Russian culture within the reach of the broad Jewish masses, without the rejection of their Judaism.
However, for some reason this "desegregation" that existed and was exercised for more than eighty years is so zealously hushed up. But the "percentage quota" which existed for only twenty seven years, from 1887 to 1916, is so overstressed and underlined that it has become a proof of "Governmental anti-Semitism" in Russia.
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The life of the Jewish ethnic group within the borders of the Russian Empire lasted for almost a hundred and fifty years, from 1772 when the first "division" of Poland occurred, and the declaration of full equality for Jews made in 1917.
During this period the government and its individual representatives issued many "additions" and "explanations" which had the tendency and the character of limitations upon the Jews, distinct from the first two declarations of 1791 and 1804 that had an equalizing character or one of "desegregation".
An expert on this question, a lawyer, A. Goldenweizer, in his essay the "Legal Status of Jews in Russia", enumerates all the existing limitations upon Jews of the Judaic faith, excluding the Jews of Christian faith since the limitations did not affect the latter.
The limitations were in the following spheres:
1) The right of residence and the freedom of movement;
2) Admittance to the learning institutions;
3) Pursuit of trade and industry;
4) Entrance into the civil service and the participation in the organization of self-rule;
5) Order of serving in the army;
6) Acceptance of Jews in the legal profession.
Let us examine all these limitations in their order, pointing out at the same time their results.
1) The right of residence and freedom of movement.
The Jewish Pale.
The "Jewish Pale" has already been mentioned above, and its repetition here would serve no purpose. We are interested in its practical results and in the ending of the noble intentions of the government, wishing to equalize the Jews with surrounding population. These results, we must admit, were negative. The numerous exceptions from the general rules opened such wide possibilities for bypassing the law that both the rich and the enterprising Jews were practically able to evade the law entirely. The sales agents employed by Jewish merchants, belonging to the guild, could live anywhere, and their numbers were not limited by the law. Distillers, mechanics, specialists of various trades and the artisans enjoyed the same rights. Only the poor Jews from the "Jewish Pale" suffered as they did not have the opportunity to use the various loopholes to evade the law.
Jewish magnates of the sugar industry, railway-construction, flour milling, lumber trade, steam-ships, banking, tea trade and gold mining enjoyed all the rights, without changing their religion. The limitations of the "Jewish Pale" did not apply to them in any way whatsoever. Not only that, but according to the letter of the law, they could have Jewish "sales agents" and "specialists of various trades", understandably, with their numerous families. Messrs. Poliakov, Zlotopolsky and Vysotsky, in Moscow; Rubenstein and Ginzburg, in Petersburg; Brodsky, Margolin, Dobry, Ginsburg, Shirman and Zorokhovich in Kiev, lived in residences and palaces, even though according to their passports they were Russian subjects of the "Judaic faith".
At the same time, in the enterprises belonging to these wealthy Jews, Russian-Ukrainians worked in such unbearable conditions that they used to provoke great dissatisfaction and subsequent mutinies by these workers, which were brutally suppressed by the Russian Government. All of pre-revolutionary Russia was agitated and full of indignation at the news of the bloody suppression of the workers’ strike on the Lena gold-fields in Siberia in 1912. The cause of this strike was the inhuman exploitation of the workers and the demand of the administration of the gold-fields that the workers buy their supplies from the food stores owned by the gold-fields. In these stores the quality and price of goods were fixed by random will of the administration. Private trading on the territory of the gold-fields was not allowed. When the workers, brought to despair, refused to buy from the stores owned by the gold-fields these goods of bad quality and at inflated prices, and when they also refused to receive part of their earnings not in cash but in bonuses and rotten goods from these very stores, the administration concluded that it was mutiny. The administration called in the army and suppressed the “mutiny”, resulting in many killed and wounded workers who had resisted the army’s suppression. Many policemen, soldiers and their officers were killed during this suppression of the “mutiny”. In connection with this, a wave of demonstrations against the government’s action swept throughout of Russia. This was especially so in the higher institutions of learning, where the “Lena events” were traditionally marked from year to year by meetings and strikes. But never and in no place was a single word said, condemning one of the main share-holders of the “Lena gold-fields”, Ginzburg, who during the suppression of this “mutiny” was at his residence-palace in Petersburg, on Moscow Street, and upon whom depended the change those working conditions which had provoked the “mutiny”.
This case in point is far from being unique. The Russian Government brutally suppressed the strikes of Russian workers working in the Jewish enterprises, where even Jewish “salesclerks” ran the business in the name of their owners.
The Government stood on the side of law and order, without inquiring into the question to find out what provoked the disorders and upon whom depended the creation of working conditions which would eliminate these disorders.
But Russian general opinion and the opinion of the world as well, always attributed the guilt to the Russian Government and exaggerated every case where the authorities were forced by circumstances to use weapons.
2) Admittance in the learning institutions. The percentage quota.
The liberal decree of 1804, concerning the admittance of the Jews into all Russian learning institutions, not only provoked enthusiasm among the Jewish masses, but also came across fierce opposition from the whole Jewish hierarchy.
This was not unfounded, as they feared that the secular education could distract the Jews from their religion and their Talmudic direction. The rabbis and the Jewish communities or “Kahals” severely condemned the very thought of allowing the orthodox Jews the opportunities granted by this permission to obtain the secular education. The rabbis and the “Kahals” considered it sinful, and acted in every way they could against Jewish enrolment in these secular institutions of learning.
The existing Jewish schools, "khederas", with their teachers, "melamedams", the assiduous readers of the Talmud, "and the schools of the highest degree, "eshibots" were quite sufficient for the rabbis and the" Kahals". As for the secular schools, even with instructions in the Jewish language, they were considered to be a destructive element of the established mode of living in the racial-religious communities, the "Kahals". The spiritual life of these "Kahals" was guided by the rabbis who understood how dangerous to their authority this enlightening novelty could be. Up to this time the Jews had lived in their strictly isolated communities, based on the unity not only of their religion, but also their race and their blood, and the rabbis and the communities could rest at peace, because they were sure that a Jew would remain faithful to the religion and the Talmud, and the word of the rabbi would remain the law.
At the beginning Jews answered the call of the Russian Government to join the Russian culture, not only with silence but also with passive opposition. To learn in the secular schools was not at all appealing to the Jews.
And not only studying in schools, but even learning the language of the state of which they were subjects, was considered sinful and profane.
Their reasoning followed this pattern. Each new word of a foreign language mastered by a Jew unavoidably must force out one Jewish word, because Jehovah estimated exactly the quantity of words a Jew must be able to know. In this way the adherents of the Jewish faith lectured to the Jewish masses.
The ancient Jewish language, the language of the Holy Scripture, was known by only a few people, those especially dedicated to it. In their daily life the Jewish masses used the language which now is called "Yiddish", and up to the beginning of the Twentieth Century it was called "jargon".
Here is what Isaac Beer Levinson, the cultural enlightener of the Jews in the first half of Nineteenth Century, wrote about this question. (Levinson was born in 1788 and died in 1860. His whole life he fought to bring culture within the reach of the broad Jewish masses by means of secular education). "Jargon is not a language, but a shameful mixture of mutilated, corrupted biblical, Russian, Polish, German and other words. This strange mixture of different dialects, owing its poorness and rudeness, is unsuitable for the expression of refined feelings and serious abstract thoughts. Why do we need such gibberish? Speak either the German or Russian language". Referring to the Talmud and to history, Levinson states that the Jews usually spoke the language of that nation in which they lived. He points to many great Jewish scholars, who not only studied foreign languages, but also wrote their compositions in them. The philosophers Philo, Josephus Flavius, Saadyah Gaon, Yahudi Halevi, Maimonides, Bakhian-Ebn-Pecuda, these pillars of Jewish theological literature, wrote their compositions, of both philosophical and religious thoughts, in Greek, Arabic, Spanish and Italian, depending on the country in which they lived.
The thoughts of Levinson, stated above, were written at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century, when the Jews had just began to participate in the secular studies and culture of individual European nations. Now, after a hundred and fifty years, the enumeration of the Jews who wrote and are writing their works in the languages of those nations among whom they lived would take many pages. Heine Marx Lassal Wassermann, Shnitsler. Einstein, Feuchtwanger and many others wrote in German. But this does not mean that they were Germans. Many Jews wrote their compositions in English also, starting from David Ricardo and ending with today's American playwright Arthur Miller. Bergson wrote in French; Jules Romain, Andre Moroa, Adolphe Cremieux and many others did so as well. Geor Brandes wrote in Swedish. Lamborozo wrote in Italian. Moshe Piade (Michail Porobich Wrote in Serbian, Anna Pauker in Romanian, Slansky in Czech and Rocoshi in Hungarian. But all of them were Jews. The majorities of the Jewish literary writers wrote and are writing in Russian, both under their own Jewish names and under the cover of Russian pen-names like Koltsov, Nikulin, Riazanov and Sedykh.
Mark Slonim, a Russian Jew, whom many consider to be an expert in Russian literature, and who writes and reads many lectures about Russian literature, writes the following lines in his sketch "Writers-Jews in Russian Literature", (The sketch was published in the "Jewish World". in 1944, Publication "Union of Russian Jews in New York".)
"There is no special 'Russian-Jewish' literature in the Soviet Union and there cannot be any, for the historian and the explorer of art can raise only one question: what influence did Russian Jewish writers exert on Russian literature?”
Depending upon this degree of influence and their contribution to the Russian literature with their Jewish theme and "spirit", Mark Slonim divides the Jews, who wrote in the Russian language, into three categories.
In the first category Slonim includes Jewish writers and poets who wrote their works in the Russian language; this was so much assimilated that M. Slonim does not sight any evidence in their writings of the "Jewish spirit", and in his sketch he quotes the words of the critic Lvov-Rogachevsky, who named this category "Jews only in their passports", and he agrees with this definition. "There is nothing specifically Jewish, either in the spirit or in the themes of their creative work", is the opinion of M. Slonim.
Some writers from this category "have disguised their real names under pen-names and do not eyen reveal in their autobiographies that they are Jews", says M. Slonim.
To this category Slonim attaches Pasternak, Mandelshtam, Vera Inber, Efrem Zozula, Nikulin, Lidina, Kirsanova, Lifshits, Marshak and many others.
The second category is formed by authors who, as Slonim say, "in spite of their quite obvious assimilation into the Russian element, sometimes write of Jewish themes and motives".
This category does not hide its Jewish origin, and sometimes thrusts it out and emphasizes it. Erenburg for example, begins his autobiography with the words: "I was born in 1891, a Jew".
Elizabeth Polonskaia in one of her poems says: "this blood of mine in your veins does sing, in a foreign language it speaks..." (An encounter of this poetess with an indigent Jewess who recognized her to be Jewess.)
To the second category, besides Erenburg and Polonskaia, Slonim also attaches Andrey Sobol and Lunts.
In the third category M. Slonim includes those Jewish authors who write on Jewish themes almost exclusively.
At the head of this category stands Isaac Babel, of whom Slonim writes that he, Babel, "was one of the Jewish types so frequently encountered in reality, a communist, fanatically believing in Lenin’s teachings and in a strange combination of the precepts of the Bible or the Talmud with, the requirements and the doctrine of the communist church".
Besides Babel in this category may be included Kozakova, Broide, Bergelson, Hait and other Jewish writers, many of whom wrote not only in Russian, but also in the Jewish language.
U. Margolin, a journalist whose articles frequently appear in the periodicals of the Russian press in emigration, also treats the very same question, the question of the existence of a "Russian-Jewish" literature. In the newspaper
"Novoe Russkoe Slovo" of January 11, 1962, Margolin wrote the following:
“Babel was a Jewish writer of the crumbling era. He treats Russian literature like a ring with a precious stone on a finger. The ring can be taken off, put aside for twenty years and again put on. The ring is not part of the body. In the Jewish literature of his time Babel becomes a meaningful part of his whole pathetic and thematic authorship.”
Jewish literature is generally multilingual. The Greek language of Josephus Flavius, the Arabic of Maimonides, the Latin of Spinoza and the German of Heine are all offshoots of the same stem.
The Jewish literature mentioned above is treated by the Jews themselves as the product of their whole people. All that was written by the people of the Jewish race in various languages in different times and epochs belongs to the people. S. L. Zinberg, the well known historian of this literature, writes: "In the Jewish literature, individual personality was always subordinated to the collective thought of the whole and dissolved in it. All spiritual wealth created and collected by the people, belongs to the people. The personages bear only the name of its people, for they know only one creator. It is the people of the whole Jewry". ("Jewish World", 11th collec. 1944, New York.)
Jewish literature in the Russian language became apparent only when a considerable number of Jews learned the Russian language, when they received their education in the highest learning institutions. This occurred only in the last quarter of the Nineteenth Century. And at the turn of this century the number of the Jews joining the Russian literary and cultural life had increased considerably.
The joining was not a fusion, dissolution or an assimilation to the end, like that of a chemical formation of heterogeneous elements, but only a mechanical mixture or, by the more accurate definition of U. Margolin, "rings with precious stones" put on fingers of foreign-born bodies.
But the number of these "rings" was multiplying more and more, especially in the spheres of journalism, publicism, criticism and the legal profession.
This phenomenon did not remain unnoticed. And from the 1880’s the Russian Government, which at the turn of the century opened the doors of its learning institutions so wide for its Jewish subjects, took the path of limitations. It is these limitations that became the focal point of discontent and criticism from Jewish intellectuals. And it is about these limitations that so much is still written even now, notwithstanding the fact that for more than eighty years, 1804-1888, not only were there no limitations, but on the contrary, the Russian Government assisted the Jews in various ways, bringing them within the reach of the entire Russian culture by means of education.
The advantages of the secular education, with its resultant difficulties and its opening possibilities for material success, were so obvious and strong that a considerable part of the Jews, disregarding the displeasure of their rabbis, rushed into Russian institutions of learning.
The process of joining the Jews with those of the Russian subjects completing secondary and higher education grew swiftly and steadfastly. It was so fast that by the middle of the Eighties, one-third of all the students at the university of Kharkov and Odessa, graduating from the faculties of medicine and law, were Jews.
By these very means the Jews penetrated into the Russian intellectual environment as they received diplomas from high schools or universities. This was especially so in the free professions of medicine, law and journalism, and they began to influence more and more the whole cultural life of Russia. But this was not, as shown above, the assimilation towards which the Russian Government strived, assisted and encouraged Jewish education in the secular institutions of learning. In assisting and encouraging the Jews with the education, the Russian Government was hoping to fuse them with the Russian culture and "cook them altogether, Jews and Russians, in the All-Russian pot": this now exists in the USA with all the ethnic groups, the citizens of USA, where the "American nation" is created and "American patriotism" is emphasized. The creation of the "American nation and patriotism" is achieved not only by universal education based on the all English language, but also by mixed marriages, by one mode of living, and by common material and political interests.
Nothing of this sort took place in Russia. The Jew in Russia, in spite of everything, remained a Jew. The Jew, despite the completion of higher Russian education and the substitution of traditional "lapserdak" by ordinary clothing, cutting off his "paisas" and his abandonment of the secluded circle of the Jewish community, the "kahal", and his overstepping the "Jewish Pale", and even, in some cases, changing religion and receiving all, without exception, equal rights with the rest of population, nevertheless remained, above all, a Jew.
From his Jewish point of view he appraised all events, above all having in mind their usefulness and gain for the body of Jewry as a whole, not only for the many Jews in Russia, but for the whole Jewry of the Diaspora.
This however does not mean that they were not loyal subjects of Russia. But to them it was an alien and incomprehensible feeling which is inherent and characteristic to those who with their roots in the far past of their nation, saw their future inseparably linked with the future of their nation, and the state created by their forefathers of Russia.
With Jews, their past and their future was tied up not with Russia and Russian people, but with the Jewry of the whole world, with its own people of the past and the future.
Russia to them was only a temporary stage of their millennial sojourn in exile, in the same way as once the Roman Empire, Spain and Western Europe all were. As they did not become Romans, Greeks, Spaniards, Germans, so they did not become Russians, in spite of the fact that they learned the Russian language and rushed to take a lively part in the social and political life of Russia. This aspiration had every kind of support among the cultural Russian people, especially among the foremost and liberal intelligentsia.
The Jews joined the Russian cultural life as equal and even desired members of all kind of societies, professional amalgamations and cultural undertakings.
But for all that, they preserved and piously guarded what professor Lourie calls the "inner aspect of a Jew", characteristic only to Jews in whatever epoch and in whatever country they lived and in whatever language they spoke.
This "inner aspect" distinguished Jews from all other nations, tribes and races. The Jews themselves did not notice or did not want to notice this nor to speak or write about it. And to the non-Jews, accepting Jews in their own environment, the very thought of the possibility of discussion and the presence of this "inner aspect" was considered a manifestation of "Judaeophobia" or "anti-Semitism".
But the hidden and unsaid well-known conflict, brewing from as early as the Eighties of the last century, began to make itself felt between the Jews, who entered into the Russian cultural life, and the Russian intelligentsia with its roots deep in its national past.
This was "Judaeophobia" or aggressive "anti-Semitism" in the masses of Russian intelligentsia, which the cultural strata did not recognize and did not approve of. However, this was an unsaid and unrestrained acknowledgement that the desegregationist and assimilationist politics were not crowned with success, regardless of the enormous percentage of Jews who outwardly became similar to non-Jews.
The Jews quickly began to fill the ranks of the free profession, not because the other professions were closed to them or hindered in any way, but because they purposely avoided the others because .of their inborn antagonism to bureaucratic governmental officialdom. With themselves they carried into these professions their own Jewish specifications alien and little understood by the surrounding environment.
Slowly voices were raised, at first very timidly though, about the growing influence of the "Jewish spirit" in the free professions, first of all in the legal ones and then in journalism.
All these created the preconditions that forced the Russian Government to reconsider the political correctness and expediency in handling the Jewish question.
Starting from the 1880's, the Russian Government chose different kinds of limitations for persons of the Judaic faith. These limitations affected all spheres of Jewish life, from the economic to cultural activities, particularly the questions of education in the learning institutions, both state owned and private.
These limitations were received extremely negatively by Russian society except for a comparatively small part of the conservatively oriented Judaeophobes. Within the camp of the Jews, these limitations in general gave birth to sharp anti-governmental feelings, and pushed them towards the oppositionist and revolutionary groupings and organizations.
So the period of "assimilation" ended in the history of the Russian Jews. This period was completely utilized by the Jews for the creation of numerous intelligentsia of Jewish origin, inseparably linked with their religion and their own recognition of being the "Chosen People". The last two elements, the religion and the "Chosen People", were precisely the main obstacles that prevented the Jews from blending with the Russian people and its culture.
How numerous these Jewish specialists, belonging to the intelligentsia, were is easy to conclude from the given numbers of Jewish students that graduated from the universities and replenished the ranks of these specialists.
According to the "Books about Russian Jewry" (published in New York, 1960), 41.5% of the medical faculty of Kharkov University was Jews in 1886; and in Odessa university's medical faculty it was 30.7%; in the law faculty it was 41.2%.
Graduating from these universities the Jews poured into the ranks of Russian intelligentsia, carrying into it a lot of the specific Jewish peculiarities of this ancient race, the race that was able to preserve its purity during the millennial dispersion.
Observing its unsuccessful politics of assimilation, the Russian Government introduced in 1887 the so-called "percentage quota", despite the fact that the government considered it an undesirable step. The "percentage quota" stated that from then on, only a certain percentage of people belonging to the Judaic faith would be permitted in high schools and universities. In the "Jewish Pale" this was 10%, outside of the "Jewish Pale" 5%, and in Petersburg and Moscow, only 3%.
This provoked an explosion of indignation in the whole Jewry of Russia and finally pushed the Jews into the ranks opposing the regime. The Russian liberal community also reacted negatively and sharply.
However, the "percentage quota" did not bring about a substantial change in the percentage of Jews receiving high school and university education. They were changing their religion for the Lutheran and according to the letter of law ceased to count as Jews. Others went to complete their education in other countries and after their return to Russia began their professional practices. The third group passed its examinations by the "external" method, while the fourth group received their education in the institutions to which the "percentage quota" did not apply, such as schools of commerce and the whole range of private high schools and colleges. According to the "Books about Russian Jewry", in 1912 in the Kiev Institute of Commerce, there were 1875 Jewish students, while in the Psycho-Neurological Institute in Petersburg this book states that among the students there were "thousands of Jews".
The end result, of the thirty years in which the "percentage quota" existed, 1887 to 1917, the percentage of the Jewish students, that is those that did not change their Jewish religion, changed very little. In 1887 the average percentage for all of Russia was 14.5%, and in 1917, twelve per cent. These figures are taken from the "Books about Russian Jewry" and there is no basis to doubt its accuracy at all.
In these figures there is only one correction necessary, namely that the number of student Jews by their tribal and racial indications, but not of the Judaic faith, was not mentioned. These kind of students in 1887 were considerably less in number than in 1917. There is no exact information about the number of these students, but it is generally known that there were many of them.
Taking into consideration this correction, without the fear of making an error, it is possible to say that the introduction of the "percentage quota" did not change the percentage of the Jewish students in the Russian learning institutions, but only froze it at the level of the year 1887.
The "percentage quota" made itself felt with special sharpness in the Ukraine, where until 1917 there lived about two and half million or 41% of all Russian Jews. Nevertheless, even here the Jews managed in various ways to bypass the "percentage quota", mainly by creating their own learning institutions with the help of extensive Jewish capital. Besides this, there were many purely Jewish private schools, operated by the Jewish communities. In these schools the Jewish youth was getting its education, especially those who were unable to get into the Russian learning institutions. The enormous activities of these kinds of learning institutions are reported in quite great detail in the "Books about Russian Jewry", with documentary proof of the same in a separate chapter.
In the same book, on p. 360, we find the following lines: "still in June, 1914, it was announced that the promulgation of private learning institutions which did not enjoy governmental rights was increasing. The law provided nationalities with the freedom to choose the language of teaching. This opened wide possibilities for the development of the Jewish education in 'Yiddish' or in the ancient Hebrew Language".
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Knowing the above, the unfounded assertion spread throughout the world that in pre-revolutionary Russia "access to education was closed to Jews" loses all the persuasiveness.
In spite of the "percentage quota" more than 12% of Jewish students attended the highest learning institutions, whereas the total Jewish population in Russia constituted less than 4%. In addition, based on the law stated above permitting various nationalities to open unlimited numbers of learning institutions in their own languages, including Jewish, the real situation of Jewish education in Russia at that time is irrefutably proven.
At this point it would not be without interest to notice that it is precisely this fact that explains why there are so many political figures in Israel today that have had a Russian education. In the newly created state of Israel the overwhelming majority of the intelligentsia, the ministers and political figures came from Russia where they received their education. This education they acquired in the same Russia where, they claim, "access to education was closed to Jews". Had it not been for all these universities of Poltava, Odessa and Kiev, these former student realists, Israel would have found itself in almost total absence of capable personnel for the creation of all the apparatus of power necessary in the new state.
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Before the conclusion of the question dealing with Jewish education in Russia, it is necessary to state once more, without fear of repetition, that there were very wide possibilities open to the Jews to obtain any education they wished. This easily obtainable education offered the Jews the widest possibilities to penetrate the ranks of the Russian intelligentsia and to merge with it, especially when the attitude of this intelligentsia to Jews was quite friendly.
And the penetration into the deepest circles of all kinds of cultural levels in Russia went on continuously. But the process did not bring about total fusion with the Russian populace. This was not the fault of the Russian intelligentsia and the cultural part of its society. For the cause of this it is necessary to look into the Jewish strife towards self-isolation from the nations among whom they had to live throughout their history.
It is necessary to assume that this is the result of thousands of years of religious education which inspired the Jews with the knowledge that they are the "Chosen People", dispersed only temporarily, until that hour when they would gather again in the "Promised Land". All the other countries where they are living are not their motherland, but only a place of temporary sojourn. Their real motherland is the "Promised Land".
From the faith and immoveable conviction within their being the "Chosen People" logically and inescapably show their consciousness of superiority over other nations. This is why Jews do not want to fuse with other nations. The result of this unwillingness is self-restriction, which is characteristic of the Jews — even of those living among the nations which do not exact any limitations against this fusion with them. In pre-revolutionary Russia, especially in the Ukraine, these self-restrictionist Jewish tendencies used to manifest themselves with special distinction, and made them an alien body among the masses of the Ukrainian-Russian population.
3) Pursuits of trade and industry.
In Article 791, chapter IX of the Code of Law of the Russian Empire, Jewish artisans, merchants and lower middle classes, "have, in the place of permanent residence of their choice, all the rights and preferences granted to other Russian subjects of equal status, insofar as this does not contradict the special Jewish rights".
These "special rights" for the Jews, aside from those who belonged to First Guild, made it impossible to pursue trade and industry outside of the "Jewish Pale".
The one exception to this rule concerned the Jewish artisans, who were allowed to trade of the "Jewish Pale". They were only allowed to trade with "goods of their own making", however.
The presence of these two limitations deprived the numerous poor Jews of possibilities to participate in the middleman activities, outside of the "Jewish Pale".
The question about the rights of artisans to trade in objects of their own making was not sufficiently defined and was thus interpreted to meet the needs of expansion or limitation upon such trade, whichever proved more convenient. This loose definition made it possible for the local authorities to abuse the rights of the Jewish artisans.
In connection with this there were many "explanations" given by the Senate, often contradicting one another. An example of this can be found in the decision of the Senate to allow a Jewish watch trader who used foreign-made parts, but assembled them himself, to sell the watch as his merchandise. In another decision, concerning the trading of flour by a Jewish baker, it was considered that such activity was unlawful, because it contravened Article 1. 171 with all ensuing consequences outlined in the Code of Punishment of 1845, namely, the confiscation of all goods and immediate deportation.
All these limitations however, were easily circumvented in one way or another. It was quite easy to find loopholes and other means of avoiding them, sometimes by legal methods, but, in most cases, by only partially legal or completely illegal methods. This was due to the many possible interpretations' that allowed either expansion or limitation of Jewish trade, according to the whims of local authorities.
These limitations used to irritate the poor Jewish popu1ation of the "Jewish Pale", because the limitations deprived poor Jews of possibilities to make a living in the usual manner and prompted their affiliation with the forces of opposition to the régime.
Whether or not these limitations were expedient and corresponded with the interests of the whole state depends entirely upon your point of view, and there are several different existing opinions on this subject. Many ministers of finance, for example, Vitte and others were opponents of these limitations, believing that it was necessary to give these possibilities to all Jews, so that they could trade and provide a living for their families.
4) The civil service. The self-rule.
"The law states that people of different religious beliefs or tribes cannot be refused positions as civil servants, providing they meet the educational requirements of these positions. This meant that any Jew who held a Scholar's degree, which was the equivalent of a first degree diploma from a university, could not be refused admittance into any department of the civil service, if he wished to be employed by them, on the basis of his religious affiliation. Jewish people who wished to enter the civil service had to be put under oath to assure their loyalty to the service. This was decreed in the bill that pertained to ecclesiastical matters".
This was the ways the Russian laws read, which were written during the "assimilative" period, when the Russian Government strived to "fuse the Jews with the native population". This fusion was to be achieved by attracting the Jewish youth into Russian schools and at the same time trying to overcome the Jewish isolationist tendencies".
According to the text of laws, the Jews were allowed to have the widest opportunities… But at that time, right up the Seventies of the last century, there were no Jews with the corresponding qualifications. Until the end of the 1850's and the beginning of the 1860's, there were not many Jews with university degrees. At that time Jews who had graduated from Russian universities could be counted one by one. The mass influx of Jews to universities began only at the end of the Sixties and the beginning of the Seventies, after the great reforms of the Emperor Alexander II.
But the realization soon came that because a Jew held a university diploma in no way meant that he was on his way towards assimilation with the native population, an end towards which the government strived. In his "inner aspect" he remained, above all, Jewish, in spite of the cloak of a government official, excellent knowledge of Russian grammar and all the subtleties of Russian legislation.
The Jews became an integral part of the Russian culture, but they were never assimilated entirely nor did they accrete.
The national interests of Russia, in the widest and deepest meaning of the word, were, to them, alien and incomprehensible.
Realizing this, the Russian Government, in dealing with the question of Jewish tenure in the civil service, especially in the judicial department where the Jews had been attracted by their juristical education, arrived at the following methods of coping with their aggressive onrush. From the end of the 1870's the government stopped appointing Jews to such positions, and the Jews who already occupied those positions were retained without promotion. This brought about disappointment with their civil service occupations among the Jews and they themselves, of their own free will, openly switched over to the professions open to them, such as medicine, journalism, law, etc. Only a few Jewish individuals remained in the civil service, for example, the Real Councilor of State Teitel, and the Privy Councilor Halpern, who remained in these ranks until the Revolution of 1917.
The Jews had no desire to become a part of the other fields of the civil service with the exception of Jewish doctors, whose numbers in the military department were quite considerable. In the medical profession there was no limitation whatsoever, whether in private practice or in the military service.
The legal profession, although it was considered a public enterprise, was closely tied with the judicial department until 1889, and there were no limitations on the enrolment of Jews as barristers. Thus the number of Jewish lawyers swiftly grew. Into the intellectual environment the Jews took a lot of their specifically Jewish characteristics; this did not remain unnoticed, and provoked a familiar reaction among some circles of the Russian society, as well as in the government. From the fourth of November 1889, in order to attain the enrolment of a Jew as a barrister, the permission of the Minister of Justice was required in each individual case. This regulation affected only Jewish barristers, but did not apply to Jewish assistant barristers.
These permits were obtained only with great difficulty and by this action the number of Jewish barristers with full rights was considerably reduced.
From the year 1912 on, the limitations for barristers originating in 1889 were applied to the Jewish assistant barristers as well. In both cases the limitations applied only to the Judaic faith, and did not affect the Jews of non-Judaic faith.
In the same year it was decreed that in the introduction of local elective courts, Jews must not be elected to preside as Justices of Peace and District Judges. Jews were also not allowed to occupy teaching positions in high-schools.
Jews were allowed to be readers and heads of faculties in the highest learning institutions, but only in limited cases. For the Jews of non-Judaic faith, there were no limitations and no obstacles whatsoever. Thus, for example, even the chief of the Military-Surgical Academy in Petersburg at the beginning of this century was a Jew by blood. This fact created difficulties when his son sought admission to the Pavlovsk Military School.
* * *
At this point it is appropriate to explain that the civil service was of two kinds: service in the positions that led to titles and pensions, and service in the employment, the latter being the same as employment in private offices and industry. In the majority of cases, Jews that were in the civil service belonged to the category of the service in the employment.
Jews were not appointed to the higher administrative positions, but again this was applied only to the Jews of Judaic faith.
Participation in self-rule
The Jews did not know the limitations during the whole "assimilation" period of Russian legislation concerning self-rule.
But at the end of the 1880's, soon after the introduction of the "percentage quota" the limitations were also applied to the participation of Jews in urban and rural self-rule.
The Jews were no longer allowed to participate in Zemstvo meetings and electoral conventions. These limitations did not apply to the rural services, particularly to doctors.
Participation in city self-rule was limited for Jews by the well known "percentage quota" for the city public Dumas: namely, that no more than one-third of the total voters could be Jewish, and that no Jew could be elected as mayor of a city.
But at the same time there were no limitations concerning the election of Jews into the membership of the State Duma, and the State Council. There were Jewish deputies in all four State Dumas; one Jew, Vainshtain, was even a member of the State Council, and participated in its sittings alongside the highest dignitaries of the Russian Empire.
During their whole sojourn on the territory of Rechi Pospolite of Poland, the Jews did not have to perform military duties in peace or in war. Instead of direct participation in the defense of the country, they paid a special tax, freeing them from military service.
After becoming Russian subjects, the Jews were not called for military service either. Military duty was compulsory for the "subjects of all the estate — the lower middle classes, artisans, merchants. The Jews were allowed to substitute for their service a special monetary collection, levied from Jewish communities, called "Kahals", where the Jews permanently resided.
But in 1827 this order was changed. By the nominal decree of the Emperor Nicholas I, new rules were introduced compelling the Jews to fulfill their military duties in person.
The decision as to who was to be sent as a recruit was given to the authorities of the Jewish communities. The government demanded only a definite number of adult men, physically healthy and older than 25 years of age.
Who was an adult was the decision of the rabbis. According to the Jewish law a man is considered adult as soon as he reaches 13 years of age, and the appropriate religious ceremony is performed for him. In addition the Jewish communities were given the right to turn in as recruits some other in place of the draftees: either mercenaries or wanderers – “their own coreligionists" – caught without passports, free of charge.
The absence of direct instructions, as to who should be considered adult, and the giving of the right to the communities to decide who should be turned in as a recruit, opened the widest possibilities for all kinds of abuses.
The entire burden of this recruitment used to fall on the poorest part of Jewry, which had neither connections and protections, nor the means to hire a substitute.
The government remained blind by choice to the matter of the feeble boy unfit to carryon heavy military service, yet considered by the Jewish community to be adult. The main thing was that the required numbers of recruits were delivered into the military service.
One might believe that this was done consciously, hoping that the Jewish boy, cut off from his environment would more easily "fuse with the native population". This is what used to happen, in most cases, with these boys-soldiers, who survived various childhood diseases.
Those Jewish boy-soldiers who were unable to carry weapons, but had talents for music, were placed in musical detachments where they were taught the Russian language and then transplanted into the Orthodox religion without being asked for their consent. Sometimes they were placed in special schools where they were quickly "Russified" and then they carried the military service further without experiencing any limitations as a Jew. These limitations existed in Russia only with regard to religious inclination, and not to tribal or racial origin. These were so-called "kantonists", many of whom made a good career in the military and the civil service. They married Russians and became completely assimilated' and as a result were a complete loss for Jewry.
This cruel method of conducting assimilationist politics existed for more than a quarter of a century and was not abolished until 1856.
Furthermore, this method of assimilating the Jewish masses did not have any tangible results, because only a very small percentage of Jewish boys found themselves in the "kantonist" institutions.
With the introduction of conscription in Russia, all Jews reaching 21 years of age had to serve on a general basis and no kind of substitution was allowed.
On the other hand, during fulfillment of the military services more and more limitations were applied to Jews. They were not allowed promotions to officer status; they were prohibited from appointment to military clerks, to the commissariat, to sanitation units and to frontier services.
All these limitations only aggravated the already negative Jewish attitude to the military service and they were eager to free themselves from it in every possible way, even sometimes by going away to another country whenever the call for military duties arose.
The government responded to this by imposing fines on the families of dodgers. The Government not only failed to reach its aim by this method, but also provoked criticism from all Jewish circles as well as from the wide circles of Russian society.
The only way out of this situation, as some of the political personalities in pre-revolutionary Russia saw it, was the return to the times when the Jews were not obliged to serve in the military, but could pay special taxes instead. This question was heatedly debated in the corresponding circles in the period between the first revolution of 1905 and the eve of the First World War, but no decision was made. All the limitations for Jews in the military services remained in force.
When the First World War came, hundreds of thousands Jewish soldiers in the Russian army did not remain indifferent, knowing full well the conditions of their fellow tribesmen in the Austrian army. In situation like this, it was inevitable for these thoughts to occur and for them to compare the conditions of both warring armies, and to make their own conclusions which promote neither patriotism, nor a true fighting spirit. To deny this or to keep silent about it is to remain indifferent.
* * *
In addition to the previously enumerated measures of the Russian Government for assimilation and desegregation, one more decree of the Russian Government can be mentioned in conclusion. This is the decree which, when it was announced, agitated all "Russian subjects of the Judaic faith".
At the beginning of the Nineteenth Jewish men wore long skerts down to their heels called caftans or cloaks, which were some sort of national Jewish costume at that time. Emperor Nicholas I, who was a lover of uniformity and order, introduced measures for the Jews prescribing and exactly defining the length of the caftans or cloaks. Of course the order had to be fulfilled, and the Jews were forced to cut off the long skerts of their overcoats. Thus were created the Jewish overcoats which till the ear 1917 were called "lapserdak". But the "paisys" — long-curly sideburns which were popular in Jewish settlements — remained inviolable until the revolution of 1917. The sideburns were worn by the overwhelming majority of Jews in the "Jewish Pale". The exception was the insignificant number of Jews who broke off from the old Jewish custom.
The results and the conclusions of the assimilation and limitation politics
At the beginning of the Twentieth Century, in the years preceding the First World War, the results of the politics that were guided by the Russian Government in dealing with the Jewish question were clearly visible.
It may be said, in short, that neither the long period of striving to "fuse the Jews with the native population" by the measures of encouragement and desegregation, nor the considerably shorter period of various limitations, were of any great success and did not bring the desired results. The Jews did not become Russian patriots, in the full meaning of the word as it is understood throughout the world. They did not become patriots in the sense as Romans use to say "dulce et decorum est pro patria more" (sweet and honorable to die for motherland). There were of course, exceptions, but they were not numerous.
This is not surprising, due to the fact that the motherland for Jews of the whole world is not considered to be the country in which they were born, but the "Promised Land". That is the dream of their return, the dream that they cherish during the whole life of their sojourn in dispersion. They were taught this thought from infancy in their families, in "khederah", and in all modes of living in their Jewish communities. To reject this dream — for an orthodox Jew, especially in those times — was equal to rejection of the religion of his ancestors. This entails total personal contempt of the whole of Jewry. Anyone who changed religion was bemoaned as if dead. This scene was often seen in the "Jewish Pale", when a Jew or Jewess changed his or her religion. Crying and sobbing, powdering the head with ashes, moaning and lamenting were heard from that Jewish home overtaken by such a misfortune.
Besides the theory and dream about the "Promised Land", Jews were from their infancy implanted with the thought of being "God's Chosen People", superior in all respects to all other nations of the world. These inculcated ideas were and are the main themes of Jewish home education; the ideas in which no orthodox Jew doubts or ever doubted. This gave rise to and fed the complex of superiority and led to the self-isolation of Jews in their places of the dispersion.
If we take into consideration still another circumstance, namely that the Jewish religion is the only religion inseparably linked with race and blood – one has to be born but one cannot become one – and to that add another fact, that of the exactly determined geographic territory, the motherland of each Jew, it then becomes obvious why all the assimilative attempts of the Russian Government ended unsuccessfully.
Only the youthful "kantonists", turned away from their families and the influence of the rabbis, and later married non-Jewesses, produced offspring who completely fused with the native population. It is from among these assimilated Jews, it turned out later on, that quite a few notable personalities of the Russian Empire were developed.
A Portuguese Jew, Devrien, occupied one of the most responsible positions in the Empire during the reign of Peter the Great. Baron Shafirov brilliantly conducted finances under Peter the Great. Under Nicholas I, the Minister of Finance was Count Kankrin, the son of a Lithuanian rabbi. Kaufman Turcanstansky proved to be not only an excellent general but also an effective administrator General Grulev was worthy of great merit for his studies of the Far East and Manchuria, where, by his suggestion of location, the city of Harbin was built.
But all these people were few in numbers. The majority of Jews were never close to the fusion with the native popu1ation which the Russian Government sought.
Something quite different happened when the Jews received an education as a result of the assimilative politics of the state, and when they were deprived of the possibilities of occupying responsible administrative positions in the apparatus of the state as the result of the measures of limitations. They poured into the cultural and economic life of Russia. They rushed in to these spheres of Russian life by any channels available to them. It is in these spheres of the country's life that they were quite successful and by the beginning of the Twentieth Century they exerted their influence on the whole life of the country.
The legal practice, journalism, criticism, publishing, trade and industry, finance and newspapers made up the wide field of action where the Jews, not only were able to develop their activities, but were able to influence to a considerable degree all the spheres of the country's life, remaining at the same time an alien body, not tied organically with the national interests of Russia.
With their considerable capital accumulated by the end of the nineteenth Century, the Jews were able to give considerable financial support to all kinds of beginnings, which according to their opinion, might be useful at a given time in the future to the Jewish ethnic group in Russia. The opposite was also true. They could also counteract the creations, developments and those successful beginnings, which could bring harm or material or moral damage.
The Jews rushed with special energy into the periodical press, which was developing and acquiring more and more influence, and, by the beginning of the First World War, the majority of the periodical Russian press was either in the Jewish hands, or under Jewish influence and control. With this they acquired a powerful means of influencing the feelings of the broad masses, and thus the politics of the country.
Professor Solomon Lourie, in his book published in 1922 ("Anti-Semitism in the Ancient World") dealing with the questions of Jewish interrelations with nations and countries in which they sojourned, writes:
- 1. “The local law must be strictly observed, but only insofar as it does not contradict the attitudes of the still existing national Jewish sense of justice and insofar as its observance is not connected with any harm to the Jewish people. Thus the laws, directly or indirectly applied against the Jews, in any case should not be observed.
- 2. It is necessary to be strictly loyal with respect to the state which regards the Jews favorably. In the case of a struggle between two states or between two parties within a state, it is recommended to sympathize, and, as far as possible, to assist the side more sympathetic towards the Jews.” (p. 120)
In spite of these two rules, the instructions regarding the conduct and activities of the Jews in Russia never found any place in the Jewish press, or in the press under Jewish influence. These were not only unpublished but were also never orally discussed. Nevertheless, the broad Jewish masses which were Russian subjects, completely adhered to these rules.
Living among other nations through the centuries of Diaspora life, every Jew worked out his own peculiar and distinct approach and appraisal to all that took place outside of the closed circle of the Jewish tribes. That is what Professor Lourie formulated exactly in these two points given above.
Whatever happens and wherever it happens in any country at any point on this Earth, in any sphere of life, a Jew a ways, and invariably asks the question: "How about us?" Sometime he asks this question aloud sometime he asks only himself. Depending on the answer given, he determines his attitude to the actual events, to a state, to a people, to a political personality or party, or to other cultural manifestations of the life of the nation where he lives.
At the beginning of the Nineteenth Century, Russia received more than a million Jews who had no knowledge of the Russian language, no large capital, and did not want to join or become accustomed to the Russian culture which was generally the All-Russian culture of the time, yet alien to them. At that time Jews neither wanted to participate in the Russian life and culture nor wished to exert their influence on the politics of the country, because they did not yet possess that kind of knowledge and economic power that made itself a force to be reckoned with.
But in less than one hundred years everything changed. Extensive capital was accumulated in Jewish hands; professional Jewish personnel were created, and they graduated from high schools and universities fully fluent in Russian. With the help of their accumulated capital, the Jews penetrated into all the spheres of the economic and cultural life of the country.
To this we must add another factor, namely, that in Europe, beginning in the middle of the Nineteenth Century, Jewish capital sometimes had decisive importance not only in the internal, but also in the external politics of many countries. At that time Russia was experiencing an acute shortage of foreign capital for the development of its industries. Upon the Rothschilds of France, England, Austria; and upon the Mendelssohn’s of Germany depended a lot of the decisions regarding various financial questions, which influenced the politics of these countries in their relationship with Russia.
The largest and the most influential newspapers and publishing houses of Europe, and the telegraph agencies, which created the “political atmosphere” belonged to the Jews or were under strong Jewish influence.
Understandably and naturally the wealthy European Jews paid special attention to the fate and wishes of their fellow tribesmen in Russia, and pushed the decisions of their governments in the direction of such wishes.
The question of loans and trade agreements frequently fell under the direct dependence of the politics of the Russian Government toward the "Jewish question".
From memoir literature we know that in the Berlin Congress, convened after the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-78, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, a Jew, Disraeli, and also Lord Palmerston, found it possible and appropriate to question Prince Gortchakov, the representative of Russia, about the "conditions of the Jews in Russia". We also know the answer given by Prince Gortchakov, which forced this self-confident "lord" to blush.
From the recollections of Vitte we know what kind of pressure the financial circles of France, with Rothschild at its head, tried to exert on Russian politics regarding the "Jewish Question" during the conclusion of Russian external loans.
It is well known that the largest amount of financial and propaganda help came from the American Jews and was connected with all the revolutionary beginnings in Russia.
In Russia itself, the question of the relationship with the Jews – "Judaeophobia" and "Judaeophilia" – became one of basic questions addressed to public figures, writers and journalists. Only those who unreservedly and without reason repeated and supported all pro-Jewish expressions and saw in Jews only the good side, closing their eyes to negative actions, relative to all nationalities and tribes including the Jewish tribes as well, were recognized and admired as "cultural", "honest" and "progressive".
Anyone who dared to say anything out of tune against the complaints of oppression, persecution, torment and suffering of the Jews, was repeatedly named, both orally and in the press, and was subsequently labeled a “Judaeophobe” or an "anti-Semite". His mind, honor and decency were questioned' his popularity declined, and no one would listen to him nor even read his works.
Frequently even those were considered doubtful who steered clear and had nothing to do with the "ticklish question". They were suspected as "hidden anti-Semites". (As Mark Vishniak stated in one of his articles. A Russian Jew, Vishniak was secretary of the All-Russian Constituent Assembly.)
Jews were watching vigilantly the attitudes of individual political and cultural personalities of Russia towards the Jewish question, and they used to divide these people into two groups, the friends and the enemies of Jews.
At the beginning of this century, the publishing house "Pravda" in Warsaw systematically issued small pamphlets under the general name "Friends and Enemies of Jews". The pamphlet was sold for 3-10 kopeks. In this pamphlet, as the title indicates, "portraits and characteristics of each individual were disclosed".
Russia was flooded with similar pamphlets which sold for pennies, or given away for nothing.
The propaganda machine was working at full blast, provoking and arousing the broad masses of Russia to make them feel that their duty was to strive to help "the oppressed" Jewry.
This aspiration, in its own turn, gave rise to sharp antigovernment feelings. The propaganda was repeated again and again, such that the initiative of all possible "discrimination" originated with the government, and was inspired and supported by big landowners, clergy and other "Black-Hundreders".
More than a few journalists and writers in pre-revolutionary Russia owe their popularity to a considerable degree to their statements relating to the "Jewish question", irrespective of the quality of their work.
On the other hand, if the smallest doubt was raised regarding the virtues and talents, not necessarily of the Jewish people as a whole, but of its individual representatives, the end result might be the boycott of the whole progressive society and the press. This phenomenon was typical in the socio-cultural life of Russia around the turn of the last century.
Lest you think that this statement is unsubstantiated, here are two examples which will clarify how great a role "Judaeophobia" and "Judaeophilia" played in the cultural life of Russia.
Alexander Amfiteatrov, a journalist and author of many lashing satirical and pamphlets write in his two pamphlets “Jewry and Socialism” and "Jewry as a Spirit of Revolution”, that: “the Jews were never satisfied with any government, under the power of which they were placed by historical fate. They cannot, and will not be satisfied because an ideal of the perfect democracy, put in their souls, has not been realized to this day...” As regarding the fact that there are quite a few Jewish capitalists who are not interested in real democracy, socialism or upheavals, Amfiteatrov explains in the following words. "A socialist by nature is a socialist to his bones. A Jew, for centuries, had been compelled by law for self-preservation to wrap himself so coarsely and cleverly in a coarse bourgeois shell that entire teachings, entire sociological theories concerning this inborn bourgeoisie appeared. The inborn bourgeoisie representing a typical racial symptom of Jewry…" Amfiteatrov writes further:
"But with the years the alien colors are shed as are its dilapidated scales, and in the voices of Lassal, Marx, and the revolutionary activities of the Russian-Jewish leaders of the liberating epoch, we hear the invariable howl of the old ebonites, the thunder of Isaiah, the crying of Jeremiah, the noble equalizing utopia of Galileo and Jesus... Yes, Jewry in the world is not only a nation, or a religious association, it also a social party... "
"Paul's Christianity" – continues Amfiteatrov – "came into the world to work out alliances, a theory and an ethic of the bourgeois system, while Jewry, with all its hereditary subdivisions in religion and philosophy, remained to live and be tormented in order that socialism in the world might be preserved".
After writings of this sort and especially after the appearance of his well known pamphlet ""Gentlemen Crooks", Amfiteatrov was exiled from Russia. But a long time before the year 1917, and even before the appearance of his pamphlet, a Jew, V. S. Mandel, said at one of the social gatherings:
"Be that as it may, but the Jewry should have replied to Mr. Amfiteatrov and the other apologists of his with the quotation from the Russian writer, known even to those Jewish nationalists who are against allowing anyone to speak Russian at their own gatherings: "God deliver me from fools."
Professor Konstantin Arabazhin of Petersburg university, a brilliant orator and speaker, had a reputation for progressive thinking, and his articles were willingly published in journals and newspapers. The auditorium where he read his lectures was always full. His speeches at literary gatherings were events in the literary world. His opinions and appraisals of literary works were held in high regard, his erudition and knowledge of literature was acknowledged nationally.
According to the custom of the time, new literary works were discussed openly at these literary gatherings. Once, at such a gathering, there was a discussion of the literary works by Simon Ushkevich, a Jew belonging to the third grade of fiction writers. Ushkevich wrote in Russian, depicting Jewish life and the mode of living in small towns.
Speaking at the gathering, professor Arabazhin made a comment on the Ushkevich work, noting the author's weak points.
The author, being present at the gathering, immediately responded with the following words: "why do you poke your nose into something that you don't know and do not understand?"
Arabazhin, being hot-tempered, did not remain speechless, but retaliated at once: "And why do you creep into Russian literature, which you neither know nor understand?"
The words of Arabazhin were directed only at Ushkevich as a reply to his remarks.
Unfortunately, the word "you" in the plural form is synonymous in Russian with the singular form "thou" if a polite form of address is required, (as in contemporary English) and in spite of this, the word was interpreted as a reference not only to Simon Ushkevich but also to all the Jews writing their literary works in Russian.
As a result the star of Arabazhin not only lost its luster, but completely disappeared. His works were no longer published by the "foremost and progressive" press; no longer was he invited to literary meetings and debates, his lectures lost their magnetic force to students and he was put on list of “reactionaries”, "Black-Hundreders" and "Jew-baiters".
Later on, during the civil war, prof. Arabazhin took an active part, closely collaborating with the "North-Western Government" of General Yudenich.
Something similar also occurred with M. Artzybashev, the most popular writer in Russia of his time, already in emigration in Warsaw, after his article dealing with the "Jewish Question" appeared in the press.
With regard to the incident with prof. Arabazhin, I had an opportunity to hear of this from several people who were present at the meeting. Similarly at the congress of Russian writers and journalists in Yugoslavia I heard the same thing, and in a conversation with the writers Evgeni Chirikov and Boris Lazarevsky the facts relating to this incident were confirmed.
After several decades I heard the very same thing from former Menshevik-"Bundist" G. Y. Aronson, who was living in New York and contributing to several newspapers and journals that are published in both the Russian and Jewish languages.
* * *
Jewish influence in all spheres of the cultural life in Russia was felt distinctly by all, except by those who did not want to hear or see, nor moreover to speak about it out of the fear of being taken for "backward", or "Black-Hundreders", with all the consequences which ensued. There were, of course, stout-hearted idealist-dreamers, who traditionally took part of those who cried about their sufferings, without reasoning how justified such cries were, nor wanting to "hear the other side of the story". If they are crying and moaning, that means they are suffering, therefore, they have to be helped and saved from these sufferings. Furthermore those, against whom the criers and the moaners complain, the power and the government, must be condemned...
Jews themselves regard as inconceivable altogether the fact that they sometimes and in some instances could be wrong. Here is what I. M. Bickerman writes about this question in his sketch "Russia and Russian Jewry", Collection I "Russia and Jews", published in Berlin in 1924.
"A Jew answers to everything with his usual gesture and with his usual words: it is a well known fact that we are at fault in everything. Wherever misfortune happened, a search into the matter would be made, and a Jew would be found as scapegoat. Nine-tenths of what is written in the Jewish peri0dical issues about the Jews in Russia constitutes only a retelling of this stereotyped phrase. Since the Jews, of course, cannot be at fault always and in everything, a Jew makes a conclusion, quite flattering and convenient for us, that we are always right in everything. Still worse, he simply refuses to subject his conduct to his own judgment. He refuses to realize what he is doing and what he is not, but, perhaps, ought to be doing. It must be concluded that since pretentions, reproaches and accusations are thrown at us from every different side, the accusers must be at fault, mankind must be at fault, everything else must be at fault, but not us…"
In another place in the same collection we also find the following phrase. "A Jew does not recognize the judgment of history. He himself judges the history..."
Not only the history, it should be added, he also carries out his own judgment about the culture, existence and life, of other nationalities, without admitting the thought that somebody, in general, not belonging to the Jewish tribe, might have his own judgment about the Jews, their culture, literature, entity and racial-tribal peculiarities.
And at the same time in every possible way, Jews strove to participate in all the sectors of social, political and cultural life in Russia.
From the beginning of the Sixties and Seventies of the Nineteenth Century, many Jews themselves strove to link up with Russians. At that time they were timid and unsure of themselves, but were inspired with assimilationist’s feelings. These two decades were characteristic in the respect that there were no limitations whatsoever for Jews within the Russian Government. This aroused some enthusiasm in many Jews, who received their highest education in the Russian institutions, "in order to become a Russian". But the full assimilation was hindered by religious differences, which in those times meant a great deal.
At that time Jewish political parties did not exist at all. Jews however enrolled in All-Russian political groups, without experiencing any obstacles either from Russian society or from well-educated Jews who considered it normal and natural.
And in Seventies we already encountered the Jews in the All-Russian groupings, not only as ordinary members, but also as leaders. It is true that not as many Jews assumed the rôles of leaders as the native Russians, but nevertheless they were there and no one ever questioned the right of Jewish participation.
In the last quarter of the century, and at the turn of this century in the years preceding the revolution of 1905-6, the Jews were filling the ranks and groupings of the All-Russian parties and formed the ranks of these parties as well. The big majority of those Jews were in the ranks of "Left" parties and in those groupings, especially the militant-revolutionary once, in which we frequently see Jews holding the most responsible and exalted positions.
The Jews did not, as a rule, participate in the so-called "Right" parties and groupings, with national or nationalistic inclinations. Yet it must be acknowledged, that there were cases when rich Jews supported such parties financially.
But the whole Jewish mass of five million, who were subjects of Russia, were, except in rare cases, of one mind in their oppositionist feelings towards the government. These Jewish masses consisted of the embodiment, closely welded by their origin, of the citizens who stroved to change the political system and the social order of Russia. These masses were ready and waiting only for the moment to employ their force in the task of reconstructing the country in which they lived.
Some of these Jewish masses wanted to reconstruct the Russian system by evolutionary means, by the means of various reforms, but there were not many such people. The majority of the Jews, if they did not state their aspirations, nevertheless silently approved the idea of forceful change of the existing order by revolutionary means.
The influence of the Jewish ethnic group on the cultural life in Russia and the creation of numerous Jewish personnel with a Russian education made it easier for the Jews to penetrate so quickly into all sectors of the economic life of the country. Many Jews were getting rich quickly and strove to give their children the highest education possible. The Jews did not spare their money on those social and cultural All-Russian undertakings which could be useful to them immediately or in the future. Special attention was directed to the periodical press, which was beginning to gain more and more influence throughout the whole world the internal and external politics of all countries.
It was necessary to have educated and able personnel for this, and also considerable direct or indirect financing.
How were the above mentioned personnel created? It is the result of assimilative politics of the Russian Government on one hand, and the assimilative attitude and striving of the Jews on the other.
How the Jews created the capital which they did not spare to use for various undertakings and for the support of those All-Russian cultural institutions which they desired will be summarized here only in a general way, because the volume of this work does not permit me to spare too much space in which to deal with this question.
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Five and half million Russian Jews participated most actively in the economic life, not only in the "Jewish Pale", but also in Russia as a whole, and, in spite of existing limitations, had achieved remarkable success.
At the beginning of the Nineteenth Century, when they became subjects of Russia, all the Jews were exclusively merchants, diverse lease-holders, brokers, intermediaries (the middle-men) and operators of drinking establishments. Neither the big bourgeoisie nor the people with secular education were among them. Neither were there any Jews of agricultural occupation of those who owned land.
But in one century the picture radically changed. On the eve of the 1917 Revolution, almost all of the most important largest enterprises of trade and industry in the “Jewish Pale”, and to a considerable degree in all of Russia as well, were either completely in Jewish hands or under their domination.
It is impossible to determine exactly the percentage of Jewish capital that participated in different sectors of the Russian economy, because a considerable part of the Jewish capital was camouflaged in order to evade some of the limitations which existed for Jewish enterprises. In order to bypass the law, Jewish enterprises often were operated under the figurehead of a non-Jewish enterprise, and gave an appearance that the enterprise was not Jewish.
The government had a difficult struggle against the above said methods. And to be frank, the government in reality did not struggle that much against such methods. For example, in the pre-revolutionary years, it was not a secret that one of Russia's largest joint-stock companies – "Grain-Sugar" – that controlled many sugar refineries and had a large trade of grain actually belonged to the well known Muscovite Jew-Zionist, M. Zlotopolsky. But the president of this enterprise was a Count, a person of non-Jewish faith. Thus formally at least, everything was in order. This phenomenon was not unique, but typical, and not only in the sugar industry, but also in the other sectors of economic life as well. Such practices were widespread in flour-milling, the grain trade, the lumber trade, and especially in the financial sector. Such practices however were more common in the "Jewish Pale" than in other parts of Russia.
As previously mentioned, although it is impossible to determine the exact amount of Jewish capital that was operating in the Russian economy, nevertheless, a great deal of information on this subject can be obtained from the book "Jews in Economic Life of Russia" written by I. Dizhura, who did extensive research into this question. The book was published in New York in 1960.
According to I. Dizhura's data, of 518 sugar refineries in Russia, 182 belonged to the Jews, or 31.5% of the whole. The 182 figure represents only those Jewish refineries which did not camouflage their capital. But in almost all other refineries, to a lesser or greater degree, Jewish capital was involved under the above described camouflage.
In the flour-milling business 365 large steam mills were in Jewish hands; 22% of all the breweries were also in Jewish hands, and in the textile industry — 30%. The grain trade was almost exclusively in Jewish hands. Out of 1000 grain trading posts, 930 belonged to Jews. The lumber trade, according to I. Dizhura, was one of the major Jewish businesses. And the river navigation on Dnieper was 70% controlled by the Jew, Mr. Margolin.
In the banking business, which nowadays plays such an important role in the economy life of a country, only two banks in all of Russia did not have Jews on its board of directors. Those were the Moscow Merchant Bank and the Volzhsko-Kamsky. All other banks were either completely or to a considerable degree under Jewish control, and had Jews on the board of directors.
From this brief review, made from Jewish sources, one can see how great the participation of Jewish capital was in the economic life of Russia.
Even the gold-fields in Russia were generally in Jewish hands. As was said before, the richest gold-fields of Lena were in Jewish hands, owned by Ginzburg. The same picture can be seen in the mining of platinum where Jewish capital had its liveliest participation. In gold and platinum mining in
Russia, Jewish capital closely collaborated with the "foreign" English or French capital, which in fact belonged to the Jews of these countries, and to be precise, this capital belonged to the largest European Jewish-controlled banks which were making investments in Russia.
The only exception where Jewish capital was not invested was large land holdings. Starting from the 1880's, Jews were prohibited from the acquisition of lands in rural areas. But those who bought land before the prohibition were allowed to keep their land and were permitted to do whatever they wished with it. The land in question was not used for individual cultivations (Jews did not strive towards such occupations), but for large-scale farming.
Owing to the purchase of large land-holdings by Jews before the prohibition, it was possible for some of them to operate large-scale farms. In the Ukraine there were Jewish land-owners who had hundreds of thousands of acres under cultivation. For instance, in the Konotopsk district of Chernigove province, near Hetman's capital of Baturin, around which were many estates of the Ukrainian nobles of Hetman's times, there were two Jewish wealthy land-owners, Messrs, Zorokhovich and Cherkinsky. Their country estates, which were well-cultivated and well-managed, had such an appearance that not only the peasants, serving on these estates, but also many other landowners residing in the vicinity, were made envious. In the neighboring district of Putilovsk in the Kursk province, which did not belong to the “Jewish Pale”, there were also wealthy Jewish landowners. The sugar producer Shirman, before the First World War, owned a large estate in Gruzinsk, which was for many centuries the ancestral land of the former Putilovsk voivod-boiars of Cherepovoy.
Still many other large estates were acquired not personally by Jews, but by the joint-stock companies, primarily of the sugar refineries, which were actually owned by the Jews.