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HISTORY OF THE JEWS IN RUSSIA AND POLAND - S.M. Dubnow




jewish genealogy in Argentina

HISTORY OF THE JEWS IN RUSSIA AND POLAND

FROM THE DEATH OF ALEXANDER I UNTIL THE DEATH OF ALEXANDER III

by S.M. Dubnow

A Project Gutenberg EBook

5. THE JEWS AND THE RUSSIAN PEOPLE

As for the Russian people, an impenetrable wall continued as theretofore to keep it apart from the Jewish population. To the inhabitants of the two Russian capitals and of the interior of the Empire the Pale of Settlement seemed as distant as China, while among the Russians living within the Pale the sparks of former historic conflagrations, the prejudices of the ages and the unenlightened notions of days gone by were still glimmering beneath the ashes. The ignorance of some and the vicious prejudices of others could not very well manifest themselves in periodical literature, for the simple reason that in pre-reformatory Russia, throtled by the hand of the censorship, none was in existence. Only in Russian fiction one might see the shadow of the Jew moving across. In the imagination of the great Russian poet Pushkin this shadow wavered between the "despised Jew" of the street (in the "Black Shawl," 1820) and the figure of the venerable "old man reading the Bible under the shelter of the night" (in the "Beginning of a Novel," 1832). On the other hand, in Gogol's "Taras Bulba" (1835-1842) the Jew bears the well-defined features of an inhuman fiend. In the delineation of the hideous figure of "Zhyd Yankel," a mercenary, soulless, dastardly creature, Gogol, the descendant of the haidamacks, [1] gave vent to his inherited hatred of the Jew, the victim of Khmelnitzki [2] and the haidamacks. In these dismal historic tragedies, in the figures of the Jewish martyrs of old Ukraina, Gogol can only discern "miserable, terror-stricken creatures." Thus one of the principal founders of Russian fiction set up in its very center the repelling scarecrow of a Jew, an abomination of desolation, which poured the poison of hatred into the hearts of the Russian readers and determined to a certain extent the literary types of later writers.

[Footnote 1: Name of the Ukrainian rebels who rose in the seventeenth century against the tyranny of their Polish masters. Compare Vol. I, p. 182, n. 3.]

[Footnote 2: Compare Vol. I, p. 144 et seq.]

In the back-yards of Russian literature, which were then most of all patronized by the reading public, the literary slanderer Thaddeus Bulgarin delineated in his novel "Ivan Vyzhigin" (1829) the type of a Lithuanian Jew by the name of Movsha (Moses), who appears as the embodiment of all mortal sins. The product of an untalented and tainted pen, Bulgarin's novel was soon forgotten. Yet it contributed its share toward instilling Jew-hatred into the minds of the Russian people.



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