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jewish genealogy in Argentina



by S.M. Dubnow

A Project Gutenberg EBook


After some wavering, the Government decided to adopt the method of "picking" the best. The intention of the authorities was to apply the gradual relaxation of Jewish rightlessness not to groups of restrictions, but to groups of persons. The Government entered upon the scheme of abolishing or alleviating certain restrictions not for the whole Jewish population but merely for a few "useful" sections within it. Three such sections were marked off from the rest: merchants of the first guild, university graduates, and incorporated artisans.

The resuscitated "Committee for the Amelioration of the Jews" [1] displayed an intense activity during that period (1856-1863). For fully two years (1857-1859) the question of granting the right of permanent residence in the interior governments to merchants of the first guild occupied the attention of that Committee and of the Council of State. The Committee had originally proposed to restrict this privilege by imposing a series of exceedingly onerous conditions. Thus, the merchants intending to settle in the Russian interior were to be required to have belonged to the first guild within the Pale for ten years previously, and they were to be allowed to leave the Pale only after securing in each case a permit from the Ministers of the Interior and of Finance. But the Council of State found that, circumscribed in this manner, the privilege would benefit only a negligible fraction of the Jewish merchant class--there were altogether one hundred and eight Jewish first-guild merchants within the Pale--and, therefore, considered it necessary to reduce the requirements for settling in the interior.

[Footnote 1: Compare above, p. 49.]

A long succession of meetings of this august body was taken up with the perplexing problem how to attract big Jewish capital into the central governments and at the same time safeguard the latter against the excessive influx of Jews, who, for the sake of settling there, would register in the first guild and, under the disguise of relatives, would bring with them, as one of the members of the Council put it, "the whole tribe of Israel." After protracted discussions, a resolution was adopted which was in substance as follows:

  The Jewish merchants who have belonged to the first guild for not   less than two years prior to the issuance of the present law shall   be permitted to settle permanently in the interior governments,   accompanied by their families and a limited number of servants and   clerks. These merchants shall be entitled to live and trade on equal   terms with the Russian merchants, with the proviso that, after the   settlement, they shall continue their membership in the first guild   as well as their payment of the appertaining membership dues for no   less than ten years, failing which they shall be sent back into the   Pale. Big Jewish merchants and bankers from abroad, "noted for their   social position," shall be allowed to trade in Russia under a   special permit to be secured in each case from the Ministers of the   Interior and of Finance.

The resolution of the Council of State was sanctioned by the Tzar on March 16, 1859, and thus became law.

In this manner the way was opened for big Jewish capital to enter the two Russian capitals and the tabooed interior. The advent of the big capitalists was followed by the influx of their less fortunate brethren, who, driven by material want from the Pale, were forced to seek new domiciles, and in the shape of first guild dues paid for many years a heavy toll for their right of residence and commerce. The position of these merchants offers numerous points of contact with the status of the "tolerated" Jewish merchants in Vienna and Lower Austria prior to 1848.

Toleration having been granted to the Jews with a proper financial status, the Government proceeded to extend the same treatment to persons with educational qualifications. The latter class was the subject of protracted debates in the Jewish Committee as well as in the Ministries and in the Council of State. As early as in 1857 the Minister of Public Instruction Norov had submitted a memorandum to the Jewish Committee in which he argued that "religious fanaticism and prejudice among the Jews" could only be exterminated by inducing the Jewish youth to enter the general educational establishments, "which end can only be obtained by enlarging their civil rights and by offering them material advantages." Accordingly, Norov suggested that the right of residence in the whole Russian Empire should be granted to the graduates of the higher and secondary educational institutions. [1] Those Jews who should have failed to attend school were to be restricted in their right of entering the mercantile guilds. The Jewish Committee refused to limit the rights of those who did not attend the general schools, and proposed, instead, as a bait for the Jews who shunned secular education, to confer special privileges in the discharge of military service upon those Jews who had attended the _gymnazia_ [2] or even the Russian district schools, [3] or the Jewish Crown schools, [4] more exactly, to grant them the right of buying themselves off from conscription by the payment of one hundred to two hundred rubles (1859). But the Military Department vetoed this proposal on the ground that education would thus bestow privileges upon Jews which were denied even to Christians. The suggestion, relating to military privileges was therefore abandoned, and the promotion of education among Jews reduced itself to an extension of the right of residence.

[Footnote 1: The latter category comprises primarily the _gymnazia_ (see next note) in which the classic languages are taught, and the so-called _real gymnazia_ in which emphasis is laid on science. The higher educational institutions, or the institutions of higher learning, are the universities and the professional schools, on which see next page, n. 4.]

[Footnote 2: The name applies on the European continent to secondary schools. A Russian _gymnazia_ (and similarly a German _gymnazium_) has an eight years' course. Its curriculum corresponds roughly to a combined high school and college course in America.]

[Footnote 3: _i.e._, schools found in the capitals of districts (or counties), preparatory to the _gymnazia._]

[Footnote 4: See above, p.58 and below, p.174.]

In this connection the Jewish Committee warmly debated the question as to whether the right of residence outside the Pale should be accorded to graduates of the higher and secondary educational institutions, or only to those of the higher. The Ministers of the Interior and Public Instruction (Lanskoy and Kovalevski) advocated the former more liberal interpretation. But the majority of the Committee members, acting "in the interests of a graduated emancipation," rejected the idea of bestowing the universal right of residence upon the graduates of _gymnazia_, and _lyceums_ and even upon those of universities and other institutions of higher learning, [1] with the exception of those who had received a learned degree, Doctor, Magister, or Candidate. [2] The Committee was willing, on the other hand, to permit the possessors of a learned degree not only to settle in the interior but also to enter the civil service. The Jewish university graduate was thus expected to submit a scholarly paper or even a doctor dissertation for two purposes, for procuring the right of residence in some Siberian locality and for the right of serving the State. Particular "circumspection" was recommended by the Committee with reference to Jewish medical men: a Jewish physician, without the degree of M.D., was not to be permitted to pass beyond the Pale.

[Footnote 1: Such as technological, veterinary, dental, and other professional schools, which are independent of the universities.]

[Footnote 2: _Magister_ in Russia corresponds roughly to the same title in England and America. It is inferior to the doctor degree and precedes it. _Candidate_ is a title, now mostly abolished, given to the best university students who have completed their course and have presented a scholarly paper, without having passed the full examination.]

In this shape the question was submitted to the Council of State in 1861. Here opinions were evenly divided. Twenty members advocated the necessity of "bestowing" the right of residence not only on graduates of universities but also of _gymnazia_, advancing the argument that even in the case of a Jewish _gymnazist_ [1] "it is in all likelihood to be presumed that the gross superstitions and prejudices which hinder the association of the Jews with the original population of the Empire will be, if not entirely eradicated, at least considerably weakened, and a further sojourn among Christians will contribute toward the ultimate extermination of these sinister prejudices which stand in the way of every moral improvement."

[Footnote 1: _i.e._, the pupil of a _gymnazium_.]

Such was the opinion of the "liberal" half of the Council of State. The conservative half argued differently. Only those Jews deserve the right of residence who have received "an education such as may serve as a pledge of their having renounced the errors of fanaticism. "The wise measures adopted" as a precaution against the influx of Jews into the interior governments" would lose their efficacy, "were permission to settle all over Russia to be granted suddenly to all Jews who have for a short term attended a _gymnazium_ in the Western and South-western region, for no other purpose, to be sure, than that of pursuing on a larger scale their illicit trades and other harmful occupations." Hence only Jews with a "reliable education," i.e., the graduates of higher educational institutions, who have obtained a learned degree, should be permitted to pass the boundary of the Pale.

Alexander II. endorsed the opinion of the conservative members of the Council of State. The law, promulgated on November 37, 1861, reads as follows:

  Jews possessing certificates of the learned degree of Doctor of   Medicine and Surgery, or Doctor of Medicine, and likewise of Doctor,   Magister, or Candidate of other university faculties, are admitted   to serve In all Government offices, without their being confined to   the Pale established for the residence of Jews. They are also   permitted to settle permanently in all the provinces of the Empire   for the pursuit of commerce and Industry.

In addition, the law specifies that, apart from the members of their families, these Jews shall be permitted to keep, as a maximum, "two domestic servants from among their coreligionists."

The promulgation of this law brought about a curious state of affairs, the upshot of the genuinely Russian homoeopathic system of emancipation, A handful of Jews who had obtained learned degrees from universities were permitted not only to reside in the interior of t e Empire, but were also admitted here and there to Government service, in the capacity of civil and military physicians. Yet both of these rights were denied to all other persons with the same university education, "Physicians and Active Students," [1] who had not obtained learned degrees. On one occasion the Minister of Public Instruction put before the Council of State the following legal puzzle: A Jewish student, while attending the university of the Russian capital, enjoys the right of residence there. But when he has successfully finished his course and has obtained the customary certificate, without the learned degree, he forfeits this right and must return to the Pale.

[Footnote 1: Both titles are given at the conclusion of the prescribed university course; the former to medical students, the latter to students of other faculties.]

Yet the Government in its stubbornness refused to make concessions, and when it was forced to make them, it did so rather in its own interest than in that of the Jews. Owing to the scarcity of medical help in the army and in the interior, ukases issued in 1865 and 1867 declared Jewish physicians, even without the title of Doctor of Medicine, to be admissible to the medical corps and later on to civil service in all places of the Empire, except the capitals St. Petersburg and Moscow. Nevertheless, the extension of the plain right of domicile, without admission to civil service, remained for a long time dependent on a learned degree. It was only after two decades of hesitation that the law of January 19, 1879, conferred the right of universal residence on _all_ categories of persons with a higher education, regardless of the nature of the diploma, and also including pharmacists, dentists, _feldshers_, [1] and midwives.

[Footnote 1: From the German _Feldscherer_, a sort of combination of leech, first-aid, and barber, who frequently gave medical advice.]

The privileges bestowed upon the big merchants and "titled" intellectuals affected but a few small groups of the Jewish population. The authorities now turned their attention to the mass of the people, and, in accordance with its rules of political homoeopathy, commenced to pick from it a handful of persons for better treatment. The question of admitting Jewish artisans into the Russian interior occupied the Government for a long time. In 1856 Lanskoy, the Minister of the Interior, entered into an official correspondence concerning this matter with the governors-general and governors of the Western provinces. Most of the replies were favorable to the idea of conferring upon Jewish artisans the right of universal residence. Of the three governors-general whose opinion had been invited the governor-general of Vilna was the only one who thought that the present situation needed no change. His colleague of Kiev, Count Vasilchikov, was, on the contrary, of the opinion that it would be a rational measure to transfer the surplus of Jewish artisans who were cooped up within the Pale and had been pauperized by excessive competition to the interior governments where there was a scarcity of skilled labor. [1]

[Footnote 1: The official statistics of that time (about the year 1860) brought out the fact that the number of Jews in the fifteen governments of the Pale of Settlement, exclusive of the Kingdom of Poland, but Inclusive of the Baltic region, amounted to 1,430,800, forming 8% of the total population of that territory. The number of artisans in the "Jewish" governments was far greater than in the Russian interior. Thus in the government of Kiev there were to be found 2.06 artisans to every thousand inhabitants, against 0.8 in the near-by government of Kursk, i.e., 2% times more. In reality, the number of Jews in the Western region, without the Kingdom of Poland, exceeded considerably 1 and one-half millions, there being no regular registration at that time.]

A surprisingly liberal pronouncement came from, the governor-general of New Russia, Count Stroganov. In the world of Russian officialdom professing the dogma of "gradation" and "caution" in the question of Jewish rights he was the only one who had the courage to raise his voice on behalf of complete Jewish emancipation. He wrote:

  The existence in our times of restrictions in the rights of the Jews   as compared with the Christian population in any shape or form is   neither in accord with the spirit and tendency of the age nor with   the policy of the Government looking towards the amalgamation of the   Jews with the original population of the Empire.

The count therefore concluded that it was necessary "to permit the Jews to live in all the places of the Empire and engage without any restrictions and on equal terms with all Russian subjects in such crafts and industries as they themselves may choose, in accordance with their habits and abilities." It is scarcely necessary to add that the bold voice of the Russian dignitary, who in a lucid interval spoke up in a manner reminiscent of the civilized West, was not listened to by the bureaucrats of St. Petersburg. Nevertheless, as far as the specific question of Jewish artisans was concerned, the favorable replies were bound to have a decisive effect.

However, red-tape sluggishness managed to retard the decision for several years. In 1863 the question was referred back to the Jewish Committee, only a short time before the dissolution of that body, which for a quarter of a century had perpetrated every conceivable experiment over the "amelioration of the Jews." Thence the matter was transferred to the Committee of Ministers and finally to the Council of State.

In the ministerial body, Valuyev, Minister of the Interior, favored the idea of granting the right of settling outside the Pale to Jewish artisans and mechanics, dependent on certain conditions, "by practising caution and endeavoring to avert the rapid influx into the midst of the population of the interior governments of an element hitherto foreign to it." In reply to Baron Korff, who had advocated the admission of the Jewish artisans beyond the Pale not only with their families but also with Jewish domestics, Valuyev argued that this privilege "will enable Jewish business men of all kinds to reside in the interior governments, under the guise of employes of their coreligionists." "The Jews," according to Valuyev, "will endeavor to transfer their activity to a field economically more favorable to them, and it goes without saying that they will not fail to seize the first best opportunity of exploiting the places of the Empire hitherto inaccessible to them." The Council of State passed the law in the formulation of the Ministry of the Interior, adding the necessary precautions against the entirely legitimate endeavor of Jewish business men "to transfer their activity to a field economically more favorable to them."

After nine years of preparation, on June 28, 1865, Alexander II. finally gave his sanction to the law permitting Jewish artisans, mechanics and distillers, including apprentices, to reside all over the Empire. Both in the wording of the law and in its subsequent application the privilege was hedged about by numerous safeguards. Thus, the artisan who wished to settle outside the Pale had to produce not only a certificate from his trade-union testifying to his professional ability but also a testimony from the police that he was not under trial. At stated intervals he had to procure a passport from his native town in the Pale, since outside the Pale his status was that of a temporary resident. In his new place of residence he was permitted to deal only in the wares of his own workmanship. If he happened to be out of work, he was to be sent back to the Pale.

While opening a valve in the suffocating Pale, the Government took good care to prevent the artificially pent-up Jewish energy from rushing through it. However, heaving cooped up for so long, the Jews began to press through the opening. In the wake of the artisans, who, on account of the indicated restrictions of the law or because of the lack of travelling expenses, emigrated in comparatively small numbers, followed the commercial proletariat, using the criminal disguise of artisans, in order to transfer their energies to a "field economically more favorable to them." The position of these people was tragic. The fictitious artisans became the tributaries of the local police, depending entirely on its favor or disfavor. The detection of such "criminals" outside the Pale was followed by their expulsion and the confiscation of their merchandise.

As a matter of fact, the Russian Government did everything in its power to stem the influx of Jews into the interior. Only with the greatest reluctance did it widen the range of the "privileged" Jewish groups. The Tzar himself, held in the throes of the old Muscovite tradition, frequently put his veto upon the proposals to enlarge the area of Jewish residence. A striking illustration of this attitude may be found in the case of the retired Jewish soldiers, who, after discharging their galley-like army service of a quarter of a century, were expelled from the places where they had been stationed and sent back into the Pale. To the report submitted in 1858 by the Jewish Committee, pointing out the necessity of granting the right of universal residence to these soldiers, the Tzar attached the resolution: "I decidedly refuse to grant it." When petitions to the same effect became more insistent, all he did was to permit in 1860, "by way of exemption," a group of retired soldiers who had served in St. Petersburg in the body-guard to remain in the capital. Ultimately, however, he was obliged to yield, and in 1867 he revoked the law prohibiting retired Jewish soldiers to live outside the Pale. Thus after long wavering the right of domicile was finally bestowed upon the so-called "Nicholas soldiers" and their offspring--a rather niggardly reward for having served the fatherland under the terrible hardships of the old form of conscription.

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