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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

4. THE JEWS AND THE REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT

The Russian school and literature pushed the Jewish college youth head over heels into the intellectual currents of progressive Russian society. Naturally enough a portion of the Jewish youth was also drawn into the revolutionary movement of the seventies, a movement which, in spite of the theoretic "materialism" of its adepts, was of an essentially idealistic tendency. In joining the ranks of the revolutionaries, the young Jews were less actuated by resentment against the continued, though somewhat mitigated, rightlessness of their own people than by discontent with the general political reaction in Russia, that discontent which found expression in the movement of "Populism," [1] of "Going to the People," [2] and similar currents then in vogue. Jewish students, attending the rabbinical and teachers' institutes of the Government, or autodidacts from among former heder and yeshibah pupils, also began to "go to the people"--the Russian people, to be sure, not the Jewish. They carried on a revolutionary propaganda, both by direct and indirect means, among the Russian peasants and workingmen, known to them only from books. It was taken for granted at that time that the realization of the ideals of Russian democracy would carry with it the solution of the Jewish as well as of all other sectional problems of Russian life, so that these problems might for the moment be safely set aside.

[Footnote 1: In Russian, _narodnichestvo_, from _narod_, "People," a democratic movement In favor of the down-trodden masses, particularly the Russian peasantry.]

[Footnote 2: Under the influence of the democratic movement many Russians of higher birth and culture settled among the peasantry, to which they dedicated their lives. The name of Leo Tolstoi readily suggests itself in this connection.]

As far as the Jewish youth was concerned, the whole movement was doubly academic, for the only points of contact of that youth with younger Russia was not living reality but the book, problems of the intellect, the search for new ways, the attempt to work out a _Weltanschauung_. The fundamental article of faith of the Jewish socialists was cosmopolitanism, and they failed to discern in Russian "Populism" the underlying elements of a Russian national movement. Jewry was not believed to be a nation, and as a religious entity it was looked upon as a relic of the past, which was doomed to disappearance.

One attempt of coupling socialism with Judaism ought not to be passed over in silence. In the beginning of the seventies there existed in Vilna a Jewish revolutionary circle made up principally of the pupils of the rabbinical school and of the teachers' institute of the same city. In 1875, the police tracked the members of the circle. Some were arrested, others escaped. One of the refugees, A. Lieberman, managed to reach London where he associated with the circle of Lavrov and the editors of the revolutionary journal _Vperyod_ ("Forwards").

In the following year, Lieberman founded in London the "League of Jewish Socialists" for the purpose of carrying on a propaganda among the Jewish masses. It was a small society of students and workingmen which busied itself with arranging lectures and debates, and penning Hebrew appeals on the need of organizing the proletariat. The society was soon dissolved, and Lieberman emigrated to Vienna, where, under the name of Freeman, he started in 1877 a socialistic magazine in Hebrew under the name _ha-Emet_ ("The Truth"). The first two issues of _ha-Emet_ were admitted into Russia, but the third was confiscated by the censor. The magazine had to be discontinued. It yielded its place to a paper called _Asefat Hakamim_ ("The Assembly of Wise Men"), published in Koenigsberg in 1878 by M. Winchevski as a supplement to the paper _ha-Kol_ ("The Voice"), which was issued there by Rodkinson. Soon this whole species of socialistic literature was put out of existence. In 1879, Lieberman in Vienna and his comrades in Berlin and Koenigsberg were arrested and expelled from the borders of Austria and Prussia. They emigrated to England and America, and lost touch with Russia.

In Russia itself the Jewish revolutionaries were heart and soul devoted to the cause. The children of the ghetto displayed considerable heroism and self-sacrifice in the revolutionary upheaval of the seventies. Jews figured in all important political trials and public manifestations; they languished in the gaols, and suffered as exiles in Siberia. But this idealistic fight for general freedom lacked a Jewish note, the endeavor to free their own nation which lived in greater thraldom than any other. And no one at that time ever dreamt that after all these sacrifices the Jews of Russia would be visited by still greater misfortunes, by pogroms and increased disabilities.



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