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jewish genealogy in Argentina



by S.M. Dubnow

A Project Gutenberg EBook


In all lands of Western Europe the introduction of personal military service for the Jews was either accompanied or preceded by their emancipation. At all events, it was followed by some mitigation of their disabilities, serving, so to speak, as an earnest of the grant of equal rights. Even in clerical Austria, the imposition of military duty upon the Jews was preceded by the _Toleranz Patent_, this would-be Act of Emancipation. [1]

[Footnote 1: Military service was imposed upon the Jews of Austria by the law of 1787. Several years previously, on January 2, 1782, Emperor Joseph II. had issued his famous Toleration Act, removing a number of Jewish disabilities and opening the way to their assimilation with the environment. Nevertheless, most of the former restrictions remained in force.]

In Russia the very reverse took place. The introduction of military conscription of a most aggravating kind and the unspeakable cruelties attending its practical execution were followed, in the case of the Jews, by an unprecedented recrudescence of legislative discrimination and a monstrous increase of their disabilities. The Jews were lashed with a double knout, a military and a civil. In the same ill-fated year which saw the promulgation of the conscription statute, barely three months after it had received the imperial sanction, while the moans of the Jews, fasting and praying to God to deliver them from the calamity, were still echoing in the synagogues, two new ukases were issued, both signed on December 2, 1827--the one decreeing the transfer of the Jews from all villages and village inns in the government of Grodno into the towns and townlets, the other ordering the banishment of all Jewish residents from the city of Kiev.

The expulsion from the Grodno villages was the continuation of the policy of the _rural_ liquidation of Jewry, inaugurated in 1823 in White Russia. [1] The Grodno province was merely meant to serve as a starting point. Grand Duke Constantine, [2] who had brought up the question, was ordered "_at first_ to carry out the expulsion in the government of Grodno alone," and to postpone for a later occasion the application of the same measure to the other "governments entrusted to his command." Simultaneously considerable foresight was displayed in instructing the grand duke to wait with the expulsion of the Jews "until the conclusion of the military conscription going on at present." Evidently there was some fear of disorders and complications. It was thought wiser to seize the children for the army first and then to expel the parents--to get hold of the young birds and then to destroy the nest.

[Footnote 1: It may be remarked here that the principal enactments of that period, down to 1835, were, drafted in their preliminary stage by the "Jewish Committee" established in 1823. See Vol. I, p. 407 _et seq._]

[Footnote 2: Commander-in-Chief of the former Polish provinces. See p. 16, n. 2.]

The expulsion from Kiev was of a different order. It marked the beginning of a new system, the narrowing down of the _urban_ area allotted to the Jews within the Pale of Settlement. Since 1794 [1] the Jews had been allowed to settle in Kiev freely. They had formed there, with official sanction, an important community and had vastly developed commerce and industry. Suddenly, however, the Government discovered that "their presence is detrimental to the industry of this city and to the exchequer in general, and is, moreover, at variance with the rights and privileges conferred at different periods upon the city of Kiev." The discovery was followed by a grim rescript from St. Petersburg, forbidding not only the further settlement of Jews in Kiev but also prescribing that even those settled there long ago should leave the city within one year, those owning immovable property within two years. Henceforward only the temporary sojourn of Jews, for a period not exceeding six months, was to be permitted and to be limited, moreover, to merchants of the first two guilds who arrive "in connection with contracts and fairs" or to attend to public bids and deliveries.

[Footnote 1: See Vol. I, p. 317.]

In 1829 the whip of expulsion cracked over the backs of the Jews dwelling on the shores of the Baltic and the Black Sea. In Courland and Livonia measures were taken "looking to the reduction of the number of Jews" which had been considerably swelled by the influx of "newcomers"--of Jews not born in those provinces and therefore having no right to settle there. The Tzar endorsed the proposal of the "Jewish Committee" to transfer from Courland all Jews not born there into the cities in which their birth was registered. Those not yet registered in a municipality outside the province were granted a half-year's respite for that purpose. If within the prescribed term they failed to attend to their registration, they were to be sent to the army, or, in case of unfitness for military service, deported to Siberia.

In the same year an imperial ukase declared that "the residence of civilian Jews in the cities of Sevastopol and Nicholayev was inconvenient and injurious," in view of the military and naval importance of these places, and therefore decreed the expulsion of their Jewish residents: those owning real property within two years, the others within one year. By a new ukase issued in 1830 the Jews were expelled from the villages and hamlets of the government of Kiev. Thus were human beings hurled about from village to town, from city to city, from province to province, with no more concern than might be displayed in the transportation of cattle.

This process of "mobilization" had reached its climax when the Polish insurrection of 1830-1831 broke out, affecting the whole Western region. [1] Fearing lest the persecuted Jews might be driven into the arms of the Poles, the Government decided on a strategic retreat. In February, 1831, in consequence of the representations of the local military commander, who urged the Government "to take into consideration the present political circumstances, in which they (the Jews) may occasionally prove useful," the final expulsion of the Jews from Kiev was postponed for three years. At the end of the three years, the governor of Kiev made similar representations to St. Petersburg, emphasizing the desirability of allowing the Jews to remain in the city, even though it might become necessary to segregate them in a special quarter, "this (i.e., their remaining in the city) being found useful also in this respect that, on account of their temperate and simple habits of life, they are in a position to sell their goods considerably cheaper, whereas in the case of their expulsion many articles and manufactures will rise in price." Nicholas I. rejected this plea, and only agreed to postpone the expulsion until February, 1835, for the reason that the new "Statute Concerning the Jews," then in preparation, which was to define the general legal status of Russian Jewry, was expected to be ready by that time. Similar short reprieves were granted to the Jews about to be exiled from Nicholayev, from the villages of the government of Kiev, and from other places.

[Footnote 1: See above, p. 16, n. 1.]

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