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jewish genealogy in Argentina



by S.M. Dubnow

A Project Gutenberg EBook




During the interval between the pogrom of Warsaw and that of Balta the Government was preparing for the Jews a series of legislative pogroms. In the recesses of the Russian Government offices, which served as the laboratories of police barbarism, the authorities were busy forging a chain of legal and administrative restrictions in order to "regulate" Jewish life in the spirit of complete civil disfranchisement. The Central Committee on Jewish Affairs, attached to the Ministry of the Interior, which was called for short "the Jewish Committee" but might far more appropriately have been called "the Anti-Jewish Committee," was basing its labors upon the opinions submitted by the gubernatorial commissions and rearing on this foundation a monstrous structure of disabilities.

The new project was based upon the following theory: The old Russian legislation was marked by its hostility to the Jews as a secluded group of alien faith and race. A departure from this attitude was attempted during the reign of Alexander II., when the rights of certain categories of Jews were enlarged, and "a period of toleration was inaugurated." But subsequent experience proved the inexpediency of this tolerant attitude towards the Jews, as has been demonstrated by the recent manifestation "of an anti-Jewish movement abroad" (German anti-Semitism) and "the popular protest" in Russia itself, where it assumed the form of pogroms. Since Russia has now chosen the path of a "national policy," it follows also in regard to the Jewish question that this country cannot but "turn to its ancient tradition, throw aside the innovations which have proved useless, and follow vigorously the principles, evolved by the whole past history of the monarchy, according to which the Jews must be regarded as aliens," and therefore can lay no claim to full toleration.

This barbarous theory, which brought Russia back to the traditions of ancient Muscovy, was expounded elaborately in the protocol of the session of the "anti-Jewish Committee," as a sort of preamble to the legal project submitted by it.

While engaged in these labors, the members of the committee received the news of the pogrom in Warsaw, and were greatly heartened by it. They did not fail to make an entry in the protocol to the effect that the "disorders" which had taken place in the Kingdom of Poland "where the Jews enjoy equal rights" (i.e., the right of residence) tend to support the theory of the "injuriousness" of the Jewish people. Official pens began to scribble more rapidly, and within a short time, by the spring of 1882, a project was ready, to be inflicted as a severe punishment upon the Jews for the atrocities perpetrated upon them. The "conquered foe," represented by the Jewish population, was to be dislodged from a large area within, the Pale of Settlement, overcrowded though the latter had become, by forbidding the Jews to settle anew outside of the cities and towns, i.e., in the country-side. Those already settled there were either to be evicted by the verdict of the rural communes[1], or to be deprived of a livelihood by the prohibition to buy or lease immovable property and to trade in liquor.

[Footnote 1: "To allow the communes to evict the Jews by a verdict," according to the exact wording of the law.]

This project was submitted by Ignatyev to the Committee of Ministers, accompanied by the suggestion that the new disabilities be enacted not in due legal procedure (by the Council of State) but in the form of "Temporary Rules" to be sanctioned in an extra-legal way by the Tzar, with the end in view "to do away with the aggravated relations between the Jews and the original population."

However, even the members of the reactionary Committee of Ministers were embarrassed by Ignatyev's project. The Committee felt that it was impossible to carry out the expropriation of personal and property rights on so extensive a scale without the due process of law and that the permission to be granted to rural communes of expelling the Jews from the villages was tantamount to leaving the latter to the tender mercies of the benighted Russian masses, which would thus more than ever be strengthened, in their conviction that the Jews might be expelled and assaulted with impunity, so that the relations between the two elements of the population, instead of improving, would only become more aggravated. On the other hand, the Committee of Ministers went on record that it considered it necessary to adopt rigorous measures against the Jews in order that the peasants should not think "that the Tzar's will in ridding them of Jewish exploitation was not put into execution."

As a result of these contentions, several concessions were made by Ignatyev, and the following compromise was reached: The clause ordering the expulsion of the hundreds of thousands of Jews already settled in the villages was eliminated, and the prohibition was restricted to the Jews who wished to settle outside of the towns and townlets _anew_. In turn, the Committee of Ministers yielded to Ignatyev's demand that the project should be enacted with every possible dispatch, without preliminary submission to the Council of State.

Such was the genesis of the famous "Temporary Rules" which were sanctioned by the Tzar on May 3, 1882. Shorn of all bureaucratic rhetoric, the new laws may be reduced to the following laconic provisions:

  _First_, to forbid the Jews henceforth to settle anew outside of the   towns and townlets.

  _Second_, to suspend the completion of instruments of purchase of   real property and merchandise in the name of Jews outside of the   towns and townlets.

  _Third_, to forbid the Jews to carry on business on Sundays and   Christian holidays.

The first two "Rules" contained in their harmless wording a cruel punitive law which dislodged the Jews from nine-tenths of the territory hitherto accessible to them, and tended to coop up millions of human beings within the suffocating confines of the towns and townlets of the Western region. And yet, notwithstanding its tremendous implications, the law was passed outside the ordinary course of legal procedure--under the disguise of "Temporary Rules," which, in spite of their title, have been enforced with merciless cruelty for more than a generation.

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