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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

3. DISABILITIES AND EMIGRATION

The pogrom machinery was thus stopped by a word of command from St. Petersburg. As a counterbalance, the machinery for the manufacture of Jewish disabilities continued in full operation. The "Temporary Rules" of May third established a system of legal persecutions which were directed against the Jews on the ground of their "economic injuriousness," The fact that the Jewish population was in many regards outside the operation of the general laws of Russia opened up a wide field for the grossest forms of arbitrariness and lawlessness. At one stroke, all the exits from the overcrowded cities into the villages within the Pale of Settlement were tightly closed. All branches of industry connected with Jewish land ownership outside the cities were curtailed and in some places entirely cut off. In many villages the right bestowed on the rural communes of ostracising "vicious members" by a special verdict [1] was used as a weapon to expel those Jews who had long been settled there.

[Footnote 1: The official term applied to the resolutions passed by the village communes. Compare p. 310.]

It will be remembered that Ignatyev had proposed to encourage the peasants officially in the use of this weapon against the Jews, and that the Committee of Ministers had rejected his proposal. There were now administrators who did the same thing unofficially. Prompted by selfish motives, the local _Kulaks_ [1] or "bosses," from among the Russian tradesmen, acting in conjunction with the rural elders, would convene peasant assemblies which were treated to liberal doses of alcohol. The intoxicated, half-illiterate _moujiks_ would sign a "verdict" demanding the expulsion of the Jews from their village; the verdict would be promptly confirmed by the governors and would immediately become law. Such expulsions were particularly frequent in the governments under the jurisdiction of Drenteln, governor-general of Kiev, and no one doubted but that this ferocious Jew-baiter had passed the word to that effect throughout his dominions.

[Footnote 1: Literally "Fists."]

The economic misery within the Pale drove a number of Jews into the Russian interior, but here they were met by the whip of the law, made doubly painful by the scorpions of administrative caprice. Wholesale expulsions of Jews took place in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev, Kharkov, and other forbidden centers. The effect of these expulsions upon the commercial life of the country was so disastrous that the big Russian merchants of Moscow and Kharkov appealed to the Government to relax the restrictions surrounding the visits of Jews to these cities.

The civil authorities were now joined by the military powers in hounding the Jews. There were in the Russian army a large number of Jewish physicians, many of whom had distinguished themselves during the preceding Russo-Turkish war. The reactionary Government at the helm of Russian affairs could not tolerate the sight of a Jewish physician exercising the rights of an army officer which were otherwise utterly utterly unattainable for a Jewish soldier. Accordingly, the Minister of War, Vannovski, issued a rescript dated April 10, 1882, to the following effect:

  _First_, to limit the number of Jewish physicians and _feldshers[1]_   in the Military Department to five per cent of the general number of   medical men.

  _Second_, to stop appointing Jews on the medical service in the   military districts of Western Russia, and to transfer the surplus   over and above five per cent into the Eastern districts.

  _Third_, to appoint Jewish physicians only in those contingents of   the army in which the budget calls for at least two physicians, with   the proviso that the second physician must be a Christian.

[Footnote 1: See p. 167, n. 2.]

The reason for these provisions was stated in a most offensive form:

  It is necessary to stop the constant growth of the number of   physicians of the Mosaic persuasion in the Military Department, in   view of their deficient conscientiousness in discharging their   duties and their unfavorable influence upon the sanitary service in   the army.

This revolting affront had the effect that many Jewish physicians handed in their resignations immediately. The resignation of one of these physicians, the well-known novelist Yaroshevski, was couched in such emphatic terms, and parried the moral blow directed at the Jewish professional men with such dignity that the Minister of War deemed it necessary to put the author on trial. Among other things, Yaroshevski wrote:

  So long as the aspersions cast upon the Jewish physicians so   pitilessly are not removed, every superfluous minute spent by them   in serving this Department will merely add to their disgrace. In the   name of their human dignity, they have no right to remain there   where they are held in abhorrence.

Under these circumstances it seemed quite natural that the tendency toward emigration, which had called forth a number of emigration societies as far back as the beginning of 1882 [1], took an ever stronger hold upon the Jewish population of Russia. The disastrous consequences of the resolution adopted by the conference of notables in St. Petersburg [2] were now manifest. By rejecting the formation of a central agency for regulating the emigration, the conference had abandoned the movement to the blind elemental forces, and a catastrophe was bound to follow. The pogrom at Balta called forth a new outburst of the emigration panic, and in the summer of 1882 some twenty thousand Jewish refugees were again huddled together in the Galician border-town of Brody. They were without means for continuing their journey to America, having come to Brody in the hope of receiving help from the Jewish societies of Western Europe. The relief committees established in the principal cities of Europe were busily engaged in "evacuating" Brody of this destitute mass of fugitives. In the course of the summer and autumn this task was successfully accomplished. A large number of emigrants were dispatched to the United States, and the rest were dispersed over the various centers of Western Europe.

[Footnote 1: See above, p. 297 et seq.]

[Footnote 2: See above, p. 307.]

Aside from the highway of American emigration went, along a tiny parallel path, the Jewish emigration to Palestine. The Palestinian movement which had shortly before come into being [1] attracted many enthusiasts from among the Jewish youth. In the spring of 1882, a society of Jewish young men, consisting mostly of university students, was formed in Kharkov under the name _Bilu_, from the initial letters of their Hebrew motto, _Bet Ya'akob leku we-nelka_"O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us go." [2] The aim of the society was to establish a model agricultural settlement in Palestine and to carry on a wide-spread propaganda for the idea of colonizing the ancient homeland of the Jews. As a result of this propaganda, several hundred Jews in various parts of Russia joined the _Bilu_ society. Of these only a few dozen pioneers left for Palestine --between June and July of 1882.

[Footnote 1: See later, p. 268.]

[Footnote 2: From Isa. 2.5.]

At first, the leaders of the organization attempted to enter into negotiations with the Turkish Government, with a view to obtaining from it a large tract of land for colonizing purposes, but the negotiations fell through. The handful of pioneers were obliged to work in the agricultural settlements near Jaffa, in _Mikweh Israel_, a foundation of the _Alliance Israelite_ in Paris, and in the colony _Rishon le-Zion_, which had been recently established by private initiative. The youthful idealists had to endure many hardships in an unaccustomed environment and in a branch of endeavor entirely alien to them. A considerable part of the pioneers were soon forced to give up the struggle and make way for the new settlers who were less intelligent perhaps but physically better fitted for their task. The foundations of Palestinian colonization had been laid, though within exceedingly narrow limits, and the very idea of the national restoration of the Jewish people in Palestine was then as it was later a much greater social factor in Jewish life than the practical colonization of a country which could only absorb an insignificant number of laborers. At those moments, when the Russian horrors made life unbearable, the eyes of many sufferers were turned Eastward, towards the tiny strip of land on the shores of the Mediterranean, where the dream of a new life upon the resuscitated ruins of gray antiquity held out the promise of fulfilment.

A contemporary writer, in surveying recent events in the Russian valley of tears, makes the following observations:

  Jewish life during the latter part of 1882 has assumed a   monotonously gloomy, oppressively dull aspect True, the streets are   no longer full of whirling feathers from torn bedding; the   window-panes no longer crash through the streets. The thunder and   lightning which were recently filling the air and gladdening the   hearts of the Greek-Orthodox people are no more. But have the Jews   actually gained by the change from the illegal persecutions [in the   form of pogroms] to the legal persecutions of the third of May?   Maltreated, plundered, reduced to beggary, put to shame, slandered,   and dispirited, the Jews have been cast out of the community of   human beings. Their destitution, amounting to beggary, has been   firmly established and definitely affixed to them. Gloomy darkness,   without a ray of light, has descended upon that bewitched and narrow   world in which this unhappy tribe has been languishing so long,   gasping for breath in the suffocating atmosphere of poverty and   contempt. Will this go on for a long time? Will the light of day   break at last?



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