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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

2. THE CONCLUSIONS OF THE PAHLEN COMMISSION

Whilst the Russian bureaucrats who had been ordered by the Tzar to take "active" measures towards solving the Jewish problem abandoned themselves entirely to a policy of repression, those of their fellow-bureaucrats who had been commissioned to consider and judge the same question from a purely theoretic point of view came to the conclusion that the repressive policy pursued by the Government was not only injurious but even dangerous. Contrary to expectations, the "High Commission" under the chairmanship of Count Pahlen, consisting of aged dignitaries and members of various ministries, approached the Jewish question, at least as far as the majority of the Commission was concerned, in a much more serious frame of mind than did the promoters of the "active" anti-Jewish policies, who had no time for contemplation and were driven by the pressure of their reactionary energy to go ahead at all cost. In the course of five years the Pahlen Commission succeeded in investigating the Jewish question in all its aspects. It studied and itself prepared a large mass of historic, juridic, as well as economic and statistical material. It probed the labors of Ignatyev's gubernatorial commissions, quickly ascertaining their biased tendency, and examined the entire history of the preceding legislation concerning the Jews. It finally came to the conclusion that the whole century-long system of restrictive legislation had failed of its purpose, and must give way to a system of emancipatory measures, to be carried out gradually and with extreme caution. The majority of the members of the Commission concurred in this opinion, including Count Pahlen, its chairman. In the following we present a few brief extracts from the conclusions formulated by this conservative and bureaucratic commission in its comprehensive "General Memoir" which was written in the beginning of 1888:

  Can the attitude of the State towards a population of five millions,   forming one-twentieth of its subjects--though belonging to a race   different from that of the majority--whom that State itself had   incorporated, together with the territories populated by them, into   the Russian body politic, differ from its attitude towards all its   other subjects?.... Hence, from the political point of view, the Jew   is entitled to equality of citizenship. Without granting him equal   rights, we cannot, properly speaking, demand from him equal civic   obligations.... Repression and disfranchisement, discrimination and   persecution have never yet leaded to improve groups of human beings   and make them more devoted to their rulers. It is, therefore, not   surprising that the Jews, trained in the spirit of a century-long   repressive legislation, have remained in the category of those   subjects, who are less accurate in the discharge of their civic   duty, who shirk their obligations towards the State, and do not   fully join Russian life. _No less than six hundred and fifty   restrictive laws directed against the Jews may be enumerated in the   Russian Code_, and the discriminations and disabilities implied in   these laws are such that they have naturally resulted in making   until now the life of an enormous majority of the Jews in Russia   exceedingly onerous....

  The prejudice against the Jews is largely nurtured by the dislike   which the common people secretly harbor towards them until to-day as   non-Christians.... The names "Non-Christian" and "Christ-killer" may   often be heard from the lips of the Russian common man as abusive   terms directed against the Jew. The attitude of our Church and of   the law of the State towards the Jewish religion is different. For,   while they designate the Jewish religion as a "pseudo-doctrine,"   they nevertheless sanction religious toleration on as large a scale   as possible [?!], and refrain from carrying on a compulsory and   official missionary propaganda.

  In the course of the last twenty-five years a new accusation has   been brought forward against the Jews in Russia and those outside of   Russia. The Jews have been found to form a considerable percentage   among the champions of anarchistic and revolutionary doctrines,   consisting mostly of half-educated youngsters who have drifted away   from one shore and have not succeeded in reaching the other. This   extremely deplorable fact is used as evidence for the purpose of   showing that Judaism itself contains within it a destructive force,   and is, therefore, doubly dangerous to State and society. The Jewish   progressives and socialists are wont to speak of their mission to   reconstruct the world and of their innate love of mankind.... These   statements need hardly be taken seriously, for present-day Jewry, by   the very essence of its nature, professes strictly conservative   principles, which to a large extent are egotistic and have for their   aim the practical welfare of its adherents. The interpretation of   the spirit of Judaism in a directly opposite sense is but an   unsuccessful attempt on the part of Jewish anarchists who wish to   proclaim themselves as the apostles of a new national mission   invented by them. The fact of their forming a large percentage in   the camp of those opposed to the Russian civic order may be   explained by the artificial manner in which vast numbers of pupils   from among the lowest classes of the Jewish population are attracted   into the secondary and elementary educational establishments. These   pupils are without means of a livelihood, and they lack, moreover,   all religious beliefs; they are embittered not only by their   personal unfortunate position but also by the pressure of the   restrictive laws which weigh heavily upon their fellow-Jews in   Russia.

  The defects which should be truly combated by Government and society   are: a) Jewish exclusiveness and separatism; b) the endeavor of the   Jews to bring the economic forces of the population, in the midst of   which they live, under their influence (i.e., exploitation)....

  Having established the true dimensions and characteristics of the   "Jewish evil," we are naturally expected to answer a question of an   opposite nature: are the Jews to any extent useful to State and   society? This question, though very frequently heard, is not quite   intelligible, for every subject, who fulfils his obligations, is   useful to State and society. It would be strange to put a similar   question concerning other nationalities of Eastern origin in Russia,   such as the Greeks, Armenians, and Tartars. And yet this question is   raised with great frequency in the case of the Jews, for the purpose   of proving the need of repressive measures and framing a stronger   indictment against the Jewish population. There is no doubt that in   certain lines of endeavor the Jews are extremely useful. This was   already realized by Catherine, who admitted them to the   South-Russian coast in order to introduce commercial activities and   bring life into the country,.... The peculiar nature of their   commerce and credit is useful to the State, because they connect the   remotest regions by commercial ties and are satisfied with   considerably smaller profits than are the Christian merchants....

  We must not, first of all, engage in too comprehensive plans of   reform and imagine that the Jewish question can be considered in all   its aspects and solved at one stroke.... Gradation and cautiousness   must above all become the guiding principles of the future activity   of the legislator.

  The repressive policy, taken by itself, has been and will always be   the first and main source of the clannishness of the Jews and their   aloofness from Russian life.... The prohibitive laws have not   improved the Jews. On the contrary, they have developed in them the   spirit of opposition, and have prompted them to devise all the time   most dexterous means of evading the law, thereby corrupting the   lower executives of the State power. These laws affect the daily   doings of every member of the Jewish population, and they extend to   such spheres of life and activity in which State control is almost   impossible. They touch the domain of private contract law (the   prohibition of land leases), the domain of physical liberty and the   need of human locomotion (the prohibition to transgress the Pale of   Settlement, or to live in villages within fifty versts of the   border), the domain of daily pursuits and earnings (the prohibition   of several professions), and many others.

  No law will ever be able to check effectively the legal violations   in these hourly acts and common relations of life. It is impossible   to attach a policeman or a public prosecutor or a justice of the   peace to every Jew. And yet it is perfectly natural that, being   restricted in the most elementary rights of a subject--to take as   one instance only the right of free movement--every Jew should daily   attempt to violate and evade such burdensome regulations. This is   perfectly natural and intelligible....

  About ninety per cent of the whole Jewish population form a mass of   people that are entirely unprovided for, and come near being a   proletariat--a mass that lives from hand to mouth, amidst poverty,   and most oppressive sanitary and general conditions. This very   proletariat is occasionally the target of tumultuous popular   uprisings. The Jewish mass lives in fear of pogroms and in fear of   violence. It looks with envy upon the Jews of the adjacent   governments of the Kingdom of Poland, who are almost entirely   emancipated, though living under the jurisdiction of the same State.   [1] The law itself places the Jews in the category of "alien races,"   on the same level with the Samoyeds and pagans. [2] In a word the   abnormal condition of the present position of the Jews in Russia is   evidenced by the instability and vagueness of their juridic rights.

[Footnote 1: The law of 1862 conferred upon the Jews of "the Kingdom of Poland," i.e., of Russian Poland, the right of unrestricted residence throughout the Kingdom, including the villages (see p. 181). This privilege was practically annulled by the enactment of June 11, 1891, which severely restricts the property rights of the Polish Jews.]

[Footnote 2: The Russian Code of Laws classifies the Jews as follows (Volume IX., Laws of Social Orders, Article 762): "Among the Aliens inhabiting the Russian Empire are the following: 1) The Siberian Aliens; 2) The Samoyeds of the Government of Archangel; 3) The nomadic Aliens of the Government of Stavropol; 4) The Kalmycks leading a nomadic life in the Governments of Astrakhan and Stavropol; 5) The Kirgiz of the Inner Ord; 6) The Aliens of the Territories of Akmolinsk, Semipalatinsk, Semiryechensk, Ural, and Turgay; 7) the alien populations of the Trans-Caspian Territory; 8) The Jews."]

  Looking at the problem, not at all as Jewish apologetes or   sympathizers, but purely from the point of view of civic   righteousness and the highest principles of impartiality and   justice, we cannot but admit that the Jews have a right to complain   about their situation.... However unpleasant it might sound to the   enemies of Judaism, it is nevertheless an axiom which no one can   deny that the whole five million Jewish population of Russia,   unattractive though it may appear to certain groups and individuals,   is yet an integral part of Russia and that the questions affecting   this population are at the same time purely Russian questions. We   are not dealing with foreigners, whose admission to Russian   citizenship might be conditioned by their usefulness or uselessness   to Russia. The Jews of Russia are not foreigners. For more than one   hundred years they have formed a part of that same Russian Empire,   which has incorporated scores of other tribes many of which count by   the millions....

  The very history of Russian legislation, notwithstanding the fact   that this legislation has developed largely under the influence of a   most severe outlook on Judaism, teaches us that there is only one   way and one solution--to emancipate and unite the Jews with the rest   of the population under the protection of the same laws. All this is   attested not by theories and doctrines but by the living experience   of centuries.... Hence the final goal of any legislation concerning   the Jews can be no other than its abrogation, a course demanded   equally by the needs of the times, the cause of enlightenment, and   the progress of the popular masses.

  The fitness of the Jews for full civil equality, to be attained by   degrees and in the course of many long years, will be the final goal   of the reforms, and will lead at last to the disentangling of that   age-long knot. In saying this, we do not mean to imply that   by that time the Jews will have cast off or transformed all those   obnoxious qualities which are at present responsible for the fight   in which all are engaged against them. But, as in the case of   Europe, this fight can only be terminated by according them full   emancipation and equal citizenship. To place obstacles in the way of   this solution would be nothing more than a fruitless attempt to   check the course of development of human society and Russian civil   life. Unsympathetic as the Jews may be to the Russian masses, it is   impossible not to agree with this axiomatic truth.

  Turning now to the execution of its task, the High Commission has up   to the present been able to carry out but a very small part of the   program indicated. It was tied down by that gradation and   cautiousness which it considers an indispensable condition for every   improvement in the status of the Jews.... The principal task of the   legislation, as far as it affects the Jews, must consist in uniting   them as closely as possible with the general Christian population.   It is not advisable to frame a new legislation in the form of a   special "Statute" or "Regulation," since such a course would be   fundamentally subversive of the efforts of the Government to remove   Jewish exclusiveness. _The system of repressive and discriminating   measures must give way to a graduated system of emancipatory and   equalizing laws_. The greatest possible _cautiousness_ and   _gradation_ are the principles to be observed in the solution of the   Jewish question.



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