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jewish genealogy in Argentina



by S.M. Dubnow

A Project Gutenberg EBook




The poisonous Judaeophobia bacilli seemed to thrive more than ever in the highest Government circles of St. Petersburg. However, not only the hatred against the Jews but also the fury of general political reaction became more rabid than ever after the "miraculous escape" of the imperial family in the railroad accident near Borki on October 17, 1888. [1] Amidst the ecclesiastic and mystic haze with which Pobyedonostzev and his associates managed to veil this episode the conviction became deeply ingrained in the mind of the Tzar that it was the finger of God which pointed to him the way in which Russia might be saved from "Western" reforms and brought back into the fold of traditional Russian orthodoxy. This conviction of Alexander III. led to the counter-reforms which marked the concluding years of his reign, having for their purpose the strengthening of the police and Church regime in Russia, such as the curtailment of rural and urban self-government, the increase of the power of the nobility and clergy, the institution of Zemstvo chiefs, [2] and the multiplication of Greek-Orthodox parochial schools at the expense of secular schools. The same influences also stimulated the luxurious growth of Judaeophobia which from now on assumed in the highest Government circles a most malignant character. A manifestation of this frame of mind may be found in the words of the Tzar which he penned on the margin of a report submitted to him in 1890 by a high official, describing the sufferings of the Jews and pleading for the necessity of stopping the policy of oppression: "_But we must not forget that it was the Jews who crucified our Lord and spilled his priceless blood_." Representatives of the court clergy publicly preached that a Christian ought not to cultivate friendly relations with a Jew, since it was the command of the gospel "to hate the murderers of the Savior." The Ministry of the Interior, under the direction of two fanatic reactionaries, Durnovo and Plehve, [3] set on foot all the inquisitorial contrivances of the Police Department, of which both these officials had formerly been the chiefs.

[Footnote 1: Borki is a village in the government of Kherson. Of the fifteen cars of the imperial train only five remained intact. Fifty-eight persons were injured, twenty-one fatally. The members of the imperial family were saved, although their car had been completely wrecked.

The following quotation from Harold Frederic, _The New Exodus_, p. 168 et seq., is of interest in this connection: "It was reported about that the Tzar regarded the escape alive of himself and family from the terrible railway accident at Borki as the direct and miraculous intervention of Providence. The facts were that the imperial train was being driven at the rate of ninety versts an hour over a road calculated to withstand at the utmost a speed of thirty-five versts; that the engineer humbly warned the Tzar of the danger, and was gruffly ordered to go still faster if possible, and that the miracle would have been the avoidance of calamity."]

[Footnote 2: On the Zemstvos compare p. 173, n. 1. The reactionary law of June 12, 1890 (see later, p. 358 et seq.) puts in place of the executives formerly elected by the people the "Zemstvo chiefs," officials appointed from among the landed proprietors.]

[Footnote 3: Durnovo became Minister of the Interior in 1889, after the demise of Tolstoi; Plehve was assistant-minister.]

The press was either tamed or used as a tool of the governmental policies. The most widely read press organs of the capital, with the exception of the moderately liberal _Novosti_ ("The News") which managed to survive the shipwreck of the liberal press, became either openly or secretly the official mouthpieces of the Government. The venal _Novoye Vremya,_ which the Russian satirist Shchedrin had branded as "the sewer," embarked, towards the end of the eighties, on the noble enterprise of hunting down the Jews with a zeal which was clear evidence of a higher demand for Judaeophobia in the official world. There was no accusation, however hideous, which Suvorin's paper, steered simultaneously by the Holy Synod and by the Police Department, failed to hurl in the face of the Jews. As an organ generally reflecting the views of the Government, the _Novoye Vremya_ served at that time as a source of political information for all dignitaries and officials. The ministers, governors and the vast army of subordinate officials, who wished to ascertain the political course at a given moment, consulted this "well-informed" daily, which, as far as the Jewish question was concerned, pursued but one aim: to make the life of the Jews in Russia unbearable. Apart from the _Novoye Vremya_, which was read by the Tzar himself, the work of Jew-baiting was also carried on with considerable zeal by the Russian weekly _Grazhdanin_ ("The Citizen"), whose editor, Count Meshcherski, enjoyed not only the personal favor of Alexander III. but also a substantial Government subsidy. These metropolitan organs of publicity gave the tone to the whole official and semi-official press in the provinces, and the public opinion of Russia was systematically poisoned by the venom of Judaeophobia.

When the Pahlen Commission was discharged, the Tzar having "attached himself to the opinion of the minority," [1] the Government had no difficulty in finding a few kind-hearted officials who were eager to carry the project framed by this reactionary minority into effect. The project itself, which had been elaborated in the Ministry of the Interior under the direction of Plehve, the sinister Chief of Police, was guarded with great secrecy, as if it concerned a plan of military operations against a belligerent Power. But the secret leaked out very soon. The Minister had sent out copies of the project to the governors-general, soliciting their opinions, and ere long copies of the project were circulating in London, Paris, and Vienna. In the spring of 1890, Russia and Western Europe were filled with alarming rumors concerning an enactment of some "forty clauses," which was designed to curtail the commercial activities of the Jews, to increase the rigor of the "Temporary Rules" within the Pale, and restrict the privileges conferred upon several categories of Jews outside of it, to establish medieval Jewish ghettos in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Kiev, and similar measures. The foreign press made a terrible outcry against these contemplated new acts of barbarism.

[Footnote 1: See p. 370.]

The voice of protest was particularly strong in England. The London _Times_ assailed in violent terms the reactionary policies of Russia, and a special organ, called _Darkest Russia_, was published for this purpose by Russian political refugees in England. The Russian Government denied these rumors through its diplomatic channels, though at the very same time the well-informed _Novoye Vremya_ and _Grazhdanin_ were not barred from printing news items concerning the projected disabilities or from recommending ferocious measures against the Jews for the purpose "of removing them from all branches of labor."

This comedy was well understood abroad. At the end of July and in the beginning of August interpellations were introduced in both Houses of the English Parliament, as to whether Her Majesty's Government found it possible to make diplomatic representations in defence of the persecuted Russian Jews for whom England would have to provide, were they to arrive there in large masses. Premier Salisbury, in the House of Lords, and Fergusson, the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in the House of Commons, replied that "these proceedings, which, if rightly reported to us, are deeply to be regretted, concern the internal affairs of the Russian Empire, and do not admit of any interference on the part of Her Majesty's Government." [1] When shortly afterwards preparations were set on foot for calling a protest meeting in London, the Russian Government hastened to announce through the British ambassador in St. Petersburg that no new measures against the Jews were in contemplation, and the meeting was called off. Rumor had it that the Lord Mayor of London, Henry Isaacs, who was a Jew, did not approve of this meeting, over which, according to the English custom, he would have to preside. The action of the Lord Mayor may have been "tactful," but is was certainly not free from an admixture of timidity.

[Footnote 1: See _The Jewish Chronicle_ of August 8, 1890, p. 18b.]

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