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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

CHAPTER XXIX



THE EXPULSION FROM MOSCOW

1. PREPARING THE BLOW

The year 1891 had arrived. The air was full of evil forebodings. In the solitude of the Government chancelleries of St. Petersburg the anti-Jewish conspirators were assiduously at work preparing for a new blow to be dealt to the martyred nation. A secret committee attached to the Ministry of the Interior, under the chairmanship of Plehve, was engaged in framing a monstrous enactment of Jewish counter-reforms, which were practically designed to annul the privileges conferred upon certain categories of Jews by Alexander II. The principal object of the proposed enactment was to slam the doors to the Russian interior, which had been slightly opened by the laws of 1859 and 1865, by withdrawing the privilege of residing outside the Pale which these laws had conferred upon Jewish first guild merchants and artisans, subject to a number of onerous conditions.

The first object of the reactionary conspirators was to get rid of those "privileged" Jews who lived in the two Russian capitals. In St. Petersburg this object was to be attained by the edicts of Gresser, referred to previously, which were followed by other similarly harassing regulations. In February, 1891, the governor of St. Petersburg ordered the police "to examine the kind of trade" pursued by the Jewish artisans of St. Petersburg, with the end in view of expelling from the city and confiscating the goods of all those who should be caught with articles not manufactured by themselves [1]. A large number of expulsion followed upon this order. The principal blow, however, was to fall in Moscow.

[Footnote 1: See above, p. 170 et seq., and p. 347 et seq.]

The ancient Muscovite capital was in the throes of great changes. The post of governor-general of Moscow, which had been occupied by Count Dolgoruki, was entrusted in February, 1891, to a brother of the Tzar, Grand Duke Sergius. The grand duke, who enjoyed an unenviable reputation in the gambling circles of both capitals, was not burdened by any consciously formulated political principles. But this deficiency was made up by his steadfast loyalty to the political and religious prejudices of his environment, among which the blind hatred of Judaism occupied a prominent place. The Russian public was inclined to attach extraordinary importance to the appointment of the Tzar's brother. It was generally felt that his selection was designed to serve as a preliminary step to the transfer of the imperial capital from St. Petersburg to Moscow, symbolizing the return "home"--to the old-Muscovite political ideals. It is almost superfluous to add that the contemplated change made it necessary to purge the ancient capital of its Jewish inhabitants.

The Jewish community of Moscow, numbering some thirty thousand souls who lived there legally or semi-legally, had long been a thorn in the flesh of certain influential Russian merchants. The burgomaster of Moscow, Alexeyev, an ignorant merchant, with a very shady reputation, was greatly wrought up over the far-reaching financial influence of a local Jewish capitalist, Lazarus Polakov, the director of a rural bank, with whom he had clashed over some commercial transaction. Alexeyev was only too grateful for an occasion to impress upon the highest Government spheres that it was necessary "to clear Moscow of the Jews," who were crowding the city, owing to the indulgence of Dolgoruki, the former governor-general. The reactionaries of Moscow and St. Petersburg joined hands in the worthy cause of extirpating Judaism, and received the blessing of the head of the Holy Synod, Pobyedonostzev. This inquisitor-in-chief appointed Istomin, a ferocious anti-Semite, who had been his general utility man at the Holy Synod, the bureau-manager of the new governor-general, and thus succeeded in establishing his influence in Moscow through his acting representative who was practically the master of the second capital.

The secret council of Jew-haters decided to accomplish the Jewish evacuation of Moscow prior to the solemn entrance of Grand Duke Sergius into the city, either for the purpose of clearing the way for the new satrap, or in order to avoid the unpleasantness of having his name connected with the first cruel act of expulsion. Pending the arrival of Sergius the administration of Moscow was entrusted to Costanda, the chief of the Moscow Military District, an adroit Greek, who was to begin the military operations against the Jewish population. The first blow was timed to take place on the festival of Israel's liberation from Egyptian bondage, as if the eternal people needed to be reminded of the new bondage and of the new Pharaohs.



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