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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

4. POGROM INTERLUDES

Under the effect of the officially perpetrated "legal" pogroms little attention was paid to the street pogrom which occurred on September 29, 1891, in the city of Starodub, in the government of Chernigov, recalling the horrors of the eighties. Though caused by economic factors, the pogrom of Starodub assumed a religious coloring. The Russian merchants of that city had long been gnashing their teeth at their Jewish competitors. Led by a Russian fanatic, by the name of Gladkov, they forced a regulation through the local town-council barring all business on Sundays and Christian holidays. The regulation was directed against the Jews who refused to do business on the Sabbath and the Jewish holidays, and who would have been ruined had they also refrained from trading on Sundays and the numerous Greek-Orthodox holidays, thus remaining idle on twice as many days as the Christians. The Jews appealed to the governor of Chernigov to revoke or at least to mitigate the new regulation. The governor's decision fell in favor of the Jews who were allowed to keep their stores open on Christian holidays from noon-time until six o'clock in the evening. The reply of the local Jew-baiters took the form of a pogrom.

On Sunday, the day before Yom Kippur, when the Jews opened their stores for a few hours, a hired crowd of ruffians from among the local street mob fell upon the Jewish stores and began to destroy and loot whatever goods it could lay its hands on. The stores having been rapidly closed, the rioters invaded the residences of the Jews, destroying the property contained there and filling the streets with fragments of broken furniture and leathers from torn bedding. The plunderers were assisted by the peasants who had arrived from the adjacent villages. In the evening, a drunken mob, which had assembled on the market-place, laid fire to a number of Jewish stores and houses, inflicting on their owners a loss of many millions.

All this took place during the holy Yom Kippur eve. The Jews, who did not dare to worship in their synagogues or even to remain in their homes, hid themselves with their wives and children in the garrets and orchards or in the houses of strangers. Many Jews spent the night in a field outside the city, where, shivering from cold, they could watch the glare of the ghastly flames which destroyed all their belongings. The police, small in numbers, proved "powerless" against the huge hordes of plunderers and incendiaries. On the second day, the pogrom was over, the work of destruction having been duly accomplished. The subsequent judicial inquiry brought out the fact clearly that the pogrom had been engineered by Gladkov and his associates, a fact of which the local authorities could not have been ignorant. Gladkov fled from the city but returned subsequently, paying but a slight penalty for his monstrous crime.

It should be added, however, that the Government was greatly displeased with the reappearance of the terrible spectre of 1881, as it only tended to throw into bolder relief the policy of legal pogroms by which Western Europe was alarmed. As a matter of fact, already in October, the semi-official _Grazhdanin_ had occasion to print the following news item:

  Yesterday [October 15] the financial market [abroad] was marked by   depression; our securities have fallen, owing to new rumors   concerning alleged contemplated measures against the Jews.

Commenting upon this, the paper declared that these rumors were entirely unfounded, for the reason that "at the present time all our Government departments are weighed down with problems of first-rate national importance which brook no delay, [1] and they could scarcely find time to busy themselves with such matters as the Jewish question, which requires mature consideration and slow progress in action."

[Footnote 1: The paper had in mind the crop failures of that year and the famine which prevailed in consequence in the larger part of Russia.]

The subdued tone adopted by Count Meshcherski, the court journalist, was only partially in accord with the facts. He was right in stating that the terrible country-wide distress had compelled the deadly enemies of Judaism to pause in the execution of their entire program. But he forgot to add that the one clause of that program, the realization of which had already begun--the expulsion from Moscow--was being carried into effect with merciless cruelty. The huge emigration wave resulting from this expulsion threw upon the shores of Europe and America the victims of persecution who re-echoed the cries of distress from the land of the Tzars.

Soon afterwards a new surprise, without parallel in history, was sprung upon a baffled world: the Russian Government was negotiating with the Jewish philanthropist Baron Hirsch concerning the gradual removal of the three millions of its Jewish subjects from Russia to Argentina.



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