History of the Jews in Russia and Poland. Volume II
by S.M. Dubnow
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It was originally proposed to give the history of Russian Jewry after 1825—the year with which the first volume concludes—in a single volume. This, however, would have resulted in producing a volume of unwieldy dimensions, entirely out of proportion to the one preceding it. It has, therefore, become imperative to divide Dubnow's work into three, instead of into two, volumes. The second volume, which is herewith offered to the public, treats of the history of Russian Jewry from the death of Alexander I. (1825) until the death of Alexander III. (1894). The third and concluding volume will deal with the reign of Nicholas II., the last of the Romanovs, and will also contain the bibliographical apparatus, the maps, the index, and other supplementary material. This division will undoubtedly recommend itself to the reader. The next volume is partly in type, and will follow as soon as circumstances permit.

Of the three reigns described in the present volume, that of Alexander III., though by far the briefest, is treated at considerably greater length than the others. The reason for it is not far to seek. The events which occurred during the fourteen years of his reign laid their indelible impress upon Russian Jewry, and they have had a determining influence upon the growth and development of American Israel. The account of Alexander III.'s reign is introduced in the Russian original by a general characterization of the anti-Jewish policies of Russian Tzardom. Owing to the rearrangement of the material, to which reference was made in the preface to the first volume, this introduction, which would have interrupted the flow of the narrative, had to be omitted. But a few passages from it, written in the characteristic style of Mr. Dubnow, may find a place here:

Russian Tzardom began its consistent role as a persecutor of the Eternal People when it received, by way of bequest, the vast Jewish population of disintegrated Poland. At the end of the eighteenth century, when Western Europe had just begun the emancipation of the Jews, the latter were subjected in the East of Europe to every possible medieval experiment.... The reign of Alexander II., who slightly relieved the civil disfranchisement of the Jews by permitting certain categories among them to live outside the Pale and by a few other measures, forms a brief interlude in the Russian policy of oppression. His tragic death in 1881 marks the beginning of a new terrible reaction which has superimposed the system of wholesale street pogroms upon the policy of disfranchisement, and has again thrown millions of Jews into the dismal abyss of medievalism.

Russia created a lurid antithesis to Jewish emancipation at a time when the latter was consummated not only in Western Europe, but also in the semi-civilized Balkan States.... True, the rise of Russian Judaeophobia—the Russian technical term for Jew-hatred—was paralleled by the appearance of German anti-Semitism in which it found a congenial companion. Yet, the anti-Semitism of the West was after all only a weak aftermath of the infantile disease of Europe—the medieval Jew-hatred—whereas culturally retrograde Russia was still suffering from the same infection in its acute, "childish" form. The social and cultural anti-Semitism of the West did not undermine the modern foundations of Jewish civil equality. But Russian Judaeophobia, more governmental than social, being fully in accord with the entire regime of absolutism, produced a system aiming not only at the disfranchisement, but also at the direct physical annihilation of the Jewish people. The policy of the extermination of Judaism was stamped upon the forehead of Russian reaction, receiving various colors at various periods, assuming the hue now of economic, now of national and religious, now of bureaucratic oppression. The year 1881 marks the starting-point of this systematic war against the Jews, which has continued until our own days, and is bound to reach a crisis upon the termination of the great world struggle.

Concerning the transcription of Slavonic names, the reader is referred to the explanations given in the preface to the first volume. The foot-notes added by the translator have been placed in square brackets. The poetic quotations by the author have been reproduced in English verse, the translation following both in content and form the original languages of the quotations as closely as possible. As in the case of the first volume, a number of editorial changes have become necessary. The material has been re-arranged and the headings have been supplied in accordance with the general plan of the work. A number of pages have been added, dealing with the attitude of the American people and Government toward the anti-Jewish persecutions in Russia. These additions will be found on pp. 292-296, pp. 394-396, and pp. 408-410. I am indebted to Dr. Cyrus Adler for his kindness in reading the proof of this part of the work.

The dates given in this volume are those of the Russian calendar, except for the cases in which the facts relate to happenings outside of Russia.

As in the first volume, the translator has been greatly assisted by the Hon. Mayer Sulzberger, who has read the proofs with his usual care and discrimination, and by Professor Alexander Marx, who has offered a number of valuable suggestions.


NEW YORK, February 25, 1918.



XIII. THE MILITARY DESPOTISM OF NICHOLAS I. 1. Military Service as a Means of De-Judaization 13 2. The Recruiting Ukase of 1827 and Juvenile Conscription 18 3. Military Martyrdom 22 4. The Policy of Expulsions 30 5. The Codification of Jewish Disabilities 34 6. The Russian Censorship and Conversionist Endeavors 41

XIV. COMPULSORY ENLIGHTENMENT AND INCREASED OPPRESSION. 1. Enlightenment as a Means of Assimilation 46 2. Uvarov and Lilienthal 50 3. The Abolition of Jewish Autonomy and Renewed Persecutions 59 4. Intercession of Western European Jewry 66 5. The Economic Plight of Russian Jewry and Agricultural Experiments 69 6. The Ritual Murder Trial of Velizh 72 7. The Mstislavl Affair 84

XV. THE JEWS IN THE KINGDOM OF POLAND. 1. Plans of Jewish Emancipation 88 2. Political Reaction and Literary Anti-Semitism 94 3. Assimilationist Tendencies Among the Jews of Poland 100 4. The Jews and the Polish Insurrection of 1831 105

XVI. THE INNER LIFE OF RUSSIAN JEWRY DURING THE PERIOD OF MILITARY DESPOTISM. 1. The Uncompromising Attitude of Rabbinism 111 2. The Stagnation of Hasidism 116 3. The Russian Mendelssohn (Isaac Baer Levinsohn) 125 4. The Rise of Neo-Hebraic Culture 132 5. The Jews and the Russian People 138

XVII. THE LAST YEARS OF NICHOLAS I. 1. The "Assortment" of the Jews 140 2. Compulsory Assimilation 143 3. New Conscription Horrors 145 4. The Ritual Murder Trial of Saratov 150

XVIII. THE ERA OF REFORMS UNDER ALEXANDER II. 1. The Abolition of Juvenile Conscription 154 2. "Homeopathic" Emancipation and the Policy of "Fusion" 157 3. The Extension of the Right of Residence 161 4. Further Alleviations and Attempts at Russification 172 5. The Jews and the Polish Insurrection of 1863 177

XIX. THE REACTION UNDER ALEXANDER II. 1. Change of Attitude Toward the Jewish Problem 184 2. The Informer Jacob Brafman 187 3. The Fight Against Jewish "Separatism" 190 4. The Drift Toward Oppression 198

XX. THE INNER LIFE OF RUSSIAN JEWRY DURING THE REIGN OF ALEXANDER II. 1. The Russification of the Jewish Intelligenzia 206 2. The Society for the Diffusion of Enlightenment 214 3. The Jewish Press 216 4. The Jews and the Revolutionary Movement 221 5. The Neo-Hebraic Renaissance 224 6. The Harbinger of Jewish Nationalism (Perez Smolenskin) 233 7. Jewish Literature in the Russian Language 238

XXI. THE ACCESSION OF ALEXANDER III. AND THE INAUGURATION OF POGROMS. 1. The Triumph of Autocracy 243 2. The Initiation of the Pogrom Policy 247 3. The Pogrom at Kiev 251 4. Further Outbreaks in South Russia 256

XXII. THE ANTI-JEWISH POLICIES OF IGNATYEV. 1. The Vacillating Attitude of the Authorities 259 2. The Pogrom Panic and the Beginning of the Exodus 265 3. The Gubernatorial Commissions 269 4. The Spread of Anti-Semitism 276 5. The Pogrom at Warsaw 280

XXIII. NEW MEASURES OF OPPRESSION AND PUBLIC PROTESTS. 1. The Despair of Russian Jewry 284 2. The Voice of England and America 287 3. The Problem of Emigration and the Pogrom at Balta 297 4. The Conference of Jewish Notables at St. Petersburg 304

XXIV. LEGISLATIVE POGROMS. 1. The "Temporary Rules" of May 3, 1882 309 2. Abandonment of the Pogrom Policy 312 3. Disabilities and Emigration 318

XXV. INNER UPHEAVALS. 1. Disillusionment of the Intelligenzia and the National Revival 324 2. Pinsker's "Autoemancipation" 330 3. Miscarried Religious Reforms 333

XXVI. INCREASED JEWISH DISABILITIES. 1. The Pahlen Commission and New Schemes of Oppression 336 2. Jewish Disabilities Outside the Pale 342 3. Restrictions in Education and in the Legal Profession 348 4. Discrimination in Military Service 354

XXVII. RUSSIAN REACTION AND JEWISH EMIGRATION. 1. Aftermath of the Pogrom Policy 358 2. The Conclusions of the Pahlen Commission 362 3. The Triumph of Reaction 369 4. American and Palestinian Emigration 373

XXVIII. JUDAEOPHOBIA TRIUMPHANT. 1. Intensified Reaction 378 2. Continued Harassing 382 3. The Guildhall Meeting in London 388 4. The Protest of America 394

XXIX. THE EXPULSION FROM MOSCOW. 1. Preparing the Blow 399 2. The Horrors of Expulsion 401 3. Effect of Protests 407 4. Pogrom Interludes 411

XXX. BARON HIRSCH'S EMIGRATION SCHEME AND UNRELIEVED SUFFERING. 1. Negotiations with the Russian Government 434 2. The Jewish Colonisation Association and Collapse of the Argentinian Scheme 419 3. Continued Humiliations and Death of Alexander III. 423




The era of Nicholas I. was typically inaugurated by the bloody suppression of the Decembrists and their constitutional demands, [1] proving as it subsequently did one continuous triumph of military despotism over the liberal movements of the age. As for the emancipation of the Jews, it was entirely unthinkable in an empire which had become Europe's bulwark against the inroads of revolutionary or even moderately liberal tendencies. The new despotic regime, overflowing with aggressive energy, was bound to create, after its likeness, a novel method of dealing with the Jewish problem. Such a method was contrived by the iron will of the Russian autocrat.

[Footnote 1: See Vol. I, p. 410, n. 1.]

Nicholas I., who was originally intended for a military career, was placed on the Russian throne by a whim of fate.[1] Prior to his accession, Nicholas had shown no interest in the Jewish problem. The Jewish masses had flitted across his vision but once—in 1816—when, still a young man, he traveled through Russia for his education. The impression produced upon him by this strange people is recorded by the then grand duke in his diary in a manner fully coincident with the official views of the Government:

[Footnote 1: After the death of Alexander I. the Russian crown fell to his eldest brother Constantine, military commander of Poland. Accordingly, Constantine was proclaimed emperor, and was recognized as such by Nicholas. Constantine, however, who had secretly abdicated some time previously, insisted on resigning, and Nicholas became Tzar.]

The ruin of the peasants of these provinces [1] are the Zhyds. [2] As property-holders they are here second in importance to the landed nobility. By their commercial pursuits they drain the strength of the hapless White Russian people.... They are everything here: merchants, contractors, saloon-keepers, mill-owners, ferry-holders, artisans.... They are regular leeches, and suck these unfortunate governments [3] to the point of exhaustion. It is a matter of surprise that in 1812 they displayed exemplary loyalty to us and assisted us wherever they could at the risk of their lives.

[Footnote 1: Nicholas is speaking of White Russia. Compare Vol. I, pp. 329 and 406.]

[Footnote 2: See on this term Vol. I, p. 320, n. 2.]

[Footnote 3: See on this term Vol. I, p. 308, n. 1.]

The characterization of merchants, artisans, mill-owners, and ferry-holders as "leeches" could only spring from a conception which looked upon the Jews as transient foreigners, who, by pursuing any line of endeavor, could only do so at the expense of the natives and thus abused the hospitality offered to them. No wonder then that the future Tzar was puzzled by the display of patriotic sentiments on the part of the Jewish population at the fatal juncture in the history of Russia.

This inimical view of the Jewish people was retained by Nicholas when he became the master of Russian-Jewish destinies. He regarded the Jews as an "injurious element," which had no place in a Slavonic Greek-Orthodox monarchy, and which therefore ought to be combated. The Jews must be rendered innocuous, must be "corrected" and curbed by such energetic military methods as are in keeping with a form of government based upon the principles of stern tutelage and discipline. As a result of these considerations, a singular scheme was gradually maturing in the mind of the Tzar: to detach the Jews from Judaism by impressing them into a military service of a wholly exceptional character.

The plan of introducing personal military service, instead of the hitherto customary exemption tax, [1] had engaged the attention of the Russian Government towards the end of Alexander I's reign, and had caused a great deal of alarm among the Jewish communities. Nicholas I. was now resolved to carry this plan into effect. Not satisfied with imposing a civil obligation upon a people deprived of civil rights, the Tzar desired to use the Russian military service, a service marked by most extraordinary features, as an educational and disciplinary agency for his Jewish subjects: the barrack was to serve as a school, or rather as a factory, for producing a new generation of de-Judaized Jews, who were completely Russified, and, if possible, Christianized.

[Footnote 1: See Vol. I, p. 318.]

The extension of the term of military service, marked by the ferocious discipline of that age, to a period of twenty-five years, the enrolment of immature lads or practically boys, their prolonged separation from a Jewish environment, and finally the employment of such methods as were likely to produce an immediate effect upon the recruits in the desired direction—all this was deemed an infallible means of dissolving Russian Jewry within the dominant nation, nay, within the dominant Church. It was a direct and simplified scheme which seemed to lead in a straight line to the goal. But had the ruling spheres of St. Petersburg known the history of the Jewish people, they might have realized that the annihilation of Judaism had in past ages been attempted more than once by other, no less forcible, means and that the attempt had always proved a failure.

In the very first year of the new reign, the plan of transforming the Jews by "military" methods was firmly settled in the emperor's mind. In 1826 Nichola instructed his ministers to draft a special statute of military service for the Jews, departing in some respects from the general law. In view of the fact that the new military reform was intended to include the Western region [1], which was under the military command of the Tzar's brother. Grand Duke Constantine [2], the draft was sent to him to Warsaw for further suggestions and approval, and was in turn transmitted by the grand duke to Senator Nicholas Novosiltzev, his co-regent [3], for investigation and report. As an experienced statesman, who had familiarized himself during his administrative activity with the Jewish conditions obtaining in the Western region, Novosiltzev realized the grave risks involved in the imperial scheme. In a memorandum submitted by him to the grand duke, he argued convincingly that the sudden imposition of military service upon the Jews was bound to cause an undesirable agitation among them, and that they should, on the contrary, be slowly "prepared for such a radical transformation."

[Footnote 1: The official designation for the territories of Western Russia which were formerly a part of the Polish Empire.]

[Footnote 2: Constantine was appointed by his brother Alexander I, Commander-in-chief of the Polish army after the restoration of Poland in 1815. He remained in this post until his death in 1831. See also above, p. 13, n. 2.]

[Footnote 3: He was the imperial Russian Commissary in Warsaw, and was practically in control of the affairs in Poland. See below, p. 92 et seq.]

Novosiltzev was evidently well informed about the state of mind of the Jewish masses. No sooner had the rumor of the proposed ukase reached the Pale of Settlement than the Jews were seized by a tremendous excitement. It must be borne in mind that the Jewish population of Western Russia had but recently been incorporated into the Russian Empire. Clinging with patriarchal devotion to their religion, estranged from the Russian people, and kept, moreover, in a state of civil rightlessness, the Jews of that region could not be reasonably expected to gloat over the prospect of a military service of twenty-five years' duration, which was bound to alienate their sons from their ancestral faith, detach them from their native tongue, their habits and customs of life, and throw them into a strange, and often hostile, environment. The ultimate aim of the project, which, imbedded in the mind of its originators, seemed safely hidden from the eye of publicity, was quickly sensed by the delicate national instinct, and the soul of the people was stirred to its depths. Public-minded Jews strained every nerve to avert the calamity. Jewish representatives journeyed to St. Petersburg and Warsaw to plead the cause of their brethren. Negotiations were entered into with dignitaries of high rank and with men of influence in the world of officialdom. Rumor had it that immense bribes had been offered to Novosiltzev and several high officials in St. Petersburg for the purpose of receiving their co-operation. But even the intercession of leading dignitaries was powerless to change the will of the Tzar. He chafed under the red-tape formalities which obstructed the realization of his favorite scheme. Without waiting for the transmission of Novosiltzev's memorandum, the Tzar directed the Minister of the Interior and the Chief of the General Staff to submit to him for signature an ukase imposing military service upon the Jews. The fatal enactment was signed on August 26, 1827.

2. The Recruiting Ukase of 1827 and Juvenile Conscription

The ukase announces the desire of the Government "to equalize military duty for all estates," without, be it noted, equalizing them in their rights. It further expresses the conviction that "the training and accomplishments, acquired by the Jews during their military service, will, on their return home after the completion of the number of years fixed by law (fully a quarter of a century!), be communicated to their families and make for greater usefulness and higher efficiency in their economic life and in the management of their affairs."

However, the "Statute of Conscription and Military Service," subjoined to the ukase, was a lurid illustration of a tendency utterly at variance with the desire "to equalize military duty." Had the Russian Government been genuinely desirous of rendering military duty uniform for all estates, there would have been no need of issuing separately for the Jews a huge enactment of ninety-five clauses, with supplementary "instructions," consisting of sixty-two clauses, for the guidance of the civil and military authorities. All that was necessary was to declare that the general military statute applied also to the Jews. Instead, the reverse stipulation is made: "The general laws and institutions are not valid in the case of the Jews" when at variance with the special statute (Clause 3).

The discriminating character of Jewish conscription looms particularly large in the central portion of the statute. Jewish families were stricken with terror on reading the eighth clause of the statute prescribing that "the Jewish conscripts presented by the [Jewish] communes shall be between the ages of twelve and twenty-five." This provision was supplemented by Clause 74: "Jewish minors, i.e., below the age of eighteen, shall be placed in preparatory establishments for military training."

True, the institution of minor recruits, called cantonists, [1] existed also for Christians. But in their case it was confined to the children of soldiers in active service, by virtue of the principle laid down by Arakcheyev [2] that children born of soldiers were the property of the Military Department, whereas the conscription of Jewish minors was to be absolute and to apply to all Jewish families without discrimination. To make things worse, the law demanded that the years of preparatory training should not be included in the term of active service, the latter to start only with the age of eighteen (Clause 90); in other words, the Jewish cantonists were compelled to serve an additional term of six years over and above the obligatory twenty-five years. Moreover, at the examination of Jewish conscripts, all that was demanded for their enlistment was "that they be free from any disease or defect incompatible with military service, but the other qualifications required by the general rules shall be left out of consideration" (Clause 10).

[Footnote 1: From Canton, a word applied in Prussia in the eighteenth century to a recruiting district. In Russia, beginning with 1805, the term "cantonists" is applied to children born of soldiers and therefore liable to conscription.]

[Footnote 2: See Vol. I, p. 395, n. 1.]

The duty of enlisting the recruits was imposed upon the Jewish communes, or Kahals, which were to elect for that purpose between three and six executive officers, or "trustees," in every city. The community as such was held responsible for the supply of a given number of recruits from its own midst. It was authorized to draft into military service any Jew guilty "of irregularity in the payment of taxes, of vagrancy, and other misdemeanors." In case the required number of recruits was not forthcoming within a given term, the authorities were empowered to obtain them from the derelict community "by way of execution." [1] Any irregularity on the part of the recruiting "trustees" was to be punished by the imposition of fines or even by sending them into the army.

[Footnote 1: The term "execution" (ekzekutzia) is used in Russian to designate a writ empowering an officer to carry a judgment into effect, in other words, to resort to forcible seizure.]

The following categories of Jews were exempted from military duty: merchants holding membership in guilds, artisans affiliated with trade-unions, mechanics in factories, agricultural colonists, rabbis, and the Jews, few and far between at that time, who had graduated from a Russian educational institution. Those exempted from military service in kind were required to pay "recruiting money," one thousand rubles for each recruit. The general law providing that a regular recruit could offer as his substitute a "volunteer" was extended to the Jews, with the proviso that the volunteer must also be a Jew.

The "Instructions" to the civil authorities, appended to the statute, specify the formalities to be followed both at the recruiting stations and in administering the oath of allegiance to the conscripts in the synagogues. The latter ceremony was to be marked by gloomy solemnity. The recruit was to be arrayed in his prayer-shawl (Tallith) and shroud (Kittel). With his philacteries wound around his arm, he should be placed before the Ark and, amidst burning candles and to the accompaniment of shofar blasts, made to recite a lengthy awe-inspiring oath. The "Instructions" to the military authorities accompanying the statute prescribe that every batch of Jewish conscripts "shall be entrusted to a special officer to be watched over, prior to their departure for their places of destination, and shall be kept apart from the other recruits." Both in the places of conscription and on the journey the Jewish recruits were to be quartered exclusively in the homes of Christian residents.

The promulgated "military constitution" surpassed the very worst apprehension of the Jews. All were staggered by this sudden blow, which descended crushingly upon the mode of life, the time-honored traditions, and the religious ideals of the Jewish people. The Jewish family nests became astir, trembling for their fledglings. Barely a month after the publication of the military statute, the central Government in St. Petersburg was startled by the report that the Volhynian town of Old-Constantine had been the scene of "mutiny and disorders among the Jews" on the occasion of the promulgation of the ukase. Benckendorff, the Chief of the Gendarmerie, [1] conveyed this information to the Tzar, who thereupon gave orders that "in all similar cases the culprits be court-martialed". Evidently, the St. Petersburg authorities apprehended a whole series of Jewish mutinies, as a result of the dreadful ukase, and they were ready with extraordinary measures for the emergency.

[Footnote 1: Since 1827 the Gendarmerie served as the executive organ of the political police, or of the so-called Third Section, dreaded throughout Russia on account of its relentless cruelty in suppressing the slightest manifestation of liberal thought. The Third Section was nominally abolished in 1880.]

However, their apprehensions were unfounded. Apart from the incident referred to, there were no cases of open rebellion against the authorities. As a matter of fact, even in Old-Constantine, the "mutiny" was of a nature little calculated to be dealt with by a court-martial. According to the local tradition, the Jewish residents, Hasidim almost to a man, were so profoundly stirred by the imperial ukase that they assembled in the synagogues, fasting and praying, and finally resolved to adopt "energetic" measures. A petition reciting their grievances against the Tzar was framed in due form and placed in the hands of a member of the community who had just died, with the request that the deceased present it to the Almighty, the God of Israel. This childlike appeal to the heavenly King from the action of an earthly sovereign and the emotional scenes accompanying it were interpreted by the Russian authorities as "mutiny." Under the patriarchal conditions of Jewish life prevailing at that time a political protest was a matter of impossibility. The only medium through which the Jews could give vent to their burning national sorrow was a religious demonstration within the walls of the synagogue.


The ways and means by which the provisions of the military statute were carried into effect during the reign of Nicholas I. we do not learn from official documents, which seem to have drawn a veil over this dismal strip of the past. Our information is derived from sources far more communicative and nearer to truth—the traditions current among the people. Owing to the fact that every Jewish community, at the mutual responsibility of all its members, was compelled by law to supply a definite number of recruits, and that no one was willing to become a soldier of his own volition, the Kahal administration and the recruiting "trustees," who had to answer to the authorities for any shortage in recruits, were practically forced to become a sort of police agents, whose function it was to "capture" the necessary quota of recruits. Prior to every military conscription, the victims marked for prey, the young men and boys of the burgher class, [1] very generally took to flight, hiding in distant cities, outside the zone of their Kahals, or in forests and ravines. A popular song in Yiddish refers to these conditions in the following words;

[Footnote 1: Compare on the status of the burgher in Russian law Vol. I, p. 308, n. 2. Nearly all the higher estates were exempt.]

_Der Ukas is arobgekumen auf judische Selner, Seinen mir sich zulofen in die puste Waelder..... In alle puste Waelder seinen mir zulofen, In puste Gruber seinen mir verlofen_..... Oi weih, oi weih!_....[1]

[Footnote 1:

When the ukase came down about Jewish soldiers, We all dispersed over the lonesome forests; Over the lonesome forests did we disperse, In lonesome pits did we hide ourselves.... Woe me, Woe!]

The recruiting agents hired by the Kahal or its "trustees," who received the nickname "hunters" or "captors," [1] hunted down the fugitives, trailing them everywhere and capturing them for the purpose of making up the shortage. In default of a sufficient number of adults, little children, who were easier "catch," were seized, often enough in violation of the provision of the law. Even boys under the required age of twelve, sometimes no more than eight years old, were caught and offered as conscripts at the recruiting stations, their age being misstated. [2] The agents perpetrated incredible cruelties. Houses were raided during the night, and children were torn from the arms of their mothers, or lured away and kidnapped.

[Footnote 1: More literally "catchers"; in Yiddish Khappers.]

[Footnote 2: This was the more easy, as regular birth-registers were not yet in existence.]

After being captured, the Jewish conscripts were sent into the recruiting jail where they were kept in confinement until their examination at the recruiting station. The enlisted minors were turned over to a special officer to be dispatched to their places of destination, mostly in the Eastern provinces including Siberia. For it must be noted that the cantonists were stationed almost to a man in the outlying Russian governments, where they could be brought up at a safe distance from all Jewish influences. The unfortunate victims who were drafted into the army and deported to these far-off regions were mourned by their relatives as dead. During the autumnal season, when the recruits were drafted and deported, the streets of the Jewish towns resounded with moans. The juvenile cantonists were packed into wagons like so many sheep and carried off in batches under a military convoy. When they took leave of their dear ones it was for a quarter of a century; in the case of children it was for a longer term, too often it was good-bye for life.

How these unfortunate youngsters were driven to their places of destination we learn from the description of Alexander Hertzen, [1] who chanced to meet a batch of Jewish cantonists on his involuntary journey through Vyatka, in 1835. At one of the post stations in some God-forsaken village of the Vyatka government he met the escorting officer. The following dialogue ensued between the two:

[Footnote 1: Hertzen, a famous Russian writer (d. 1870), was exiled to the government of Vyatka for propagating liberal doctrines.]

"Whom do you carry and to what place?"

"Well, sir, you see, they got together a bunch of these accursed Jewish youngsters between the age of eight and nine. I suppose they are meant for the fleet, but how should I know? At first the command was to drive them to Perm. Now there is a change. We are told to drive them to Kazan. I have had them on my hands for a hundred versts or thereabouts. The officer that turned them over to me told me they were an awful nuisance. A third of them remained on the road (at this the officer pointed with his finger to the ground). Half of them will not get to their destination," he added.

"Epidemics, I suppose?", I inquired, stirred to the very core.

"No, not exactly epidemics; but they just fall like flies. Well, you know, these Jewish boys are so puny and delicate. They can't stand mixing dirt for ten hours, with dry biscuits to live on. Again everywhere strange folks, no father, no mother, no caresses. Well then, you just hear a cough and the youngster is dead. Hello, corporal, get out the small fry!"

The little ones were assembled and arrayed in a military line. It was one of the most terrible spectacles I have ever witnessed. Poor, poor children! The boys of twelve or thirteen managed somehow to stand up, but the little ones of eight and ten.... No brush, however black, could convey the terror of this scene on the canvas.

Pale, worn out, with scared looks, this is the way they stood in their uncomfortable, rough soldier uniforms, with their starched, turned-up collars, fixing an inexpressibly helpless and pitiful gaze upon the garrisoned soldiers, who were handling them rudely. White lips, blue lines under the eyes betokened either fever or cold. And these poor children, without care, without a caress, exposed to the wind which blows unhindered from the Arctic Ocean, were marching to their death. I seized the officer's hand, and, with the words: "Take good care of them! ", threw myself into my carriage. I felt like sobbing, and I knew I could not master myself....

The great Russian writer saw the Jewish cantonists on the road, but he knew nothing of what happened to them later on, in the recesses of the barracks into which they were driven. This terrible secret was revealed to the world at a later period by the few survivors among these martyred Jewish children.

Having arrived at their destination, the juvenile conscripts were put into the cantonist battalions. The "preparation for military service" began with their religious re-education at the hands of sergeants and corporals. No means was, neglected so long as it bade fair to bring the children to the baptismal font. The authorities refrained from giving formal instructions, leaving everything to the zeal of the officers who knew the wishes of their superiors. The children were first sent for spiritual admonition to the local Greek-Orthodox priests, whose efforts, however, proved fruitless in nearly every case. They were then taken in hand by the sergeants and corporals who adopted military methods of persuasion.

These brutal soldiers invented all kinds of tortures. A favorite procedure was to make the cantonists get down on their knees in the evening after all had gone to bed and to keep the sleepy children in that position for hours. Those who agreed to be baptized were sent to bed, those who refused were kept up the whole night till they dropped from exhaustion. The children who continued to hold their own were flogged and, under the guise of gymnastic exercises, subjected to all kinds of tortures. Those that refused to eat pork or the customary cabbage soup prepared with lard were beaten and left to starve. Others were fed on salted fish and then forbidden to drink, until the little ones, tormented by thirst, agreed to embrace Christianity.

The majority of these children, unable to endure the tortures inflicted on them, saved themselves by baptism. But many cantonists, particularly those of a maturer age (between fifteen and eighteen), bore their martyrdom with heroic patience. Beaten almost into senselessness, their bodies striped by lashes, tormented to the point of exhaustion by hunger, thirst, and sleeplessness, the lads declared again and again that they would not betray the faith of their fathers. Most of these obstinate youths were carried from the barracks into the military hospitals to be released by a kind death. Only a few remained alive.

Alongside of this passive heroism there were cases of demonstrative martyrdom. One such incident has survived in the popular memory. The story goes that during a military parade [1] in the city of Kazan the battalion chief drew up all the Jewish cantonists on the banks of the river, where the Greek-Orthodox priests were standing in their vestments, and all was ready for the baptismal ceremony. At the command to jump into the water, the boys answered in military fashion "Aye, aye!" Whereupon they dived under and disappeared. When they were dragged out, they were dead. In most cases, however, these little martyrs suffered and died noiselessly, in the gloom of the guard-houses, barracks, and military hospitals. They strewed with their tiny bodies the roads that led into the outlying regions of the Empire, and those that managed to get there were fading away slowly in the barracks which had been turned into inquisitorial dungeons. This martyrdom of children, set in a military environment, represents a singular phenomenon even in the extensive annals of Jewish martyrology.

[Footnote 1: A variant of the legend speaks of a review by the Tzar himself.]

Such was the lot of the juvenile cantonists. As for the adult recruits, who were drafted into the army at the normal age of conscription (18-25), their conversion to Christianity was not pursued by the same direct methods, but their fate was not a whit less tragic from the moment of their capture till the end of their grievous twenty-five years' service. Youths, who had no knowledge of the Russian language, were torn away from the heder or yeshibah, often from wife and children.

In consequence of the early marriages then in vogue, most youths at the age of eighteen were married. The impending separation for a quarter of a century, added to the danger of the soldier's apostasy or death in far-off regions, often disrupted the family ties. Many recruits, before entering upon their military career, gave their wives a divorce so as not to doom them to perpetual widowhood.

At the end of 1834 rumors began to spread among the Jewish masses concerning a law which was about to be issued forbidding early marriages but exempting from conscription those married prior to the promulgation of the law. A panic ensued. Everywhere feverish haste was displayed in marrying off boys from ten to fifteen years old to girls of an equally tender age. Within a few months there appeared in every city hundreds and thousands of such couples, whose marital relations were often confined to playing with nuts or bones. The misunderstanding which had caused this senseless matrimonial panic or beholoh,[1] as it was afterwards popularly called, was cleared up by the publication, on April 13, 1835, of the new "Statute on the Jews." To be sure, the new law contained a clause forbidding marriages before the age of eighteen, but it offered no privileges for those already married, so that the only result of the beholoh was to increase the number of families robbed by conscription of their heads and supporters.

[Footnote 1: A Hebrew word, also used in Yiddish, meaning fright, panic.]

The years of military service were spent by the grown-up Jewish soldiers amidst extraordinary hardships. They were beaten and ridiculed because of their inability to express themselves in Russian, their refusal to eat trefa, and their general lack of adaptation to the strange environment and to the military mode of life. And even when this process of adaptation was finally accomplished, the Jewish soldier was never promoted beyond the position of a non-commissioned under-officer, baptism being the inevitable stepping-stone to a higher rank. True, the Statute on Military Service promised those Jewish soldiers who had completed their term in the army with distinction admission to the civil service, but the promise remained on paper so long as the candidates were loyal to Judaism. On the contrary, the Jews who had completed their military service and had in most cases become invalids were not even allowed to spend the rest of their lives in the localities outside the Pale, in which they had been stationed as soldiers. Only at a later period, during the reign of Alexander II., was this right accorded to the "Nicholas soldiers" [1] and their descendants.

[Footnote 1: In Russian, Nikolayevskiye soldaty, i.e., those that had served in the army during the reign of Nicholas I.]

The full weight of conscription fell upon the poorest classes of the Jewish population, the so-called burgher estate, [1] consisting of petty artisans and those impoverished tradesmen who could not afford to enrol in the mercantile guilds, though there are cases on record where poor Jews begged from door to door to collect a sufficient sum of money for a guild certificate in order to save their children from military service. The more or less well-to-do were exempted from conscription either by virtue of their mercantile status or because of their connections with the Kahal leaders who had the power of selecting the victims.

[Footnote 1: See above, p. 23, n. 1.]


In all lands of Western Europe the introduction of personal military service for the Jews was either accompanied or preceded by their emancipation. At all events, it was followed by some mitigation of their disabilities, serving, so to speak, as an earnest of the grant of equal rights. Even in clerical Austria, the imposition of military duty upon the Jews was preceded by the Toleranz Patent, this would-be Act of Emancipation. [1]

[Footnote 1: Military service was imposed upon the Jews of Austria by the law of 1787. Several years previously, on January 2, 1782, Emperor Joseph II. had issued his famous Toleration Act, removing a number of Jewish disabilities and opening the way to their assimilation with the environment. Nevertheless, most of the former restrictions remained in force.]

In Russia the very reverse took place. The introduction of military conscription of a most aggravating kind and the unspeakable cruelties attending its practical execution were followed, in the case of the Jews, by an unprecedented recrudescence of legislative discrimination and a monstrous increase of their disabilities. The Jews were lashed with a double knout, a military and a civil. In the same ill-fated year which saw the promulgation of the conscription statute, barely three months after it had received the imperial sanction, while the moans of the Jews, fasting and praying to God to deliver them from the calamity, were still echoing in the synagogues, two new ukases were issued, both signed on December 2, 1827—the one decreeing the transfer of the Jews from all villages and village inns in the government of Grodno into the towns and townlets, the other ordering the banishment of all Jewish residents from the city of Kiev.

The expulsion from the Grodno villages was the continuation of the policy of the rural liquidation of Jewry, inaugurated in 1823 in White Russia. [1] The Grodno province was merely meant to serve as a starting point. Grand Duke Constantine, [2] who had brought up the question, was ordered "at first to carry out the expulsion in the government of Grodno alone," and to postpone for a later occasion the application of the same measure to the other "governments entrusted to his command." Simultaneously considerable foresight was displayed in instructing the grand duke to wait with the expulsion of the Jews "until the conclusion of the military conscription going on at present." Evidently there was some fear of disorders and complications. It was thought wiser to seize the children for the army first and then to expel the parents—to get hold of the young birds and then to destroy the nest.

[Footnote 1: It may be remarked here that the principal enactments of that period, down to 1835, were, drafted in their preliminary stage by the "Jewish Committee" established in 1823. See Vol. I, p. 407 et seq.]

[Footnote 2: Commander-in-Chief of the former Polish provinces. See p. 16, n. 2.]

The expulsion from Kiev was of a different order. It marked the beginning of a new system, the narrowing down of the urban area allotted to the Jews within the Pale of Settlement. Since 1794 [1] the Jews had been allowed to settle in Kiev freely. They had formed there, with official sanction, an important community and had vastly developed commerce and industry. Suddenly, however, the Government discovered that "their presence is detrimental to the industry of this city and to the exchequer in general, and is, moreover, at variance with the rights and privileges conferred at different periods upon the city of Kiev." The discovery was followed by a grim rescript from St. Petersburg, forbidding not only the further settlement of Jews in Kiev but also prescribing that even those settled there long ago should leave the city within one year, those owning immovable property within two years. Henceforward only the temporary sojourn of Jews, for a period not exceeding six months, was to be permitted and to be limited, moreover, to merchants of the first two guilds who arrive "in connection with contracts and fairs" or to attend to public bids and deliveries.

[Footnote 1: See Vol. I, p. 317.]

In 1829 the whip of expulsion cracked over the backs of the Jews dwelling on the shores of the Baltic and the Black Sea. In Courland and Livonia measures were taken "looking to the reduction of the number of Jews" which had been considerably swelled by the influx of "newcomers"—of Jews not born in those provinces and therefore having no right to settle there. The Tzar endorsed the proposal of the "Jewish Committee" to transfer from Courland all Jews not born there into the cities in which their birth was registered. Those not yet registered in a municipality outside the province were granted a half-year's respite for that purpose. If within the prescribed term they failed to attend to their registration, they were to be sent to the army, or, in case of unfitness for military service, deported to Siberia.

In the same year an imperial ukase declared that "the residence of civilian Jews in the cities of Sevastopol and Nicholayev was inconvenient and injurious," in view of the military and naval importance of these places, and therefore decreed the expulsion of their Jewish residents: those owning real property within two years, the others within one year. By a new ukase issued in 1830 the Jews were expelled from the villages and hamlets of the government of Kiev. Thus were human beings hurled about from village to town, from city to city, from province to province, with no more concern than might be displayed in the transportation of cattle.

This process of "mobilization" had reached its climax when the Polish insurrection of 1830-1831 broke out, affecting the whole Western region. [1] Fearing lest the persecuted Jews might be driven into the arms of the Poles, the Government decided on a strategic retreat. In February, 1831, in consequence of the representations of the local military commander, who urged the Government "to take into consideration the present political circumstances, in which they (the Jews) may occasionally prove useful," the final expulsion of the Jews from Kiev was postponed for three years. At the end of the three years, the governor of Kiev made similar representations to St. Petersburg, emphasizing the desirability of allowing the Jews to remain in the city, even though it might become necessary to segregate them in a special quarter, "this (i.e., their remaining in the city) being found useful also in this respect that, on account of their temperate and simple habits of life, they are in a position to sell their goods considerably cheaper, whereas in the case of their expulsion many articles and manufactures will rise in price." Nicholas I. rejected this plea, and only agreed to postpone the expulsion until February, 1835, for the reason that the new "Statute Concerning the Jews," then in preparation, which was to define the general legal status of Russian Jewry, was expected to be ready by that time. Similar short reprieves were granted to the Jews about to be exiled from Nicholayev, from the villages of the government of Kiev, and from other places.

[Footnote 1: See above, p. 16, n. 1.]


No sooner had the conscription ukase been issued than the bureaucrats of St. Petersburg began to apply themselves in the hidden recesses of their chancelleries to a new civil code for the Jews, which was to supersede the antiquated Statute of 1804. The work passed through a number of departments. The projected enactment was framed by the "Jewish Committee," which had been established in 1823 for the purpose of bringing about "a reduction of the number of Jews in the monarchy," and consisted of cabinet ministers and the chiefs of departments. [1] Originally the department chiefs had elaborated a draft covering 1230 clauses, a gigantic code of disabilities; evidently founded on the principle that in the case of Jews everything is forbidden which, is not permitted by special legislation. The dimensions of the draft were such that even the Government was appalled and decided to turn it over to the ministerial members of the Committee.

[Footnote 1: See Vol. I, p. 407 et seq.]

Modified in shape and reduced in size, the code was submitted in 1834 to the Department of Laws forming part of the Council of State, and after careful discussion by the Department of Laws was brought up at the plenary sessions of the Council. The "ministerial" draft, though smaller in bulk, was marked by such severity that the Department of Laws found it necessary to tone it down. The ministers, with the exception of the Minister of Finance, had proposed to transfer all Jews, within a period of three years, from the villages to the towns and townlets. The Department of Laws considered this measure too risky, pointing to the White Russian expulsion of 1823, which had failed to produce the expected results, and, "while it has ruined the Jews, it does not in the least seem to have improved the condition of the villagers." [1] The plenum of the Council agreed with the Department of Laws that "the proposed expulsion of the Jews (from the villages), being extremely difficult of execution and being of problematic benefit, should be eliminated from the Statute and should be stopped even there where it had been decreed but not carried into effect."

[Footnote 1: Compare Vol. I, p. 407.]

The report was laid before the Tzar, who attached to it the following "resolution": [1] "Where this measure (of expulsion) has been started, it is inconvenient to repeal it; but it shall be postponed for the time being in the governments in which no steps towards it have as yet been made." For a number of years this "resolution" hung like the sword of Damocles over the heads of rural Jewry.

[Footnote 1: See on the meaning of the term "resolution" Vol. I, p. 253, n. 1.]

Less yielding was the Tzar's attitude on the question of the partial enlargement of the Pale of Settlement. The Department of Laws had suggested to grant the merchants of the first guild the right of residence in the Russian interior in the interest of the exchequer and big business. At the general meeting of the Council of State only a minority (thirteen) voted for the proposal. The majority (twenty-two) argued that they had no right to violate the time-honored tradition, "dating from the time of Peter the Great," which bars the Jews from the Russian interior; that to admit them "would produce a very unpleasant impression upon our people, which, on account of its religious notions and its general estimate of the moral peculiarities of the Jews, has become accustomed to keep aloof from them and to despise them;" that the countries of Western Europe, which had accorded fall citizenship to the Jews, "cannot serve as an example for Russia, partly because of the incomparably larger number of Jews living here, partly because our Government and people, with all their well-known tolerance, are yet far from that indifference with which certain other nations look upon religious matters." After marking his approval of the last words by the marginal exclamation "Thank God!", the Tzar disposed of the whole matter in the following brief resolution: "This question has been determined by Peter the Great. I dare not change it; I completely share the opinion of the twenty-two members."

While on this occasion the Tzar endorsed the opinion of the Council as represented by its majority, in cases in which it proved favorable to the Jews he did not hesitate to set it aside. Thus the Department of Laws, as part of the Council of State, and, following in its wake, the Council itself had timidly suggested to Nicholas to comply in part with the plea of the Jews for a mitigation of the rigors of conscription, [1] but the imperial verdict read: "To be left as heretofore." Nicholas remained equally firm on the question of the expulsions from Kiev. The Department of Laws, guided by the previously-mentioned representations of the local governor, favored the postponement of the expulsion, and fourteen members of the plenary Council agreed with the suggestion of the Department, and resolved to recommend it to the "benevolent consideration of his Majesty," in other words to request the Tzar to revoke the baneful ukase. But fifteen, members rejected all such propositions on the ground that, as far as that question was concerned, the imperial will was unmistakable, the Tzar having decided the matter in a sense unfavorable to the Jews. In a similar manner, numerous other decisions of the Council of State were dictated not so much by inner conviction as by fear of the clearly manifested imperial will, which no one dared to cross.

[Footnote 1: The Kahal of Vilna, in a memorandum submitted in 1835, pleaded for the abolition of the dreadful institution of cantonists, and begged that the age limit of Jewish recruits be raised from 12-15 to 20-35.]

Under these circumstances, the entire draft of the statute passed through the Council of State. In its session of March 28, 1835, the Council voted to submit it to the emperor for his signature. On this occasion a solitary and belated voice was raised in defence of the Jews, without evoking an echo. A member of the Council, Admiral Greig, who was brave enough to swim against the current, submitted a "special opinion" on the proposed statute, in which he advocated a number of alleviations in the intolerable legal status of the Jews. Greig put the whole issue in a nut-shell: "Are the Jews to be suffered in the country, or not?" If they are, then we must abandon the system "of hampering them in their actions and in their religious customs" and grant them at least "equal liberty of commerce with the others," for in this case "we may anticipate more good from their gratitude than from their hatred." Should, however, the conclusion be reached that the Jews ought not to be tolerated in Russia, then the only thing to be done is "to banish them all without exception from the country into foreign lands." This might be "more useful than to allow this estate to remain in the country and to keep it in a position which is bound to arouse in them continual dissatisfaction and resentment." It need scarcely be added that the voice of the "queer" admiral found no hearing.

Nor did the Jewish people manage to get a hearing. Stunned by the uninterrupted succession of blows and moved by the spirit of martyrdom, Russian Jewry kept its peace during those dismal years. Yet, when the news of an impending general regulation of the Jewish legal status began to leak out, a section of Russian Jewry became astir. For to anticipate a blow is more excruciating than to receive one, and it was quite natural that an attempt should be made to stay the hand which was lifted to strike. Towards the end of 1833 the Council of State received, as part of the material bearing on the Jewish question, two memoranda, one from the Kahal of Vilna, signed by six elders, and another from Litman Feigin of Chernigov, well known in administrative circles as merchant and public contractor.

The Kahal of Vilna declared that the repressive policy, pursued during the last few years by the "Jewish Committee," had thrown a large part of the Jewish people "into utmost disorder," and had made the Jews "shiver and shudder at the thought that a general Jewish statute had been drafted by the same Committee and had now been submitted to the Council of State for revision." The petitioners go on to say that, weighed down by a succession of cruel discriminations affecting not only their rights but also their mode of discharging military service, the Jews would succumb to utter despair, did they not repose their hopes in the benevolence of the Tzar, who, on his recent trip through the Western provinces, had expressed to the deputies of the Jewish communes his imperial satisfaction with the loyalty to the throne displayed by the Jews during the Polish insurrection of 1831. The Kahal of Vilna, therefore, implored the Council of State "to turn its attention to this unfortunate and maligned people" and to stop all further persecutions.

A more emphatic note of protest is sounded in the memorandum of Feigin. By a string of references to the latest Government measures he demonstrates the fact that "the Jewish people is hunted down, not because of its moral qualities but because of its faith."

The Jews, faced by the new statute, have lost all hope for a better lot, inasmuch as the Government has embarked upon this measure without having solicited the explanations or justifications of this people, whereas, according to common legal procedure, even an individual may not be condemned without having been called upon to justify himself.

The rebuke had no effect. The Government preferred to render its verdict in absentia, without listening to counsel for the defence and without any safeguards of fair play. In line with this attitude, it also denied the petition of the Vilna Kahal to be allowed "to send at least four deputies to the capital as spokesmen of the entire Jewish people for the purpose of submitting to the Government their explanations and propositions concerning the reorganization of the Jews, after having been presented with a draft of the statute." The final verdict was pronounced in the spring of 1835, and in April the new "Statute concerning the Jews" received the signature of the Tzar.

This "Charter of Disabilities," which was destined to operate for many decades, represents a combination of the Russian "ground laws" concerning the Jews and the restrictive by-laws issued after 1804. The Pale of Settlement was now accurately defined: it consisted of Lithuania [1] and the South-western provinces, [2] without any territorial restrictions, White Russia [3] minus the Villages, Little Russia [4] minus the crown hamlets, New Russia [5] minus Nicholayev and Sevastopol, the government of Kiev minus the city of Kiev, the Baltic provinces for the old settlers only, while the rural settlements on the entire fifty-verst zone along the Western frontier were to be closed to newcomers. As for the interior provinces, only temporary "furloughs" (limited to six weeks and to be certified by gubernatorial passports) were to be granted for the execution of judicial and commercial affairs, with the proviso that the travellers should wear Russian instead of Jewish dress. The merchants affiliated with the first and second guilds were allowed, in addition, to visit the two capitals, [6] the sea-ports, as well as the fairs of Nizhni-Novgorod, Kharkov, and other big fairs for wholesale buying or selling. [7]

[Footnote 1: The present governments of Kovno, Vilna, Grodno, and Minsk.]

[Footnote 2: The governments of Volhynia and Podolia.]

[Footnote 3: The governments of Vitebsk and Moghilev.]

[Footnote 4: The governments of Chernigov and Poltava.]

[Footnote 5: The governments of Kherson, Yekaterinoslav, Tavrida, and Bessarabia.]

[Footnote 6: St. Petersburg and Moscow.]

[Footnote 7: The time-limit was six months for the merchants of the first guild and three months for those of the second.]

The Jews were further forbidden to employ Christian domestics for permanent employment. They could hire Christians for occasional services only, on condition that the latter live in separate quarters. Marriages at an earlier age than eighteen for the bridegroom and sixteen for the bride were forbidden under the pain of imprisonment—a prohibition which the defective registration of births and marriages then in vogue made it easy to evade. The language to be employed by the Jews in their public documents was to be Russian or any other local dialect, but "under no circumstances the Hebrew language."

The function of the Kahal, according to the Statute, is to see to it that the "instructions of the authorities" are carried out precisely and that the state taxes and communal assessments are "correctly remitted." The Kahal elders are to be elected by the community every three years from among persons who can read and write Russian, subject to their being ratified by the gubernatorial administration. At the same time the Jews are entitled to participation in the municipal elections; those who can read and write Russian are eligible as members of the town councils and magistracies—the supplementary law of 1836 fixed the rate at one-third, [1] excepting the city of Vilna where the Jews were entirely excluded from municipal self-government.

[Footnote 1: Compare Vol. I, p. 368.]

Synagogues may not be built in the vicinity of churches. The Russian schools of all grades are to be open to Jewish children, who "are not compelled to change their religion" (Clause 106)—a welcome provision in view of the compulsory methods which had then become habitual. The coercive baptism of Jewish children was provided for in a separate enactment, the Statute on Conscription, which is declared "to remain in force." In this way the Statute of 1835 reduces itself to a codification of the whole mass of the preceding anti-Jewish legislation. Its only positive feature was that it put a stop to the expulsion from the villages which had ruined the Jewish population during the years 1804-1830.


With all its discriminations, the promulgation of this general statute was far from checking the feverish activity of the Government. With indefatigable zeal, its hands went on turning the legislative wheel and squeezing ever tighter the already unbearable vise of Jewish life. The slightest attempt to escape from its pressure was punished ruthlessly. In 1838 the police of St. Petersburg discovered a group of Jews in the capital "with expired passports," these Jews having extended their stay there a little beyond the term fixed for Jewish travellers, and the Tzar curtly decreed: "to be sent to serve in the penal companies of Kronstadt." [1] In 1840 heavy fines were imposed upon the landed proprietors in the Great Russian governments for "keeping over" Jews on their estates.

[Footnote 1: A fortress in the vicinity of St Petersburg.]

Considerable attention was bestowed by the Government on placing the spiritual life of the Jews under police supervision. In 1836 a censorship campaign was launched against Hebrew literature. Hebrew books, which were then almost exclusively of a religious nature, such as prayer-books, Bible and Talmud editions, rabbinic, cabalistic, and hasidic writings, were then issuing from the printing presses of Vilna, Slavuta, [1] and other places, and were subject to a rigorous censorship exercised by Christians or by Jewish converts. Practically every Jewish home-library consisted of religious works of this type. The suspicions of the Government were aroused by certain Jewish converts who had insinuated that the foreign editions of these works and those that had appeared in Russia itself prior to the establishment of a censorship were of an "injurious" character. As a result, all Jewish home-libraries were subjected to a search. Orders were given to deliver into the hands of the local police, in the course of that year, all foreign Hebrew prints as well as the uncensored editions, published at any previous time in Russia, and to entrust their revision to "dependable" rabbis. These rabbis were instructed to put their stamp on the books approved by them and return the books not approved by them to the police for transmission to the Ministry of the Interior. The regulation involved the entire ancient Hebrew literature printed during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, prior to the establishment of the Russian censorship. In order to "facilitate the supervision" over new publications or reprints from older editions, all Jewish printing presses which existed at that time in various cities and towns were ordered closed, and only those of Vilna and Kiev, [2] to which special censors were attached, were allowed to remain.

[Footnote 1: A town in Volhynia.]

[Footnote 2: The printing-press of Kiev was subsequently transferred to Zhitomir.]

As the Hebrew authors of antiquity or the Middle Ages did not fully anticipate the requirements of the Russian censors, many classic works were found to contain passages which were thought to be "at variance with imperial enactments." By the ukase of 1836 all books of this kind, circulating in tens of thousands of copies, had to be transported to St. Petersburg under a police escort to await their final verdict. The procedure, however, proved too cumbersome, and, in 1837, the emperor, complying with the petitions of the governors, was graciously pleased to command that all these books be "delivered to the flames on the spot." This auto-da-fe was to be witnessed by a member of the gubernatorial administration and a special "dependable" official dispatched by the governor for the sole purpose of making a report to the central Government on every literary conflagration of this kind and forwarding to the Ministry of the Interior one copy of each "annihilated" book.

But even this was not enough to satisfy the lust of the Russian censorship. It was now suspected that even the "dependable" rabbis might pass many a book as "harmless," though its contents were subversive of the public weal. As a result, a new ukase was issued in 1841, placing the rabbinical censors themselves under Government control. All uncensored books, including those already passed as "harmless," were ordered to be taken away from the private libraries and forwarded to the censorship committees in Vilna and Kiev. The latter were instructed to attach their seals to the approved books and "deliver to the flames" the books condemned by them. Endless wagonloads of these confiscated books could be seen moving towards Vilna and Kiev, and for many years afterwards the literature of the "People of the Book," covering a period of three milleniums, was still languishing in the gaol of censorship, waiting to be saved from or to be sentenced to a fiery death by a Russian official.

It is almost unnecessary to add that the primitive method of solving the Jewish problem by means of conversion, was still the guiding principle of the Government. The Russian legislation of that period teems with regulations concerning apostasy. The surrender of the Synagogue to the Church seemed merely a question of time. In reality, however, the Government itself believed but half-heartedly in the sincerity of the converted Jews. In 1827 the Tzar put down in his own handwriting the following resolution: "It is to be strictly observed that the baptismal ceremony shall take place unconditionally on a Sunday, and with all possible publicity, so as to remove all suspicion of a pretended adoption of Christianity." Subsequently, this watchfulness had to be relaxed in the case of those "who avoid publicity in adopting Christianity," more especially in the case of the cantonists, "who have declared their willingness to embrace the orthodox faith"—under the effect, we may add, of the tortures in the barracks. Sincerity under these circumstances was out of the question, and, in 1831, the battalion chaplains were authorized to baptize these helpless creatures, even "without applying for permission to the ecclesiastical authorities."

The barrack missionaries were frequently successful among these unfortunate military prisoners. In the imperial rescripts of that period the characteristic expression "privates from among the Jews remaining in the above faith" figures as a standing designation for that group of refractory and incorrigible soldiers who disturbed the officially pre-established harmony of epidemic conversions by remaining loyal to Judaism. But among the "civilian" Jews, who had not been detached from their Jewish environment, apostasy was extraordinarily rare, and law after law was promulgated in vain, offering privileges to converts or leniency to criminals who were ready to embrace the orthodox creed. [1]

[Footnote 1: Under Clause 157 of the Russian Penal Code of 1845, the penalty of the law was softened, not only in degree but also in kind, for those criminals who had embraced the Greek-Orthodox faith during the investigation or trial.]




There was a brief moment of respite when, in the phrase of the Russian poet, "the fighter's hand was tired of killing." The Russian Government suddenly felt the need of passing over from the medieval forms of patronage to more enlightened and perfected methods. Among the leading statesmen of Russia were men, such as the Minister of Public Instruction, Sergius Uvarov, who were well acquainted with Western European ways and fully aware of the fact that the reactionary governments of Austria and Prussia had invented several contrivances for handling the Jewish problem which might be usefully applied in their own country. Though anxious to avoid all contact with the "rotten West," and being in constant fear of European political movements, the Russian Government was nevertheless ready to seize upon the relics of "enlightened absolutism" which were still stalking about, particularly in Austria, in the early decades of the nineteenth century. As far as Prussia was concerned, the abundance of assimilated and converted Jews in that country and their attempts at religious reform, which to a missionary's imagination were identical with a change of front in favor of Christianity, had a fascination of its own for the Russian dignitaries. No wonder then that the Government yielded to the temptation to use some of the contrivances of Western European reaction, while holding in reserve the police knout of genuine Russian manufacture.

In 1840 the Council of State was again busy discussing the Jewish question, this time from a theoretic point of view. The reports of the provincial administrators, in particular that of Bibikov, governor-general of Kiev, dwelled on the fact that even the "Statute" of 1835 had not succeeded in "correcting" the Jews. The root of the evil lay rather in their "religious fanaticism and separatism," which could only be removed by changing their inner life. The Ministers of Public Instruction and of the Interior, Uvarov and Stroganov, took occasion to expound the principles of their new system of correction before the Council of State. The discussions culminated in a remarkable memorandum submitted by the Council to Nicholas I.

In this document the Government confesses its impotence in grappling with the "defects" of the Jewish masses, such as "the absence of useful labor, their harmful pursuit of petty trading, vagrancy, and obstinate aloofness from general civic life." Its failure the Government ascribes to the fact that the evil of Jewish exclusiveness has hitherto not been attacked at its root, the latter being imbedded in the religious and communal organization of the Jews. The fountain-head of all misfortunes is the Talmud, which "fosters in the Jews utmost contempt towards the nations of other faiths," and implants in them the desire "to rule over the rest of the world." As a result of the obnoxious teachings of the Talmud, "the Jews cannot but regard their presence in any other land except Palestine as a sojourn in captivity," and "they are held to obey their own authorities rather than a strange government." This explains "the omnipotence of the Kahals," which, contrary to the law of the state, employ secret means to uphold their autonomous authority both in communal and judicial matters, using for this purpose the uncontrolled sums of the special Jewish revenue, the meat tax. The education of the Jewish youth is entrusted to melammeds, "a class of domestic teachers immersed in profoundest ignorance and superstition," and, "under the influence of these fanatics, the children imbibe pernicious notions of intolerance towards other nations." Finally, the special dress worn by the Jews helps to keep them apart from the surrounding Christian population.

The Russian Government "had adopted a series of protective measures against the Jews," without producing any marked effect. Even the Conscription Statute "had succeeded to a limited extent only in altering the habits of the Jews." Mere promotion of agriculture and of Russian schooling had been found inadequate. The expulsions from the villages had proved equally fruitless; "the Jews, to be sure, have been ruined, but the condition of the rustics has shown no improvement."

It is evident, therefore—the Council declares—that restrictions which go only half way or are externally imposed by the police are not sufficient to direct this huge mass of people towards useful occupations. With the patience of martyrs the Jews of Western Europe had endured the most atrocious persecutions, and had yet succeeded in keeping their national type intact until the governments took the trouble to inquire more deeply into the causes separating the Jews from general civic life, so as to be able to attack the causes themselves.

After blurting out the truth that the Government's ultimate aim was the obliteration of the Jewish individuality, and modestly yielding the palm in inflicting "the most atrocious persecutions" upon the Jews to Western Europe, where after all they were receding into the past, while in Russia they were still the order of the day, the Council of State proceeds to consider "the example set by foreign countries," and lingers with particular affection over the Prussian Regulation of 1797 issued by that country for its recently occupied Polish provinces—the Prussian Emancipation Edict of 1812 the memorandum very shrewdly passes over in silence—and on the system of compulsory schooling adopted by Austria.

Taking its clue from the West, the Council delineates three ways of bringing about "a radical transformation of this people":

1: Cultural reforms, such as the establishment of special secular schools for the Jewish youth, the fight against the old-fashioned heders and melammeds, the transformation of the rabbinate, and the prohibition of Jewish dress.

2. Abolition of Jewish autonomy, consisting in the dissolution of the Kahals and the modification of the system of special Jewish taxation.

3. Increase of Jewish disabilities, by segregating from their midst all those who have no established domicile and are without a definite financial status, with a view of subjecting them to disciplinary correction through expulsions, legal restrictions, intensified conscription, and similar police measures.

In this manner—the memorandum concludes—it may be hoped that by co-ordinating all the particulars of this proposition with the fundamental idea of reforming the Jewish people, and by taking compulsory measures to aid, the goal of the Government will be attained.

As a result of this expose of the Council of State, an imperial rescript was issued on December 27, 1840, calling for the establishment of a "Committee for Defining Measures looking to the Radical Transformation of the Jews of Russia." Count Kiselev, Minister of the Crown Domains, was appointed chairman. The other members included the Ministers of Public Instruction and the Interior, the Assistant-Minister of Finance, the Director of the Second Section of the imperial chancellery, and the Chief of the Political Police, or the dreaded "Third Section." [1] The latter was entrusted with the special task "to keep a watchful eye on the intrigues and actions which may be resorted to by the Jews during the execution of this matter."

[Footnote 1: See p. 21, n. 1.]

Moreover, the _expose_ of the Council of State, which was to serve as the program of the new Committee, was sent out to the governors-general of the Western region [1] "confidentially_, for personal information and consideration." The reformatory campaign against the Jews was thus started without any formal declaration of war, under the guise of secrecy and surrounded by police precautions. The procedure to be followed by the Committee was to consider the project in the order indicated in the memorandum: first "enlightenment," then abolition of autonomy, and finally disabilities.

[Footnote 1: See above, p. 16, n. 1.]


An elaborate expose on the question of enlightenment was composed and laid before the Committee by the Minister of Public Instruction, Sergius Uvarov. Having acquired the bon ton of Western Europe, Uvarov prefaces his statement by the remark that the European governments have abandoned the method of "persecution and compulsion" in solving the Jewish question and that "this period has also arrived for us." "Nations," observes Uvarov, "are not exterminated, least of all the nation which stood at the foot of Calvary." From what follows, it seems evident that the Minister is still in hopes that the gentle measures of enlightenment may attract the Jews towards the religion which derives its origin from Calvary.

The best among the Jews—he states—are conscious of the fact that one of the principal causes of their humiliation lies in the perverted interpretation of their religious traditions, that ... the Talmud demoralized and continues to demoralize their co-religionists. But nowhere is the influence of the Talmud so potent as among us (in Russia) and in the Kingdom of Poland. [1] This influence can be counteracted only by enlightenment, and the Government can do no better than to act in the spirit that animates the handful of the best among them.... The re-education of the learned section among the Jews involves at the same time the purification of their religious conceptions.

[Footnote 1: See on the meaning of the latter term Vol. I, p. 390, n. 1.]

What "purification" the author of the memorandum has in mind may be gathered from his casual remark that the Jews, who maintain their separatism, are rightly afraid of reforms: "for is not the religion of the Cross the purest symbol of universal citizenship?" This, however, Uvarov cautiously adds, should not be made public, for "it would have no other effect except that of arousing from the very beginning the opposition of the majority of the Jews against the (projected) schools."

Officially the reform must confine itself to the opening in all the cities of the Jewish Pale of elementary and secondary schools in which Jewish children should be taught the Russian language, secular sciences, Hebrew, and "religion, according to the Holy Writ." The instruction should be given in Russian, though, owing to the shortage in teachers familiar with this language, the use of German is to be admitted temporarily. The teachers in the low-grade schools shall provisionally be recruited from among melammeds who "can be depended upon"; those in the higher-grade schools shall be chosen from among the modernized Jews of Russia and Germany.

The Committee endorsed Uvarov's scheme in its principal features, and urgently recommended that, in order to prepare the Jewish masses for the impending reform, a special propagandist be sent into the Pale of Settlement for the purpose of acquainting this obstreperous nation with "the benevolent intentions of the Government." Such a propagandist was soon found in the person of a young German Jew, Dr. Max Lilienthal, a resident of Riga.

Lilienthal; who was a native of Bavaria (he was born in Munich in 1815) and a German university graduate, was a typical representative of the German Jewish intellectuals of that period, a champion of assimilation and of moderate religious reform. Lilienthal had scarcely completed his university course, when he was offered by a group of educated Jews in Riga the post of preacher and director of the new local Jewish school, one of the three modern Jewish schools then in existence in Russia.[1] In a short time Lilienthal managed to raise the instruction in secular and Jewish subjects to such a high standard of modernity that he elicited a glowing tribute from Uvarov. The Minister was struck by the idea that the Riga school might serve as a model for the net of schools with which he was about to cover the whole Pale of Settlement, and Lilienthal seemed the logical man for carrying out the planned reforms.

[Footnote 1: The other two schools were located in Odessa and in Kishinev.]

In February, 1841, Lilienthal was summoned to St. Petersburg, where he had a prolonged conversation with Uvarov. According to the testimony of the official Russian sources, he tried to persuade the Minister to abolish all "private schools," the heders, and to forbid all private teachers, the melammeds, to teach even temporarily in the projected new schools, and to import, instead, the whole teaching staff from Germany. Lilienthal himself tells us in his Memoirs that he made bold to remind the Minister that all obstacles in the path of the desired re-education of the Russian Jews would disappear, were the Tzar to grant them complete emancipation. To this the Minister retorted that the initiative must come from the Jews themselves who first must try to "deserve the favor of the Sovereign." At any rate, Lilienthal accepted the proffered task. He was commissioned to tour the Pale of Settlement, to organize there the few isolated progressive Jews, "the lovers of enlightenment," or Maskilim, as they styled themselves, and to propagate the idea of a school-reform among the orthodox Jewish masses.

While setting out on his journey, Lilienthal himself did not fully realize the difficulties of the task he had undertaken. He was to instill confidence in the "benevolent intentions of the Government" into the hearts of a people which by an uninterrupted series of persecutions and cruel restrictions had been reduced to the level of pariahs. He was to make them believe that the Government was a well-wisher of Jewish children, those same children, who at that very time were hunted like wild beasts by the "captors" in the streets of the Pale, who were turned by the thousands into soldiers, deported into outlying provinces, and belabored in such a manner that scarcely half of them remained alive and barely a tenth remained within the Jewish fold. Guided by an infallible instinct, the plain Jewish people formulated their own simplified theory to account for the step taken by the Government: up to the present their children had been baptized through the barracks, in the future they would be baptized through the additional medium of the school.

Lilienthal arrived in Vilna in the beginning of 1842, and, calling a meeting of the Jewish Community, explained the plan conceived by the Government and by Uvarov, "the friend of the Jews." He was listened to with unveiled distrust.

The elders—Lilienthal tells us in his Memoirs [1]—sat there absorbed in deep contemplation. Some of them, leaning on their silver-adorned staffs or smoothing their long beards, seemed as if agitated by earnest thoughts and justifiable suspicions; others were engaging in a lively but quiet discussion on the principles involved; such put to me the ominous question: "Doctor, are you fully acquainted with the leading principles of our government? You are a stranger; do you know what you are undertaking? The course pursued against all denominations but the Greek proves clearly that the Government intends to have but one Church in the whole Empire; that it has in view only its own future strength and greatness and not our own future prosperity. We are sorry to state that we put no confidence in the new measures proposed by the ministerial council, and that we look with gloomy foreboding into the future."

[Footnote 1: I quote from Max Lilienthal, American Rabbi, Life and Writings, by David Philipson, New York, 1915, p, 264.]

In his reply Lilienthal advanced an impressive array of arguments:

What will you gain by your resistance to the new measures? It will only irritate the Government, and will determine it to pursue its system of repression, while at present you are offered an opportunity to prove that the Jews are not enemies of culture and deserve a better lot.

When questioned as to whether the Jewish community had any guarantee that the Government plan was not a veiled attempt to undermine the Jewish religion, Lilienthal, by way of reply, solemnly pledged himself to throw up his mission the moment he would find that the Government associated with it secret intentions against Judaism. [1] The circle of "enlightened" Jews in Vilna pledged its support to Lilienthal, and he left full of faith in the success of his enterprise.

[Footnote 1: Op. Cit. p. 266.]

A cruel disappointment awaited him in Minsk. Here the arguments which the opponents advanced in a passionate debate at a public meeting were of a utilitarian rather than of an idealistic nature.

So long as the Government does not accord equal rights to the Jew, general culture will only he his misfortune. The plain uneducated Jew does not balk at the low occupation of factor [1] or peddler, for, drawing comfort and joy from his religion, he is reconciled to his miserable lot. But the Jew who is educated and enlightened, and yet has no means of occupying an honorable position in the country, will be moved by a feeling of discontent to renounce his religion, and no honest father will think of giving an education to his children which may lead to such an issue. [2]

[Footnote 1: The Polish name for agent. See Vol. I, p. 170, n. 1.]

[Footnote 2: Quoted from Lilienthal's own account in Die Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums, 1842, No. 41, p. 605b.]

The opponents of official enlightenment in Minsk were not content with advancing arguments that appealed to reason. Both at the meeting and in the street, Lilienthal was the target of insulting remarks from the crowd.

On his return to St. Petersburg, Lilienthal presented Uvarov with a report which convinced the Minister that the execution of the school-reform was a difficult but not a hopeless task.

On June 22, 1842, an imperial rescript was issued, placing all Jewish schools, including the heders and yeshibahs, under the supervision of the Ministry of Public Instruction. Simultaneously it was announced that the Government had summoned a Commission of four Rabbis to meet in St. Petersburg for the purpose of "supporting the efforts of the Government" in the realization of the school-reform. This Committee was to serve Russian Jewry as a security that the school-reforms would not be directed against the Jewish religion.

At the same time Lilienthal was ordered to proceed again to the Pale of Settlement. He was directed to tour principally through the South-western and New-Russian governments and exert his influence upon the Jewish masses in accordance with the instructions received from the ministry. Before setting out on his journey, Lilienthal published a Hebrew pamphlet under the title Maggid Yeshu'ah ("Herald of Salvation") which called upon the Jewish communities to comply readily with the wishes of the Government. In his private letters, addressed to prominent Jews, Lilienthal expressed the assurance that the school ukase was merely the forerunner of a series of measures for the betterment of the civic status of the Jews.

This time Lilienthal met with a greater measure of success than on his first journey. In several large centers, such as Berdychev, Odessa, Kishinev, he was accorded, a friendly welcome and assured of the co-operation of the communities in making the new school system a success. Filled with fresh hopes, Lilienthal returned in 1843 to St. Petersburg to participate in the work of the "Rabbinical Commission" which had been convoked by the Government and was now holding its sessions in the capital from May till August.

The make-up of the Rabbinical Commission did not fully justify its appellation. Only two "ecclesiastics" were on it, the president of the Talmudic Academy of Volozhin, [1] Rabbi Itzhok (Isaac) Itzhaki, and the leader of the White Russian Hasidim, Rabbi Mendel Shneorsohn, [2] while the South-western region and New Russia had sent two laymen: the banker Halperin of Berdychev, and the director of the Jewish school in Odessa, Bezalel Stern. The two representatives of the "clergy" put up a warm defence for the traditional Jewish school, the heder, endeavoring to save it from the ministerial "supervision," which aimed at its annihilation. Finally a compromise was effected: the traditional heder was to be left intact for the time being, but the proposed Crown school was to be given full scope in competing with it. The Commission even went so far as to work out a program of Jewish studies for the new type of school.

[Footnote 1: In the government of Vilna. See Vol I, p. 380, et seq.]

[Footnote 2: The grandson of Rabbi Shneor Zalman, the founder of that faction. See Vol. I, p. 372.]

The labors of the Rabbinical Commission were submitted to the Jewish Committee, under the chairmanship of Kiselev, and discussed by it in connection with the general plan of a Russian school-reform. It was necessary to find the resultant between two opposing forces: between the desire of the Government to substitute the Russian Crown school for the old-fashioned Jewish school and the determination of Russian Jewry to preserve its own school as a bulwark against the official institutions foisted upon it. The Government was bent on carrying out its policy, and found itself compelled to resort to diplomatic contrivances.

On November 13, 1844, Nicholas signed two enactments, the one a public ukase relating to "the Education of the Jewish Youth." the other a confidential rescript addressed to the Minister of Public Instruction. The public enactment called for the establishment of Jewish schools of two grades, corresponding to the courses of instruction in the parochial and county schools, and ordered the opening of two rabbinical institutes for the training of rabbis and teachers. The teaching staff in the Jewish Crown schools was to consist both of Jews and Christians. The graduates of these schools were granted a reduction in the term of military service. The execution of the school reforms in the respective localities was placed in the hands of "School Boards," composed of Jews and Christians, which were to be appointed provisionally for that purpose.

In the secret rescript the tone was altogether different. There it was stated that "the aim pursued, in the training of the Jews is that of bringing them nearer to the Christian population and eradicating the prejudices fostered in them by the study of the Talmud"; that with the opening of the new schools the old ones were to be gradually closed or reorganized, and that as soon as the Crown schools have been established in sufficient numbers, attendance at them would become obligatory; that the superintendents of the new schools should only be chosen from among Christians; that every possible effort should be made "to put obstacles in the way of granting teaching licenses" to the melammeds who lacked a secular education; that after the lapse of twenty years no one should hold the position of teacher or rabbi without having obtained his degree from one of the official rabbinical schools.

It was not long, however, before the secret came out. The Russian Jews were terror-stricken at the thought of being robbed of their ancient school autonomy, and decided to adopt the well-tried tactics of passive resistance to all Government measures. The school-reform was making slow progress. The opening of the elementary schools and of the two rabbinical institutes in Vilna and Zhitomir did not begin until 1847, and for the first few years they dragged on a miserable existence. Lilienthal himself disappeared from the scene, without waiting for the consummation of the reform plan. In 1845 he suddenly abandoned his post at the Ministry of Public Instruction, and left Russia for ever. A more intimate acquaintance with the intentions of the leading Government circles had made Lilienthal realize that the apprehensions voiced in his presence by the old men of the Vilna community were well-founded, and he thought it his duty to fulfill the pledge given by him publicly. From the land of serfdom, where, to use Lilienthal's own words, the only way for the Jew to make peace with the Government was "by bowing down before the Greek cross," he went to the land of freedom, the United States of America. There he occupied important pulpits in New York and Cincinnati where he died in 1882.


No sooner had the school reform, which was tantamount to the abrogation of Jewish school autonomy, been publicly announced than the Government took steps to realize the second article of its program, the annihilation of the remnants of Jewish communal autonomy. An ukase published on December 19, 1844, ordered "the placing of the Jews in the cities and countries under the jurisdiction of the general (i.e., Russian) administration, with the abolition of the Kahals." By this ukase all the administrative functions of the Kahals were turned over to the police departments, and those of an economic and fiscal character to the municipalities and town councils; the old elective Kahal administration was to pass out of existence.

Carried to its logical conclusions, this "reform" would necessarily have led, as it actually did lead in Western Europe, to the abolition of the Jewish community, outside the narrow limits of a synagogue parish, had the Jews of Russia been placed at the same time on a footing of equality in regard to taxation. But such European consistency was beyond the mental range of Russian autocracy. It was neither willing to abandon the special, and for the Jews doubly burdensome, method of conscription, nor to forego the extra levies imposed upon the Jews, over and above the general state taxes, for needs which, properly speaking, should have been met by the exchequer. Thus it came about that for the sake of maintaining Jewish disabilities in the matter of conscription and taxation, the Government itself was obliged to mitigate the blow at Jewish autonomy by allowing the institutions of Jewish "conscription trustees" and tax-collectors, elected by the Jewish communes "from among the most dependable men," to remain in force. The Government, moreover, found it necessary to establish a special department for Jewish affairs at each municipality and town council. In this way the law managed to destroy the self-government of the Kahal and yet preserve its rudimentary function as an autonomous fiscal agency which was to be continued under the auspices of the municipality. In point of fact, the Kahal, which, through its "trustees" and "captors," had acted the part of a Government tool in carrying out the dreadful military conscription, had long become thoroughly demoralized and had lost its former prestige as a great Jewish institution. Its transformation into a purely fiscal agency was merely the formal ratification of a sad fact.

Having disposed of the Kahal as a vehicle of Jewish "separatism," the Government next attacked the special Jewish "system of taxation," not to abolish it, of course, but rather to place it under a more rigorous control for the purpose of preventing it from serving in the hands of the Jews as an instrument for the attainment of specific Jewish ends. It is significant that on the same day on which the Kahal ukase was made public was also issued the new "Regulation Concerning the Basket Tax." [1] The revenue from this tax which had for a long time been imposed upon Kosher meat was originally placed at the free disposal of the Kahals, though subject, since 1839, to the combined control of the administration and municipality. According to the new enactment, the proceeds from the meat tax which was to be let to the highest bidder were to be left entirely in the hands of the gubernatorial administration. The latter was instructed to see to it that the income from the tax should first be applied to cover the fiscal arrears of the Jews, then to provide for the maintenance of the Crown schools and the official promotion of agriculture among Jews, and only as a last item to be spent on the local charities.

[Footnote 1: The tax is called in Russian korobochny sbor, or, for short, korobka, a word related to German Korb. It was partly in use already under the Polish regime.]

In addition to the general basket tax, imposed upon all Jews who use Kosher meat, an "auxiliary basket tax" was instituted to be levied on immovable property as well as on business pursuits and bequests. Moreover, following the Austrian model, the Government instituted, or rather reinstituted, the "candle tax," a toll on Sabbath candles. The proceeds from this impost on a religions ceremony were to go specifically towards the organization of the Jewish Crown schools, and were placed entirely at the disposal of the Ministry of Public Instruction.

Thus in exact proportion to the curtailment of communal autonomy, voluntary self-taxation was gradually supplanted by compulsory Government taxation, a circumstance which not only increased the financial burden of the Jewish masses, but also tended to aggravate it from a moral point of view. The "tax," as the meat tax was called for short, became in the course of time one of the scourges of Jewish communal life, that same life which the "measures" of the Government had merely succeeded in disorganizing.

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