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Simon Dubnow
History of the Jews in Russia and Poland, Volume 3 [of 3] From the Accession of Nicholas II until the Present Day

NOTE

The present volume, which concludes Dubnow's "History of the Jews in Russia-Poland," contains, in addition to the text, an extensive bibliography and an index to the entire work. In the bibliography an enormous amount of material has been collected, and it is arranged in such a way as to enable the reader to ascertain the sources upon which the author drew. It is thus in the nature of notes, and is therefore arranged according to the chapters of the book. The index, which has been prepared with the utmost care by the translator, is really a synopsis of Jewish history in Russia and Poland, and its usefulness cannot be over-rated.

Professor Friedlaender, the translator of this work, who left the United States at the beginning of this year, did not see the proof of the bibliography and index.

The tragic news has just reached this country that Professor Friedlaender was murdered under the most revolting circumstances. An eminent scholar and writer has thus been removed from American Jewry, and the entire house of Israel together with the Jewish Publication Society of America, on whose committee Professor Friedlaender served with conspicuous merit for a number of years, mourns this irreparable loss.

July, 1920.

CHAPTER XXXI
THE ACCESSION OF NICHOLAS II

1. Continued Policy of Oppression

In the course of the nineteenth century every change of throne in Russia was accompanied by a change of policy. Each new reign formed, at least in its beginning, a contrast to the one which had preceded it. The reigns of Alexander I. and Alexander II. marked a departure in the direction of liberalism; those of Nicholas I. and Alexander III. were a return to the ideas of reaction. In accordance with this historic schedule, Alexander III. should have been followed by a sovereign of liberal tendencies. But in this case the optimistic expectations with which the new ruler was welcomed both by his Russian and his Jewish subjects were doomed to disappointment. The reign of Nicholas II. proved the most gloomy and most reactionary of all. A man of limited intelligence, he attempted to play the rôle of an unlimited autocrat, fighting in blind rage against the cause of liberty.

This reactionary tendency came to light in the very beginning of the new reign. During the first few months after the accession of Nicholas II. to the throne – between November, 1894, and January, 1895 – the liberal Zemstvo assemblies of nine governments,1 in presenting addresses of loyalty to the new Tzar, were bold enough to voice the hope that he would eventually invite the representatives of these autonomous institutions to participate in the legislative acts of the Government. This first timid request for constitutional rights met with a harsh and clumsy rebuff. In his reply to the deputation representing the nobility, the Zemstvos, and the municipalities, which appeared in the Winter Palace on January 17, 1895, to convey to him the greetings of the Russian people, the Tzar made the following pronouncement:

In several Zemstvo assemblies there have been heard lately the voices of men carried away by preposterous delusions concerning the participation of the representatives of the Zemstvos in the affairs of the inner administration. Let everybody know that I shall guard the principle of autocracy as firmly and uncompromisingly as it was guarded by my never-to-be-forgotten deceased parent.

This veiled threat was enough to intimidate the faint-hearted constitutionalists. It was universally felt that the autocratic régime was still firmly entrenched and that the old constitution of "enforced safety"2– this charter of privileges bestowed upon the police to the disadvantage of the people – was still unshaken. The hope of seeing Russia transformed from a state based upon brute force into a body politic resting upon law and order was dashed to the ground.

The Jews, too, were quick to realize that the war which had been waged against them by Alexander III. for fourteen long years was far from being at an end. True, the addresses of welcome presented in 1895 by the Jewish communities of Russia to the young Tzar on the occasion of his marriage elicited an official expression of thanks, which was not marred by any rebuke for harboring "preposterous delusions." But this was purely for the reason that these addresses were not tainted by any allusions to the hopes for emancipation entertained by the Jews. There was nothing, indeed, which might have warranted such hopes. The same dignitaries who, under Alexander III., had stood forth as the champions of savage anti-Semitic policies, remained at the helm of Russian affairs: Pobyedonostzev, the head of the Holy Synod, Durnovo, the Minister of the Interior – towards the end of 1895 he made room for Goremykin, who was not a whit less reactionary – and Witte, the double-faced Minister of Finance, who was anxious at that time to fall in line with the reactionary influences then in vogue. The thoughts which occupied Pobyedonostzev's mind at the beginning of the new reign may be gauged from the report submitted by him to the Tzar in 1895, concerning the state of affairs in the Greek-Orthodox Church. The "Grand Inquisitor" was deeply worried by the alleged fact that the Jews were exercising a dangerous influence over the religious life of their Christian domestics:

The minors, after living among Jews for several years, prove entirely forgetful of the Greek-Orthodox faith. But even the beliefs of the adults are being undermined. The priests who listen to the confessions of the domestics employed in Jewish homes are stricken with horror on learning of the abominable blasphemies uttered by the Jews against Christianity, the Savior, and the Holy Virgin, which, through the domestics, are likely to gain currency among the people.

These charges, which might have been bodily quoted from the sinister writings of the mediæval guardians of the Church, were intended as a means of preparing the young sovereign for a proper understanding of the Jewish problem. They were brought forward by the procurator-in-chief of the Holy Synod, the same ecclesiastical functionary who inflicted severe persecutions on the Russian dissidents and soon afterwards forced the Dukhobortzy, an Evangelistic sect, to leave their native land and to seek refuge in Canada. Having failed to realize his great ambition – to clear Russia of its Jewish population, with the help of Baron Hirsch's millions3– Pobyedonostzev resumed his professional duties, which were those of a procurator4 of Jewry on behalf of the Holy Synod, the sanctum officium of the militant Greek-Orthodox Church.

Not content with brandishing his rusty ecclesiastical sword, Pobyedonostzev resorted to secular weapons in his fight against the hated tribe. When, in 1898, the Council of the Jewish Colonization Association in Paris sent a delegation to St. Petersburg to apply to the Government for permission to settle Russian Jews as agricultural farmers in Russia itself, Pobyedonostzev replied: "Nos cadres ne sont pas prêts pour vous recevoir,"5 and he went out of his way to explain to the delegates that the Jews were a very clever people, intellectually and culturally superior to the Russians, and, therefore, dangerous to them: "The Jews are displacing us, and this does not suit us." When questioned as to the future of Russian Jewry under the system of uninterrupted persecutions, Pobyedonostzev on one occasion made the following candid statement: "One-third will die out, one-third will leave the country, and one-third will be completely dissolved in the surrounding population."

Such being the attitude towards the Jewish problem of the ruling spheres of Russia, any improvement in the situation of Russian Jewry was manifestly out of the question. Even where such an improvement might have been found to tally with the anti-Semitic policies of the Government, it was ruled out as soon as it bade fair to benefit the Jews. Thus, when in 1895, the governor of Vilna, in his "most humble report" to the Tzar, advocated the desirability of abrogating the Pale of Settlement for the purpose "of weakening the detrimental influence of Jewry," since the latter constituted a majority of the population in the cities of the Western region,6 Nicholas II. penned the following resolution:7 "I am far from sharing this view of the governor." The leaders of Russian Jewry knew full well that the wind which was blowing from the heights of the Russian throne was unfavorable to them, and their initial hopefulness gave way speedily to a feeling of depression. A memorandum drafted at that time by prominent Jews of St. Petersburg, with the intention of submitting it to one of the highest functionaries at the Russian court, mirrors this pessimistic frame of mind:

The Russian Jews are deprived of that powerful lever for intellectual and moral advancement which is designated as the hope for a better future. They are fully aware of the fact that the highest authority in the land, influenced by the distorted information concerning the Jews, which is systematically presented to it by officials acting from avaricious or other selfish motives, is exceedingly unfavorable to the Jews. They must resign themselves to the fact that there is actually no possibility of directing the attention of the Tzar and Sovereign to the true state of affairs, and that even those dignitaries who themselves act justly and tolerantly towards the Jews are afraid of putting in a good word for them for fear of being charged with favoritism towards them.

2. The Martyrdom of the Moscow Community

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