Government Policies and the Tradition of Russian Anti-Semitism, 1772-1917

Heinz-Dietrich Löwe


In pre-revolutionary Russia a close relationship existed between governmental Jewish policy and the rise of anti-Semitism. One of the most important reasons for this was the fact that before 1917 Russia alone among the big nations of Europe had not emancipated her Jewish subjects. Whereas in other European states discriminatory legislation had been dismantled for several decades before modern anti-Semitism developed, anti-Semitism in Russia arose under the continued existence of anti-Jewish legislation. Also in contrast to the "West", the Russian government had, albeit intermittently and half-heartedly, tried to actively change Jewish social structures, religious practices and believes, traditional Jewish education a.o. far beyond the middle of the 19th century. Into the 1870s in only slightly modified ways the old goals of enlightened absolutism were pursued: reconstruction, productivization and integration. When this was more or less given up, the government started, under the impact of the first pogrom wave of 1881, a new policy which now did not attempt to change the Jews, but to keep them away from those areas of the Imperial social, economic and political order that were deemed as the most sensitive for the preservation of the remnants of the old corporatist system and of absolute monarchy. The language of enlightened absolutism, however could still be used to justify the governmental anti-Semitism en vogue since the 1880s and the societal anti-Semitism that was to come to life shortly. Its anti-capitalist bias could easily take recourse to similar patterns of thinking in enlightened absolutism, especially so as the general trend of economic de-regulation that had followed enlightened absolutism in the west hardly took root in Imperial Russia. This and also the fact that governmental preceded societal anti-Semitism may - against the background of insuffi-cient economic and social change - explain why it determined the shape of societal anti-Semitism and why the latter did not develop as part or in strict parallel to nascent Russian nationalism. Government policy set the agenda, the patterns and thus forged the traditions of Russian anti-Semitism.



Leaving aside the experience of Kievan Rus' it was only with the massive westward expansion under Catherine II the Russian Imperial administrations had to deal seriously with the Jews. The empire inherited from the old Polish Commonwealth a Jewish community which, vastly different from other Jewries, was also more numerous than those in other countries. From the beginning it became clear that the social and occupational structure of the newly acquired group did not easily fit into the Russian social order based on estates and on an estate dominated form of local administration, which had only just been created by Catherine's reforms of 1775 and 1785. There existed as yet no special anti-Jewish legislation - besides that taken over from the old Polish Commonwealth. The double taxation introduced by Catherine was mainly fiscal in origin and did not rest on a special anti-Jewish bias. It could be justified by the fact that Jews were not subject to military service. Even the introduction of the Pale of Settlement seems to have happened more by default than by conscious legislation, as almost all other social groups were subject to similar restrictions. Jewish policy under Catherine II was more than anything else characterized by benign neglect. Religious prejudices played no role in it.



Through local animosities the mostly unfortunate Polish heritage made its impact on Russian bureaucratic attitudes towards the Jews. Guilds and estates defended tenaciously their old rights to restrict their own numbers and to exclude Jews both from guilds and city self-government. Justified by Christian rhetoric, this camouflaged the main motivation, the desire to retain economic preponderance and influence in the system of town self-government. The fact-finding missions of Senator Derzhavin in the newly acquired western provinces moved the "Jewish question" into the centre of attention in St. Petersburg. Ideas of the Polish reform movement, with its many similarities to Joseph II's and Dohm's ideas, became known among Russian statesmen, though largely in their anti-Jewish variety. Russian and Polish concerns coincided in the desire, now pronounced, to fit the Jews into the Russian estate system. But on the Russian side the main impetus originally lay outside the domain of Jewish policy. In fact, what started Imperial interest in the western provinces was the lamentable situation of the local peasantry. The whole Polish social structure came under scrutiny and the Jews were only one component of this. The social order of the old Commonwealth did not fit into the Russian system and what concerned people like Derzhavin was the high number of free peasants and minor noblemen, as they were seen as a danger to the established Russian order. The structure of Polish "society" therefore was a thorn in the flesh for many Tsarist administrators until Nicholas I finally reordered it in the decades after the first Polish uprising. To that point there had always existed a certain parallelism in the treatment of Jews and Poles, as Jews, pursuing urban occupations but residing in the countryside, similarly did not fit easily into the state-order society of Russia. Anti-Jewish attitudes were re-enforced under Paul I and Alexander I when Polish nobles tried to redirect the Russian desire to reconstruct the Polish social order and to reform the economy of the western provinces towards the Jews, a gamble to shift the blame for real or perceived problems to them. This seemed doubly important to the Polish nobles since they feared that the Russian government in its drive to modernize parts of the economy could deprive them of their most lucrative source of income: the liquor monopoly. During these times the vocabulary of enlightened absolutism, reflected through the Polish prism, entered Russian discourse for good, although over time the real meaning of the proclaimed goals - reconstruction, productivization and integration - changed. The aim of transforming Judaism, to make it a less "fanatical" religion, also had its indigenous Russian model which, however, was never fully applied to the Jews: The treatment of the Tartars of Kazan'.

Fortunately the Polozhenie dlia Evreev of 1804 was less interventionist than might have been expected in the international context. Jews were to be drawn into modern education - with the vague threat that, should they fail to oblige, state schools for Jews would be created at their expense. The autonomous local Jewish community (kehilla) was not dissolved and no Supreme Rabbinate established. On the other hand the law did not regulate Jewish participation in town-government, which meant that they remained excluded in many places. But the law was intended to integrate the Jews into the Russian estate system. This measure aimed to "productivize" them and to make them "useful" citizens. To this end the law of 1804 also offered inducements to convince Jews to take up agriculture or a craft and to bring wealthy Jews to set up textile workshops and manufaktury. The latter accorded with an attitude that was to persist right through Alexander II's time: The Jewish plutocracy was supported, favoured and granted special privileges. As merchants, they could easily be made to fit into the estate system. Such Jews, even as traders (as long as it was large-scale trade), were regarded as "productive". Distrust was preserved for the "unproductive" small scale Jewish trader who traded with everything - thus breaking the rules of the estate- and guild-systems. The law projected one extremely harsh measure: the exclusion of the Jews from the countryside. This was seen as bringing Jews fully under the regulations of the Russian soslovie (estate) system, but also as a means to force them out of the liquor trade. Still another motive might have inspired this plan, even though it proved impossible to realize: Since the middle of the 18th century reformers had argued that landlords should run the liquor monopoly themselves and not through lease-holders (arendatory). This was deemed more efficient and profitable. Others, like Derzhavin, felt that the farming out of the nobility's liquor monopoly undermined the estate order in the countryside by creating a wealthy rural stratum that might usurp the landlords' role and in the long run destroy the whole system; it seemed doubly inadmissible to have Jews exercising influence over peasants or even in positions of authority. Religious motives played no part in the phrasing of the law of 1804, although these became more important during Alexander's more "mystical" and reactionary phase. In terms of the policies of enlightened absolutism there was nothing unusual in this program. The only real difference lay in the fact that in Central Europe, where similar panaceas were propagated, the old order crumbled or was even actively dismantled in a general drive at reform and liberalization. There old guild-systems and estates lost their role under the impact of new social and economic developments; a new dynamic order of society and economy made room for Jewish economic and to some degree political integration. Russia was still far removed from such dynamism and the old order and the old social groups nipped in the bud any attempts to force them to receive the Jews. The small number of Jews that managed to enter the guilds is one obvious index among many.



Nicholas I did not introduce many new elements into this general framework; he only applied it with heartless and mindless forcefulness. The introduction of military service for the Jews was such a new element, since it demanded what was granted in Central Europe once emancipation had (largely) been achieved. Adding insult to injury the law forced Jews to provide twice the normal number of recruits. Conscription had to serve "productivization" by levying recruit quotas on the poorest - supposedly least "productive" - elements several times higher than on other groups of Jews. Similar regulations applied to Poles. 25 years of harsh military service, combined with the cantonist system, which made young Jews of the age of twelve or less the charge of the army, made this measure look like a system for the physical liquidation of parts of the poorest Jewish population. That providing recruits threatened to destroy the Jewish community from within, was probably not an intended, but also not an entirely unwelcome result of the new regulations. To fight Jewish "clannishness" and "separateness" was, after all, a professed aim - to which many bureaucrats and Russian anti-Semites adhered, at least in words, to the end. Military service should also achieve a degree of acculturation, which the system could not bring about by other means. Beyond this, many local commanders used the opportunity to try to convert Jewish recruits, although the policy-makers in St. Petersburg had even made it more difficult for Jews to adopt Russian Orthodoxy or any other Christian denomination. The local Jewish community now was dissolved by law. But it is indicative of Russian administrative weakness that the government did not feel able to dissolve it completely. In some respects the community had to be preserved, because the regime could not collect the special Jewish taxes or supplant the Jewish welfare system. True to the panaceas of enlightened absolutism, the Jews were now allowed to take part in city self-government, even if their numbers could not exceed one third of the elected town councils dumy.

The regime applied itself with new vigour to the education of Jews. Using Jewish money the administration founded special government schools where it set the curriculum. Faintly echoing the policy towards the Tartars, special rabbinical seminaries were created and in future only their graduates should have been appointed rabbis. This foundered on the resistance of the Jewish communities, although it became largely true of the specially created 'crown rabbis'. But the attitudes of local officials to the new schools were deeply contradictory. When resistance from Hasidim and Orthodox became strong, the government or local officials usually backed down, deserting their Jewish supporters, the maskilim, often dubbed "cossacks of enlightenment" because of their rather authoritarian approach in bringing modern schooling to hesitant traditionalists. In fact, the government began to distrust their supporters and the products of their own schools because these seemed all too secular, even though the stated intention had been to make Jews more 'secular' and 'European'. This was the result of the inner contradictions within the policies pursued, namely the intention to develop a degree of secularization among certain elements of its population without subjecting Russian society and the Imperial State to the same process. In spite of the strong resistance to this policy of modern schooling for the Jews, it gave birth to a Jewish intelligentsia. But here another contradiction entered: There was no place for these educated Jews in Russian society. They largely stood outside the corporatist structures; they could find no application for their talents; and an equivalent Russian element into which to integrate or even assimilate was slow in coming. Still, in the long run the newly created Jewish intelligentsia was to become the main element in the "re-nationalisation" of the Jews in Russia - hardly the result desired by Nicholas I's policy makers.

The policies of Nicholas I never reached their planned culmination, although the razbor had already been written into the statute books. If ever implemented this measure would have required all Jews to register with one of the estates or guilds. Many Jews would have been forced into agriculture; during the times of Nicholas I the attempts to settle Jews as peasants were pursued more insistently and successfully than ever before. Those who could not or would not register or move into agriculture were to be severely punished and made subject to five times the normal recruit levy. But resistance form local bureaucrats and non-Jewish interests to such measures was so strong that the razbor was never implemented. One can only speculate that meshchanskie uprava - the estate self-administration of the lower orders of the towns - and the guilds protested massively.

If - following Reinhard Rürup - emancipation in western Europe, especially in France, can be described as the revolutionary path by which Jews were emancipated in one act, leaving society to work out the rest; if the central European way was to grant emancipation step by step according to the degree to which Jews had fulfilled their part of the emancipation contract, then Russian policies displayed an entirely different character. The reforms in central Europe were at least preceded or paralleled by general reforms that opened the way to a modern civic society and a deregulated economy into which the Jews could at least in principle integrate - and economically, at least, this integration was very successful. In Russia, however, there was neither an attempt to create a new civic society, nor an attempt to free the economy from the fetters of the remains of the old economic order. Rather, Tsarism attempted a massive reconstruction by forcing its own form of corporatism - as established under Catherine II - on the Jews and thereby of changing their social persona. This policy Catherine already used to integrate the Ukrainians into the empire and to destroy the remnants of their already weak autonomy. The same policy was applied by Nicholas I to the Poles of the western provinces to make them less "seditious" and dangerous to the empire. In a similar way the remnants of Jewish autonomy and inner cohesion were to be destroyed. This policy of "corporatist reconstruction and integration" aimed at conserving the old social order and enforcing uniformity on the social and political fabric of all elements of the empire. The vocabulary of enlightened absolutism gave those policies at least some semblance of progressive intent. Tsarist Jewish policy transgressed the boundaries of "corporatist reconstruction" in one major area: in its educational policy. Here, however, the strange situation arose that Tsarism conducted an experiment of modernization on the Jews to which it was loath to subject its other elements. It was 'modernization anticipated' within the context of otherwise largely reactionary policies. The results were looked upon with suspicion - as cosmopolitanism and secularism - by the very regime that had engendered them.



Alexander II's general policies were those of adaptation to the requirements of modernity. At the same time his administration attempted to circumscribe the changes as much as possible. With respect to the Jews the emphasis was still to change their social and occupational structure, but without force or over repression and the new policies offered at least the prospect of integrating the Jews into the modern parts of society. In the traditional sectors, as in rural society, they were to be restricted because they might hasten change. With respect to integrating the Jews into the modern branches of society and the body politic a strange contradiction developed. Reconstruction and modernization of Russian Jewry could no longer be the work of the government - it had to come from within the Jewish community. It had to be - largely or almost exclusively - effected by the Jews themselves. The society that had developed by the 1860 or 1870s could no longer be directed or controlled by the government - particularly in view of its limited bureaucratic resources. This meant that new forms of genuinely, and more or less exclusively, Jewish forms of politics were necessary - nothing less than a political reconstruction, or maybe even political reconstitution of Russian Jewry. And indeed, those groups - the last generation of maskilim and the first of the Jewish intelligentsia - most interested in reconstruction and religious reform did argue exactly for such a political reconstruction. They advocated an all-Russian Jewish organization reminiscent of the great and powerful Waad and kehillot of the Polish Commonwealth. A modern role model was seen in the "Alliance Israelites" in France which at the time was called upon to help educate a Russian Jewish leadership that could bring this about. Of course, such a development was bound to have a decisive influence on assimilation - it would become much less likely. It is therefore no accident that exactly around this time Jacob Brafman started to publish - in the second half of the 1860s in Vilenskii Vestnik - his "studies" on the kahal (Russian for kehilla) and that it was he who was the driving force behind government plans to do away with all remnants of an institutionalised Jewish community, including its traditional - and all other - educational undertakings, and to centralize worship in the big synagogues - in the interests of fighting the supposed Jewish "clannishness" and "separatism". Ideas like Brafman's were bound to appear at a time when the state was overhauling its complete institutional framework, but Brafman's suggestions were full of anti-Jewish animus and would have meant reintroducing the classic concepts of 'enlightened absolutism' in their most radical form. But even if those measures had indeed been introduced they would have failed; they would have proven unequal to the possibilities of informal organizations arising in this modernizing society - in spite of the wide police powers which were still available to the state. In other areas, too, the government and the maskilim - the adherents of Jewish reform and enlightenment - could no longer find common ground. The government would have liked to do away with all special Jewish charitable institutions, but found it impossible to do so because of the empire's underdeveloped administrative system. The maskilim, for their part, would have liked to regularize and systematize and - if possible - to centralize the charities - something the government was not willing to allow. One is not wrong in assuming that for the bureaucracy this would have meant too much Jewish independence and separateness. The Jewish intelligentsia, on the other hand, were no longer willing to fight Jewish traditionalism with the government's help.

The basic inability of the government to deal with that contradiction certainly contributed to the growing concern in government circles and the bureaucracy about the supposed danger from a "Jewish government" in Russia and its support from abroad in the form of the Jewish world centre, the Alliance Israelites. This was to come up repeatedly: in the press campaign against "Jewish equality" which was conducted in 1880, especially by Novoe Vremia; in the local commissions discussing the "Jewish question" after the pogroms of 1881; and it was to become the central topic in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. At the same time a new trend made itself felt: the Jewish upper classes were deemed a danger, because they became more and more involved in Jewish organizations and in community work. The still largely positive stereotypes of the Jews as forces of modernization and economic development slowly began to turn negative: Jews as the spearhead of capitalism threatened to subvert the established order. This change was to be completed during the next reign and during the 1890s in particular.

To be noticed is the fact that under Alexander II the point of departure for his Jewish policy did not shift to a nationalism that would have made Russification of the Jews the overriding goal, although during his reign something that could justly be called "nationalism" in the narrower sense of the word developed for the first time in Russia. Only for moments this possibility of a change of paradigm appeared on the horizon. In the end a different view prevailed, which - basing itself on more traditional concepts - created the basis for that form of anti-Semitism that was to develop under his son, when a policy which tried to slow down modernization in some areas and to speed it up in others developed.



Under Alexander III there could no longer be any question of fitting the Jews into Russia's estate system. Corporatism itself seemed threatened and the government desperately tried to prop it up. Jews, as the spearhead of all consuming capitalism and therefore the most important ferment of social change, could only be excluded from those estates that were still more or less intact and had to be kept away from positions of power. By this among other measures - in a strange departure from reality - the government hoped to slow down or even stop change. It was even suggested that elements of the pre-modern economic order (e.g medieval market regulation) should be restored to cut back Jewish influence and to limit the economic success of the Jews. But with the onset of a massive industrialization, which was helped along energetically by one branch of the government, this became increasingly impossible. A conflict arose between the Ministry of Finance, the agent of economic change, and the Ministry of Interior, the pillar of the old order. As neither of the two could fully countermand the other's action, a dual society developed out of the attempt to keep at least some parts of society safe from the new forces. The Ministry of Finance looked after the interests of the modern sectors of society, the Ministry of Interior after those of the traditional, in particular of rural and traditional peasant society, which now through the exclusion of the Jews - beginning with the May Regulations of 1882 and ending with the legislation restricting the rights of joint-stock companies and in particular of joint-stock companies with Jewish participation to buy land in the countryside - was to be protected gainst the jolts of modernization. The high proportion of big landowners among the upper echelons of the Interior Ministry accentuated this policy. The Ministry of the Interior also was interested in the well-being of the aristocracy as a prop for local administration. On the other hand, the Ministry of Finance constantly tried to block anti-Jewish measures and - as far as possible - to give Jews a freer hand within its own area of responsibility, though without ever giving its whole-hearted support to full equality. The Finance Minister did not want to destroy the economy of Russia's Western territories, and regarded discriminatory Jewish legislation as an impediment to rapid economic development. Additionally, the difficulties that had been experienced in raising foreign loans had made him realise the impracticality of a strict anti-Jewish policy. Tsarist Jewish legislation, therefore, reflected the conflict between two types of "raison d'état". Anti-Semitism, in the eyes of its proponents, had developed into a weapon to slow down change and to safeguard traditional sectors from the pernicious and subversive spirit of modern times.



All this, of course, proved fertile ground for the growth of anti-Semitism when the rapid industrialization of the 1890s threatened to change Russian society, economy and body politic beyond recognition. That the aims of enlightened absolutism - its vocabulary was still used - had not been achieved in Russia could easily be held against the Jews. Anti-Semitism in the narrower sense of the word developed when traditional landowners and their ideologues used anti-Jewish stereotypes as a weapon against the state's economic policies and against the Ministry of Finance in particular. Given their ideological outlook, they had no other means at their disposal. They could not follow their liberal colleagues who - after their defence of narrow class interests did not succeed - began demanding the equalization of the legal position of the peasantry only to end up demanding the full constitutionalization of the empire's body politic. In its various manifestations, anti-Semitism in Russia after 1890 was closely bound up with the political and social structures of the Tsarist system. It was based on neither religious nor racial motives, nor was it really an economic phenomenon; rather, it could be ascribed to "economic ideology". Naturally, Russian anti-Semitism often did have recourse to old religious prejudices; and economic competition added fuel to the fire from time to time. However, this does not mean that the roots of anti-Semitism are to be found in economic competition, since it was for the most part those organizations representing trade and industry - for example stock exchange committees and the central association of Russian industry (sovet s-ezdov) - which rejected discriminatory legislation or the introduction of new restrictions for the Jews. To the extent that anti-Semitism in Russia found political expression, it was intimately bound up with the problem of the backwardness of state and society and with the vestiges of a system based on semi-feudal or agrarian/ aristocratic structures. Anti-Semitism was the ideological expression of an aristocratic land-owning class whose economic existence was threatened, and of a bureaucracy obsessed with preserving traditional rural patterns of life in order to slow down social change and to make sure that Russia's destiny would be different from that of the West. The age old axiom that Jews should not lord over Christian peasants found an easy transformation: a shift of the "centre of gravity" from "land to capital" was feared. It was a cause for regret that "the stock exchange as an instrument of natural social selection" was bringing "quite different results from the aristocratic sword", in that it was "flinging the doors wide open to Jewish power". As the anti-Semites sometimes claimed - the Jews were, as a result of the Russian bourgeoisie's weaker position, taking a roundabout path to power by buying up the land owned by the aristocracy. Both the pomeshchiki and the major part of the bureaucracy adhered to the dogma "land is power". The Tsarist system and also the right wing of Russia's legislative chamber, the Duma (created in 1905), clung stubbornly to this dictum right up to 1917. In order for aristocratic land-ownership to survive, it needed a counterpart in the shape of a peasant class which was locked into its traditional legal, social and economic order and thus could not emerge as a serious competitor. It was feared that the penetration of modern economic forms into rural areas might lead not only to the displacement of the landed gentry but also to a radical change in the peasants' social structure (i.e. the displacement of large numbers of peasants from the land, and the development of gross inequality of wealth). Such a development might cause terminal damage to the stability of the system. The anti-Semitism of the conservative landowners and the radical right-wing parties was virulently anti-capitalist. The kulak in the traditional meaning of the term - i.e. someone with liquid capital - was the symbolic bogeyman, and the Jew as merchant and financial backer was seen as the kulak par excellence. That trade was considered to be an unproductive activity also attests to agrarian attitudes and prejudices. Old ideas of reconstruction and productivization could be embedded in those beliefs. In general, therefore, it may be said that representatives of the bureaucracy, to whom trade was 'exploitative' because it did not 'produce', were opposed to concessions for the Jews. The modern economic form of production exemplified by the factory was also resoundingly rejected. Identification of Jews with modern capitalism was facilitated in Russia by the fact that the Jews perforce played a prominent role in trade and, to a lesser extent, in industry. Jews were seen as representatives of a new society, one dominated by the principle of complete freedom of competition which would inevitably break down the old economic structures. The policy of rapid industrialization naturally fostered this type of anti-Semitism. As a consequence, a large part of the anti-Semitic propaganda was directed at the Ministry of Finance and in particular its most active, able and famous Minister, Sergei Witte. For the radical Right, Witte was not only the embodiment of all that was negative, but also the principal promoter and agent of an industrial development which would allow the Jews to take power in Russia. The policy of industrialization which called for sacrifices and demanded changes in the traditional rural social and economic structures, also accelerated the decline of landed property's power, since the latter, in its traditional form, proved no longer viable under modern conditions.

Currency reform, the introduction of the gold standard by Sergei Witte attracted most vicious attacks garnered with the kind of anti-Semitism just described. The gold standard compelled an economic discipline not readily attainable, especially by the landed gentry. For the radical right-wing groups, the gold standard was a sort of 'Trojan Horse': enabling foreign influences to penetrate Russia, in the end it would prepare the ground for the "seizure of power" by the Jews. The conservative landowners tried to safeguard their own position and interests by presenting them within the wider conflict between agriculture and industry when formulating their opposition to the policy of enforced industrialization. They did this by posing as the main defenders of agrarian interests against a process which supposedly benefitted only the Jews - against industrialization. At the same time the conservatives, who were attached to the traditions of Slavophilism, criticized that Western ways of life were gradually superseding the old, "genuinely Russian" structures as a result of industrialization. All these developments were seen not as social and economic processes which were difficult to influence, but rather as a powerful and nearly irresistible conspiracy of international Jewry and its henchman, Witte, to revolutionize Russia. Such personalisation of anonymous social and economic processes made possible a pathetic concoction like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which was fabricated by an agent of the Tsarist secret police and whose contents reflected this conservative weltanschauung.

It was the political situation abroad and the desire to maintain Russia's position in the concert of powers that had forced rapid industrialization on the Tsarist system. The result was a virtually irresolvable conflict between the dictates of international power politics and the wish to retain as much as possible of the old social and political structure. Tsarism had to modernize to remain in a position to compete internationally, it had to defend and to further its prestige in this field, too, in order to strengthen or at least to preserve its basis of legitimacy. Therefore it was not possible for the government to adhere consistently to anti-industrial and anti-Semitic policies. This explains the internal inconsistency of Tsarist Jewish policy.



So far we have dealt almost exclusively with Tsarist Jewish policy, with "governmental" and "political anti-Semitism". But a few words are in order about what might be called popular anti-Semitism. This had expressed itself - following a pattern set centuries ago - in numerous attempts to exclude Jews from the guilds and to use the old estate order to restrict the social, economic and political activities of Jews. But the most vicious form of popular anti-Semitism were the pogroms. They give rise to a few additional, still preliminary deliberations. Pogroms - contrary to many text books - were not endemic to Russia. Rather they happened in clusters. Two major waves are to be noted: the pogroms of 1881/82 and their aftermath and the pogroms of October 1905 with their antecedents and followers-on in 1906. Both pogrom-waves have to be put into the context of a severe political crisis. In 1881 the Tsar had been murdered by terrorists who aimed to overthrow autocracy. This act led to serious infighting in the bureaucracy over the course to be chartered. Similarly, in 1905, we find a situation when the struggle between the system and its opponents reached its climax. The final outcome of these conflicts still hung in balance when the pogroms broke out. On both occasions a debate had raged whether or not the Jews should be granted equal rights. In 1904 and 1905 at least, certain circles of the government and local administrations had attempted to present this and Jewish oppositional activity as an attempt by the Jews to gain supremacy in the empire, they interpreted this - with an eye to the simple people - as a struggle posing the question of who was to hold power, the Jews or the Tsar and those who owed their position to him. Pogroms might therefore be understood as an attempt by the masses, who had only a dim understanding of the underlying political issues, to give vent to their innate natural conservatism that could accept Jews in an inferior civil status, but not in an equal one, or - as they may have interpreted it - in a position superior to the simple folk. Similarly, in their inability to articulate their concerns or to form a coherent political weltanschauung, they might have wished to express a desire to defend the Tsar and what he - in the simple world of the simple folk - represented. The fact that pogroms were concentrated in areas where Jewish "reconstruction", acculturation and the reform or even the demise of the Jewish communities had progressed furthest might support such a hypothesis. At the same time, these were frequently the regions where the memory of Jewish dependence on the nobility, their being a tool - for lack of alternatives - of enserfment by the lords, must still have been strong. It might be that the muzhik and the meshchan'e could only perceive of economic power being wielded in the old way - through forms similar to serfdom. This was certainly a theme which cropped up again and again and which was reinforced by local anti-Semitic officials. That economic power could be informal, influenced by the anonymous forces of the market, and not be directly translated into political power which enserfed, was beyond the experience of the masses. During other, quieter times, it has to be stated, the support for anti-Semitic parties, in the countryside or in the cities, was not impressive - at least if one takes the election returns to the newly created Duma as an indicator. Such an interpretation would also allow for the fact that anti-Jewish pogroms could turn into revolutionary manifestations - as happened not only in Russia, but also, for instance, at the onset of the 1848 revolution in Germany.



The introduction of a semi-constitutional system in Russian during the revolution of 1905 did not change the anti-capitalist, anti-progressive, anti-Semitic ideology. Anti-Semitism, with the introduction of an elective element into the Tsarist system became, however, much more widely used as a political weapon. Political parties appeared that tried to develop a mass appeal with the help of anti-Semitism.

The old order, on the other hand, tried a policy of conservative reform after the attempt to make the peasants the principal support of the Tsarist system had failed in 1906 first two Dumas. For this the system needed time. In the short run this made Stolypin's policies in a first phase of a quasi-constitutional system in Russia appear as an attempt to keep the landed gentry in its privileged position for the time being, with an arrangement which would include the bourgeoisie as a sort of junior partner of aristocracy and state. This was probably meant to last at least until Stolypin's agricultural reforms were able to show some positive results. A strong, new peasant class - the kulaks - was to grow up gradually to support the system. However, Stolypin's policies were soon brought up by the limits his own creation, the "3rd June system", imposed. Far from seeing the new peasant class as a support for the system, many members of the landed nobility began to be concerned about competition from that quarter. As a consequence many of Stolypin's or the Duma's reform proposals - for example, the strengthening and extension of rural self-government - intended to complement his agricultural reforms bogged down in the Imperial Council, where the landed gentry had strong support. The latter feared, as a consequence of this legislation, the dissolution of traditional rural society. In the medium term, therefore, Stolypin failed as a result of the conflicts within the semi-autocratic, semi-constitutional system that was set up following the coup d'état of 3rd June 1907. Scholars dispute the long-term prospects for his agricultural reforms. Had the processes of automatic rural transformation set in motion really succeeded over a longer period of time, which was not, of course, available, then it would have been possible to tackle the Jewish question within the context of the Great Russian nationalism supported by Stolypin, rather than within that of a "reactionary Utopia" described here at length. While the latter held out no hope of improvement to the Jews, under the former system, a step-by-step revision of the discriminatory legislation could perhaps have been undertaken had the economic position of the Russian population, and especially the peasants, been judged sufficiently strong. However, only under the conditions imposed by the First World War did this way of looking at the "Jewish question" come more strongly to the fore among certain elements of the Right (e.g. the Nationalists), though even then it was never able to overtake the "reactionary Utopia".

In practical terms the era of Stolypin meant an increased concern for agriculture and probably also a limiting of the consequences of industrialization, or rather an end to its "artificial" acceleration. But it was also necessary to take into account the interests of the industrial and trading bourgeoisie. This consideration ruled out any tightening of discriminatory legislation, at least where this concerned Jewish economic activity. On the other hand, plans for concessions failed as a result of opposition from the radical Right - e.g. the objections of the "United Nobility" - and the Tsar's refusal to agree to them. The end result of the compromise adopted during the time of Stolypin and Kokovtsev was further, though cautious, promotion of industry and, at the same time, the continued attempt to keep rural Russia largely free of the disturbances industrialization could bring. The decision to continue concentrating the Jews in the towns must be seen in this context. This trend emerged more strongly at the beginning of 1914, after Kokovtsev's dismissal, when some re-orientation of economic policy was under way. Jewish joint-stock companies were entirely prohibited from owning land in rural areas outside the big cities and towns, and this right was drastically curtailed for joint-stock companies in general. It seems fair, therefore, to view the policies of Tsarism as an attempt to retain a "mixed economy", i.e. one with industrial characteristics in the towns and a few other centres and with older, agrarian, non-capitalist modes of production in the rest of the country. A more pessimistic approach saw here a means at least to slow down the penetration of modern capitalistic economic forms. Anti-Semitic propaganda was meant to shore up this attempt. Thus, anti-Semitism was an expression of the idea of a "reactionary Utopia" even in semi-constitutional Russia.

The radical right-wing groups, forming into political parties after 1906, retained the anti-capitalist, anti-Semitic elements of their ideology. The Finance Minister continued to be the target of their attacks. There was even a demand that the small and kustar' end of the industrial spectrum should be promoted at the expense of the "Jewish" syndicates and of capitalist business; an equivalent of the peasant commune (obshchina) was to be created for the nobility to protect the nobility's land-holding by preventing non-nobles from buying up this land. Kokovtsev's government was severely criticized on the grounds that it had apparently recognised the supremacy of the capitalists and practically abandoned the aristocracy. The radical right-wing organizations also vigorously opposed re-shaping the rural society and economy, granting the peasantry civil equality with the rest of the population and abolishing the traditional, purely peasant self-governing bodies. Stolypin's agricultural reform, especially the abolition the obshchina, was castigated as a Jewish/ Masonic plot. The kulak was seen as the rural representative of the despised constitutional government. The desire to keep capitalist economic patterns and social structures away from rural society was expressed in their demand that not only Jewish joint-stock companies, but all joint-stock companies should be prohibited from acquiring land in the countryside. The government's announcement of new regulations relating to company law at the beginning of 1914 probably reacted in part to such right-wing pressures. The radical Right tried to portray itself as the ordinary people's true representative and their champion against capitalist exploitation. They intended to prevent such exploitation by retaining the old patriarchal/ agrarian economic pattern, supported by small, craft-based industry. The political guarantee of such a pre-modern economic order, purportedly free of exploitation, was unlimited monarchy. The anti-Semites considered the Jews to be the actual vanguard of a capitalist structure which, it was feared, would of necessity democratise and parliamentarize the system. Using the argument that the conflict of the capitalist economy - or its representatives - with agriculture and the small, craft-based producers, was overtaking the "old" class frontiers of workers and employers, they tried to mobilize those elements that industrialization had damaged, but they soon had to abandon their attempts to enlist workers for their cause. The goal of the radical Right was counter-revolution, the withdrawal of the concessions of 17th October, 1905. The Beilis Trial should probably be seen in this context. It was intended to show that the existence of the Duma was irrelevant and, probably, to prepare the ground for a right-wing putsch. That plans for a coup d'état emerged within the bureaucracy at precisely that time was surely no coincidence. The outcome of the trial, however, put an end to the ambitious plans of the radical Right, even if they did enjoy temporary success in the area of economic policy.

A somewhat less reactionary position was taken by the Nationalist Party. It, too, clung to the idea that the village must not be allowed to change and that the Jews must be kept out of the countryside. The Nationalists supported the retention of the mixed economy, even if they were to some extent pessimistic about its longer-term development. They accepted the new order of the 3rd of June on the one hand and new economic forms on the other only hesitantly and cautiously, since they thought it would offer the Jews far greater chances than the old one. When they did finally accept modern industrial economic forms, they called for measures which would exclude the Jews from this sphere of activity. "Nationalization of the economy" or "nationalization of credit" came to be one of their principal demands. However, they, continued to be suspicious of big industry and the banks. Their demands with regard to economic policy remained highly nebulous, couched in such hazy terms as the encouragement of "popular economy" and "popular credit" (as opposed to "Jewish" big industry and "Jewish" banks).



With the onset of the First World War, the tendency for the Jews to be made scapegoats for every problem overstepped all limits. Initially, it was the Army that looked for somewhere to apportion blame for its defeats. Accusing the Jews of spying for the German army, the Army High Command expelled the entire Jewish population from a number of provinces. Later, the Ministry of the Interior accused the Jews wholesale of - amongst other things - deliberately engineering the general rise in prices and of hoarding small change in order to exploit the anticipated political consequences for their own ends. However, the very fact that the country was at war meant that a consistently anti-Jewish policy could not be pursued: the expulsions carried out by the Army High Command could not be prevented by the civilian leadership and inadvertently led to the decision to extend the Pale of Settlement, i.e. to allow the Jews to live in all cities of European Russia. Allied intervention - on the grounds that a certain harmonization of political ideology was necessary in the interests of wartime unity - and the need to borrow money also forced Russia to liberalize its Jewish legislation, though these factors did not, in the end, play a decisive role in expanding the cherta.

The intensification of anti-Jewish/ anti-industrial policy from the beginning of 1914, could not be maintained. Corporate legislation had once again to be partially liberalized, and the anti-Jewish regulations written into company law were frequently circumvented by special authorization, in the interests of mobilizing all economic forces for wartime production. With this in mind, the Liberals had always called for Jewish legislation to be repealed and for further fundamental political reforms to be undertaken. To some extent even the right wing of the Progressive Bloc followed them along this road. However, the Jewish question remained the thorniest problem for the Bloc: it was exploited on a number of occasions in order to divide the Duma majority or weaken the position of the Liberals.
The World War saw a change in one important element of Tsarist Jewish policy. The government now - again - sought to make peace with those Jews who were wealthy and integrated into society, whereas - as capitalists - these people had since Alexander III repeatedly been the target of repressive measures. This attempted rapprochement took place in a way that left the long-term intentions of the bureaucracy in doubt. Perhaps, to use their own vocabulary, they sought a ceasefire rather than a lasting peace. The war caused the political parties and social organizations to discuss the Jewish question more within the context of the nationality problem, which improved the prospects of gradual liberalization. However, it must be emphasized that Tsarism continued to cling grimly to the maxim that the Jews must be kept away from the land. The Jews may have been important for the mobilization of the wartime economy, but the countryside still had to be protected from such agents of economic change. The ban on Jewish land-ownership remained a cornerstone of the platforms of the radical right and also of government policy, even if the government did feel compelled to make exceptions for Jewish joint-stock companies and to expand the amount of land non-Jewish joint-stock companies could buy. Only the February Revolution brought to the fore a different set of social and political values in Russia, and only then was the repeal of discriminatory Jewish legislation possible. Elites whose origins were in a social structure opposed to the "reactionary Utopia" now assumed power.

A major similarity between Germany and Russia lay in the fact that in both countries the conservative classes and the old elites were over-represented in the system in numbers and function. Anti-Semitism had become a means of safeguarding the supremacy of a conservative elite in a system of representation which was based on the ballot. In both countries it was a reaction to the disconcerting speed with which the structure of society was changing. Nevertheless, anti-Semitism in Russia was significantly different from the German phenomenon. Whereas in Germany anti-Semitism belonged to the "Great Depression" which came after industrialization and the crisis of Liberalism, in Russia it was a direct reaction to industrialization developing its impact, and not to a long wave of recession. Liberalism in Russia had never been triumphant, and certainly not to the extent that it had been in Germany. Anti-Semitism was not, therefore, a companion to the crisis of Liberalism: it anticipated the possible consequences of its victory. Also, Russian anti-Semitism was ideologically not primarily based on a nationalist "weltanschauung", its roots stemmed from a deeper historical layer. Such differences arose from Russia's stage of historical development. In Germany scarcely any remnants survived of the structural heterogeneity which could serve as a basis for a "reactionary Utopia". In contrast to the Russian estate owners, the German Junkers to the east of the Elbe largely ran highly modern operations and these underwent a crisis of structural adaptation only as a result of foreign competition. Moreover, the onset of industrialization was considerably less delayed in Germany. The industrial classes in the German Empire were not held to be dangerous to the system, and in the renowned union of steel and grain they, in fact, became an important element of conservative stabilization. Industrializa-tion in Germany served as a means to strengthen the system. It did not have the same negative effect on the landed gentry as in Russia. The possibility of acquiring wealth which industrial development offered the bourgeoisie, served rather to bind the latter to the system and thereby to divert it from political ambitions which it otherwise might have pursued.

Unlike Germany, Russia lacked a powerful middle class which - under the pressures imposed by industrialization, recession and processes of concentration - would become a strong repository for anti-Semitism. In Germany, anti-Semitism was caused by direct economic competition to a much greater extent than in Russia. In the Tsarist Empire, it was, in fact, frequently those in competition with the Jews who criticized anti-Jewish measures and tried to block them. In Germany, anti-Semitism was a means of singling out particular elements of the system for criticism without calling the whole into question. Russian anti-Semites, on the other hand, generally meant it when they declared that their aim was to prevent the development of capitalism. In contrast to the situation in Germany, anti-Semitism was largely the "ideology" of a conservative landed gentry fighting to retain the power which it saw endangered by the radical changes being wrought by capitalism. It was the ideology of a pre-modern way of life, in the prevailing circumstances a reactionary Utopia.

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Letzte Änderung: 09.03.2009
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