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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Persecution of the Jews: Pale of Settlement 01:

Foundation since the first Polish partition in 1772

Masses of Jews in Russia since the partition of Poland in 1772-1815 - creation of the Pale of Settlement -  definite borderlines 1830s-1917 - expulsion of the Jews from the villages

from: History; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 8

presented by Michael Palomino (2007)

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[1772: Partition of Poland-Lithuania: At one blow there are millions of new Jews in Russia]

Russia, which obtained the lion's share of the Jewish population, had had no Jews under its rule since the 15th century, when the "Judaizing" movement caused such a scare that Jews had been totally excluded from the country. In campaigns before 1772 the Russian armies would drown Jews or kill them in other ways in cities they had taken. This could not be done with the vast masses of Jews she now acquired.

Of the other powers, both Prussia and Austria were already dedicated to the mercantilist-absolutist system of discriminating between individual Jews and controlling their population. Both were now confronted by large numbers of Jews, the majority of whom were poor, and uncontrollable in their demographic growth.

[The difficulties to manage the new situation with the Jews in former Poland-Lithuania]

Empress *Catherine II was prepared to see the Jews as an integral part of the town population in the newly acquired districts, and she defined their legal status as such, granting them even the right to vote for municipalities. This almost immediately created difficulties: the Russian autocratic government did not permit townsmen to settle in villages; yet, many Jews were living in them. To this was added the aim of the now politically dispossessed Polish nobility to take over the place the Jews had filled in the economy of the villages.

The Russian government, on its side, was troubled by the situation, in which it found itself socially allied to the Polish Catholic nobility, while fro a religious and national point of view it felt obliged to promote the interests of the Belorussian and west Ukrainian Greek-Orthodox peasantry. Jewish merchants began to enter eastern, originally Russian, districts, and to compete with local merchants. the government therefore began to consider ways and means of dealing with this new Jewish aggregate and the problems it raised.

[The creation of the Pale of Settlement for the Russian Jews - fixed borderlines 1830s-1917]

Czar *Alexander I met, in the committee he created for clarifying this problem, with two opposed opinions similar to those currently debating this question in the West. Some members of the commission considered that Jews had first to be granted rights so as to improve them and "make them harmless". Others considered that the Jews had first to be rendered harmless and to be "improved" before they could be granted new rights.

The statute for the Jews promulgate in Russia in 1804 was largely based on the second view. One of the main measures to prevent their causing harm to the peasants, by inducing them to buy alcoholic drinks and damaging them in other ways, was the demand that Jews should leave all the villages within four years. Another result of this trend was the unique invention of drawing a second borderline within the border of the state: Jews were not permitted to settle or live in the territory east of this line. The permitted area included regions taken over from Poland with an addition of several more in the southeast of the state. Thus the *Pale of Settlement of the Jews was created in Russia (in a process of line drawing and area redistributions that went on well into the 1830s), to remain in existence until the Revolution of 1917.

[Expulsion of the Jews from the villages within the Pale of Settlement - alcohol business 1840s-1860s]

The Pale of Settlement, from its creation, was doubly constricting. Jews could not go beyond its borders, while within them they were driven from the villages to the townships and cities. As the Jews were an integral part of the village economy, and village occupations constituted the livelihood of a considerable number of Jews, their expulsion from the villages was not easy to implement; many decrees and counter-decrees were issued through the greater part of the 19th century, and still it was not accomplished in full. Jews also left the villages because of other reasons.

The Polish uprisings of 1830 and 1863 caused much impoverishment among the Polish nobility; many of its most enterprising members emigrated from the country, (col. 716)

and the Jewish village economy was thus much impaired. In the 1840s Jews tried to carry on their former business in alcoholic beverages through leasing the vodka monopoly from the government. From the 1860s, however, they even left this branch.> (col. 719)

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Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): History,
                            vol. 8, col. 715-716
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): History, vol. 8, col. 715-716
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): History,
                            vol. 8, col. 719-720
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): History, vol. 8, col. 719-720

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