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Beyond the Pale

Beyond the Pale: The Jewish Encounter with Late Imperial Russia

Benjamin Nathans
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: 1
Pages: 426
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  • Book Info
    Beyond the Pale
    Book Description:

    A surprising number of Jews lived, literally and figuratively, "beyond the Pale" of Jewish Settlement in tsarist Russia during the half-century before the Revolution of 1917. Thanks to the availability of long-closed Russian archives, along with a wide range of other sources, Benjamin Nathans reinterprets the history of the Russian-Jewish encounter. In the wake of Russia's "Great Reforms," Nathans writes, a policy of selective integration stimulated social and geographic mobility among the empire's Jews. The reaction that culminated, toward the turn of the century, in ethnic restrictions on admission to universities, the professions, and other institutions of civil society reflected broad anxieties that Russians were being placed at a disadvantage in their own empire. Nathans's conclusions about the effects of selective integration and the Russian-Jewish encounter during this formative period will be of great interest to all students of modern Jewish and modern Russian history.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93129-9
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. Introduction. The Russian–Jewish Encounter
    (pp. 1-20)

    “When I was a little girl, the world was divided into two parts; namely, Polotzk, the place where I lived, and a strange land called Russia. All the little girls I knew lived in Polotzk, with their fathers and mothers and friends. Russia was the place where one’s father went on business. It was so far off, and so many bad things happened there, that one’s mother and grandmother and grownup aunts cried at the railroad station, and one was expected to be sad and quiet for the rest of the day, when the father departed for Russia.” So begins...


    • Chapter 1 Jews and the Imperial Social Hierarchy
      (pp. 23-44)

      At the dawn of the twentieth century, when Jewish emancipation had swept from west to east across nearly the entire European continent, Russia alone among the major European states maintained a regime of legal disabilities specifically aimed at its Jewish population.¹ Why was this so?

      The first historians to investigate the issue systematically were Russian Jews in the decades before 1917 who were themselves victims of official discrimination. Their works emphasized the distinctiveness of tsarist policy toward the Jews as compared to the treatment of the empire’s other ethnic and religious groups, citing specifically anti-Jewish motives among ruling elites as...

    • Chapter 2 The Genesis of Selective Integration
      (pp. 45-80)

      Evzel Gintsburg headed the list of twelve Jewish merchants of the first guild, from various provinces, who petitioned the Jewish Committee in 1854 in protest against the new draft quotas. Although as merchants they had the right to buy their sons’ way out of the draft, the increased quotas inevitably resulted in greater numbers of undelivered Jewish conscripts, which in turn increased the monetary penalties imposed on each Jewish community as a whole (including merchants).¹ The petitioners, however, were not writing in the name of Jewish communities as a whole, as had frequently been the practice with previous Jewish petitions....


    • Chapter 3 Language, Ethnicity, and Urban Space
      (pp. 83-122)

      The practice of selective integration gave rise to an unmistakable Jewish presence in late imperial Russian society. Beginning in the 1860s, tens of thousands of Jews settled legally in the Russian interior, learned Russian, and encountered specifically Russian forms of life. According to what must be regarded as very rough data compiled by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in 1858 a total of 11,980 Jews resided in the provinces of European Russia outside the Pale, not including Siberia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the Baltic provinces. Most of these Jews were presumably soldiers. By 1880 the number had climbed to...

    • Chapter 4 Conflict and Community
      (pp. 123-164)

      The Jews who settled by the thousands in the Russian imperial capital beginning in the 1860s found a city with no collective Jewish past and virtually no Jewish presence. The legacy of Jews in Petersburg during the century and a half after its founding in 1703 offered only a haze of anecdotes and legends concerning sojourns by individual Jews or crypto-Jews, rumored influence in high places, and unceremonious expulsions. In 1714 Peter the Great brought back with him from Amsterdam a new court jester, Jan d’Acosta—said to be a descendant of Portuguese Marranos. Another alleged Marrano, Anton Manuilovich de...

    • Chapter 5 The Geography of Jewish Politics
      (pp. 165-198)

      At the outset of the era of selective integration, Odessa could justly lay claim to being the center of an emerging Russian-Jewish culture, indeed of a self-consciously innovative Jewish modernity in Eastern Europe. During the middle of the nineteenth century, immigrants from elsewhere in the Pale had begun streaming into this frontier city on the Black Sea, creating the fastest-growing Jewish community in the Russian Empire, soon second in size only to that of Warsaw.¹ Ukraine’s reputation as the “breadbasket of Europe” depended in no small measure on Odessa’s thriving port, where a substantial portion of the grain export business...


    • Chapter 6 The University as Melting Pot?
      (pp. 201-256)

      In his first novel set outside the shtetl—the archetypal locus for Yiddish fiction—Sholem Aleichem chose the bustling city of Kiev, where he himself had lived for many years, as the scene for an inspired tragicomedy. WhileDer blutiger shpas (The Bloody Hoax, 1913) bears many of the hallmarks of his earlier work, from the comic send-ups of social “types” to the ever-present concern with assimilation and authenticity, it nonetheless marks an important thematic departure.¹ The story unfolds not merely beyond the shtetl, in an environment where Jews are decidedly in the minority, but in a city that, although...

    • Chapter 7 A Silent Pogrom
      (pp. 257-308)

      Until the 1860s, the idea of using secular education to assimilate Russia’s Jews met with little opposition from non-Jews. At worst, critics claimed that it might require generations to work.¹ More typical was the confidence expressed by Nikolai Pirogov, the noted physician and head of the Kiev educational district: “Enlightenment has such an ability to amalgamate, to humanize [ochelovechivat´], that Jews, Slavs, and every other one-sided nationality yield to it.”² Indeed, as we have seen, many young Jews fully embraced a student identity that seemed to dissolve the barriers separating them from their Russian peers. As early as the mid-1860s,...


    • Chapter 8 The Judicial Reform and Jewish Citizenship
      (pp. 311-339)

      Within the Jewish “diploma intelligentsia” of the late imperial period, lawyers occupied a special place. They were founders of many of the leading public Jewish organizations and the most visible activists on behalf of Jewish causes. By the turn of the century, several of them had become well-known names on the Jewish street. Lawyers played a central role in transforming the goals and strategies of the Petersburg Jewish elite, moving the struggle for emancipation to Russia’s reformed courts of law as well as to the court of public opinion. More than in any other profession, moreover, Jews achieved quantitative and...

    • Chapter 9 Ethnicity and Civil Society: The Russian Legal Profession
      (pp. 340-366)

      Long after the liquidation of the tsarist judiciary by the Council of People’s Commissars in November 1917, former Russian lawyers, now refugees in Berlin, Paris, or New York, would gather annually on November 20 to commemorate the day in 1864 when their profession, and with it a modern legal system, were born in the Russian Empire.¹ In the face of the Bolsheviks’ contemptuous attitude toward the idea of the rule of law—an attitude with deep roots in the prerevolutionary intelligentsia—exiled lawyers continued to celebrate the values of judicial independence and professionalism inspired by the 1864 reform and to...

  11. Conclusion. The Russian–Jewish Encounter in Comparative Perspective
    (pp. 367-382)

    When Rabbi Max Lilienthal arrived in Russia’s western borderlands from Germany in 1840, he had the distinct sensation of entering not just a different country but another historical era. “Transport yourself fifty years back in Germany,” he wrote to his father, “when there were five hundredbakhorim[yeshiva students] in Fürth, and as many in Frankfurt and Mainz, when the Jew was bearded and wore a mantle and a broad cap, and even then you would have a very weak facsimile of conditions here.” In the main synagogue of what he called the “Jewish metropolis” of Vilna, the time warp...

    (pp. 383-402)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 403-424)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 425-427)