Л. Смиловицкий. рецензия на книгу "Черта оседлости"

REVIEW ARTICLES

LEONID SMILOVITSKY

The Pale of Settlement: An Inseparable Part of Byelorussian History

Evgeny Anishchenko, Cherta osedlosti: Byelorusskaya sinagoga v tsarstvovanii Ekateriny II (The Pale of Settlement: The Byelorussian Synagogue During the Reign of Catherine II) (Minsk: Arti-Fex 1998), 160pp.

The publication of the reviewed book and the English translation of this review were made possible by a generous contribution of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

Jewish topics continue to attract the attention of professional Byelorussian historians. [2].

Anishchenko, a native Byelorussian, provides vivid insight into the history of the Pale’s establishment and development, revealing the unique features of its economic growth and introducing the reader to little known facts of Jewish life in Vilna, Grodno, Polotsk, Mogilev and Minsk provinces.

The Pale of Settlement was the most painful example of discrimination against Jews as compared to Russia’s other nations. In the eighteenth- twentieth centuries the government adopted a series of laws which restricted the civil and national rights of Russia’s Jews. Under the Provisional Laws of 1882, Jews were forbidden to settle outside cities and small towns, to (152) purchase land and to conduct real estate transactions in rural areas. In 1887 restrictions were placed on Jewish enrolment in colleges and universities. The number of Jewish children within the Pale of Settlement was not permitted to exceed 10 per cent of the total number of students; this quota was reduced to 5 per cent outside the Pale and to 3 per cent in Moscow and St Petersburg. From the late 1870s onwards, Jews were barred from state jobs and could neither serve as justices of the peace and local judges nor be elected city mayors. The number of Jews on municipal councils was not allowed to exceed one-third of all members. Jews were prohibited from voting in local government elections or holding office in local government. In the army, Jews could not hold officers’ rank or serve as clerks, medical orderlies, quartermasters or border guards. The honour of annulling the Pale of Settlement, on 20 March (2 April) 1917, belongs to the Provisional Government.

The author’s decision to take up the Jewish theme is in many ways justified. While engaged in research for a doctoral dissertation devoted to the General Land Survey in eighteenth-century Byelorussia, he revealed the active role played by Jews in every major area of the region’s economy[4].

This monograph is based on an impressive array of sources. These are mainly previously unknown records gleaned by the author from the Byelorussian National History Archives, as well as the archives of the Russian Federation, Lithuania and Poland. By using these sources in combination with well known studies by Yuly Gessen, Simon Dubnov, L. Levanda, I. Orshansky (153), K. Korobkov, P. Marek and other scholars, the author highlights the role of Byelorussian Jews within the context of the history of East European Jewry. At the same time, Dr Anishchenko has a rather limited circle of references to contemporary studies on the subject conducted outside Byelorussia and the former Soviet Union. This is not his fault but his misfortune: like most Byelorussian historians, he is compelled to be out of touch with the latest Jewish studies by his colleagues in Europe, the USA and Israel. Relevant examples may be found in the studies by Shmuel Ettinger[6] and Heinz-Dietrich Lowe[8]. In September 1772 she declared that all new subjects were to retain their former social rights and freedom of religion. The Jews were first given equality of rights in the payment of poll taxes together with the rest of the population. The pledge of religious tolerance and protection of the property rights of various population groups were meant to prevent any social unrest resulting from the occupation and to ensure the government's stability.

This provoked an ambivalent reaction on the part of the local authorities. Mogilev governor M. Kokhovsky, speaking on behalf of the landowners, blamed the Jews for food shortages and high prices. He branded the Jews ‘parasites and useless members of society’, who profited through deception, exploitation of peasant labour and usury. His claims were rebutted by B. Shpeer, a Mogilev merchant who, in a 1773 report to the empress, objected to the assertions that the Jews were ‘base, pushy, sly and slovenly». He pointed out that Byelorussian Jews differed in no way from other believers in Europe and Asia and attributed Jewish alienation to ‘recalcitrance, superstition and licentiousness’. Shpeer proposed to introduce a reform of the kahal system and a more rational taxation policy. The new government was expected to abolish compulsory military conscription, to grant the Jews the rights of the Russian middle class and to settle the debts between Jews and Christians.

But this never happened. After numerous amendments and adjustments, the government consolidated the supreme authority of provincial kahals. Anishchenko concludes that the Byelorussian kahal oligarchy retained its hold over the Jewish community, becoming a faithful ally of the ruling regime and a conscientious tax payer. The Byelorussian synagogue itself was divided by a schism known as the conflict between Hasids and misnagdim[10]. Equally, his sympathetic attitude towards the plight of the Jews as a persecuted minority and his genuine attempt to trace the underlying causes of their conflict with the authorities command respect. It is to be hoped that Anishchenko’s example will be duly appreci ated, and followed, by his colleagues both inside and outside Byelorussia.

EAST EUROPEAN JEWISH AFFAIRS, vol. 29, nos. 1-2,1999/1350-1674/151-158


[2]The Pale of Settlement (1791-1917) was a demarcated area in Russia beyond which Jewish settlement and permanent residence were forbidden. The only exceptions were merchants of the first guild, doctors, lawyers, members of the free professions and several other Jewish groups of insignificant size. The Pale encompassed fifteen provinces in the Polish Kingdom, Lithuania, Byelorussia, Bessarabia, Kurland and most of Ukraine.

[4]Evgeny Anishchenko, ‘The Jews of eastern Byelorussia in the late eighteenth century’, Vesti Akademii Nauk Byelorussiai, Humanities Series no. 4 (Minsk 1993); ‘The establish­ment of kahals in Byelorussia during the first partition of the Polish Kingdom’, Byelorusski gistarycbny cbasopis (Minsk), no. 3, 1995; ‘The Shklov counterfeiters’, Byelorusskaya minuushchyna, no. 2,1995; ‘The financial review of Grodno province kahals in the early nineteenth century and its results’, Vestsi Akademii Navuk Byelorussiai, no. 1, 1995; ‘In­terdenominational conflicts in Byelorussia on the eve of the first partition of the Polish Kingdom’, ibid., no. 3,1995; ‘Relations between clergy and believers in Byelorussia in 1760- 70’, ibid., no. 2,1996; and others.

[6]Shaul Shtampfer, ‘The 1764 census of Polish Jewry’ in Annual of Bar-Ilan University Studies in Judaica and Humanities, XXIV-XXV (Ramat Gan 1989), 41 -59; ‘The 1764 census of Lithuanian Jewry and what it can teach us’ in Papers in Jewish Demography 1993. Selected Proceedings of the Demographic Sessions held at the 11th World Congress of Jew­ish Studies in Jerusalem, June 1993, The Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Jerusalem 1997), 91-121; ‘The Lithuanian Yeshiva’, Volozhin, Slobodka, Telz, Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History (Jerusalem 1995)

[8]In 1793 Russia and Prussia subjected the Polish Kingdom to a second partition, with Russia annexing the central part of Byelorussia along the Braslav-Mir-Pinsk line, encompassing the towns of Borisov, Minsk, Slutsk, Nesvizh and Turov, which soon formed a part of the Minsk province. During the third partition of Poland in 1795, Russia annexed virtually the entire western Byelorussia with the towns of Grodno, Brest-Litovsk and Novogrudok, as well as most of Lithuania and Kurland. The strip of Byelorussian land to the west of Grodno and Volkovysk was taken over by Prussia

[10] Qf the dozens of studies on Jewish topics which emerged in Byelorussia in the 1990s, only - * four are worthy of scholarly interest: Emanuil Yoffe, Stranitsy istorii evreev Byelorussia ■ (Pages from the History of Byelorussian Jewry (Minsk: Arti-Fex 1996); E. Savitsky (comp.), Bund v Byelorussia 1897-1921 (The Bund in Byelorussia, 1897-1921) (Minsk 1997); R. Chernoglazov (ed.), Tragediya evreev Byelorussii v gody nemetskoy okkupatsii, 1941-1944 .Д (The Tragedy of Byelorussian Jews under German Occupation, 1941-1944) (Minsk 1997); E. Rozenblat and I. Yelensky, Pinskie evrei, 1939-1944 (The Jews of Pinsk, 1939-1944) / (Brest 1997)