ALEXANDER III., ALEXANDROVICH, Emperor of Russia:
By: Herman Rosenthal
Born at St. Petersburg, March 10, 1845; died at Livadia, Nov. 1, 1894. He ascended the throne March 14, 1881, the day after the assassination of his father, Alexander II. The terrible fate of the latter produced an awful impression upon Alexander, but instead of continuing the reforms of the "Czar-Emancipator," as was expected, heat once gave proof of his reactionary tendencies by discharging the liberal minister Loris Melikov, and by his first manifesto, wherein he made it evident that he was determined to maintain his autocratic power against all attacks. In internal politics he followed the advice of his former teacher Pobiedonostzev, and ruled with rigorous absolutism, favoring the principles of the Pauslavists. He permitted, and even encouraged, the oppression of the various foreign residents in Russia, and was particularly harsh in his persecution of the Jews. The participation of some Jewish youths in the revolutionary movement of the Nihilists was made use of to lead the Russian people to believe that the Jews were connected with the conspiracy which had resulted in the murder of Alexander II. Hostility against the Jews was fostered in order to divert the attention of the discontented elements, and if possible to suppress the revolutionary movement.Popular Outbreaks Against Jews.
Soon after Alexander III. had ascended the throne, anti-Jewish riots (Pogromy) broke out in Elizabethgrad (April 27, 28), Kiev (May 8-11), Shpola (May 9), Ananiev (May 9), Wasilkov (May 10), Konotop (May 10), and, during the following six months, in one hundred and sixty other places of southern Russia. In these riots thousands of Jewish homes were destroyed, many families reduced to extremes of poverty; women outraged, and large numbers of men, women, and children killed or injured. It was clear that the riots were premeditated ("Voskhod," May 24, 1881, p. 75). To give but one example—a week before the pogrom of Kiev broke out, Von Hubbenet, chief of police of Kiev, warned some of his Jewish friends of the coming riots. Appeals to the authorities for protection were of no avail. All the police did was to prevent the Jews from defending their homes, families, and property. "The local authorities," says Mysh in "Voskhod," 1883, i. 210, "surrounded the pillagers with an honorary escort, while some of the rabble shouted approval." To a delegation of the Jews of Kiev, Governor-General Drentelen said that he could do nothing for them; "for the sake of a few Jews he would not endanger the lives of his soldiers" ("Zeitung des Judenthums," May 31, 1881). On May 18, Baron Horace de Günzburg was received in audience by Grand Duke Vladimir, who declared that the motive of the anti-Jewish agitation was not so much resentment against the Jews as a general tendency to create disturbances ("London Times," May 19, 1881). On May 23, a deputation of the Jews of St. Petersburg waited upon the czar at Gachina. It consisted of Baron Günzburg, Sack, Pasover, Bank, and Berlin. The emperor assured its members that the Jewish question would receive his attention, that the disturbances were the work of anarchists, and he advised them to address a memorandum on the subject to the minister of the interior. Both the emperor and the grand duke Vladimir expressed their belief that race-hatred was not the real cause, but only the pretext, of the recent disorders. In accordance with the promise of the czar, an edict was issued Sept. 3, 1881, ordering the appointment of local commissions from all the governments to be under the direction of the governors, for the solution of the Jewish question. But on the same day, General Ignatiev by order of the czar issued a circular to the governors, in which he pointed out that the Jews had been exploiting the Slav inhabitants of the empire, and that this was the real cause of the riots. This contradiction may explain the conduct of Attorney-General Stryelnikov, who during the trial of the rioters before the court-martial at Kiev, instead of incriminating the guilty parties, turned upon the Jews and endeavored to cast the whole blame upon them. These persecutions, added to the distressing economic conditions then prevailing, gave rise to the emigration movement, which soon assumed extensive proportions. The intelligent classes of Russia condemned the medieval barbarities against the Jews, but the anti-Semitic propaganda of the "Novoe Vremya," "Kievlyanin," and other organs hostile to the Jews, did not cease even after the riots. The constant Jew-baiting of Aksakov, Suvorin, and Pichno had its effect on that class of the Russian people which was entirely unfamiliar with Jewish life, and therefore believed all the charges brought against the Jews by the agitators. That the South Russians especially had no cause for complaints against the Jews may be seen from the following statement made by the Russian economist Chicherin: "Those who have lived in Little Russia, which is densely inhabited by Jews, and have compared the conditions of the peasant there with those existing in the provinces of Great Russia, know how exaggerated are the accusations against the Jews. If there is a difference in the condition of these peasants, it is in favor of the Little Russians."Further Persecutions.
The second series of persecutions began with the riots of Warsaw on Christmas, 1881, and lasted for three days. Twelve Jews were killed, many women outraged, and two million rubles' worth of property destroyed. In the neighboring Lithuanian provinces the disturbances were slight, owing to the precautions taken by Count Todleben, governor-general of Wilna, who was not one of Ignatiev's disciples. Order was also maintained by General Gurko, governor-general of Odessa, and thus the riots in Odessa and vicinity were prevented from assuming great proportions. In Nyezhin the soldiers, who were called out to quell the riots, killed and pillaged a wealthy Jewish family. Other riots occurred in Kuzmintzy, Plitovich, Klimov, Okhrimotzy, and, on March 23, in Lubny, where three soldiers killed a Jewish family of six. Balta was the scene of another series of riots (Easter, 1882) resulting in the death of eight and the wounding of more than two hundred persons. Over a thousand houses were demolished and property to the value of over one million dollars was destroyed. These disgraceful acts aroused the public indignation ofall Europe. Meetings were held by the citizens of New York and London, February 1, 1882, expressing sympathy with the persecuted Jews in the Russian empire, and protesting, "in the name of civilization, against the spirit of medieval persecution, thus revived in Russia."The "May Laws."
The only response to these friendly appeals was the issue of the "Temporary Laws" of May 15, 1882. These laws made the condition of the Russian Jews almost unbearable. They established a pale within the "Pale," positively prohibiting the Jews of the fifteen western governments from living outside of towns and cities, and canceling all mortgages and leases held by Jews on landed estates. Hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews removed to the United States of America, where they found a new home. Some went to Palestine and founded agricultural colonies. On June 12, 1882, Ignatiev retired from office. He is said to have been dismissed because convincing proof was furnished to the czar that he was using the persecution of the Jews to extort blackmail, and that he had taken advantage of his position to exempt his own estates from the disastrous effects of the May Laws, while those of the imperial family suffered (Harold Frederic, "The New Exodus," pp. 125-130). According to official statements, however, he was discharged because of a resolution of the senate that he "had not taken the necessary steps to prevent the riots" ("Voskhod," January, 1883, p. 53). He was succeeded by Count D. A. Tolstoi, who issued a circular, June 21, urging the governors to do their duty in preserving order and putting a stop to the riots. The circular had a good effect, yet some outbreaks occurred as late as the middle of August, 1882. Incendiary fires now ravaged the country and destroyed the property of over thirty thousand Jewish families in various towns and villages of the northwestern provinces. This fire-crusade was continued with more or less intensity until the end of Alexander's reign.
The May Laws were supplemented and partly enforced by the regulations of Jan. 7, 1885, and then followed a whole series of orders restricting the number of Jewish students in high schools and universities, and curtailing the rights of Jewish university graduates. Many other rigorous measures directed against the Jews betokened an entire reversal of the liberal policy inaugurated in the sixties. In 1890, Mr. Gladstone wrote to the "Jewish Chronicle" that he had "read with pain and horror the various statements respecting the sufferings of the Jews in Russia, and that the thing to do, if the facts could be established, was to rouse the conscience of Russia and Europe in regard to them." At a meeting at the Guildhall, London, December 10, 1890, it was resolved: "That a suitable memorial be presented to the Emperor of all the Russias, respectfully praying his Majesty to repeal all the exceptional and restrictive laws and disabilities which afflicted his Jewish subjects, and begging his Majesty to confer upon them equal rights with those enjoyed by the rest of his Majesty's subjects." This memorial was not even read by the czar, and was returned unopened to the lord mayor of London.
- Charles Low, Alexander III. of Russia, pp. 203-216, London, 1895;
- U. S. Congressional Record, 1882, iii. 657, 658;
- Russkaya Mysl, June, 1881, pp. 96-99, 109;
- J. A. Mysh, Rukovodstvo k Russkim Zakonam o Yevreyakh, St. Petersburg, 1898;
- Joseph Jacobs, Persecution of the Jews in Russia, issued by the Russo-Jewish Committee of London, Philadelphia, 1891;
- Demidov San-Donato, Yevreiski Vopros v Rossii, St. Petersburg, 1883;
- Sistematicheski Ukazatel Literatury o Yevreyakh na Russkom Yazykye, 1708 do 1889, St. Petersburg, 1893;
- H. von Samson Himmelstierna, Russia under Alexander III. translated from the German by J. Morrison, New York, 1893;
- S. Sychevski, Protivo-Yevreiskiya Bezobraziya, Odessa, 1881;
- Flerovsky, Unter Drei Russischen Kaisern, Berlin, 1898;
- Arthur Kleinschmidt, Drei Jahrhunderte Russischer Gesch. Berlin, 1898;
- some valuable statistics in A. White, Modern Jew, London, 1899.