9 The Depressed and Chastened 1870s and 1880s -- Part 3
The concept of race and Jews in European society in the 19th century have been traced in previous chapters.
The way in which Jews were described in the 1870s and 1880s is something that requires special attention.
The formation of political organizations in western and central Europe was devoted to opposing the rise of that race.
A program of action to counter the rise of antisemitism went beyond the social exclusion of Jews or the familiar complains about their cultural habits.
Civil equality was granted to Europe's Jews by the 1870s and the antisemitic parties wanted to reverse it.
Non-violent legal action was what most of the leaders of those parties demanded at this point, even though more extreme or violent solutions to the Jewish Question were in the background.
The ism that emerged earlier in the century had a number of similarities with this new one.
Antisemites saw rising Jews as destructive because they were responsible for the worst excesses of capitalism and liberalism.
Positive programs for the future and a notion of the Enemy were some of the isms.
The Jewish element was brought firmly under the control of the state.
In the western regions of the Russian Empire, where the majority of Europe's Jews lived, violent expressions of hostility to Jews rose in the 1880s.
The pogroms following Alexander II's assassination were more violent than any anti-Jewish action in Russia or Europe since the 17th century.
During Alexander II's reign, restrictions on Jewish movement were loosened, but Jews had not gained civil equality in Russia.
There was no equivalent to western parliaments.
There were no antisemitic parties in Russia like those in western Europe.
liberalism and socialism were not part of the active vocabulary of the Russian people.
After 1890, western concepts flowed into Russia to an unprecedented degree, as did capital investment and modern technology.
The Jewish rise in Russia was different.
The Jewish population growth was half again more rapid than that of non-Jews within the empire, with an exaggerated impact in urban areas, to which Jews were moving in disproportionate numbers.
The proportion of Jews in the population of European Russia continued to rise even after millions of Jews left Russia in the late 1870s.
The rise of the Jewish population in Russia was economic.
Russian Jewish equivalents to the Rothschilds of the west emerged in the 1860s and 1870s.
Although thousands of Jews joined the middle class, most Russian Jews remained poor, even though most of the peasantry did.
A growing proportion of the Jewish population, especially its youth, had begun to join revolutionary movements as a result of the Jewish rise in Russia.
Large numbers of Jews were arrested for acts of political terror, including the assassination of the tsar.
When Jews were known for their political passivity and respect for tsarist authority, such activism would have been unthinkable a half-century earlier.
The Decembrists, the rebels of December 1824, had no Jews.
The pogroms after Alexander's assassination have been debated by historians.
The new tsar ordered the Russian people to "beat the Jews" in order to punish them for their alleged role in the murder of his father.
Alexander III was both surprised and alarmed by the pogroms, according to scholars.
He thought that they were part of a bigger plan.
It would be unlikely that any tsar would have called for the "dark mass" to rise up in violence.
Alexander III's suspicion that revolutionaries were urging the peasants to attack the Jews was incorrect, but some revolutionaries did applaud the "awakening" of the peasant mass and saw their attacks on the "Jewish exploiters," agents of the propertied nobility, as justified.
Russia's Jews left the country by the millions after the assassination to escape further violence and tsarist persecution.
The belief that Jews were out of control in the 1860s and 1870s is closer to modern understanding thanks to the May Laws of 1882.
The Jewish population explosion and the failure of the Russian economy to absorb it weighed heavily on the decision of Russia's Jews to emigrate.
Unemployment and urban crowding became unbearable in many areas.
The areas of the greatest rioting were found there.
New demands for labor in the New World and the new means of transportation were other factors.
There was a shift in Jewish mentality in Russia as news of opportunities in America spread.
There was a rising sense among Jews that a better life was possible.
Many young Jews joined revolutionary movements because of the sense of belonging.
The importance of new opportunities and different mentalities was underscored when the treatment of Jews under Nicholas I was harsher.
The rate of Jewish emigration had begun to rise in the late 1870s before the pogroms and the May Laws.
In Austrian Galicia, where there were no pogroms and no hostile legislation, but a lot of poverty and overcrowding, Jews moved out in large numbers.
Millions of people from poor regions of Europe migrated to the New World in this period.
The Jewish exodus was part of a larger trend.
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